Nertz History

Nertz is an enigma in the world of card games. The most fascinating aspect of this game is how it has remained an underground cult-like classic since, at least, the early 1940's. The National Nertz Association's research of the game of Nertz has found that the people who play this game have a lot of pride in the way that they play it. Depending largely on the region, the Nertz game rules, terms, and even the name of the game itself, all vary. This makes it difficult to determine an original variation and just as difficult to find credible pioneers. As of now, we have yet to find a single known inventor or place of origin for Nertz. If you were to take a poll, it would be accurate to say that the majority of the polled general public would not have a clue about Nertz the card game. Amazingly, despite the scattered and random way in which it has been spread, Nertz players can be found from the UK to Mexico, Pennsylvania to California, Texas to Utah, Russia to Brazil, Canada to Germany and almost everywhere in between. We do have some ancestry of Nertz. We can conclude that it is a direct descendant of the Solitaire family of card games. Unlike the typical card games that can be found in this family, Nertz is fast, competitive, and played with more than two people. Within the last 30 years the game Speed (also known as Double Solitaire or Spit) has crossed into mainstream America. This is the only other real-time card game that we are aware of. Still, this game is only played by two people and one deck of cards. So, it is doubtful that the game Speed was the inspiration for Nertz, since we have known about Nertz for at least 70 years. There is evidence to suggest that Nertz may have drawn inspiration from single player card games like Canfield and Demon Solitaire because of a close relation in the games' setup. Nertz has been passed through families and friends for generations, all the while being modified to suit the preferences of the various groups that have learned it. The slight modifications these groups of people have made over the years has spawned countless variations of Nertz. Since all of these variations have rules so similar to one another we can only assume that all these variations had to have come from an original version. Sadly many proud Nertz players claim they play the original version but have little evidence to support them. The truth is we probably will never know what the original version was. In addition, there is a good chance that the original version may not have had a set of rules as complete as the variations of Nertz we play today. Taking all that we know of this game into account, you may see why Nertz has eluded mainstream society for so long. Yet, Nertz has survived over the years because it is a "One-of-a-Kind" card game. This card game is the only multi-player, multi-deck, real-time card game in existence. These qualities mixed with the speed, strategy, and skill required to play this game creates the perfect recipe for addiction. One thing that we do know for sure about the game of Nertz is that it continues to be spread. For now, Nertz players can only dream about the time when this great game crosses into mainstream society in which it can be played more readily and frequently, be it competitively or just for fun!

Racing Demons, another known name for Nertz used most commonly in the U.K., has been featured as a card game played by the characters in the popular TV series, Downton Abbey, in 2013 and 2014 episodes. It is unclear whether the writers of the show knew that the game was played during the time period in which this series is being depicted(1912-1920). However, it would not be surprising to know that this game has been around that long since Canfield, a solitaire game similar in set-up but not played with others(with the exception of the gambling aspect), has been around even longer. It may be that the writers play the card game and thought it would be a fun aspect to incorporate into the show. Or they may have knowledge, be it from family or documentation, that this game was played in the U.K. during that time period. I would like to believe the latter.

Popular American singer, Amy Grant, has mentioned multiple times on her twitter and blog that she plays Nertz. It is not unreasonable to believe that a few other celebrities have come across Nertz at some point in their lives as well. Maybe one or more of these celebrities will someday give Nertz the boost in popularity that it deserves whether they intend to or not. Until then, it up to us, the Nertz underground, to keep this game headed in the right direction.

In 2019, Netflix released a documentary on Bill Gates titled Inside Bill's Brain; Decoding Bill Gates. A keen Nertz player can spot Bill playing a few different card games with the host/narrator and one of which is Pounce aka Nertz. One of the richest men in the world not only knows and loves the game but still makes time to play it!

ABOUT NERTZ: Nertz is commonly known to others as Hell, Nerts, Pounce, Peanuts, Racing Demon, and Squinch.

The following is a list of the alternate names that have been submitted by smaller groups of players: Ace Out, Coot, Crunch, Drats, Flip Flip, Gluck, Grouch, Hallelujah, Hoorah, Hurtigkabal("Quick Solitaire" in Dutch), Knertz, Lucky Thirty, Maxcards, Mertz, Moofles, Nerds, Nerdz, Nerf, Nerks, Nirche, Nirts, Nirtz, Nurts, Nurtz, Nuts, Nutsy, Nutz, Popeye, Pounds, Race Horse Rummy, Scrimble Scramble, Scooge, Scrooge, Scrub, Snerds, Squeak, Squeal, Squid, Stop, Swish, and The Race Game.

Solitaire Frenzy, Ligretto, and Dutch Blitz are well known retail game sets inspired by the free version of Nertz. Perpetual Commotion, Wackee Six, and NayJay! are also Nertz inspired game sets that have been more recently developed. Though not related to Nertz, Rook playing card decks are often used in certain religious sects of Nertz players. Nertz Solitaire, Solitaire Race(free), Nerts Showdown(free Facebook app), eNerts(trial), and Nerts High Speed Card Game are some of the Nertz-inspired computer games available online. Ligretto also has a free computer version available. There are also a few Nerts and Pounce apps available for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Andriod, and Windows 7 phone platforms. Independent developers have also made versions of Nertz games for the Xbox 360 and Facebook. Take a look at some Nertz Products of the Past.

THE NATIONAL NERTZ ASSOCIATION: The National Nertz Association (NNA) is an organization committed to the growth and welfare of the game of Nertz. The NNA is the national governing body for the game of Nertz and the recognized leader in promoting and developing the game's growth in the United States. We strive to grow Nertz at every level with a goal of making it accessible to everyone. We make an effort to support various events so that the public has more opportunities to learn and play the game. The NNA was officially formed in 2004 following the publication of the first Official Nertz Rulebook. Prior to that, the NNA had unofficially convened since the 90's. After some serious deliberations, the NNA went online in January 2007 opening and the NNA up to the public. Sadly, the NNA no longer uses the domain Instead they continue to maintain their faceboook group and this blog. However, a new Nertz hope has recently emerged to help push this game into the future...

THE NERTZ MASTER ARRIVES: One of the original NNA founding members, in early 2019, issued a challenge to all Nertz players in the U.S. Calling himself the Nertz Master, he described the challenge in which he and and a camera crew would come to a challenging family's home in order to see if one of them could beat him in Nertz. It was supposed to be a YouTube series documenting his journey while discovering why and how Nertz came to be important in each challenging family but never quite gained enough traction in 2019. And so, the Nertz Master remains active, promoting the game whenever he gets the chance. You can find him primarily on Instagram, actively involved with the playing card community there known as the #IGCARDFAM. This community includes card collectors, card magicians, card game enthusiasts and cardists. Nertz players are known to stock pile all different kinds decks in order to accommodate a spontaneous Nertz game. So it is very natural for a Nertz player to end up with some unique card collections. As luck would have it, a few other Nertz players and fellow playing card enthusiasts have discovered this new burgeoning card community in which to share their passion. Possibly one day, enough cardists and collectors will also develop a love for Nertz, a game that gives their cards even more purpose, given the right medium. We can only hope.

NNA AND NERTZ MASTER GOALS: To continually spread the game of Nertz until it is nationally recognized as a common household game. To protect the integrity of Nertz, ensuring that it is kept fun and pure. To make sure Nertz players are happy with the services and information we provide. To someday host live, national events and tournaments, as well as develop a superior, universal, electronic Nertz game application that keeping players excited and engaged in the Nertz community.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Play, teach, and share the excitement of Nertz with your friends and family.

NERTZ VARIATIONS: The NNA has discovered many fun and exciting ways to play Nertz. Since there are absolutely no other card games that come close to being compared with it, Nertz seems to be a category of it's own. Within this Nertz category though, many variations can be found. Take a look at some different ways to spice up a Nertz game that have been provided by our growing member base.

- Name
- The terminology used
- How many River columns it's played with
- How many cards are put in the Nertz pile
- Whether the Nertz pile is dealt facing up or down
- How many Stream cards are flipped at a time
- Giving certain cards the power to change the numerical direction in which the Lake piles are played
- The value of a called "Nertz", Nertz cards, and Lake cards
- Whether or not the hand score is kept track of or if the "games won" count determines a winner
- Whether players are allowed to play with both hands at a time or just one hand
- Choosing to play Singles, Doubles(or both), Mandatory Mixed Gender Doubles, or Rotating Partner Games
- The way partners are chosen and how the winners are determined in rotating partner games
- Whether or not you are allowed to play from both ends of your piles
- Choosing to handicap a certain team or player
- How penalties are enforced for breaking the rules
- Whether or not talking is allowed during play
- Giving certain cards more or less value when played into the Lake or not played from a Nertz pile
- Whether or not it is legal to look at blocked cards in the Nertz pile
- Whether or not "Stacking"(playing more than one card at a time) is allowed
- Whether or not a point bonus is given for calling Nertz and how much that bonus is worth

From learning the history of Nertz to discovering the many ways to play, the National Nertz Association strives to provide the most information about Nertz on the internet.


Unknown said...

My husband's family has been playing this game for at least 50 years. It is so cool to know that other families are in on the fun!

Unknown said...

This is practically my family's game! We play it so much and have a ton of fun. I teach it to everyone I know!

quoter said...

This has long been part of my (Cincinnati) family's heritage as well, under the name Scrooge. The way we play differs only in terminology: Nertz pile = Scrooge pile, and we don't have terms for Lake/River/Stream.

Mrs. Nertz said...

My husband plays Nertz but I don't believe he's playing it properly. He leaves it so there are 3 rows and one open for him to maneuver his cards. Is that legal? Or do they ALWAYS need to have 4 rows going? Please help end our debate!

NNA said...

Mrs. Nertz - It is legal according to the NNA, but it isn't always the best strategy.

Janet said...

We actually call it "Pounds." What a hoot to find your website! Been playing this game since I was a kid!

Nona Narvaez said...

They just played it on the latest episode of Downton Abbey! In the show, which is set in England in the 1920s, it is called Racing Demons. If the show's depiction is accurate, then the game can be traced back about 90 years. Any chance that could help to determine the origin?

I've been playing it for 40 years under the name of Pounce, and teaching it to campers, college students, and extended family.

Anonymous said...

I found this site because of the Downton Abbey card game, Racing Demons. My family has been playing Nertz under the name Hell since I was a child. We've taught it to many people over the years. We play with the 1 hand rule. One additional rule is that nothing said during the game should be taken personally. (We do get a little loud and irreverent as we play.)

Anonymous said...

I've been playing Pounce since I was a kid, so probably around 45 years. The game has been played by at least four generations of my extended family (including my grandmother's generation) and we love it!

Unknown said...

We call it racing demons, I had never heard it called Nertz until today (am from the UK). Myself and some of the people I play with were recently inspired to start a Racing Demons appreciation blog - been playing the game for years and love it very much! I like your website, it's very interesting. Here is our blog for anyone who's interested:

KG said...

My family here in California has been playing at least my whole life (40 years) - In our family it's called Nuts, and Nuts it gets! My family was shocked to hear that it existed under different names, since they'd all only known it as Nuts. When our group gets really big we'll play in 2 player teams with one person managing the Nuts cards and the other flipping through the deck. At a large family gathering recently we had 12 of us playing around my grandmother's old dining table. It was fantastic.

Collapsed Equus said...

I am fascinated to find mention of a game called "Nertz" that is identical to the game that I grew up playing called Racing Demon. In my twenties (40 years ago) I taught the game to a close friend of mine (Trevor Downham), who didn't like the idea, being a strong Christian, of playing a game called "Racing Demon" and he renamed it to "Snertz"! This was a name he made up and we have called it that since then.

What is interesting is that Trevor, who is now the pastor at the Norwegian Settlers church in Port Shepstone, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa, used the game extensively throughout his ministry to break the ice and build relationships with the young people that came into his home. It would not be overstating saying that Snertz became a church youth phenomenon and the reigning champion was clearly known to all in his congregation. He and his wife are still doing that to this day.

His church is well known beyond the borders of South Africa. As a result many youth from the USA and the UK have come and spent months and even years in his church helping with ministry and then returning home. No doubt returning home with the game as one of the highlights of the things learned in Africa!

It is either an extraordinary coincidence or there is a link between what Trevor did and the game Nertz. Has Trevor's game (Snertz) been shipped from Africa and been relabeled as Nertz?

The Young Family said...

My wife and I met about 20 years ago and determined our extended families had both been playing it for a very long time. We called it Nertz but her family calls it Priscilla. I didn't see that on your list. We had almost the same rules with a few minor variations. We still play it a bunch today and teach it to many families (on vacation in the BVI now and teaching it to another family we are sailing with).

ginsbu said...

Called “Caramba” by my California family.

Bob Redmond said...

We played Nertz in my family in Ohio since 1980. I didn't play it for a long time but just taught it to my inlaws (now Washington State) over this year's holidays. Still fun and compelling! I was searching for the original meaning of the word Nertz (interestingly, an early twist on the word, and meaning, "Nuts!" At any rate, ran across this site and the news that there is a Nertz Association. Wow! Keep on playing...

Anonymous said...

I learned this game from an ex girlfriend’s family about 28 years ago. Their grandmother/grandfather passed it down to their kids, who taught it to their daughters, one of whom I was dating. They were from Temple City and Arcadia California.

We always called the game “PEANUTS”. But it makes since that it may have been elongated from “NUTS” which sounds a lot like “NERTZ”.

I am so excited to see that this is a “real game”. Since I have never seen it played anywhere else. I always assumed it was a “family game” of my then Girlfriend. I of course have taught it to my kid and family. We also call it PEANUTS here in the Los Angeles area. It’s a great game! :)