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Egyptian Rat Screw

Egyptian Rat Screw, commonly abbreviated as ERS, is a card game of the accumulation family. The game is played with a standard 52-card deck (or with multiple standard decks with large numbers of players).

Table of contents
1 Gameplay
2 Variations
3 Strategy
4 History


Players are dealt equal packs of cards from the deck. Players are not to look at their cards at any time, including while placing them upon the center pile (players should flip cards outwards from the top of their pack). A player begins by placing a card face-up to start a central pile. Play proceeds clockwise and each player lays down a single card on the pile until a face card or ace is played. The next player then has a certain number of chances to play another face card or ace. If the player is able to do so, play proceeds and the next player must attempt to play another face card or ace in the newly prescribed number of chances. If the player is unable to do so, the most recent player to play a face card or ace claims the pile. The number of chances granted are as follows:

The pile may also be claimed if two of the same rank of card are laid in succession. Any player, including those holding no cards, may slap the pile to attempt to claim it. The first to slap the pile claims the cards. If the successful claimer had no cards previous to the slap, this is called slapping in.

The game ends when a single player holds the entire deck, regardless of how many players began the game.


Slapping variations

The following are additional slapping criteria that may be played in addition to the normal doubles criterion. They may be played in any combination and should be announced at the start of the game.


A penalty may be exacted for false slapping. A false slap occurs when a player slaps the center pile when a slap criterion is not met. A typical penalty is either one-under or two-under: the player at fault must place the next one or two cards of his pack face-up underneath the center pile.

Other variations

For the adventurous, Egyptian Rat Screw can be played as a full-contact game. When a slap criterion is met, the pile is open to any competition: whatever cards are physically claimed by a player go into his stack. Opposite variations, designed to tame the slapping aspect, also exist. The most popular is no rings, which requires players to remove rings and other jewelry from their hands while playing.


Although the game primarily rests upon the luck of the draw from each player's pack of cards, the slapping aspect introduces skill, and this aspect can be played strategically. The most common strategy is memorizing doubles. If a player slaps the pile when doubles occur and claims the cards, he knows that the doubles will occur in that order once they reach the top of his pack. If he is laying down consecutive cards at that point, he has an advantage against other players because he does not have to visually recognize the set of doubles before slapping. Experienced players can take this strategy further by memorizing which cards precede jacks or other face cards in their pack.

Further strategy can be introduced by intentional false-slapping. If a player is attempting to play a face card and suspects that no such cards are near the top of their deck they may intentionally false-slap the pile. They are then required to put a card under the pile, which reduces the number of cards before a face card could potentially be found. This is a risky tactic, however, because it is very hard to judge where a face card might be, which can result in their loss unless you can win or slap the pile.


The origin of Egyptian Rat Screw, much less its name, is unknown. The game gained popularity in the mid-to-late 1990s and is now widely known throughout the United States, especially among schoolchildren.