How Do You Play Garbage (Trash)? Card Game Rules and Setup

Deck of cards laying out on a table

Garbage helped save my sanity during the summer break when all three kids were at home. This card game is fun, easy to play, and can keep children preoccupied for hours. So, I thought it would be a great idea to share the game with you as it makes for a good family bonding activity, and it helps reduce screen time.

How do you play Garbage? The game is played in rounds where everyone starts off with 10 cards each. The players who complete their set in a sequence from ace to 10 wins the round and gets one card less in the next. The game ends when a player is down to one card and draws an ace or a wildcard.

This card game is actually very simple and straightforward. But a full tutorial might be helpful for first-time players.

Playing Garbage: A Cheatsheet

Garbage is an easy game to learn, and you won’t need much to play it—besides one or more decks of cards.

  • Number of Players: Two or more
  • Deck: Standard 52-card decks
  • The goal for each round: To replace all hidden cards with face-up cards in the proper sequence from ace to 10
  • Winning the game: The winning player in each round will go on to the next round with one less card. The game ends when one player gets only one card left to play and then draws an ace or a wild card.


Garbage can be played by kids as young as four. It does require a little bit of thinking, but you won’t need sophisticated strategies to win the game.

So, how do you play it?

How many decks of cards do you need?

A two-player game will require a deck of 52 cards. However, you’ll need additional decks if you have more players.  Otherwise, you will run out of cards right away.

For instance, you will need two decks of cards for three to four players, and three decks for five to six players.

Setting up the game

Now that you have the players and the right number of decks, you can set up the game.

Deal 10 cards, face down, to every player. Players can’t look at their cards. They can arrange their cards in two rows, with five cards in each row.

This is now the original hand. These cards will be moved, discarded, or replaced throughout the game.

Put the rest of the deck in the middle of the playing area. This becomes your draw pile.

Take the first card off the draw pile. Place it face up next to the draw pile, and you now have the discard pile.

Playing Garbage

Players should know how to number the cards before they begin.

If you set up your cards in two rows, the numbering starts from the top left card as number one to the top right card as number five. Numbers six to 10 are the cards from the bottom left to the bottom right

With everything set up and with players knowing the placement, you can start playing the game.

1. The first player draws a card from the draw pile and places it in its corresponding spot.

For instance, you are the first player, and you draw a four. You will then place this card, face-up, on the corresponding spot for number four, replacing the card that was originally there.

You will reveal that displaced card and then put it on its corresponding spot, face up. Let’s say that the discarded card is an eight, so you place it on the number eight spot.

Again, the card that was originally on that spot will be taken out and then placed on its rightful spot, revealing yet another hidden card.

Repeat the process until your turn ends.


Kings are considered as wildcards. You can put a wildcard face up anywhere you want to reveal and replace an unturned card.

If you draw a card whose corresponding spot is occupied by a wildcard, you can just swap the cards and put the wildcard on a new spot to reveal and replace yet another unturned card.

So, if, for instance, you draw an ace and there’s a wildcard occupying the number one spot, you can put the ace in and move the wildcard to one of the unrevealed spots.

First player

Anybody can be the first player, depending on what’s been agreed on. You can roll a dice, have the youngest one in the group play first, or go for the one to the left of the dealer.

2. Ending your turn

Your turn ends when you draw a jack, a queen, or a number you already have. You’ll have to put that card on the discard pile, and the next player will start his or her turn.

The next player will take a card from the draw pile and place that card on its corresponding spot. Alternatively, the next player may pick the card at the top of the discard pile if he or she needs it.

3. Ending the round

When a player completes putting cards face up on all spots, from ace through 10, he or she will need to say “Garbage” to end the round.

The other players will get a chance to complete their own sets by drawing one more card until they end their turn.

Some may be able to complete their ace-to-10 set on this last turn, while others won’t be as lucky.

4. Starting the next round

Collect all the cards and shuffle them. To start the next round, you’ll deal only nine cards to the winners of the previous round, or those able to complete their ace-to-10 set.

Players who were not able to finish their set will get 10 cards each.

5. Winning the game

The game proceeds in the same manner described above. Each player who completes a set gets one less card in the succeeding rounds.

This goes on until one player is dealt only one card. Once the player draws a wildcard or an ace, he or she should say “Garbage” or “Trash” to win the game.

Variations of the Game

As with any other card game, you can try different variations of Garbage.

  • If you’re playing with younger children or if you have plenty of space on the table, you can arrange the cards in a single row.
  • You can play a shorter version of the game with fewer rounds. For instance, you can agree on playing only until the leading player gets five cards.
  • You can also play with only eight cards at the start. You can decide whether to take out all the nines and 10s or to consider them as stop cards like jacks or queens.
  • Other players impose stricter rules, such as having only one winner in each round and not letting the rest draw one more card after one player has already completed a set.

Play Garbage with Your Kids and Friends Today

In general, playing card games can be beneficial for kids. It helps them learn how to follow the rules, take turns, and be competitive in a healthy way.

It can also help build their confidence and teach them how to strategize. Card games also teach them how to win or lose gracefully.

Garbage is an excellent game for kids old enough to recognize numbers. And for adults, it’s a great way to while away the time.

So if you have a few hours to kill, why not gather the kids around and play Garbage?

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print


I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!