How to Make and Play the Sticks Card Game

Updated on October 13, 2019
JanetG LM profile image

Janet is a freelance writer who spends her free time playing cards and board games.

Need a fun and easy-to-learn party game? How about relaxing around the gaming table after a day on the slopes or a long day at work? Learn the challenging card game of Sticks. The game has no scoring and no complicated counting tricks or face values. Complete the requirements on the stick six times, and you're a winner! This competitive game changes so often that no one can predict who will win until the last stick is turned face up.

What Kind of Sticks Should I Use?

The sticks you will be using are wooden craft sticks with labels on them telling the player what cards to collect to lay down for the meld, e.g. "set of 3 kings," "run of 4 hearts," or "run of 13 mixed sets." The best part of this game is there is NO SCORING. Once a player completes the card sets and/or runs written on six sticks, the game is over. The game reminds me of Phase 10, except you have no idea what you need to lay down until you draw the next stick.

Yes, a player will go out before you get a chance to complete your stick (meld), so play the stick a total of three times. If you cannot complete the stick after that, simply leave it turned face down and choose another. Believe me, you won't be the only one who has to do this. This is what keeps the hands interesting. This said, it is a quick game so there can be many winners in an evening.

If your stick requires only six cards for the meld e.g. a set of kings and a set of queens, you will have seven cards remaining in your hand. The next turn after laying down the meld, you can lay down a set of three cards--a set always requires three cards such as three jacks.--or as many sets of threes as you have in your hand or you can play on the cards of the player to your right only...not your own in front of you or on any other players. If the player to the right has laid down a set of queens, add your queen to his set or if he has laid down a run hearts e.g. 5,6,7,8 then you can add the 4 or 9 of hearts to the run. You must have a discard to go out unless otherwise stated on the stick. (Yes, there is a stick that says 7 pairs and FREE sticks where you can make up any combinations you want to lay down).

What You Need to Make This Game

To make the labels simply print the list of labels. Cut out the printed labels and paste to craft sticks with glue. Some people also prefer to write the label directly on each stick.

You will also need three decks of cards and an opaque container to draw the sticks from.

Easy-to-Follow Rules for Sticks

Our neighbors Jim and Wanda taught us this game. Thanks, Neighbors!

Number of players: two to eight players - use three decks of cards

Note: Ace is always low.

Wild cards: Twos, threes, and Jacks

Object of the game: To get rid of all of your cards before everyone turns over their stick

  1. Deal 13 cards to everyone. Begin with the player to your left.
  2. Each player draws a stick. Don't show anyone. Put it face down.
  3. Each player takes a turn drawing a card and discarding and trying to complete what is written on their stick. When they have the cards they need, they turn their stick over and put the cards that match it on the table (aka a meld).
  4. After a player completes a stick, they continue to draw trying to get sets of (3) that can be laid in front of them. They also may play on the person's cards to their right. You may play as many sets of (3) in front of you that you can, but you cannot add to them and you must have a discard if going out. There is no counting of cards or keeping score. The number of sticks determines the winner.
  5. The hand is over when someone gets rid of all their cards. Players then throw their cards in, shuffle and re-deal the next hand. Everyone who completed their stick will draw a new stick to work on.
  6. Players that have not completed their stick when someone goes out still throw their cards in but cannot draw a new stick until they have attempted to complete the one they have three times.
  7. You must have at least one natural suit in your runs that are suit specific. Example: You draw a stick that reads RUN OF SIX DIAMONDS. You can have five wild cards in that run but must have a diamond that is not a wild. You cannot make a set from just wild cards.
  8. You must have a "discard" when going out unless the stick reads "NO DISCARD" or you draw a stick that requires you to use all of your cards.
  9. When you draw stick #6, it cannot be a "FREE" one. You must draw a different stick.
  10. The first person to complete six sticks wins the game.

Labels for Sticks

Print these labels or write them on your craft sticks. You can add a layer of clear nail polish over the top of the label to seal it if you wish.

  • RUN of (4) SPADES
  • SET of (4) - RUN of (4) Same Suit
  • SET of (5) WILD CARDS
  • RUN of (7) CLUBS
  • RUN of (5) DIAMONDS
  • RUN of (3) - "NO WILD CARDS"
  • RUN of (6) CLUBS
  • (3) SETS of (4)
  • SET of (8)
  • (3) SETS of (3)
  • SET of (7)
  • (3) ACES - (3) KINGS - (3) QUEENS
  • (4) ACES - (4) TENS
  • (3) FIVES - (3) TENS
  • (2) RUNS of (4)
  • SET of (4) - RUN of (6) Same Suit
  • (2) SETS of (4)
  • RUN of (4) DIAMONDS
  • RUN of (6) DIAMONDS
  • (3) SIXES - (3) NINES
  • SET of (4) - RUN of (5) Same Suit
  • RUN of (6) SPADES
  • RUN of (6) HEARTS
  • SET of (5) - RUN of (5) Same Suit
  • SET of (5)
  • (3) SEVENS - (3) QUEENS
  • RUN of (11) - MIXED SUITS
  • SET of (3) - RUN of (4) Same Suit
  • (5) KINGS - (5) QUEENS
  • (2) RUNS of (3)
  • RUN of (5) CLUBS
  • SET of (6)
  • (2) SETS of (3)
  • RUN of (4) CLUBS
  • RUN of (5) HEARTS
  • RUN of (4) - "NO WILD CARDS"
  • SET of (3) - SET of (5)
  • (3) KINGS - SET of (3) - SET of (4)
  • (2) SETS of (3) - (2) RUNS of (3)
  • (7) PAIRS - "NO DISCARD"
  • RUN of (7) HEARTS
  • RUN of (7) DIAMONDS
  • RUN of (13) MIXED SUITS
  • (2) SETS of (5)
  • RUN of (4) HEARTS
  • SET of (3) - SET of (4)
  • RUN of (5) SPADES
  • SET of (4) - SET of (5)
  • RUN of (4) Same Suit
  • SET of (3) - SET of (6)
  • SET of (4) - RUN of (7) Same Suit
  • RUN of (7) SPADES
  • (2) SETS of (3) - RUN of (4) Same Suit
  • RUN of (8) Same Suit

Will You Play Sticks?

You're going to have a great time! I wish I could be there to teach you the game and help you make the sticks. Try this fun game at home, school, at the campground, or on game nights.

Please ask if you have questions about the rules of the game and let me know if you liked it!

Questions & Answers

    Questions or Comments on the Game

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      • profile image


        11 days ago

        Thank you! I was looking for the list of what to put on the sticks. There are several different lists on Pinterest, but this is the list I learned. I will get my sticks tomorrow.

      • profile image

        Maggie Kwan 

        4 months ago

        2 players laid down the same run of 13 spades leaving nowhere to contribute. How do you Continue th game.

      • profile image

        Cheryl T 

        13 months ago

        Can we pick a card from the deck or the discard pile?

        Am i reading it correct that i can only play on the person to the right of me and not everyone at the table?

      • profile image


        16 months ago

        Is a run only Inn the same suit?

      • profile image

        Delores Dahl 

        17 months ago

        What does a stick mean ..... set of four and run of four ... are both same suit ????

      • profile image

        JANETG LM 

        20 months ago

        Emmily, No discard means you don't discard a card. You have 14 cards in your hand and you use them all so no extra card is left to discard. You "MUST" have a "DISCARD" when going out unless stick reads "NO DISCARD" OR YOU DRAW A STICK THAT REQUIRES YOU TO USE ALL THE CARDS

      • profile image


        22 months ago

        The “no discard” one, does that mean you don’t discard or you can pick up discards?

      • JanetG LM profile imageAUTHOR

        JanetG LM 

        5 years ago

        @Natalie W Schorr: Thanks, Otto. Good to hear he'd like the game. It's addictive!!!

      • JanetG LM profile imageAUTHOR

        JanetG LM 

        5 years ago

        @harleydavidsonll: Harley, we play that we don't replace the wild card. Thanks for asking. Sorry I'm so late in answering.

      • Natalie W Schorr profile image

        Natalie W Schorr 

        5 years ago

        Interesting game, my son would like this.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        When a wild card is used as a melt and you later pickup the card that the wild card represents, can you replace the wild card and use it in a other set or run?

      • JanetG LM profile imageAUTHOR

        JanetG LM 

        7 years ago

        @anonymous: There is no stealing in this game. Please let me know where you saw that so I can change it. You never play half of the stick. You must complete the full requirement on the stick in order to turn it up and make it count. Thanks you for checking.

      • lbrummer profile image

        Loraine Brummer 

        7 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

        When I Googled the Sticks game, I found out that there are a number of various rules. We play by the same ones as you have here, except our rules state that after you have melded, you may add ONLY sets of 3 or add cards, the turn after you meld, to the cards of the player on your RIGHT. (You cannot add cards or sets of three to your own meld.) Love this game!!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        When u steal do u have to get ur stick all over again or can u just play half or what it doesn't make sense

      • JanetG LM profile imageAUTHOR

        JanetG LM 

        7 years ago

        @lbrummer: Thanks for stopping in to check out the rules here. I know what you mean about various rules for the same game. We just use the rules of the person who brought the cards to the game. So the lesson here is to ALWAYS carry your cards wherever you go!! LOL..

      • TransplantedSoul profile image


        7 years ago

        Thanks for sharing this one. It looks like a good game to try.

      • JanetG LM profile imageAUTHOR

        JanetG LM 

        8 years ago

        @anonymous: You are welcome, Al. Have a great time playing Sticks!

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Thanks a lot! My grandma taught me the game, but I have forgotten the rules. Until now! Fun fun fun!

      • JanetG LM profile imageAUTHOR

        JanetG LM 

        9 years ago

        Thanks Windy. This card game IS a lot of fun. Fun to make and fun to play..

      • WindyWintersHubs profile image


        9 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

        This stick card game looks like a lot of fun for all ages. Nice work on your lens. ~Squid Greeter


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