Laugh and Lie Down

OBJECTIVE OF LAUGH AND LIE DOWN: Collect pairs, prials, and mournivals. Be the last player with cards in hand.


NUMBER OF CARDS: standard 52 card deck

RANK OF CARDS: K (high), Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A




Laugh and Lie Down is an English card game from the 16th century. It is one of the earliest known fishing type of card game recorded and is believed to be descended from Chinese card games. However, Willughby noted that , “there is no other game at cards that is anything akin to this.”

The name of the game is a reference to the fact that when you are no longer able to capture any cards on the table you are required to “lay down,” this is done by throwing in your hand whilst being laughed at by the remaining players.


This game utilizes some special terms. For example, two cards of the same rank are referred to as a pair. A set of three cards of the same rank is referred to as a prial, and a four of a kind is called a mournival. 


Cut the deck. The player who cuts the lowest ranking card (ace is the lowest) deals first. From then on, the deal passes to the left. At the start of each deal the dealer puts up a stake of 3p (or 3 cents) and the other players place a stake of 2p each, the pot will total 11p.

After, the dealer passes each player, face-down and one a time, 8 cards. The remaining twelve cares are dealt face-up to the table. These cards must be easily identifiable by all players though they need not be in any particular order. If the cards on the table include a mournival, the dealer wins them and places them in a stack in front of themselves.


Prior to starting play, examine your hand for prials or mournivals. If you have one or more prials, set them down face-up on the table. These are your first winnings. Set down two cards but keep the third in hand. However, if you have a mournival in hand, you win all four of the cards. Place them face-down in front of you. Note, if you don’t claim them prior to play, you can still do so during a turn.


The player to the dealer’s immediate left starts the game. Thereafter, turns pass to the left. During a turn, you may play one card from your hand to capture one or three cards from the table of equal rank. 

You may also use a pair from your hand to capture a pair on the table. However, it is best to capture cards one a time so that you are not forced to lie down due to an empty hand.

If you have a pair in hand and a player captures a card of equal rank to them on the table you may add those cards to your “won pile,” as you can no longer win the prial or mournival.

Once you cannot capture cards via pairing anymore, perhaps because you don’t have a card that matches or there are no longer cards on the table, you are forced to throw in your hand and lie down. The cards from your hand are added to the table so that they may be captured by the other players.

Play ends when only one player has cards in hand. Their cards, in addition to any cards remaining on the table, are added to the dealer’s “won pile.”


The last player with cards in hand wins 5p from the pot. Next, the remaining players count their cards won. Players who captured less thn 8 cards pay 1p into the pot for every pair they were short of 8. Whoever took more than 8 cards takes 1p from the pot for each pair they won in excess of 8.

Nakoa Davis

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