Monday, May 14, 2007

President and Scum: The World's Most Addicting Card Game

President and ScumWith summer vacation around the corner and children looking for things to do, here's a playing card game that has been very popular in our house. I first learned how to play in college and used to have fun playing with my room mates--I warn you, it's very addicting--so I wrote down the rules to teach my own family.



This is a game for four players, no more, no less. Four shall be the number of players and the number of players shall not exceed four. There may not be five players, nor shall there be three unless a fourth shall join the group.

The object is to be the first player to get rid of all of his OR HER cards.

The Set-up:

Sit in a circle on the floor. Or at a table. Or maybe on pillows. In fact, conceivably you could play in bed or in a Jacuzzi, but when just starting out it’s best to take it slowly and sit in a circle on the floor. One player is designated as the President, usually by loudly announcing, “I call President!” one player as the Vice-President, one player as Secretary and one player as Scum. Scum is not a position of praise; therefore, the Scum is usually the last person to clue-in that a game is going down and that he’d better can a spot before he gets stuck as Scum.

Sit in order, from President to Scum, the Scum being the Dealer of Cards and Official Card Clearer and generally the one who gets any verbal abuse the rest of the group cares to dish out. The Scum shuffles and deals out all the cards equally to the four players (if you have an especially stupid Scum you might want to count your cards before you look at them to make sure you have 13).

Each player should arrange his or her cards in their hand from lowest to highest. Aces are high. Red aces lower than black aces, and the ace of spades beats the ace of clubs.

Now comes the fun part of being President. After each of the players have arranged their cards the President gives the Scum her two lowest cards (or more correctly, her two worst cards, as pairs and triples are desirable and the President may not wish to break up a pair of twos or threes) and the Scum gives the President his two highest cards, which are always his best. Likewise the Vice-President and Secretary exchange cards except that the V.P. gives her one worst card and the Secretary giving his one best card.

In case you’re confused, everyone still has 13 cards, but the Scum has been doubly-handicapped by giving away his highest and receiving the President’s lowest and the President has been twice blessed, since she has just done the opposite; she’s got Scum’s highest and gave away her lowest.

Oh, and a small note here: if the Scum should happen to be dealing the cards slower than the rest of the group feels is necessary they might encourage him to deal faster by a comment such as,” Chop, chop scum,” or perhaps, “It’s so difficult to find good help these days,” or whatever happens to come to mind. The reasoning is that whoever was stupid enough to get stuck as Scum, through either poor playing or failure to call another position fast enough, deserves to get a little verbal battery.

How to Play This Immensely Entertaining Game:

The President (as yet another perk to her lofty title) plays first. She may play any card, pair of cards, triples, or even four-of-a-kind should she happen to be so lucky. Next, the V.P. plays, followed by the secretary and finally the Scum. Everyone must play the same number of cards as the President, only higher. For example, if she plays a pair of sixes the V.P. must play a pair of cards higher than six. They must be higher, not equal to or less than, got it?

If a player doesn’t have cards that are playable, as is usually the case by the time the play gets around to the Scum, the player must pass. Each player gets one turn to play on the round, or the trick, or whatever you’d call it, and then the Scum quickly (again, if not quickly enough a little verbal abuse may be appropriate) clears the cards away and places them in a discard pile. Whoever played the last, and therefore highest, starts out the next round by playing a card and it goes around again.

As you can begin to see it is best to have high cards because then you can play as high as possible and gain control of the hand instead of being forced to pass as the Scum is often forced to do.

Regarding aces, a red ace will beat any single card played except another ace. A black ace will beat any single card or group of cards played. So here’s a pop quiz: What would the Scum have to play to win the round if, say, the Secretary plays an ace of clubs?

Aha! It’s a trick question because the only card that could beat the Secretary’s ace of clubs would be the ace of spades but there’s no way the Scum would be in possession of the ace of spades because he would have relinquished the card to the President in the two-card exchange before the game started. Bummer! So watch your Scum. If he pulls out a black ace, something fishy’s going on.

So the game continues around the circle with each player trying oh so hard to get rid of his or her cards. It’s better to have double, triples, etc. instead of singles because the chances of someone else having group of cards higher than yours is less than the chances of them having a single card higher than yours. That’s why the President will sometimes exchange a single four or five with the Scum at the pre-game exchange rather than breaking up a pair of twos. Got it?? The only exception to this rule might be aces. A black ace is higher than a double red aces, since a black ace will be any group of cards anyway and two red aces will only beat another double. I hope that is clear. Suits, other than in the case of aces, are of no importance.

How to Become President:

Whoever gets rid of their cards first becomes the new President (usually amid scowls from the other plays and shouts of victory from the new President). But don’t stop playing . . . because the next player out is the V.P., the next is the Secretary and the pathetic person holding the last card is the Scum who must then shuffle and deal out the cards for the next hand.

This is basically all you need to know for this addicting and highly motivating game, except a few friendly guidelines drawn from many hours of personal experience.


1. Only play after your work is done, otherwise it will never get done.

2. Only play with people who aren’t tired or cranky because if they are they’ll whine about being Scum and won’t take the verbal abuse they get. I remember I once played with a person who was normally cheerful and kind but after 27 consecutive hands as Scum he turned malicious and rude.

3. Do not play past midnight. It’s tempting but go to bed instead or you’ll just be tired and become subject to guideline #2.

4. Don’t play for more than two hours at a time or you could run the risk of breaking both guidelines #2 and #3.

5. Don’t play while eating caramel corn. As I’ve learned from experience it just gets your cards sticky and makes it hard to whip them down when they’re stuck to your hand. Especially if you’re playing a black ace and are about to become President; if your cards are stuck to your hands it loses the dramatic effect. Besides, when your teeth and lips are glued shut with caramel corn it’s difficult to properly abuse the Scum.


Classic Kid's Games is having a group writing project for posts about children's games. The entry deadline is Thursday May 17th.

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Heffalump said...

If only some of my lovely children weren't so...competetive as to totally freak out if they lose. I don't know if any of our boys are good enough sports to handle it. Maybe in 20 years!
Question. When you say each player has to play a card or set of cards you mean only higher than the President played, or do they have to at least one up whichever player has played the highest. I mean, if the V.P. one-ups the Pres, then does the secreatary have to one up the V.P? Or just the Pres' original play? Am I making sense?

Anonymous said...

oh my~We played this for hours and hours in High School, chatting about boys and all our gossip ... ode to the memories!

Jordan McCollum said...

Heffalump--each successive card must be higher than the one (or set) that precedes it.

I once played a version where three pairs was the "bomb" (not "da bomb") that could beat absolutely everything. The one time I got a bomb, I was president, so I started with it. Someone else had one, too! (It's nice to lay 6 cards down all at once!)

Did you know they actually make "scum decks" now? Instead of aces (if I'm remembering correctly), they have President and Wild President cards.

Scribbit said...

Thanks Jordan, yes that's how it works.

Hope the rules are clear. Never heard of Scum decks but that would be fun.

An Ordinary Mom said...

This brings back a lot of fun high school and college memories, although we played with more people who didn't have to trade their cards except for the lowest ranking peasant.

I also own the "Scum" board game!

flip flop mama said...

This is a fun, yet addicting game. But when we played it in college, it didn't matter how many people were playing as long as there was an even number to start with. Then the highest number switches with the lowest number and so on....Then you don't have to be exclusive! :)

Jordan McCollum said...

M--thanks for confirming that. We couldn't find it in the scum game's rules anywhere and everyone else thought I was CRAZY. (Even my sister who I know was there when we played.)

Julie Q. said...

This sounds a lot like a card game we LOVE around here called "The Great Dalmuti." It's a special card set just for this game (rather than face cards). The characters are different (The Great Dalmuti is the president and the greater peon is at the bottom of the social ladder) but the concept is very similar. We play with anywhere from 4 to 8 players. Definitely one of our all time family favorites. Here it is at Amazon if you're interested.

eve said...

I'm loving that you posted this, it's one of our family favorites and even the young ones catch on quickly!

Anonymous said...

I hafta leave this page up tonight, as my darling would LOVE this game! Thanks for sharing! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

Anonymous said...

I had too much fun reading that I didn't understand a word of what the rules were. Gotta go back and read them again (and again, methinks).

And, I think your favicon looks very cool, Michelle. The S coming down a mountain, like a river (maybe?) Very cool indeed.

Stephanie Appleton said...

Oh we love scum!

Kathy in WA said...

We play this as well. Like Jamie, we include as many people as want to play (just keep adding in decks). The people who taught it to us had hats that you wear for each position (the crazier/zanier the better). We use the titles king and queen (rather than pres and vice - pres) which is a bit amusing when a gentleman makes the queen position. :)

I need to go back and re-read the rules regarding aces. We don't play that Aces are any different from any other suit (except for being the highest in the number line).

Thanks for sharing!

Suzanne said...

thanks for the little dab of Monte Python in my day . . . :)