Deck of Cards Gift Exchange Game - Play Party Plan (2024)

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By: Britni Vigil

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Grab a deck of cards for this playing cards gift exchange and get ready to play what is bound to be your new favorite gift game. Watch your favorite gifts go around the circle as you hope to draw a lucky card that will allow you to walk away with the gift of your choosing.

This deck the cards gift exchange game can be played with any sized group and with any ages, making it the perfect gift exchange game for a holiday party!

And I know what makes gift exchanges fun, since I’ve spent the past ten years coming up with brand new gift exchange games for millions of people to play every holiday season!

Deck of Cards Gift Exchange Game - Play Party Plan (1)

People love gift exchanges but get bored doing the same ones over and over again. So I say mix it up and try out different gift exchange ideas every year!

I’ve created gift exchange games with cards, a gift exchange with a timer, and even a number of left right gift exchanges but not one of them uses playing cards.

So this year our new game is what I like to call Deck the Halls gift exchange, a super fun gift exchange game you can play with a simple deck of cards. It’s fast-paced and competitive with just the right amount of luck.


What You’ll Need to Play

One of the best things about this game is how few supplies it takes to play. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, this game will become an instant favorite once you play it.

  1. Wrapped gifts – this game requires that you have one wrapped gift for everyone playing. I highly recommend wrapping these with wrapping paper. The presents get moved a lot and you don’t want one falling out mid pass but gift bags are okay if that’s what someone brings!
  2. Printable card guide – this is optional but handy to have. When the game is going it gets easy to forget what each card means, this free printable helps keep everyone on track. Simply print it out at the bottom of this post and place it in the middle of the circle so everyone can reference it as needed.
  3. Deck of cards – you’ll want a standard deck of 52 playing cards with the jokers included, regardless of how many people are playing. You could even do a jumbo size of deck of cards to make it more fun!


Using a regular 52 card set of playing cards (plus the two jokers) makes it more fun because people don’t know exactly what cards are left! There’s no need to count out exactly enough cards for two rounds of your group – just use the entire deck and any cards that don’t get played, don’t get played.

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Set Up the gift exchange

  1. Prep enough presents so that everyone playing has one gift. Each player can bring their own wrapped gift or the host can provide all the gifts.
  2. Have the players pick one gift and sit in a circle with that gift on their lap.
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  1. Grab a deck of cards, including the jokers, and shuffle them thoroughly. Hand the deck of cards face down to one player in the circle.
  2. Determine how many rounds you are playing and let everyone know before you start playing. Also, hand out the card guide or have it around for people to see.


For large groups, two rounds is enough but for smaller groups three or more may be more enjoyable. A round is completed when the cards make it around the entire circle.

The basic idea of this game is that gifts are exchanged, stolen, and unwrapped based on playing cards. It’s a really fun alternative to a normal white elephant gift exchange or even a dice gift exchange (if you’ve done one that one before).

Before you begin you will want to take time to explain what each card means, using the printable I created makes this really easy. Once you’ve explained the game, here’s how you actually play!

  1. The person holding the deck of cards will pull the top card off of the deck and do whatever the corresponding action is for the card they flipped. It could be an action they only take, an action between them and someone else, or an action that everyone has to complete (such as passing the gifts to the right or left).
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Card Guide

  • RED 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 – everyone in the circle passes their gift to the RIGHT the number on the card. For example, a 5 of hearts means everyone passes their gifts to the right five times.
  • BLACK 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 – everyone in the circle passes their gift to the LEFT the number on the card. For example, a 5 of spades means everyone passes their gifts to the left five times.
  • 7 of any suit – the player who pulls the 7 switches spots with someone else in the circle. This can be used to get closer to a gift you want, to put yourself closer to the end of the game, or even to get another turn if you are hoping for a joker. Your gift goes with you wherever you go.
  • 10, Jack, Queen or King of any suit – player who pulled the card can unwrap their gift or choose someone else to unwrap their gift (if their gift is already opened or they just want to see what something is).
  • Ace of any suit – the player who pulled an ace can switch their gift (aka steal) with anyone else in the circle. The second time a gift is stolen, the gift is frozen and the player who stole it the second time leaves the circle with their gift.
  • Joker – the two jokers are the best cards in the deck and are considered “wild” cards. They have the choice to 1) keep an unwrapped gift they currently have and leave the game, 2) trade their gift with anyone else and leave the game with the gift they traded for, or 3)unwrap the gift they currently have and leave with it if they want or stay in the game.
  1. Once the action is complete, the first person should discard the card and pass the card deck clockwise.


Make a point of discarding the cards after they’re played rather than just letting people hang onto them. From my experience, if people hang onto the cards and they’re not put somewhere specific to discard, they often find themselves back in the deck, which can totally mess up the game.

  1. The next person flips a card. That player will draw the top card, the group will complete the corresponding action, discard the card, and that player will pass the cards clockwise again.
  2. This repeats until everyone has had a chance to flip one card, and this completes a round.
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If someone steals a gift the second time or uses a joker to steal and keep a gift, they should remove themselves from the circle along with their gift. This makes it much easier for everyone else so they don’t have to remember whose gifts are frozen as well as making it easier to pass from person to person.

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How Does the Gift exchange end

Keep going around the circle exchanging and opening gifts until the pre-determined numbers of rounds have been played.


If there are unopened gifts at the end of the final round, the gifts can be opened and kept by that player. Players can also trade amongst themselves after the game ends.

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Tips & tricks

  1. Keep the game moving by wrapping things easily. Avoid bags that the gifts can fall out of but remember this is a game and no one cares if the gift is wrapped perfectly when they are tearing into it.
  2. You do not want to deal out the cards ahead of time. Otherwise, you eliminate the chance of getting an extra turn by switching spaces with someone who hasn’t had their turn that round yet.
  3. Don’t bother sorting the deck so that there are the right amount of cards for players. Instead, let it be completely random and use the full deck even if that means having fifteen extra cards that don’t get used at the end. That’s part of the fun of it so people can’t count cards!
  1. Set a price limit or guidelines for the gifts if people are bringing their own. Here are great options for hilarious white elephant gift ideas that will have everyone laughing. Or you could even choose one of these gift exchange themes for gifts!

Game FAQs

How does the game end?

The gift exchange ends when the last person finishes the final round. For example, if you choose to play three rounds and Bob is the person sitting to the right of the starting person, when Bob finishes his third turn the game is over.

Can you win multiple gifts?

This game is not set up for players to win multiple gifts. The idea is that everyone brings one gift and goes home with a different gift.

What happens if I end up with my own gift?

On the slim chance that a player ends up with their own gift, allow trading at the end of the game. If multiple people end up with their own gifts, have them create a small circle and pull one final card for just the small group to do so their gifts get mixed up.

If I unwrap a gift, do I get to keep it?

Unwrapping your gift (or someone else’s gift) doesn’t mean that you get to keep the gift. It just means the gift is now unwrapped so everyone can see what is being passed, stolen, and frozen!

What kind of gifts should people bring?

The type of gifts that people should bring depends on a number of things including what type of celebration are you having? If it’s a girls night, everyone could bring gifts that a woman might enjoy. If it’s an adults only Christmas party, gifts that anyone would like are best! You choose the theme and let everyone know the type of gifts to bring.

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More Gift Exchanges

If you love gift exchanges like I do, try out one of these fun gift exchanges at your next Christmas party!

  • Dice gift exchange – this fun game has been played by thousands of people around the world and only needs a die!
  • Santa’s Helper Gift Exchange – this one is kind of like a secret santa and gift exchange combined, it’s a personal favorite!
  • Scrooge your neighbor – if you do gift exchanges with the same people every year, you have to try this one!
  • Heads or tails gift exchange – grab a coin and try out this fun gift exchange!
  • Christmas never have I ever exchange – combine the classic never have I ever game with a gift exchange!
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Download the Printable Card Guide

Enter your first name and email address in the form below to get the printable PDF. I recommend printing this on white card stock and laminating so you can keep for future years!

You will receive a link to download the PDF to your email within minutes.

If you do not see the form, click here to get to it.

If you do not see the email immediately after you fill out the form, make sure to check your promotions, spam, and junk folders.

The file will come with:

  • Printed out card guide (like the one you see below)
Deck of Cards Gift Exchange Game - Play Party Plan (10)

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Reader Interactions

Leave a Comment

  1. Cindy says

    Looks so fun


  2. Gail Daughtry says

    This sounds like so much fun, I’ll have to try it this Christmas. Thanks


  3. Broshell says

    Love this game


  4. Marion and David Kelly says

    This comment is about the fun games ! We have adult grandchildren and we always have a great gift games at Christmas ..thanks to you ! This year we will play the Card game .I buy assorted (and very inexpensive , and some “different”) gifts .. .The grandkids are in their early to late 20s .. and along withe the parents your games !Thank you


    • Britni Vigil says

      Awww thanks!


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Deck of Cards Gift Exchange Game - Play Party Plan (2024)


How to do a gift exchange with a deck of cards? ›

Each deck is shuffled individually and one of them is dealt to the players. One person flips the top card of the remaining deck, whoever has the matching card then takes a gift. The next card is flipped and that person takes a gift or takes someone else's gift. This continues until everyone has had a chance.

How to play a gift exchange game? ›

The first player picks any one gift from the pile to open in front of the other players. They will take their turn to swap after all the other players have gone. The second player chooses whether to open a new gift from the pile or steal from the player before them.

What is the card game where you deal the whole deck? ›

Snap is another easy card game for kids. This game requires a standard 52 deck of playing cards and at least two players. To begin, the dealer will deal the entire deck equally among the players (or as equal as possible). The players will take turns flipping over their cards.

How do you play the card game with presents? ›

Everyone sits in a circle and gets a wrap gift, and then you just pass the deck of cards around. and do what the cards say. Red cards pass right, black cards pass left. If you get a face card, you get to open your gift. or choose someone else to open theirs.

How do I create an exchange gift? ›

Organizing a Gift Exchange is easy, fun, and free. The instructions are here to see how it's done.
  1. Enter the Gift Exchange name and date and indicate if you are participating or just organizing.
  2. Choose if gifts will be exchanged by mail or in-person.
  3. Set your budget and add any special rules or notes for your guests.

How many cards in a swap deck? ›

Swap! Contents: 104 Cards Object Rules! Be the first player to get rid of your Cards by matching colors inbetween slaps and swaps! Set Up • Shuffle and deal 10 Cards to each player.

How do you play favorite items on gift exchange? ›

  1. Everyone brings two identical gifts with one or more of their favorite things. ...
  2. All the guests at the party put their name in a bowl two times, and then each person shares their favorite thing in turn, draws two names from the bowl, and gives their two gifts to those people.

How do you play favorite things gift exchange? ›

Basically, everyone brings three favorite items under $20. Your name is written three times and placed in a bowl. Then you get a chance to present your item. and draw three names to gift it.

How many games can you play with a deck of cards? ›

Depending on what you count as a game, a rough estimate would be that there are between 1,000 and 10,000 games. An classification of the main types of card games can be found on the classified index page of the Card Games site.

How do you play the card game cheat? ›

Players are given six (or seven) cards at the start of the game, and the remainder make a pile. Players are restricted to follow suit, and play a higher rank, but are allowed to bluff. If a player is revealed to be bluffing, or a player fails to call or a bluff, the player draws three cards from the pile.

What is the most common playing card game? ›

Poker is currently the most popular card game in the world. According to a 2018 Game Play Survey, Blackjack reigns as the most popular casino card game. The game of Rummy is played by over 20 million people worldwide. Solitaire is the most common card game played on a computer, with over 35 million players.

How do you play the gift exchange game at Christmas? ›

The first person opens a wrapped gift, and the turn ends. On subsequent turns, each person has the choice to either unwrap a new present or to steal another's. When a person's gift is stolen, that person can either choose another wrapped gift to open or can steal from another player.

What is the gift exchange game with stealing? ›

White Elephant is a party game in which players bring wrapped gifts at a set price, such as $20. From there, they draw numbers and pick the gifts out one by one from the pile. They also have the option to steal. The catch is you won't know what is in your package until after you pick it out.

What is the Santa gift exchange game? ›

Traditionally, Secret Santa is played as a gift exchange through a draw, typically by drawing names out of a hat. Today, there are other ways of playing the classic Secret Santa game and new variations like White Elephant and Yankee Swap. This is the mostly widely played version of the Secret Santa gift exchange.

How does swap gift card work? ›

The Swap Gift Cards can be swapped for a participating merchant/s egift card, the list of participating merchants for each Swap gift card can be viewed on the Swap gift card website once you have entered your Swap gift card number and PIN, you will be able to view the available merchant ...

How to play Dirty Santa? ›

The person with #1 starts the game. The game begins once #1 selects a gift from the pile (after much thought and deliberation, of course), opens it, and shows it to everyone. The person who drew #2 then goes and has the option to steal #1's gift (aka "Dirty Santa") or pick a different gift from the pile.

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