Card Game of Nertz: How to Play the Favorite Multi-Player Game

For the last seventy years, the fast paced and highly addictive card game of Nertz continues to be a favorite among friends and family.

Although Nertz can be played with only two players, the similar card games of Speed or Spit are best suited for that number of players.  Nertz would be the perfect choice for a simple but vigorous fun time with three or more friends.  The same rapid and lively thrill found in the two player games of Speed and Spit is also generated for multiple players in the card game of Nertz.

Learning how to play the game of Nertz is similar to playing the classic card game of Solitaire; only with a different set-up. To begin, each player shuffles his own deck of standard playing cards (distinguishable from others) and creates the following arrangement:

set up of card game of Nertz

Nertz Set-up

  • 13 cards are stacked face down to the left side of the player, with the top card turned up.  This is called the Nertz pile.  A player’s goal is get rid of this pile as quickly as possible.
  • 4 cards are placed face up in a row beside the Nertz pile.  This is called the River.
  • The remaining card are called the Stream.  Players will turn over every third card, like in Solitaire, and play it if they can in either the River or the Lake.
  • The last area is called the Lake.  This is the center space which is surrounded by all players.  All players toss Aces, again like in Solitaire, into this area, to be played upon.  Any player can play upon any other player’s Aces.

Once all players have finished their own set-up, someone says, “Go!”  Play swiftly begins with all players playing the cards they can.  Player’s play their cards the following ways:

  • The top card from the Nertz pile can be placed onto the ‘River’ cards or the ‘Lake’.  Cards are placed on cards in the River, like in Solitaire, by alternating colors (hearts/diamonds next to clubs/spades) and in cascading descending order.
  • In the River, cards may be placed from one of the 4 spaces and onto another River card in the way described above(alternating colors/descending order); leaving an empty space.  This space may be filled by a Nertz pile card.
  • Any Aces are played immediately into the Lake.  Lake cards, starting with the Ace, are in ascending order of the same suit (Ace, Two, Three and so on).
  • If a player cannot play from the Nertz pile, they begin turning every third card over from his Stream.  If this card can be placed into the River or the Lake, the player does so.

Players continue turning cards from the Stream, playing what they can into the River or Lake, and always trying to use a Nertz card, first, if possible.

If at any time during the round no one has a play, the top card from the Stream is placed on the bottom and play continues.  This movement will provide players with a different third card on the turning.

As soon as the first player uses all of his Nertz pile cards, he yells, “Nertz” and all play immediately stops.  The round is completed and players calculate their scores.  Scoring is as follows:

  • Each player counts any remaining cards from the original 13 of the Nertz pile.
  • Each player counts any cards he played into the Lake.

Score is determined by subtracting the number of leftover Nertz cards from the Lake cards.  For example, say a player had 6 leftover Nertz pile cards and 17 cards played into the Lake.  His score would 11 (17-6=11).

The winner of the game is the first person to reach a predetermined amount set by the players at the start.   Many players decide to play to 100.  Rounds are fast and furious.  They are fun and entertaining.  The excitement created by players striving to beat all others with playing cards on the aces and shedding their Nertz pile makes playing Nertz exhilarating and a favorite card game to play for all.

Jenny Kile

Admin. of All About Fun and Games. Along with being an avid collector and player of table top games, I am a writer, researcher, treasure hunter, and Founder of Kardtects ( ) I believe fun is everywhere and you are welcome to visit my other sites: (which explores mystery, adventure and the search for treasures) and (which takes building card houses to completely new levels. Kardtects is the next generation of card house building!) Email:

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