Onze is a family favorite card game.  Similar to Gin Rummy, Onze is played with a sequence of 7 hands that are played with different mixes of sets and runs. The first round (hand) is played with 6 cards and each subsequent hand has one additional card.

Onze is the french word for Eleven.  Evidently, most variations of Onze are played with an 11 card hand.

For maximum enjoyment, Onze should be played with at least 2 decks (2 jokers for each deck!), with 6 players you need 3 decks and with 8 players, you need 4 decks.  Any more than 8 players and you’re asking for trouble.

Someone must be the scorekeeper.  We used to use any old sheet of paper and then throw it away when we were done, but  one of the smarter Caldwell’s designed a Score Sheet and created a booklet of them.  This “Onze Book” now contains a fair amount of family history as the scorekeeper adds notes, comments and other bits of info that come up during the game.

Onze on the Family Housboat Trip

Here’s a clip of an early Caldwell Onze game. It took place during the infamous Caldwell Family Houseboat Trip in August of 1991.

Onze Tips

The most successful Onze players have a plan, they don’t just grab a seat and start playing. It takes preparation and strategy to be a master.  The following tips can help you succeed.  Add your own tips in the comment section at the bottom.

Winning Onze Strategies:

1. Location, Location, Location.
Don’t be the last one to the table!  Be careful about where you sit.  The most important person is the one to your right.  Choose him or her carefully.  Likewise, the person to your left can be someone you “owe,” a favor or payback .  This adds a level of spice to the game.

2. Low Card Strategy.
If, after the 6th hand, you have a lead greater than 150 points, you may choose to take this can’t-miss method of winning.  After all, as long as you don’t cheat, a win is a win.

To cement your win, simply make it your goal for the 7th hand to collect the lowest point total.  Forget about sets and runs, just start picking up cards lower than a face card and discarding all high cards.  Do Not take any Offdraws as this will increase to likelihood of you picking up a joker or other high value card.  Two thirds of the way through this hand, someone should pick up on the fact that you are using this strategy and you will be subject to much derision and accusations that you are cheating.   Stay strong, winning is what is important here. If you are lucky, you can get out of this hand with fewer than 140 points, which means – You Win!!

So far, only Wally and Steve have been known (or admitted) to use this tactic.

3. Move quickly.
When you see an offdraw you like, take it quickly and then defend yourself when someone complains, saying that they were too slow.  Unfortunately, the rules are against you on this, but if your are persistent and fake a few tears, it might just work.

Onze Stories

The comment section below is a great place to post your favorite Onze memories and stories.  I’ll start with reprinting a story that Bob insists on making sure that everyone hears and no one forgets:

“Any llenrocweb visitor should be able to read about the time I was dealt a nearly complete final hand – – in other words, when I looked at the cards I was dealt in the last hand, I had two complete runs and one run that was missing only one card. The one card I needed was the card that had been turned up to start the play. Although I was not the person immediately to the left of the dealer, and therefore not automatically elegible to pick up that needed card, I picked it up anyways, disregarding the cries of “Foul” coming from a player or two who would have been elegible to pick up the card ahead of me. I put the card in my hand, laid down my three complete runs, discarded one and splashed out. My fellow players were so amazed by my card playing prowess, that they correctly awarded me the hand, and of course the game.”

– Bob

Onze Score Sheet

Here is the official Llenroc version Onze Score Sheet.
Click on the image for a full-size, printable score sheet.

Onze Rules

Basic Rules – Llenroc Onze Variant

(Note: If you arrived at this page with the help of an internet search engine, welcome! Please leave a comment or two about your Onze experiences and any rule differences)

It should be noted that there are many variations of Onze game play. I found an old online discussion board that had a different variation from each person that commented. The Llenroc group has pretty much played the same way since Grandpa Boekman was the Onzemaster back in the 50’s. The Basic Rules set forth here will be known as the “Llenroc Onze Variant”.


  • Set – A basic set is 3 cards of the same value.
  • Run – A basic run is a sequence of 4 cards of the same suit. Ace can be low or high (but not both).
  • Go Down – To lay your cards down after meeting the hand requirements. As you are going down, you can also lay off unused cards in your hand to add to the already laid down hands from the other players.
  • Go Out – To get rid of all your cards by meeting the hand requirements and discarding all cards in your hand. When someone goes out, the hand is complete and the scores are tabulated.
  • Splash – When a player goes down and goes out in the same turn.
  • Offdraw – When a player takes the discarded card out of turn.
  • Offdraw Penalty – A player must take a card from the stack when he or she takes an offdraw.
  • One Card Penalty – When a player does not state that he or she has on card remaining in his hand, a penalty card is taken from the stack.

Jokers can be played anywhere. You can even have a set or run entirely of jokers.

Hand Sequence and Requirements:

  • 1st hand is 6 cards and is 2 sets (2 X 3 = 6).
  • 2nd hand is 7 cards and is one set and one run.
  • 3rd hand is 8 cards and is 2 runs.
  • 4th hand is 9 cards and is 3 sets.
  • 5th hand is 10 cards and is 2 sets and 1 run.
  • 6th hand is 11 cards and is 2 runs and 1 set.
  • Final hand is 12 cards and is 3 runs.

Game Play:

Shuffle decks together (including Jokers). Select the dealer for the first hand by cutting the deck. High card is the dealer for the first hand and the player to the dealer’s left will be the dealer for the next hand. This continues throughout the game.

There are seven hands, or rounds to a game. The object of the game is to get all of the hand requirement and discard all your other cards and score low or no points. The player with the lowest point total after the 7th hand is the winner.

The object of each hand is to “Go Out” by meeting all of the hand requirements and then laying off or discarding all remaining cards in your hand. The cards that are remaining in your hand when someone Goes Out are counted against you and this score is added to your running total. If someone goes “Splash”, your score is doubled for that hand.

The first six hands are played as follows:

  • After cards are dealt, dealer places the remaining cards (the ‘stack’) in the center of the table. The dealer takes the top card of the stack and places it face up on the table. This card is available to the first player to the left of the dealer that wants it.
  • If the first player to the left of the Dealer does not want this first card, the next player may take it. This repeats until either the card is taken.
  • If no one takes this first “up” card, the first player to the left of the Dealer draws a card from the stack. The player then discards (or goes ‘down’). Play then continues with the player to his/her left.
  • After each player discards, the card that is discarded can be picked up for use by any player. HOWEVER, the player to the left has first choice, and then the next player to the left, etc.
  • If the first player to the left picks up the card, there is no penalty. If any other player picks up the card, there is an ‘Offdraw’ penalty. This means that the player taking the card must also take one card from the top of the stack.
  • After a player takes an Offdraw penalty, play resumes with the player that is to the left of the discarder.
  • When a player meets the hand requirements, he or she lays down the cards that meet the requirements. You must play only the hand requirements. If you have extra runs or sets in your hand, they are meaningless unless you can use them to play off other player’s down cards.
  • After laying down your cards, you may then play the remaining cards in your hand on other player’s down cards. When you play on other players down cards, the cards are physically added to the down cards so that others can easily see what cards are down.
  • If a player is able to go down and play all cards in the same turn, that is called a Splash and the hand is finished.
  • The hand is finished when any one of the players plays all their cards.

The seventh hand has the following differences:

  • Only 3 Offdraws are allowed per player
  • In order to go down, you must Splash, therefore, the player that goes down first wins this hand.


  • Jokers – 20 points
  • Aces – 15 points
  • Face Cards – 10 points
  • All other cards – face value

After each hand is finished, the point values of the remaining cards in each player’s hands are added together to get the player’s score for that hand. A running total of each player’s score is made, and the player with the lowest score after the 7th hand is the winner.

A special situation exists whenever a player Splashes. When that happens, the scores of the other player’s are doubled. This includes the 7th hand which must end with a Splash.

(more to come…)

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