OBJECTIVE OF MAO: Play all your cards without breaking unspoken rules.


NUMBER OF CARDS: Standard 52 card deck

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

TYPE OF GAME: Shedding



Mao is a pesky and annoying game for those not in the know, because no one tells you what is happening. The origin of the game is not known for sure, but it is most likely derived from the German card game Mau Mau. This theory is bolstered by the fact the game is also spelled as Mau. 


The dealer is chosen at random. They shuffle and deal each player 3 cards each. The cards that remain form the stock or draw pile. The top card from the stock is flipped over to form the discard pile. Playing with multiple decks for large groups is common.

The cards rank their face value or numerical value.


The game is initiated when after dealing the dealer says, “The name of the game is Mao.” You cannot tell new players the rules or explain the game whatsoever. Because of the nature of Mao, not having a canonical set of rules, the rules can vary widely. For example, some groups share one rules with new players, which is typically the objective of the game. It is common for groups to penalize players who look at their card prior to the commencement of the game.

The Play

Starting to the left of the dealer, and passing clockwise, each player discards a single card from their hand that matches the previous card’s suit or rank. If players are unable to play a card from hand, they must draw a card from the stockpile.

If a player asks a question, they must draw from the stockpile.

If a player explains any rules, they must draw from the stockpile.

If a player acts when it is not their turn, they must draw from the stockpile.

If a player does not announce the name of the game when they have 1 card left, they must draw a card from the stockpile.

Each time a player swears, they must draw from the stockpile.

Dealers can introduce new rules, 1 rules per hand. They may also throw out old rules.

The game continues until each player has had a chance to deal, which passes to the left after each hand.



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