52-Card Pickup

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52 Pickup or 52-Card Pickup is a children's card game, using a standard deck of 52 playing cards, that is usually played as a practical joke. The name has also been used for solitaire versions and for legitimate educational children's games that are based on the fundamental principle of picking up scattered cards or objects.


Any deck of cards will do, although the game works best with traditional playing cards. 'Unnecessary' cards such as jokers may be ceremoniously removed. The game mechanics require at least one player who is familiar with the game and one player who wants to be initiated into the game. The first player, as "dealer", throws the entire deck into the air so the cards land strewn on the floor. The other player must then pick them up.


Other card games sometimes transpose into this game. For an example, a child falling behind in Go Fish or Crazy Eights, or bored by a never-ending game of War, may simply declare "52-Card Pickup!" and sweep all the cards off the table.

One variant has the "dealer" hold up the deck of cards in one hand in a grip similar to the grip one might use to shuffle the cards. The deck is usually pre-arranged to have a few black cards on the bottom. The "dealer" instructs the other player(s) to call out "smoke" if they see a black card, and "fire" if they see a red. They hold up the deck and take the cards one by one off the bottom as the other player(s) call out "smoke" ... "smoke" ... "smoke" ... and, with the first red card, "fire!" On hearing "fire", the "dealer" riffles the cards (as if to shuffle them) into the air, "firing" the entire deck of cards toward the other player(s).

The game is sometimes renamed to adjust for deck sizes other than 52 or to fool someone who is already familiar with the game under its normal name.

By introducing additional rules, the task of picking up the cards can be made so interesting that it becomes playable as a solitaire game. A popular rule of this kind is that only cards from the top of the heap may be removed, and that they must be removed in sets that form Poker combinations.

Similarly, a competitive element can be introduced, e.g. when one player must pick up the cards in red suits and another those in black suits. If the cards are substituted with more robust and easily distinguishable objects such as plastic spoons in various colors, the game becomes appropriate for a group of very young children to train locomotive and object control skills.<ref>Template:Citation.</ref> Letter or word cards can be used for older children.

Another version of the game can be played where one player declares '52 card pick up' and is then granted power to throw each of the 52 cards individually at any of the opponents.<ref>Template:Citation.</ref>


While written records start later, the prank appears to have been played among children as early as the middle of the 20th century.<ref>Template:Pagat.</ref> The Encyclopedia of American Folklore discusses it under folk humor and, confirmed by numerous references in popular cultures, describes it as a "popular American prank". It notes that the typical mark for the prank is a very young child who is too keen to be included in play to ask questions.<ref>Template:Citation.</ref> The game is also popular in Germany, where it is known as 32 heb auf.<ref>The most common card deck in Germany is the French- or German-suited piquet deck used for Skat (card game).</ref> At least one American card game anthology has listed the prank among more formal children's games.<ref>Template:Citation.</ref>

Notes and references