Put and Take


If you read last weeks post, you now have ideas on how to make improvised game counters. So now I will share a game for you to put those counters into play. Put and Take games have been played for centuries by many different cultures. You can find many types of Put and Take tops from Dreidels to the eight sided teetotums of the Roaring Twenties. So whether paying for candy or coins why not give them a spin.


The number of sides a top has decides how many actions a game will have. If playing with an eight sided top a game is played like this.

1. Any number of players may play.

2. The players agree on the amount of chips each player will put in the pot at the beginning of the game.

3. First player spins and follows the instructions shown on the top.

4. After the spin the player passes the top to the next player so that he or she can spin.

5. If a take all is spun or the pot is empty all players wanting to continue playing put the agreed amount of chips in the pot.

The markings on a eight sided top mean the following:

T1 = The player takes one from the pot
T2 = The player takes two from the pot
T3 = The spinner takes three from the pot
P1 = The player adds one to the pot
P2 = The player adds two to the pot
P3 = The player adds three to the pot
AP =All players add one to the pot.
TA = The player takes all of the pot


Making a top for informal games is easy. The top shown in the photo is just a piece of cardboard cut into a octagon . Then a piece of wood with one tapered end is inserted in the middle of the cardboard. Finally label the eight sides with a game actions, and you are ready to spin.

While put and take games have a long history, I am interested to hear how popular the game is today. If you have experiences playing put and take, please share them in the comments.


Great ideas for game tokens and counters

There are many games that use counters to keep score, but poker chips or other manufactured counters are not always convenient to use. This is when home made or improvised counters come to the rescue. With a little imagination many every day objects can be turned into counters for a game.

When it comes to game counters there is nothing like the weight and feel of real metal coins. This is why keeping a collection of foreign coins in your game box can come in handy. However ,if acquiring enough coins to play proves difficult, why not try collecting a stash of old arcade tokens. Tokens have the look and feel of real coins and are easy to find cheaply.

Matchsticks or toothpicks can easily turned into game counters. They are cheap, portable, and available in most places. If you cut the heads of the matchsticks they can even be taken on a plane. To turn them into different point denominations try adding some color with a marker or nail polish. Use a different color for each denomination .


When searching for game counters do not forget to check in the pantry. A bag beans or nuts unshelled could provide with more than enough counters to play with. If play for candies, it is a good idea to pick type that is individually wrapped. Even after lots of handling individually wrapped candies are still fit to eat.


Popsicle sticks can easily be turned into mahjong style game counters. Traditional mahjong tallies are bone or plastic sticks with dots painted that resemble the dots on dominos. To turn your popsicle sticks into tallies cut them in half and round the edges with sand paper. Then write the tallies denomination with a marker. For extra style points use the domino style dots of the tradtional tallies.

If you have any ideas for improvised game counters, please share them in the comments .

The Uncommons game cafe


Manhattan’s first play cafe is having their grand opening November 19th. The address at 230 Thompson Street happens
to be the old location of the Village chess shop.

I had a chance to look around during the soft opening a few weeks ago. The idea is customers pay five dollars and can play any game in the library all day. They also sell coffee sandwiches and snacks.

I was excited to have chance to explore a game cafe ,because there are none close to where I live. I would be interested in to hear about anybody else’s experiences with games cafes. So if you would like to share, please post in the comments.



Chapeau… Poker Dice with continental twist.


If you combine best elements of liars dice with poker dice you get Chapeau. This game from Europe increases tactical decisions by allowing you to chose the dice you will re roll. Opportunities to bluff are also increased by allowing the player to chose which dice to be hidden from or revealed to the other players. So gather a group of your friends, and see what surprises lay hidden under the dice cup.


Equipment Five poker dice Dice cup
Dice mat ( This is can be a coaster or napkin used to make it easier to slid the dice to the next player).

How to play

The first player rolls all five dice on the mat keeping them hidden under the dice cup. The player then declares a poker hand . For example a player could call a pair of kings The next player can accept or doubt the call If the player accepts he or she peaks at the dice then can use one of the following options.

1. keep one or more of the dice hidden under the dice cup and roll,the remaining on the table where the other players can see.

2. Leave one or more of the dice on the table where the other players can see, and re rolling the remaining dice in the dice cup The dice in the dice cup remain hidden from the other players.

3. Pass the dice to the next player without re rolling. Some people play this can only be done if the player have not peaked at the dice.

4. Re roll all the dice in the dice cup, keeping them hidden from the other players. The player then must declare a higher poker hand than the player before. The dice are then passed to the next player who can accept or doubt the calls just as the last player did. When the player doubts, the dice are revealed . If the dice show the hand called or better the player who doubted loses the round. If the dice show a hand lower than the one called, the declarer loses the round When a player loses three rounds they are out of the game. The winner is the last player remaining.

Rank of hands.

Pair(aces down to nines)
Two pair (aces down to nines)
Three of kind (aces down to nines)
Full house (aces down to nines)
Four of a kind (aces down to nines)
Five of a kind (aces down to nines)
It is allowed for a player to declare a type of hand . For example a one player could call just a pair, then the next player could call a pair of jacks


Some people play that the first player of the round chooses what direction of play for that round.

Rather than playing to get one winner, it can be played to find one loser. In the middle of the table is a pot with 2 poker chips for each player in the game +1( for example four players would have a pot of nine chips). When a player loses a round he or she takes a chip from the pot. When all the chips have taken the player who won the round can put back a chip. When a player is out of chips after the pot is empty, he or she is out of the game. The last player that has any chips is the loser.

Game tables in Manhattan parks

I really like when parks encourage people to play games. Here are some photos of different styles of gaming table I found in Manhattan.

Chess table at the Checkers House in Central park


Chess table at Soho square


Chess table at Washington square park

Chess table at Astor place


Backgammon and Chess table Columbus park


Xiang Qi table at Columbus park


Liars dice


From China to Brazil, you can find folks playing liars dice. This is a dice game where the winner is determined by the players ability to bluff, rather then the dice rolled. So put your best poker face on and get rolling.

Players: 2-6

5 dice per player
0ne dice cup per player

How to play:

1. All players roll the dice and leave them concealed under the dice cup.

2. The first player peeks at the dice under his or her cup and says how many of any number have been rolled by the entire table. For example he or she may say that when all the dice are exposed there will be 3 dice showing the number two.

3. The next player can accept or doubt.

4. If the player accepts he or she calls larger amount than the last player. For example if the first bid was 3 twos, the player must call at least 4 twos or 3 threes . The next player in line then decides if they will accept or doubt.

5. If the player doubts, all the dice are revealed. If the dice show at least the amount of numbers bid the player who called loses the round. If the dice do not show the at least the amount of numbers bid the player who made the bid loses the round.

6. The player that was challenged starts the next round.

7. When a player loses three rounds they are out of the game. The winner is the last player remaining.


Some people play that aces are wild unless called on the first bid.

There is a variation where every time a player loses a round they remove one die from their cup. When they run out of dice the are out of the game. The winner is the last player with dice.

If you know of any other variations or house rules, please post them in the comments.

Bonus Tip

Liars dice is often played where it is to loud to be heard. In China rather than shout over the noise hand signals are used. The first signal is the amount and the second is the number shown on the dice. Now you can play liars dice even if you do not share the same language.

This is is sign for 1.

This is the sign for 2.

This is the sign for 3.

This is the sign for 4.

This is the sign for 5.

This is the sign for 6.

This is the sign for 7.

This is the sign for 8.

This is the sign for 9.

This is the sign for 10.

I would like the thank Julien for writing to me about these hand signals.