Let’s keep playing Uno until your eyes glaze over!

Our four-year-old likes playing Uno. This is the card game that evolved from the old Crazy Eights we used to play with a traditional deck. Uno has several more specialized cards; it is more sophisticated than our old game and my boy loves it.

The sad part is that he has trouble finding people who want to play it with him. Whenever he asks, “Who wants to play Uno?” everyone looks the other way and pretends they didn’t hear him. It’s not that Uno is such a bad game. I imagine it could be a pleasant pastime, to those who stand any chance of winning. But any game loses its appeal when you know you are bound to be defeated. In our house, no one can beat the four-year-old at Uno.

The boy beats me; he beats his mother, he beats his aunt; he just plain beats everybody. And he doesn’t even seem to try that hard. I don’t know if this phenomena indicates that he is a particularly bright kid or just an average one who routinely takes advantage of the low wattage produced by the dim minds of the rest of his family.

Sometimes it even seems as if he’s trying not to win, which makes me especially proud of the fact that I still can’t beat him. He makes no special effort to hide his cards from his opponents. In fact, he will cycle through his cards right in front of you. It doesn’t matter what you know about his cards; he’s not going to play them in the order his conventional, inside-the-box opponent expects anyway.

card game quarrel

“Quit showing all your cards! How can I have a fair chance of winning when you keep showing me your cards?” (Image: Frederic Remington)

Knowing what he has in his hand at most times, it’s still hard to follow the brilliance in the way he plays his cards. He plays whichever card strikes his fancy, often without considering all the possible plays in his hand. Sometimes he will use a wild card to change the color to one he does not even hold. This diabolical strategy is beyond my ability to fathom. I can’t figure out how it comes around to working out for him, but it always does.

It would be tempting to believe that he is somehow cheating his way to dominance over me in this game, but all the evidence points to him cheating in my favor, if at all. The one thing he does kind of fudge on is not always declaring “Uno” when he is down to his last card. But this oversight is not to blame for his winning streak. When playing against him, one should assume that, if he has not won yet, he is one slim card away from victory.

When he does lay his last card down, he doesn’t gloat over his victory. He merely pays a smiling homage to what was inevitable. Then, as you try to slink away unnoticed, he innocently speaks the words that clutch at you like a garden of nettles: “Let’s play again.”

playing cards on boxcar

“I’ve got a great idea! After I win this game, let’s play again!” (Image: Bain Collection)