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1/23/10 Playing For Keeps

The other day, I played cards with my little brother.

When I lived with my host family, we did this pretty regularly, but in the year and a half since I moved out, it's become pretty rare. I can't even remember the last time we played cards together.

I taught my little brothers and sisters some of my favorite (and easy-to-explain) card games, like Go Fish, and UNO, and Crazy Eights, and I Doubt It. But their favorite game, then and now, goes like this:

Dealer gives each player four cards. Player to the right of the dealer goes first. On each turn, each player puts down one card into a common "pool". If the card matches a card already in the pool, collect both cards and store them. If the card does not match a card already in the pool, it stays there until collected in a later turn. When all cards have been matched, count your stored cards. Whoever has the most cards, wins.

The game moves quickly, as each player either tosses a card into the pot or swoops down to grab one that she knows she has the match for. There's no real strategy, no advantage to speed or deftness; each turn, each player will either match a card and keep 2, or leave a card behind.

That's it.

It's remarkably simple, so it works with players of any age (which is good for a family whose kids range in age from 19 years to 6 months...not that the six-month-old is much of a cardsharp yet).

So my little brother and I were playing. He beat me two games in a row. I congratulated him each time, but after his second victory, Ama asked, "So what does he win?"

I didn't understand the idiom she used. (She might have said "What are the stakes" - I really didn't catch any of it.) She saw my blank stare and tried again. "You have to take him down to the souq and buy some candy or soda or something." This I in, I understood the words she said, but didn't understand what they had to do with anything.

"You want some soda?" I tried. "What kind?"

She sighed, and tried again. "You can't just play cards to *play*. The winner *gets* something. So you should get your brother a soda or something."

This time I got it. And I laughed. Apparently, we play for keeps here. Who knew that a simple luck-based game was played for high stakes?

I looked over at my little brother. "How about I bring some cookies over tomorrow." He grinned. Everybody loves my cookies, made with real American chocolate chips and brown sugar.

Ama wasn't so sure. "Cookies? I don't should get him a soda."

I looked at my little brother, whose eyes were still shining at the prospect of chocolate chip cookies (which I haven't made in at least a month, and maybe two or three at this point...I don't remember). "Which would you prefer? Soda or cookies?"

He didn't hesitate. "Cookies!" he said quickly, with bright eyes and a big smile.

I grinned back at him. "OK!" I cheerfully agreed.

The next day, I brought two containers of cookies. One for the cardsharp, one for the rest of the family to share. there's a currency I like. :)

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Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps