How to Play UNO

how to play uno

 Nate Cull / Flickr

The rules to UNO are simple once you get used to them. We've also included a few common house rules to spice up the game.

UNO is a fast-paced card game played similar to Crazy 8s that includes special cards that ramp up the fun. It is suggested for ages 7 and above, but younger kids can still enjoy the game. It can even be a good game to reinforce numbers and colors.

The Object of UNO

The goal of UNO is to be the first person to play the very last card in your hand.

The fun of UNO is the requirement to yell "UNO!" when you are down to that last card. When playing multiple games, the winner is the player with the lowest score.

How to Set Up a Game of UNO

The dealer is determined by shuffling the deck and each player drawing a card. The player with the highest number on their card is the dealer. If a player draws a special card that does not have numbers, like the Wild card, the player should return that card to the bottom of the deck and draw a new card. If two or more players draw the same high number, those players should return the cards to the deck and draw new cards until one player draws higher than the other(s).

After the dealer is chosen, each player is dealt 7 cards. The remaining cards are placed face-down. These cards are called the "draw pile." The dealer takes the first card on the draw pile and places it face-up next to the draw pile. If this card is a Wild or Wild Draw 4 card, that card is placed in the middle of the draw pile and a new card is drawn.

The player on the dealer's left is the first person to play unless the initial card flipped over is a Reverse card. The Reverse is considered active even if a player did not play it, so it would be the person to the right of the dealer.

Common House Rules:

  • It is common to alternate dealers when playing multiple hands of UNO, moving the dealer to the person on the left in a clockwise direction from the last dealer.
  • When playing with younger children, an alternative to drawing for the highest card is to allow the youngest child to be the initial dealer.

How to Play UNO

The gameplay of UNO consists of each player taking turns that consist of either matching the upmost face-up card in the stack or playing one of the special cards.

  • At the beginning of their turn, a player can match either the number or the color of the face-up card with a card in their hand. If the card is matched, play continues to the next player.
  • If the player does not have a matching card but has a Wild Card or Wild Draw 4 Card in their hand, they can choose to play the card. Wild cards allow the player to choose any color.
  • The player must take the topmost card from the draw pile if they cannot play a card from their hand. If the drawn card cannot be played, they continue taking cards from the draw pile until they can play a card.
  • The player is not forced to play a matching card from their hand. They can choose to play a Wild card or take a new card from the draw pile. If the player elects to draw cards, they must continue drawing until they receive a playable card. They cannot play a card that was originally in their hand after choosing to take a card from the draw pile.
  • After the player matches the face-up card, play continues to the next player. At the start of the game, play continues to the left of the player in a clockwise direction. As the name implies, the Reverse card will change the direction of the next player from left-to-right or from right-to-left.
  • A Reverse card played in a two person game acts as a Skip card.

If the last card is taken from the draw pile, all of the cards that have been played except the topmost face-up card should be shuffled and used as a new draw pile. This can continue as many times as it may take for someone to finally run out of cards in their hand.

Special Cards

The fun of UNO are all of the special cards that can change the game in a heartbeat. These cards add a certain amount of strategy to a game that would otherwise be a luck of the draw.

In some decks, these cards are only marked with a symbol. Other decks also spell out the special card's name.

  • Reverse: This card reverses the order of play, switching it from left-to-right or from right-to left. It's great to use in order to stop a player from going out of cards. Reverse uses a symbol with two arrows going in opposite directions one on top of the other. The Reverse card has a color and can only be played on face-up cards with that color.
  • Skip: This card causes the next person to lose their turn. Play continues to the next player as if they ended their turn. In two-player games, this card lets you immediately take another turn. The symbol used for Skip is usually a circle with a line through it. The Skip card has a color and can only be played on face-up cards with that color.
  • Draw 2: This card forces the next player to draw 2 cards and skip their turn as if it were the Skip card. This card uses a "+2" for a symbol. It has a color and can only be played when the face-up card has the same color.
  • Wild: This card allows the player to play on any color or number—even another wild card. They also call out a color for the Wild card, forcing the next player to use that color for play. The Wild card can be played even if the player has another playable card. Wild cards are usually black and feature all four colors on them. If the Wild card or Wild Draw 4 card is the first card turned up in a game, the first player can choose the color.
  • Wild Draw 4: This card forces the next player to draw 4 cards and skip their turn as if it were the Skip card. Unlike the Wild card, the Wild Draw 4 card cannot be played if the player has a card with the same color and/or number as the face-up card. This card looks like a Wild card with a "+4" symbol on it.

"UNO!" How to Win the Game

A player is required to say "UNO" before playing their second-to-last card. If a player only has one card in their hand and another player says "UNO" before the next player begins their turn, the player must draw 4 new cards from the draw pile.

If the next player begins their turn and no one says "UNO," play will continue as if the original player did say "UNO." They are not forced to draw any new cards for not saying "UNO." A player is considered to have taken their turn when they either match the face-up card with a card from their deck, play a wild card, or choose a card from the draw pile. Once they begin drawing from the draw pile, players cannot call "UNO."

Calling "UNO" does not win the game. The player must still play their last card. If they are unable to play the last card, they must take cards from the draw pile until they can play. It's possible to have several UNOs before the game is actually won.

If the winning card is a Draw 2 or Wild Draw 4 card, the next player must still draw those cards before the game ends. These cards are used in scoring.

How to Score UNO

The official rules state that matches are won when the first person makes it to 500 points. The winner is the person with the least number of points at that time. House rules can change the number of points needed to end the match from 500 to any other number.

At the end of each game, all of the cards are tallied up and the score for that game is written down and totaled to determine if any player passed the 500 point mark.

  • All numbered cards score their face value (0 to 9).
  • Reverse, Skip, and Draw 2 cards score 20 points each.
  • Wild and Wild Draw 4 cards score 50 points each.

A common house rule for scoring and determining the overall winner is to eliminate the player(s) whose point total reaches 500 or more, but continue playing until all but one players have been eliminated this way.