How to play Mau Mau

Mau Mau is a card game that is played by two or more players, where each player is dealt a hand of cards (usually 5) and the objective is to get rid of all cards first. Whoever gets rid of his/her cards first, wins the game. Mau Mau is played with one deck of cards, but when more than 5 players are playing, two card decks are used. This game is very popular in the United States, Germany, Brazil, Poland and the Netherlands, but is also played in other areas. Mau Mau is very similar to Uno and Flaps, however, it is played with a regular card deck.


It is not certain when the game of Mau Mau was invented, but it is assumed that it has existed at least since 1930s. A Swiss version of the game called “Tschau Sepp” (“Bye Joe”, because that is what you have to say before putting down your last card but one) has existed at least since the early 1960s.


Basic rules

Mau Mau can be played with any regular card deck. It is usually played with one deck of cards, but, as mentioned above, if 5 or more players are in the game, two decks of cards should be used. At the beginning, each player is dealt a hand of cards (usually 5 cards). These cards can be seen only by a player holding them – other players cannot see other players’ cards. The rest of the cards is placed face down on the table and used as a drawing stack. After that, the top card from the drawing stack is revealed and the play starts. The players play in turns and there are rules on how cards can be placed in the middle on the table.


The basic rule is that one can play a card that corresponds to the suit or value of the open card (the top card that is on the playing stack). For example, on a 10 of spades, only other spades can be played or other 10s. If a player does not have a corresponding card, they draw one card from the drawing stack.  If he can play this card, he may do so, otherwise he keeps the drawn card and passes his turn. In case the drawing stack gets empty, the playing stack is shuffled (except the topmost card) and used as a new drawing stack.


A player wins the game by getting rid of all cards. Usually, he has to say something (usually “Mau”) before winning, or he will be given penalty cards, and will have to get rid of those before winning. If the last card is a Jack, one must reply differently (usually “Mau Mau”).


Additional rules

  •  A King and Queen of the same suit can be played at the same time.
  • During Bleeding Mao, any people who see another’s cards must say, for example, “Bleeding Queen of Spades,” and hand that person a card from the deck.
  • When a 2 of any suit is played the player must yell “The Deuce is Loose”.
  • Players may not touch their cards during Point of Order.
  • The player who played red 7 should turn to the player on their left and say “Have a nice day,” knock the table, and give them one card from the deck.
  • The player who played black 7 should turn to the player on their left and say “Have a nice day,” knock the table, and give them two cards from the deck.
  • Cards of the same value can be played all together within one turn.
  • Whenever a Queen is played, the person who played it must say, “All hail Lady Mao.”
  • Player of a king must say, “All Hail Chairman Mao.”
  • Player of a jack may change the suit by saying, “Change suit to _____.” (Hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds).
  • Players must say “last card” when they have only one card left.
  • A 2 reverses the direction of play (clockwise and counterclockwise), or lets the player take another turn before reversing. A player who fails to notice that the direction was reversed and plays out of turn must draw one card.
  • When you draw cards (e.g. when you pick two after a 7, or a card from the stack when you can’t play), you may put a card down immediately.
  • Whenever a card of spades is placed on the stack, the player must say, “___ of Spades.”
  • Anyone who talks receives a penalty card.
  • The first player to deal usually is the person with the most seniority in the game. The dealer is referred to as the Maumaster, or ‘dictator’.
  • The winning player “wins the deal”.
  • The first player to be the Maumaster (dealer) 3 times may make up a rule at random that must be obeyed indefinitely until the players are finished playing the game for certain period of time (i.e. at the end of the night, or if there is an extended break in gameplay).
  • Before the game starts players may look at their cards, the Maumaster must say “the name of the game is __ (some number of cards) Mau the game has begun” at which point players are no longer allowed to look at their cards unless the Maumaster conitinues with “you may look at your cards” and then must dictate the first player who will start the game and the direction the game will go (clockwise or counter…).
  • When a player plays the 4 of diamonds, they must say, “Let’s Play Baseball”.
  • When a player plays a 3 of any suit, they must say, “Tally Time”, to which all others playing must reply “Shut up!”.
  • A player may not ask questions during the game, and in extreme cases, may not even have an inquizitive tone to their voice, or they can be penalized one card.
  • Anyone can penalize anyone who breaks the rules and must explain why they were penalized. The penalized player must always respond “thank you” for every penalty given.



This variation of Mau Mau is popular in Portugal. The rules are mostly the same, only the 2 is used instead of 8 as a “skip turn” card. Also, one must say Puque when they have only one card left in the hand and doesn’t have to say anything different to end with a Jack.



Switch is a United Kingdom variation of Mau Mau. The rules are very similar – the 2 is used instead of 7 to make the following player take 2 cards from the drawing deck, a Jack gives a player an extra turn and then reverses the turn order, and Aces are used to change suit (instead of Jacks). Switch has higher number of penalty cards than Mau Mau. For example, when one plays his next-to-last card and does not say “Last card”, they have to pick up 7 cards (instead of 2 in Mau Mau). Also, some variations require a player to pick up 5 cards upon the play of black king. Numerical effects can be stacked and passed along, as with the above mentioned variation regarding sevens in Mau Mau. The important difference between Switch and Mau Mau is that players are allowed to place multiple cards of the same value or multiple cards of the same suit and subsequent value. For example, on a 10 of spades, one could play three 6s, provided that the one at the bottom of the group was the six of spades. ome variations include a “chaining” rule, where the player can link these rules together, and could play the three, four, five and six of spades, the six of hearts, and the six, seven and eight of diamonds.



Another UK variation of Mau Mau. In this game players have to say “Peanuckle” when they play their next-to-last card, or draw one penalty card. There is also an alternative to this, when the players say “Peanuckle” when they have two cards left, and “Super peanuckle” when they have only one card left. Mau Mau rule variations listed above can also be applied to the game of peanuckle.



Prší is a Mau Mau variation played in Czech Republic (“prší” means “raining” in Czech). It is played with German card deck of 32 cards (4 suits, values from 7 to Ace). The rules are mostly the same, but there are a few differences:

  • The players are dealt each four cards instead of five.
  • Ace is the card that forces the next player to skip his turn, not 8. The player may play another Ace instead of skipping the turn. The obligation to skip the turn or to play another Ace is then passed to a next player.
  • If a 7 is played, the next player, who would have to draw two cards, can pass this penalty on to the subsequent player by playing a 7 too. This subsequent player must then draw 4 cards. He too could play a 7, requiring the next player to draw 6, etc. The player who draws cards cannot play a card in the same turn.
  • In some variations, King of Spades has the same effect as 7 except that the next player must draw 4 cards. He may play 7 of Spades to pass the penalty on to the next player who must draw 6 cards or play another 7, the penalty then goes to the subsequent player, etc. Similarly, King of Spades may be played on 7 of Spades instead another 7.
  • A Queen can be played on any card (except 7 or Ace if it was played by previous player). The player who plays it then chooses a card suit. The next player then plays as if the Queen was of the chosen suit.
  • In some variations, Jack cannot be played on any card (it has no special meaning).
  • There is no word that a player must say if he has only one card left in his hand.



Faraón (pharaoh) is a Slovakian version of Mau Mau. It is the same as Prší, having only a few differences:

  • The players are initially dealt five cards each. The loser of a hand starts all subsequent hands with one card fewer. Once a player has lost four hands they therefore start the next hand with only one card. If they lose a further hand they are then out. The winner of each hand plays first on the following hand.
  • A player can play several cards of the same rank together in series, for example if a heart is on top of the discard pile they could play the ace of hearts and the ace of leaves on top of it. The two aces would mean the next two players miss their turns. In some versions it is not possible for players to defend against an ace as they don’t have a turn.
  • If a 7 (or several together) is played, the next player has to draw three cards (or six or nine or twelve). He can pass this penalty on to the subsequent player by playing a 7 (or several) too. This subsequent player must then draw three cards for each seven played in total (unless he plays sevens himself, passing the obligation to the next player and increasing it).
  • The Lower (Jack) of Leaves cancels out the obligation to draw cards due to sevens and can have other jacks played on top of it by the same player.
  • An Upper (similar to a Queen although the cards depict men) can be played on any card. The player who plays it then chooses a card suit. The next player then plays as if the Upper was of the chosen suit.

Additional resources

Play Mau Mau online

Play Mau Mau on PC

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