Beating The Card Game Bullshit

4 minute read


I used to play the card game Bullshit, or at least I did until I mastered it.

We don’t play with many rules as it is a game of lying. It uses a standard deck of 52 cards, no jokers. All cards are dealt out, so in a game of 4 people each player starts out with 13 cards in their hand. The person with the Ace of clubs goes first. Cards are dealt face down on the table so no one can see what they really are, and the player states what he says he has – ‘One Ace’, ‘Four Aces’, etc. He could be lying. It’s your job, as his opponent to call ‘Bullshit’ on him if you think he’s lying, otherwise play will progress to the next player who puts down a 2, the the next player a 3 which continues and loops back to an Ace after the King. So, now, if you had called Bullshit on a player and he really was lying, he has to pick up all the cards on the table. If you were wrong (he was telling the truth) you have to pick up the cards on the table. The first person with no cards in their hand wins. That’s the basic game we play with, although there are many variations.

The first part of the strategy I came up with was figuring out times I should always call bullshit. During the game, there are a number of times where you will have all the cards in the pile on the table, and you should call bullshit since it won’t make any difference. An Example. There are no cards on the table. The person playing is putting down Aces. You have one Ace and should call bullshit. Why? Well, you can’t lose. You already have Aces in your hand, another one won’t hurt. The same goes is if you have one of each of the cards in the pile on the table. Say you didn’t call bullshit and the game progressed to 4’s. If you have an Ace, Two, Three, and Four in your hand you should probably call bullshit. Why? Again you have all the cards, so it shouldn’t hurt to call bullshit. However, you could get screwed if the other people bullshitted their way past you on Ace, Two, and Three with other cards (and lots of them). In summary, it’s best to call bullshit when there’s nothing on the table, and almost a sure thing when you have all the cards that should be in the pile on the table.

The next part of my strategy takes a lot more attention, and is a lot like card counting. Call it, card planning. In a game of 4 people there is a set pattern to the way cards are played (at least the way we play). With that in mind, you can plan to go out in 13 rounds or less. The tricky part is initially organizing your hand in one of the four possible configurations and either bluffing or filling your hand with cards you need. A little more detail follows.

Below you will see the pattern of game play for each player. In a game of 4 you will see it is as simple as adding 4 to your current card to get your next card. By setting up your hand in the order below instead of the common low to high you will already have an advantage.

Player 1: A 5 9 K 4 8 Q 3 7 J 2 6 10
Player 2: 2 6 10 A 5 9 K 4 8 Q 3 7 J
Player 3: 3 7 J 2 6 10 A 5 9 K 4 8 Q
Player 4: 4 8 Q 3 7 J 2 6 10 A 5 9 K

It’s hard to explain how well this works, but it definitely feels better playing this way. There is more certainty to the game. Another benefit of playing this way is now you can call bullshit on cards you don’t have (as long as it falls under the guidelines of my first strategy). Why? Well, if you don’t have an 8, but the pattern above says you need an 8 to be able to go out, you can potentially gain that 8 by losing a bullshit call to someone else. It also means if they are really bullshitting you just prevented them from winning. It takes practice, but it works.

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