Egyptian Rat Screw (ERS) is a card game very similar to Slapjack. The game goes by other names including Egyptian Rat Slap, Egyptian Rat Killer, and Egyptian War. No one is certain where the game originated or how it was named. It can be a fast paced game and has a variety of variations depending on the players/house rules. The better bet in any game of ERS is to decide on the rules/variations before play starts.
Egyptian Rat Screw Rules
The players range from 2 up to however many can fit AND still reach the central pile. If someone can’t reach the central pile properly, there’s no point in them being there since they’d have no real chance to slap. The dealer will hand out all cards of the deck as evenly as possible to each player. Each card or stack (depending on how the dealer hands them out) is dealt face down. No one is allowed to look at/check any face down cards. A typical deck of 52 cards is used or multiple decks are used depending on the number of players. Jokers are added in to even out the deal a bit more and/or to add variations to the game.
The objective of the Egyptian Rat Screw is to gain all the cards. Play starts with the person to the left of the dealer. He/she will take the top card of their pile and flip it away from themselves and place it into the central pile of cards face up. This means the edge of the top card closest to the active player is flipped out towards his/her opposite side player(s). At the same time, it’s place in the central pile while moving the hand away as quickly as possible. The aim for all players is to be able to gain the central pile of cards via slapping or winning a challenge.
A challenge in ERS is when a face card or an ace is played. The next player in order has a certain number of flips from the top of their deck to win the challenge. This depends on which card shows up to start it.
- Ace…. 4 chances
- King…. 3 chances
- Queen. 2 chances
- Jack…. 1 chance
To attempt to win the challenge, and the current central pile, the next player in order has to also flip over a face card or an ace. This has to happen before the chances and/or their pile runs out and/or someone slaps successfully. If the player manages to win the challenge, it’s NOT over. The next person in order also has to win the challenge with the same rules in place. This continues to each player in order until someone loses the challenge. Whoever loses the challenge, without anyone successful slapping, the previous player wins the central pile. So for example (without slapping involved) if you place a queen into the central pile, IF the next player does not play an ace or a face card within the next 2 top cards, you win the central pile.
If a player runs out of cards before winning the challenge, the next player has the chance to win the central pile but only has the remaining chances left. The central pile goes to the player who started the challenge when the next player can’t win it or when the initial player trying to win runs out of cards. When a challenge is won, the player takes the central pile and places it face down on the bottom of their pile.
Losing/ being eliminated from the game
This still depends on house rules. Usually a player is eliminated from the game when he/she runs out of cards. But when there are 2 or more players, the eliminated players can still slap and continue playing. Some house rule setups would indicate you’re out as soon as you run out of cards and that’s it. Others might setup to “buy back in” and allow slapping for you to continue. It’s all part of the variations.
A successful slap occurs when a player reaches the central pile first with their hand under specific circumstances. The standard slaps include:
- Double…. 2 of the same cards are placed onto the central pile consecutively.
- Marriage…. The king and queen are played on top of each other either way.
- Jokers…. This depends on house rules first but they can be slapped.
- 4 in a row…. Any combination of 4 consecutive cards no matter the suit or the order (ascending or descending). They do loop with 2 being the low point and the ace being the high point. For examples: queen, king, ace, 2 = you can slap it. Queen, jack, 10, 9= you can slap it.
- Sandwich…. 2 of the same cards are player but with any card between them.
- Tens…. 2 cards played in a row equal 10 “points”. The ace is counted as 1 point.
- Top Bottom…. When the card played is a match for the first card to start the central pile. This is regardless of the suit.
In the case of slapping at the same exact time, the player with more hand contact on the cards at the time is the winner. So those with bigger and/or faster hands have an advantage. In the cases of 2 players having equal hand contact on the central pile during a slap, they split the central pile as evenly as possible.
In the case of an unsuccessful slap, the player who was proven in the “wrong doing” must take at least one card from the top of their pile and place it face up on the bottom of the central pile. Other setups will insist on 2 or more cards being taken from the player.
Again, determine the rules everyone will be using BEFORE play starts. This will help a lot more than you think. Egyptian Rat Screw rules can go all over the place. They’ll determine what you can slap and when. One variation indicates the current player must touch their forehead before they are allowed to slap but play is wide open to all others. Others indicate you can’t slap until the next game if you slapped incorrectly. Another setup states that each player which correctly identifies an unsuccessful slap will get 1 card from the top of “offender’s” pile. Jokers can be added to the mix for more confusion!! The list goes on and even included physical punishments (your hand gets hit).
You clearly know yourself, or at least I hope you do. How about your opponents?!! Much like in a poker game, you should know your opponents as much as possible. This helps you avoid bluffs (fake slap attempts to try to make you slap incorrectly) and other concerns. Concerns like “is someone going to “burn a card” or outright try their best to make you make a mistake? Being able to see it coming helps.
Physical and mental attributes help
You might have longer arms but when the other player(s) are faster, you might have a problem!! Having “heavy hands” might eliminate physical punishments right from the start!! Those with or awfully close to having an eidetic memory will have an advantage. It’s not so easy when you can’t remember the proper slap possibilities. Staying calm and watching closely helps prevent you from making mistakes.