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Pick-up sticks

Pick-up sticks (or pick-a-stick) is a game of physical skill in which sticks have to be removed from a pile without disturbing the remaining ones. One root of the name "pick-up sticks" may be the line of a children's nursery rhyme "...five, six, pick-up sticks!"

There exist some varitations and names of this game:

The sticks are made out of ivory, bone, wood (walnut, cherry, oak, beech, ash, pine, bamboo, maple), straw, reed, rush or plastics.

Table of contents
1 Play
2 History
3 External links
4 References


The pile of sticks is taken into the hands and dropped on a flat underground, then one single stick after another has to be choosen and extracted by hand or/and with a "helper". A turn ends if another than the actual "to be extracted" stick is moved or touched. As helpers qualify special sticks or an additional tool. On a turn end the next player continues to extract sticks or drops them again. The sticks may have different shapes / points and the player tries to reach the highest score possible. Shapes are different forms, diameter or paintings.


This game idea is quite as old as humanity.

In China the sticks were used first for divination. The gambling purposes were later the thing that remained. A spread to Korea and Japan happened, and even to the Haida Indians of British Columbia, and certain Native American tribes in California (the Lenape). It's not clear how or when these Asian games were introduced to North America, though it had to be very early, via the land bridge across the Bering Strait or by ship across the Pacific Ocean.

Herodotus wrote that he had seen in 450 BC a game played by the Scythians that was also known by the Teutons as a play of oracle named "Zitterwackel" (jitter whobble).

As "casting of lots" also mentioned in the bible. (old & new testament)

In China (Japan) a similar oracle was known based on the Book of Changes (I Ching, Yijing),(eki divination). A handful of sticks are scattered to base the reading of destiny (also in respect to the calendar) called "Chien Tung" where a stick is called "emperor stick". This oracle practise was most common around the 12th century during the civil wars, where zen buddism monks were advisors of the warlords.

In the 16th century the Tsuchimikado house adapts the astrology and calendar sciences from China and possibly also the Chien Tung oracle. A dated term for the Japanese Emperor is Mikado.

In the 17th century the Jonchets (French) game is mentioned in references.

The Haida (Native Americans) had also a pick-up sticks (Haida) game.

The Mikado pick-up sticks variant was brought from Europe (Hungary) in 1936 to the United States and became quite popular.

External links

game museum entry on pick-up sticks article about games of Native Americans