OBJECTIVE OF POPE JOAN: Be the player with the most chips at the end of the game

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 3 – 8 players


RANK OF CARDS: (low) Ace – King (high)

TYPE OF GAME: Hand shedding, casino



Pope Joan is a casino style hand shedding game that dates back to the 1700’s.  In order to play this game, you will need a standard 52 card French deck as well as a large amount of chips or tokens.  

Winning this game relies largely on luck, but this makes it no less exciting.  

Play one round for each player in the game.  For example, if there are six players, play six rounds.  Deal passes to the left each round.


This game utilizes a game board.  An example is pictured below, and it is easily created on a piece of paper.  

To make the Pope Joan board,  Simply draw lines to divide a sheet of paper up into eight rectangles.  Label them: Game, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Marriage, Intrigue, and Pope.  Chips will be placed on the individual sections of the board, so it may be better to use eight different paper plates or plastic cups.

Once the board is set up, the game may begin.

The banker should place one chip in the Game, Ace, King, Queen, and Jack sections of the board. They should place two chips in the Marriage and Intrigue sections of the board. Six chips should be placed in the Pope section of the board.  This should be done each round by the banker.  If any chips are carried over from the previous round, they are combined with the new chips in that section.


To decide who will be the dealer and the banker, have each player take a card from the deck. The player who took the lowest card is the first dealer. They are also the banker for the game. 

To prepare the deck for the game, remove the 8 of diamonds.  The dealer should shuffle the deck thoroughly and begin to deal the cards.   Each player must be dealt the same amount of cards.  An extra dummy hand is also dealt.  Any leftover cards are added to the dummy hand.

The last card that is dealt to the dealer is placed face up on the table.  This card’s suit becomes trump for the round. Once everyone at the table has seen the trump card, the dealer may pick it up and add it to their hand. If this card is the Pope (9 of diamonds),  an Ace, King, Queen, or Jack, the dealer immediately wins the chips from that section of the board. 


Beginning with the player on the left side of the dealer, that player may choose any card from their hand and play it face up to the center of the table. Whoever has the next highest card in the same suit plays that card. For example, if the 10 of hearts is played, whoever has the Jack of hearts plays it next. Then, whoever has the Queen of hearts plays that next. Play like this continues until the run has been stopped.

A run can be stopped for two reasons. If a King is played, the run automatically stops. If the next card needed is unavailable, the run is stopped. When a run is stopped, whoever played the last card gets to start a new run by choosing any card from their hand and playing it.

Play like this continues until one player has emptied their hand.  After a player lays their final card, the round is over.


The player who won the round wins the chips from the Game section of the board. All other players must pay the winner one chip for each card left in their hand.  If one of the remaining players still holds the Pope in their hand, they do not have to pay the winner.

During the round, when a player plays the Ace, King, Queen, or Jack in the trump suit, they win the chips from that section of the board.  

If the Queen and King of the trump suit are played by the same player, they win the chips from the Marriage section of the board. If the Jack and Queen of the Trump suit are played by the same player, they win the chips from the Intrigue section of the board.  The player who lays the Pope card wins the chips from that section of the board. 

If any of the board cards are not played, their chips remain on the board for the next round.


After completing a number of rounds equal to the number of players in the game, the player with the most chips wins.

Mark Ball
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