Rules for Skip-Bo or Spite and Malice

Object | Requirements | Set Up | Play | Winning | Partners | Irregularities


The objective in Skip-Bo or Spite and Malice is to get rid of all of the cards from a player's stock pile. The stock pile begins the game as thirty cards face-down in a stack. Two to six people may play.


To play the game requires either one standard deck of Skip-Bo cards, comprising of twelve each of cards one through 12, and eighteen Skip-Bo cards (wild cards), making 162 cards in all. Alternatively, the game may be played with three standard decks of cards with the Ace representing the "1" card and the kings and jokers representing the "Skip-Bo" or wild-cards. What is not needed for the average game is a score sheet, unless players agree to play rubbers, in which case score may be kept in a variety of ways (explained later).

How to Set Up for Skip-Bo

Skip-Bo Set Up Diagram

The cards should be thoroughly shuffled. This can be difficult with 162 cards. A good method is to cut the cards into three or four stacks, have each person shuffle a portion, then have each person cut their stack and pass half their cards to the left. The cards will be thoroughly mixed with about four shuffles from each person. The deal can be determined by a draw of cards. Highest card deals. Dealer first deals out thirty cards face down. Less may be dealt out for shorter games or when five or six players are in the game. 20 cards each is recommended. Players should NOT look at these cards. These cards will comprise each player's stock pile.

Next, each player will be dealt five cards (or they may be drawn on the player's first turn). This will comprise the player's hand. These the players may view. At this point, each player may turn over the top card in his or her stock pile. The remaining cards will comprise the draw pile. This is placed on the center of the table, with room left for the four building piles. (See Diagram) There will be no cards in the building piles or discard piles until play begins.

Skip-Bo Game Play

Play begins to the dealer's left and proceeds around the table clockwise. A player's turn moves along in a particular sequence of events, some of which are optional. The turn begins with the active player drawing as many cards from the draw pile as are needed to bring the hand up to five cards. Next, the player may play cards from his hand or from the TOP of one of his own discard piles or the exposed card on the stock pile - onto one or more of the building piles. A card may be played if it is the next in sequence on a building pile, or it is a "1" and one of the four building pile positions is empty. "Skip-Bo" cards play as a wild card in the place of any other card. As long as there are cards that will legally play, the turn may continue. The object is to play as many of the cards on the stock pile as possible.

A player does not have to play any cards at all on the building piles. He may also have no options to do so. If a player plays out his or her entire hand, he or she must draw five more cards from the draw pile. At the end of a player's turn she is required to place a card on one of four of her own discard piles. If this happens to be the last card in the hand, the player may not draw five new cards until the player's next turn.

Winning at Skip-Bo

Play proceeds around the table. As the building piles reach "12" the stacks are removed and shuffled together. When the draw pile becomes completely depleted the removed cards become a new draw pile. Play proceeds until one person uses all of his or her cards in the stock pile. At this point that person may be declared winner. If playing for points, the winner is awarded five points for each card remaining in his opponent's stock piles, plus twenty-five points for going out. Play to 500 points or some other agreed upon number.

Playing Skip-Bo with Partners

Skip-Bo may be played with partners. Generally, play proceeds the same as in individual play, except a player may use his or her partner's cards from the stock pile or discard piles. The first team to deplete one of the stock piles wins. An alternative to this would be to have only one stock pile for each team.


Irregularities do occur in most card games. If a player plays out of turn and his or her turn is not completed before the problem is noted, play goes back to the person who was skipped. When play comes again to the player making the error, he or she may finish their turn, but may not draw cards for the beginning of the turn.

If a player mistakenly draws too many cards to his or her hand, a card is picked at random from the hand and placed in the middle of that players stock pile.

In Skip-Bo or Spite and Malice, the profusion of stacks and the complexity of play may at first be confusing to new players. However, the concepts are straight-forward, and most players will soon learn to enjoy the give and take, the flow, and the nuances of the game.

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