Pairs: A New Classic Pub Game

Pairs is a new card game by James Ernest and Paul Peterson. It's simple, fast, and fun. And there are many different styles of art to choose from, thanks to many amazing artists and a very successful Kickstarter campaign!

The Pairs deck contains only the numbers 1 through 10, in a triangular distribution (1x1, 2x2, 3x3, and so on up to 10x10).  The basic goal of Pairs is to avoid getting a pair. Your odds will depend on what cards you hold, and which cards you have seen! Scoring pairs earns you points, and the first player to reach a target score is the loser

You can buy many versions of Pairs at your favorite game store, or order a copy of the Fruit Deck from Drive Thru Cards

The Pairs Companion: We're pleased to give you The Pairs Companion, a collection of nearly 20 new games and variants for the Pairs deck, collected from all the decks in the first print run. This is a quarter-page sized booklet in PDF.

How to Play Video: We've also posted a short video explaining the basic game rules.

Thanks for playing and we hope you'll enjoy Pairs! For more information on the game, check out our new product info pages at Hip Pocket Games

Quality Control Note: If anything is awry with your Pairs deck, such as a missing card, please contact us. Even giant card collating machines can make mistakes! If you are a Kickstarter backer, please send us a message through Kickstarter, so we have your information handy. If you purchased Pairs anywhere else, please email James Ernest, who is cheapassjames, at the magical place known as gmail dot com.


Everything below this line is leftover stuff from the Kickstarter campaign, including preview art from the games, and nearly-finished versions of all the variant rules. 

Pairs: Name of the Wind   Pairs: Fruit Deck   Pairs: Pirate Deck   Pairs: Modegan Deck

Pairs: Barmaids   Pairs: Goblins   Pairs: Princess and Mr. Whiffle   Pairs: Faen Deck

Pairs: Professor Elemental   Pairs: Baby Cthulhu   Pairs: Foglio Muses   FALLING

Pairs is a "New Classic Pub Game" designed by James Ernest and Paul Peterson. You can play with 2 to 8 players, the rules are very simple, and each hand takes about 5 minutes. 

Pairs uses a simple "triangle" deck of cards: 1x1, 2x2, 3x3, etc. all the way to 10x10. That's 55 cards all together. You can build it from three poker decks, or you can download our "fruits and vegetables" print-and-play deck below. You can also buy a high-quality copy of the Fruit Deck from DriveThruCards.

Pairs is a press-your-luck game. Each round, players take turns deciding whether to take a card or fold. Folding gets you some points, but catching a pair could get you a lot more points (and points are bad.) The first player to reach a target score loses the game. Full rules are below.

Here is the beta version of Pairs:

French Translations: Special thanks to Franck Lefebvre for putting together a French translation of the playtest rules, as well as Hawthorn and Blackstone:

Dutch Translations: Special thanks to Linda Tonen for putting together a Dutch translation of the playtest rules, as well as Hawthorn and Blackstone:

Slovak Translations: Special thanks to Jozef Horvath for translating the Pairs rules into Slovak!

Strategy: One thing that distinguishes truly great gambling games is that basic strategy is easy, but perfect strategy is hard. Okay, that describes Blackjack and Poker, and for most other casino games, basic strategy and perfect strategy are basically the same thing. But whatever.

Game analyst and Cheapass fan Greg Whitehead has come up with a basic strategy for Pairs that plays nearly perfectly, so we thought we'd share it. The strategy is below; take the following steps in order:

  1. If folding would kill you, hit.
  2. If catching the average of your card values would kill you, fold.
  3. If your total points are greater than 18x the fold value, fold.
  4. Otherwise, hit.

Is there a better strategy? Of course; this basic heuristic doesn't consider scores, nor does it use any knowledge of the cards that have been seen. If you can track cards, know your opponent's tendencies, and pay attention to the scores around the table, you can improve on this basic strategy.

Join the conversation at our Facebook page, or drop James a note at cheapassjames (at) gmail (dot) com.