Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Mom's Bluff is a simple gambling game that can be readily played as a party game but which, thanks to the folksy card design, works equally well as a family game.
Designed by David Lewis, the Mom's Bluff deck is made up of 53 cards comprising five of each card numbered 1 to 10 plus three 'Mom's Bluff' zero value cards. The cards are shuffled and divided up among the players, and the object of the game is to end up with the most cards.
Players look at the top card of their individual face-down stack of cards and they decide whether to play or fold. If a player folds, they discard their card and the next one in their stack into the 'pot'. Players who don't fold compare the cards on the top of their stacks. The winner is the player with the highest value card. Losers forfeit to the pot the card they played and the next three cards in their stack. The winner takes the pot. If a player is the only one who doesn't fold, they take the pot without having to show their winning card. There are special rules governing ties which make them both 'expensive' (in terms of burning through stacks) and random.
Mom's Bluff isn't a game to be taken too seriously. Think of it as a cross between Top Trumps and Poker. It has the key advantage of being very easy to play, and, played as a family game, it is playable by young and old alike.
Mom's Bluff comes into its own, however, as a party game where you house rule in your own forfeits; typically, playing it as a drinking game. Table talk and poker-style bluffing inevitably add their edge, so your enjoyment of Mom's Bluff as a party game will very much depend on who you are playing with. This is very much a game where the more you put in, the more you'll get out.
Mom's Bluff is playable with any number, though the sweet spot is with 4–6 players. It's very playable with larger numbers but you'll find players burn through their stacks too quickly. If you want to play with more than six, you'll probably need to shuffle in a second deck.