How to Play Skip Bo: Game Setup and Rules (2024)

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Dealing the cards, making piles, and beating your friends

Co-authored byLuke Smith, MFAReviewed byAshton Wu

Last Updated: June 6, 2024Fact Checked

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  • Setup
  • |
  • Gameplay
  • |
  • Variations
  • |
  • Video
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Skip-Bo was invented in 1967, but it’s still a blast to play with your friends or family. In this timeless card game, 2-6 players lay cards onto piles in ascending order, much like Solitaire. Unlike Solitaire, though, players race to see who can run out of cards first. We’ll offer some simple instructions on how to set up and play the game, as well as directions for some fun variations to keep the party going long after you’ve mastered the basic rules.

Things You Should Know

  • Deal 20 or 30 face-down cards to each player, depending on how many people are playing. Place the rest in a face-down stack in the center.
  • Draw 5 cards from the draw pile, then lay as many ascending cards as you can onto the 4 “building” piles in the center.
  • Win the game by being the first player to run out of cards in your face-down stack.

Part 1

Part 1 of 3:

Setting Up the Game

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  1. 1

    Gather 2-6 people around a large table and shuffle the cards. To get started with Skip-Bo, grab a few friends—up to 5 other players, including yourself.[1] Then, Skip-Bo requires a large play surface to hold all the piles of cards, so find a large, round table to play at, or even play on the floor. Shuffle all 162 of the cards together.

    • Split the deck into 2-3 piles, and shuffle those independently to make it easier. Then, swap half of each pile and shuffle those. Finally, combine the piles to create the deck.
  2. 2

    Deal 20 or 30 cards to each player, depending on how many are playing. If you’re playing with 2-4 players, deal 30 cards to each player, starting with the person on your left and continuing counter-clockwise. If you’re playing with 5-6 people, deal each player 20 cards.[2]

    • Tell everyone to keep their cards face-down. No peeking in Skip-Bo!


  3. 3

    Create a stockpile for each player, plus a draw pile. Each player arranges all the cards they were dealt into a face-down pile in front of them, toward the center of the table. These are the stockpiles. Then, everyone turns over the top card of their pile, placing it face-up on top of the stockpile.[3]

    • Place the cards that didn’t get dealt face-down in a pile in the center of the table to create a draw pile.
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Part 2

Part 2 of 3:

Playing the Game

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  1. 1

    Draw 5 cards from the draw pile to form your starting hand. The person to the left of the dealer starts the game. They draw 5 cards from the top of the draw pile, arranging them in their hand. Everyone else waits for this first player to take their turn before drawing their own cards.[4]

  2. 2

    Play either a “Skip-Bo” card or a 1 to start the discard piles. If your starting hand contains either of these 2 cards, or if your face-up card on your stockpile is a Skip-Bo card (which is wild) or a 1, place them in the center of the table to begin the “building” piles. Each building pile must begin with either a Skip-Bo card or a 1, and players share 4 building piles in the center of the table.[5]

    • At the start, there aren’t any building piles. Imagine 4 blank slots in the center of the table, onto which you’ll place your starting cards.
    • If you have neither a Skip-Bo card nor a 1, your turn ends. Discard a card onto the space next to your stockpile to make a discard pile.
  3. 3

    Play cards in ascending order onto the building piles. Once you’ve got a building pile or 2 started, play as many cards onto these piles from your hand or the stockpile as you can. In order to play a card onto the pile, the card must be 1 value higher than the top card of the pile. For example, if you started a building pile with a 1, you may only place a 2 on top of it, then a 3, 4, etc.[6]

    • After you play the top card of the stockpile, flip over the next card and play that one, too, if you can, continuing until you can’t play the topmost card.
    • If you play all 5 cards in your hand, draw 5 more from the draw pile and keep playing your turn.
  4. 4

    Discard a card onto a discard pile to end your turn. After you’ve played all the cards you can onto the building piles, choose 1 card to discard. Place this card next to your stockpile. Each player can have up to 4 of their own discard piles. On your next turn, use the face-up cards in your discard piles to also add onto the building piles.[7]

    • Place your discarded card onto any of your 4 discard piles you like. These don’t have to follow any particular order.
    • If you discard the last card in your hand, your turn ends, rather than picking up 5 more cards like you would if you simply played your entire hand.
    • Take full advantage of your discard pile. Aim to have 4 discard stacks at all times to give you more options for play.
  5. 5

    Reshuffle completed building piles into the draw pile. Each time you place a 12 on top of a building pile, that building pile is completed! Reshuffle the cards in that pile into the draw pile. Now you have an empty space for a new building pile that will start with either a Skip-Bo card or a 1.[8]

  6. 6

    Take turns drawing and playing cards until someone’s stockpile runs out. At the start of every turn, draw from the draw pile until you have 5 cards. Then, play cards from your hand, the top of your stockpile, or your discard pile. Once someone’s stock pile has run out, the game ends, and they’re the winner![9]

    • Since the game ends when you run out of cards in your stockpile, it’s a good idea to prioritize playing cards from this pile whenever possible.
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Part 3

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Game Variations

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  1. 1

    Score each game to play multiple rounds. To keep the game going through more than 1 round, use a scoring system to keep track of points. The winner gets 25 points when they run out of cards in their stockpile, plus 5 additional points for every card left in their opponents’ stockpiles. Count up your points and write them down on a pad of paper. The first person to 500 total points wins.[10]

  2. 2

    Partner up with another player to play on a team. If you’re playing with an even number of players, pair up players sitting across from each other. These players are now teammates, and on their turns they can use cards from their teammate’s stock or discard piles play onto the building piles.[11]

    • Teammates can’t discuss strategy, though! Coordinate simply by discarding cards you think your partner might need.
  3. 3

    Play with some extra penalties for a more competitive game. Skip-Bo has some built-in rules for certain situations. Skip these if you like, to make your game a bit more laid-back and friendly. But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, incorporate the following into your game:[12]

    • If you accidentally draw too many cards, shuffle all the cards in your hand into your stockpile. Then draw 5 more cards.
    • If you accidentally start your turn when it’s someone else’s turn, that person may let you complete the turn. If they do, and you don’t realize your mistake, you can’t draw new cards on your next turn.
    • In a team game, keep playing until both players on a team have used all of the cards in both of their stockpiles.
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Community Q&A


Add New Question

  • Question

    Can I discard a wild card?

    How to Play Skip Bo: Game Setup and Rules (18)

    Community Answer

    Yes. You may decide to end your turn even if you could still make a play, and discard any card. This may be a good idea if the wild card is your last card in hand and you'd rather save it in your discard pile until you get five more cards next turn.

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  • Question

    What do you do when you cannot discard a card?

    How to Play Skip Bo: Game Setup and Rules (19)

    Community Answer

    You can always discard a card, unless you have no cards in your hand. If that's the case, then pick up more cards until you have a full hand and keep playing until you have a card to discard.

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    Thank you for your feedback.
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  • Question

    What do I do with the card I pull from the stock pile on each turn?

    Only pull it from the stockpile if you are going to use it. Don't discard it or keep it in your hand. Always keep the first card of the stockpile flipped over, on top of the pile.

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    Thank you for your feedback.
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      • You don’t have to play a card if you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s advantageous to save it for your next turn.


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      • If you have a low card in your hand but the building piles are all high cards, focus on completing a pile to refresh it so you can play your low cards.


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      • If you can use all the cards in your hand, do it, but don’t neglect the card on top of your stockpile!


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      About This Article

      How to Play Skip Bo: Game Setup and Rules (35)

      Reviewed by:

      Ashton Wu

      Board Game Expert

      This article was reviewed by Ashton Wu and by wikiHow staff writer, Luke Smith, MFA. Ashton Wu is a Board Game expert at Shelfside. After delving into the Yugioh tournament community while growing up, Ashton launched himself into the board gaming community in 2014 and went into reviewing board games as a career full-time in 2019. His YouTube channel Shelfside has over 35K subscribers and over 4 million views, assisted by written reviews on the Shelfside website and He also consults with gaming companies to build high-quality gaming products. Ashton is a tournament commentator, board game playthrough director, and host of the Shelfside Podcast, where he talks about board games with his business partner, Daniel. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in addition to the Technology Management Certificate. This article has been viewed 1,121,283 times.

      23 votes - 71%

      Co-authors: 33

      Updated: June 6, 2024


      Categories: Featured Articles | Card Games

      Article SummaryX

      Skip-Bo is a fun card game that can be played with 2 to 6 people. The goal of the game is to get rid of your cards before all of the other players. To play, you’ll need a deck of cards designed specifically for Skip-Bo. First, shuffle the cards and deal each player their hand. For a 2 to 4 player game, deal each player 30 cards. For a 5 to 6 player game, deal each player 20 cards. Keep your cards face-down in a pile, except for the top card, which you should flip up. Place the leftover cards face-down in the center of the table. The player to the left of the dealer goes first. To start your turn, draw from the face-down pile in the center of the table until you have 5 cards. Then, see if you can play any of your cards, including the face-up card on your pile or one of the 4 piles in the center of the playing area. In order to play one of your cards on a center pile, it must be the next card in ascending order. Skip-Bo cards are wild and can be used as any card. To start a new center pile on the table, you must play a 1. If you put a 12 on a pile, the pile is discarded, and the space opens up for a new pile to start. There can only be 4 piles on the table at one time. If you play a card from the top of your personal pile, flip up the next card in the pile. Continue your turn until you’re unable to play any more cards. Then, discard a card from your hand. Every player has 4 discard piles. You can stack discarded cards and play them on the center piles as long as they’re at the top of the discarded stack. If you manage to play all 5 of the cards in your hand in one turn, draw another 5 cards from the deck and continue playing. Once a player discards, it’s the player to their left’s turn. Play continues until one player plays all of the cards in their personal pile. Whoever runs out of cards in their personal pile first wins! For tips on how to set up the game effectively, read on!

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