The Card Game Every Backpacker Should Play in Their Hostel

Article Single Pages©
Article Single Pages©
NZ Pocket Guide is 10 years old. Thank you for trusting us with your trip for over a decade!

The Backpacker Card Game: Yaniv!

We think we’ve found it: the ultimate icebreaker card game for when you meet a group of fellow travellers in a hostel. The game is called Yaniv, it’s super easy to learn, and before you know it you will have brought a group of people together from all walks of life that reside in your hostel. It’s the ultimate backpacker card game.

All you need is a 54 deck of cards (which is most international playing cards), a pen and paper to keep score, and a group of two or more players.

Aim of the Game: To have a lower total value of cards in your hand than the other players.

Now, let’s go through the rules.

Card Values

  • Ace = worth 1 point
  • 2-10 = worth their face value
  • Jack, Queen and King = worth 10 points
  • Jokers = worth 0 points©

Setting Up the Game

  • Five cards are dealt face down to each player.
  • Deal the cards one by one in a clockwise direction.
  • The remaining cards go in a pile face down in the middle. This becomes the “draw pile”.
  • The top card of the draw pile is turned face up to start a “dump pile” next to the draw pile.©

Starting the Game

  • Players now look at their own cards.
  • A random player starts the first round. Rounds after the first round are started by the winner of the last round.
  • Now, players can do two things during their turn:
  1. Throw one or more cards into the dump pile and pick up one card.
  2. Call “Yaniv” when they think their hand has less value than other players at a lower value than five.©

Throwing Cards

Players can throw any one of the following combinations in their hand:

  • Any one card.
  • A set of two or more cards in the same rank. For example, two “9s”, three “Kings”, four “8s”, etc.
  • A sequence of three or more consecutive cards in the same suit. For example, A-2-3 of clubs, 4-5-6-7 of hearts, J-Q-K of spades, etc. However, a Q-K-A combination is not valid.©

Picking Up Cards

Players must also pick up one card during their turn. They can pick up a card from:

  • The top of the draw pile.
  • A card is thrown down in the dump pile from the previous player. If the last player threw down several cards, you can only pick the first or last card.

Always throw down a card before picking up a card.

If players get through the draw pile, then save the last face-up card in the dump pile, shuffle the rest of the dump pile and stack them face down to make a new draw pile.©

Calling “Yaniv”

When it is a player’s turn, their hand is at a value of five or less, and they think they have a lower value hand than all the other players, then that player can call “Yaniv” and end the round.

Note: a player can only call Yaniv at the beginning of their turn. Not after throwing and picking up cards.

Now the round has ended and it’s time for the scoring!©


The object of scoring is to have as few points as possible. A player is out of the game when they reach a total over 200.

When Yaniv is called, all players reveal their cards. Two situations can occur:

  • If the player who called Yaniv succeeded in getting the lowest hand value than the rest of the players’ hands, they get a score of 0 and the rest of the players get a score of the total value of their own hand.
  • If another player had the same or less value in their hand than the person who called Yaniv then the Yaniv-caller gets an automatic 30 points. The other players score the total value of their own hand, including the player who had a lower value than the Yaniv-caller.

One player is the score-keeper, keeping a record of the scores throughout the game. The last survivor (the player who doesn’t reach more than 200) is the winner!

However, some crazy things can happen in the scoring:

  • If a player’s score reaches exactly 100, this reduces their overall score to 50.
  • If a player’s score reaches exactly 200, this reduces their overall score to 100.

The “Sneaky Sneaky” Rule

Now you have the basics, add these rules for more frustration and legendary victories!

  • If a player throws a sequence of three (2-3-4 of diamonds, for example) and another player has a card in their hand to finish off that sequence totalling to a four-card sequence (with a 5 of diamonds or an Ace of diamonds in this example), then that player can throw down that card onto the dump pile, even if it isn’t their go next. Plus, they don’t pick up a card if they have sneaked this card in.
  • If a player throws three cards down of a rank (for example, 3, 3, 3 or hearts, clubs and spades) and another player has the card to complete the rank so all four cards of that rank are in the dump pile, they can throw that card down onto the dump pile even if it isn’t their go next. Additionally, they don’t pick up a card if they have sneaked this card in.
  • This “sneaky sneaky” move can only be played before the next player plays their turn.

Have a card game that is better than Yaniv? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

For more hostel entertainment, see 13 Things to Do in a Hostel on a Rainy Day.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

Was this article useful?