Nertz Rules

National Nertz Association (NNA) Rulebook

(Singles Edition)

4 players


The objective in a hand of Nertz is to be the first to get rid of a Nertz pile consisting of 13 cards among a table full of opponents simultaneously doing the same.

To get rid of the Nertz pile, Nertz cards are played into the Lake (a communal area) or the River (a personal area).

Lake cards score points and are played by suit, in ascending order, starting with the ace.

There are four River columns available per player. Cards placed within the River are played in descending order while alternating color.

The Stream pile provides the cards needed to build piles in the Lake and River, helping to eliminate the Nertz pile.

The elimination of the Nertz pile results in that player shouting “Nertz!”

Once Nertz is called, play stops and cards are calculated to determine the hand scores. The player who called Nertz receives a 10 point Nertz bonus added to their hand score. The first player to reach 150 points wins the game.

The game play is very similar to the game Solitaire and has the real-time action of the card game Speed.

Game Equipment

• One standard deck of playing cards per player consisting of 52 cards and no jokers

(Note that each deck must be different from every other deck used in the game. This ensures Lake cards are returned to the original deck after each hand. The card faces must have standard size numbers [not jumbo], standard colors, with no added designs.)

• A flat and open playing area large enough to accommodate all players

• Materials to tabulate scores

Preparing a Hand


Before every hand, all players pass their decks to the opponents on the right for shuffling. Decks are shuffled (face down) a minimum of five times and cut at least once before returning them to the original players. All shuffling and dealing is done simultaneously within the group.


Cards are dealt individually from the top of the deck. The River is dealt from the deck first, and placed directly in front of the player. The River consists of four cards dealt facing up beside one another. It makes no difference if they are dealt from right to left, left to right, or in any other sequence. The Nertz pile is dealt after the River. The Nertz pile consists of 13 cards, is dealt facing down, with the thirteenth card on top facing up. The remaining cards are designated as the Stream pile. This completes the hand set up. Nertz pile and Stream pile cards may not be reordered before a hand.

Before Play

Stream piles or Nertz piles may be held before the start of the hand and during play.

River cards may be rearranged before the hand. They remain within the River area and on the playing surface until the hand begins.

Players are not allowed to look at any cards facing down in Stream or Nertz piles before or during play.

Players are not allowed to shield any cards from table view before or during play.


When all hands are dealt, a “Ready, Set, Go” starts the hand and players are free to make plays. In a hand of Nertz, players have six available (or playable) cards: the current Nertz card, the current Stream card and the four top cards in each River column. All cards in piles underneath available cards are considered blocked (or unplayable).

Nertz Pile

The object of a hand is to eliminate the Nertz pile. Nertz cards are played in either the Lake or the River. Once a Nertz card is played, the topmost card of the Nertz pile is flipped over and made available. After playing the final Nertz card “Nertz” can be called to end the hand.

For strategic purposes, Nertz does not have to be called immediately.

Players may not move any cards in an opponent's Nertz pile.

Cards may not be added to the Nertz pile.

Available Nertz cards may not be intentionally withheld from the Lake—unless a player has an alternative available play in the River.


There are four River slots available per player. Available River cards in these slots may be played into the Lake. River cards may also be played in columns. Empty River slots may be filled with Nertz or Stream cards. Nertz, Stream, and other River cards may be used to build River columns. Cards used to build columns within the River must alternate color and be played in descending order.

When building a River column, any card(s) beneath the top River card should be partially visible and identifiable, though they are not currently playable (unless involved in a column move).

River cards and columns of cards may be moved on top of other River cards or columns.

It is not mandatory to fill empty River slots with Nertz or Stream cards as they may be left open for strategic purposes.

The River is a personal area. A player cannot place cards into, or take cards from, an opponent's River.

Players cannot slide cards behind a River column to make a play when all River slots are filled. Only when there is an open River slot, can players slide cards behind a River column, rather than playing that card in an empty River slot and dragging an entire column over to it.

An example of a fully built River column: (red) K, (black) Q, (red) J, (black) 10, (red) 9, (black) 8, (red) 7, (black) 6, (red) 5, (black) 4, (red) 3, (black) 2.

Columns may start with any card red or black (excluding aces), and may be a partial segment of the example shown above.


The Stream is used to find playable cards when none are available in the River or Nertz pile. Available Stream cards may be played into the Lake to score points. Stream cards may also be played in the River. When searching for playable cards from the Stream, cards are flipped up in groups of three. Only the top card in a face up Stream pile is playable. If the top card is played, the card underneath is then playable. Cards underneath the top card, in an open Stream pile, are blocked.

When searching through a Stream, each three card group is placed on top of the one before it, maintaining the original order of the pile minus any available cards played. Groupings in the Stream cannot be retracted to play a card underneath which may have been missed.

If the Stream ends and only one or two cards are left in the last grouping, the top card is playable. When all Stream cards are facing up, the pile is turned over and cycled through again, as many times as needed.

Cards cannot be added to the Stream pile.

Players cannot make plays from an opponent's Stream.


The Lake is the community area located at the center of a group of players. Lake cards score points and are played in  ascending order, of the same suit. All Lake piles begin with an ace.

When a king is played on a Lake pile, no further cards can be placed on that pile. Kings are turned over to indicate the pile is no longer available for play.

A full Lake pile is built suited, with no doubles, in this order: A,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K.

Available Nertz, Stream and River cards may be played into the Lake. Once a card is played in the Lake, it cannot be retracted during a hand, unless mistakenly placed.

Lake piles are only placed above a player's River (not below or beside), and within reach of all players.

All available aces are played in the Lake. Withholding of aces is prohibited.

Players may place more than one card in the Lake at a time. This is known as a stack. A stack may be made by a player when they have a card playable into the Lake, along with any succeeding cards. These cards are stacked together and placed in the Lake instead of being played individually. Players can only stack available cards. Until the stacked cards are played into the Lake, piles and columns from which stacked cards came are blocked from use. This means that cards underneath selected stack cards cannot be used in the stack. Because there are only six available cards that can played into the Lake, stacks are limited to a six card maximum.

During Play

Talking, standing and using both hands are allowed during play.

A card or group of cards in an attempted play, having not fully left the hand, may be retracted. A card is considered “played”, once the hand is removed from the card.

When a player fumbles a pile, they are to do their best to reorganize it, as play carries on. Misplaced card(s) are returned to their original pile(s).

When “Nertz” is called all play must stop. Calling “Nertz” before or without all Nertz cards being played results in a 5 point deduction. At the moment Nertz is called, cards being played into the Lake count toward hand scores.


Timeouts are only called if an accident scatters cards, obstructing two or more players from making plays. A player that drops a card on the floor, or fumbles a pile, not affecting another team, cannot call a timeout. Strategic uses of timeouts are prohibited. When a timeout is called, players are to immediately stop playing.

Idled Game

In the event of an idled game, in which every player is without a play, all players simultaneously burn a Stream card. To make a burn, players take the top card from a fully face-down Stream pile and place it at the bottom of the pile. Players are prohibited from burning cards individually because they are stuck during a hand. Play immediately resumes after a concurrent burn. In the rare case that burning the Stream pile card does not provide teams with any new plays, Nertz pile cards may be burned. Stream piles burned at least three times without any resulting plays are required before burning Nertz pile cards. To burn a Nertz card, all players take the top available Nertz card from the pile and place it at the bottom. Players may then flip over the next Nertz card and resume play immediately.

After a Hand/Scoring

Immediately after a hand, the players that did not call "Nertz" count the remaining cards left in their Nertz piles. At the same time, the player that called Nertz gathers all of the Lake cards and distributes them back to each opponent. After distribution, players count their Lake cards. Each Lake card played is worth one point and each Nertz card remaining is worth two points. To calculate a player’s score for a hand, subtract Nertz points from Lake points. The player that called “Nertz” receives ten bonus points and adds it to their Lake total. After every hand, scores are recorded and added to the previous game scores, until a player reaches or surpasses a total of 150 points. If there is a tie score for first place, the game continues with all players until the tie is broken, and the player with the highest score (totaling 150 points or more) is the winner.

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