Speed Card Game: Setup, Rules, Gameplay & Fun Variations

A deck of playing splayed on a wood table.

Have you run out of games to play? Maybe it’s time to revisit some of the classics. One usually thinks of games like Old Maid, Gin, Go Fish, and Rummy. There’s always poker as well.

For those who want a simple and fast game with multiple hands, the card game Speed may be the perfect choice for this coming game night!

Whether you’re new to the game or maybe an experienced player looking for new ways to play, this is the place to start! We will cover the basics, legal and illegal plays, and even some variations. 

How do you play Speed with cards? To play Speed, two cards are placed in the center of the table, with two 5-card piles on either end, and the remaining cards are dealt between the two players. Players race to play cards that are one higher or lower than the center cards. The first to play all their cards wins.

As with any card game, there are rules to playing. While Speed is a pretty simple game, some players can get crafty, so make sure the rules are set in stone before playing. 

We will begin with the basic game and expand on it from there. With variations like Spit and California Speed, there are tons of ways to play the game.

Playing the Speed Card Game: Quick Guide

For all the newbies and the veterans who need a refresher, the below information is your basic guide on the Speed card game.

In this article, we are going to cover the basic two player game, but if you have a big group playing, don’t worry! We will go into how to play with more than two players later.

  • Number of players: 2 or more
  • Deck: Standard 52 card deck
  • Object of the game: To be the first player to get rid of your cards
  • Winning the game: The first player to play all their cards wins

Speed Card Game Setup

  1. Shuffle the deck thoroughly.
  2. Pace two cards side by side in the middle face down.
  3. Place two piles of five cards on either side of the two in the middle.
  4. Each player is dealt the remaining cards evenly (20 each).

Playing the Speed Card Game

  1. Each player flips one of the center cards at the same time.
  2. Picking up 5 cards from the remaining cards dealt, the players begin to place cards in the two center piles in either ascending or descending order (each card played must be one higher or one lower than the face-up card). Each player maintains a hand of five cards.
  3. Once no more cards can be played, each player flips a card from one the two side piles in the center area.
  4. Game play will continue until the first player rids their hand of all cards. That player is the winner. 

What To Do When No Moves Can Be Made

When no further cards can be played, each player will flip a card from the two side piles in the center area. From there gameplay will continue.

Flipping cards from the reserve piles will continue until the end of the round. Just be sure to be the quick one!

Speed Rules

Players can only flip a card when no other cards can be played. A hand of five cards must be maintained. Picking up the entire 20 card pile is not allowed.

Players may only use one hand to actively play cards. Cards may be held in one hand and played with the other, but two hands may not be used to add cards to the center piles.

When a player runs out of cards, they must hit the table and say “Speed!” Otherwise they forfeit the win.

Winning the Game

Once you have run out of the cards, hit the table, and say “Speed!” You have won the game. Don’t be surprised if this gets heated and your friends want to go again and again!

Speed Card Game Variations

There are some different variations when playing the Speed Card game. Some of them change up little details of the original game.

The concept of being the first one out of cards remains the same, but with added elements, the game can get even more interesting!


Some players choose to play Jokers as wild cards. So at two points, if a player holds only unplayable cards, they can play a Joker if they have one to move the game along.


In this variation, instead of having one hand of 5 cards and a face down pile, each player has a standard five piles with one card flipped on each for gameplay.

California Speed

Each player is dealt half the card deck. Each player lays four cards face up in front of them. Players lay down cards that match the previous card.

Continue to find new matches until there are no more cards. The first player to play all their cards wins!

A man shuffling a deck of cards over a green table.

What Is the Chinese Speed Card Game?

With any card game, you will usually find variations with different parts of the world in the title. A lot of times, the versions were given that name because of where it originated.

The Chinese Speed Card game is one of those that complicates the originally version by giving a different layout and more options!

Each player is dealt half of the card deck. There are five piles created with 1 card being on the first pile, 2 on the second, and so on. 

Once all five piles are made, the top card is flipped over. Players will have reserve piles as well. They should be holding 11 cards once all is said and done. 

Each player will turn over the top two cards on the reserve piles simultaneously. Draw cards from your hand that are higher or lower than the cards on the table. 

You can play the face-up cards from the five piles as well. Be sure to flip over another card as the other one is played. 

When all your cards are played, slap the smaller piles on the table. Add your reserve cards to your hand to start a new hand. 

The first player to play all cards wins!

What Is the Double Speed Card Game?

In this version both players are dealt half the deck. From each deck the player deals four cards in separate piles face up. Once those are done, players can begin to play cards making pairs. 

If no pair can be made, the player adds the four cards to their hand and deals four cards in a row. Game play continues until one player is out of cards. That player wins.

Related Questions:

Is Spit the Same as the Speed Card Game?

While Spit is similar to the Speed card game, it differs in the fact that each player has five piles that they can play from at any time. The rest of the game is the same.

Just keep playing cards from your hand and be the first to run out in order to win!

Can Speed Be Played With More Than Two Players?

Speed can be played with more than two players. You will need to add another deck of cards for each additional two players.

This is so the same amount of cards can be used while allowing the length of the hands to stay the same. 

Ready, Set, Play!

Speed can be played the original way or you can try your hand at any or all of the variations. As with any card game, you can feel free to get creative, and maybe even create your own version.

Whatever you choose, the Speed card game is another great game to play on game night. Grab your friends and get ready for some fast-paced fun!

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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!