Snerts: File down your fingernails.

A snerts tournament in Utqiagvik. Photo and story by Ravenna Koenig in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, June 3, 2019. Read it here.

[And my Snerts blog post from 2006, because Lars couldn’t find it. *waves*]

Folks have asked for instructions on how to play Snerts.

Snerts is a multiple-player solitaire game. Yes, really. You need at least four players to make it really fun.

  • Each player must have a deck of cards, each deck with a back different from all the others so the cards can be returned to each player.
  • Each player deals a deck of 13 cards and puts it face up at the left.
  • Next to the pile deal out four cards in a row, also face up.
  • Somebody says “Go,” and everyone starts dealing 3 cards up from the remaining cards held in the hand.
  • The cards are played black on red or red on black in descending value.
  • Aces go up in the middle of the table.
  • Anyone’s Ace can be played on by any player. If I put up an Ace of spades Kathy can play her two of spades on it and Joyce can play her three of spades on it.
  • You can play off the 13-card stack ONLY to the communal piles begun with everyone’s Aces OR to spaces left empty when you play the four cards next to the pile. You may NOT play cards off the 13-card deck onto cards in the spaces; only when those spaces are empty may you so move.
  • The first person to play all 13 cards, whether up on the Aces or in the four empty spaces to the right of the stack yells “Snerts!” and play instantly ceases. The other players count the remaining cards they had in the 13-card stack. Gather in the piles in the middle of the table and separate them by the different backs.
  • Each player counts the cards they played on the communal Aces. From that total they must subtract the amount of cards they had left in the 13-card stack. That is their total for that game, and it is entered in the scorecard.
  • Play to a hundred, play to a thousand, pick your number, or just play it a game at a time.
the most beautiful place in the world

Now, the way we played it growing up in Seldovia (and the way we still play it), there can be tremendous strategy involved. For example, maybe I get all 13 cards up but I don’t yell “snerts” right away because I want to get even more cards up, so I keep dealing and playing.

Or maybe I’ve got a five-six-seven-eight of hearts I want to play on a pile in the middle, but I don’t have a four, and Kathy does and she hasn’t seen it so I say “Kathy, play that four of hearts.” She of course may choose not to do so because she doesn’t want to put up one card and have me put up four. But she also might have the nine-ten.

Like that.

It may sound complicated. It isn’t, and it is a whole lot of fun. One cautionary note: Everybody file down their fingernails before you start.

Chatter Kate Shugak

Dana View All →

Author and founder of

44 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for the rules of the game. I’m in the midst of re-re-re-reading all the books of yours I have. Plan to buy the rest someday… I so much enjoy them. They’re intelligent, funny, intriguing, damn well written. Keep up the good work.

    I’m 66, and have been playing what our family calls “Demon” for about 60 of them. Same rules up to a point. Cards in the “demon pile” may be played in an empty space, on piles in the middle, and red on black, etc., on your own runs. Also, we double the remaing demon pile cards to subtract from the totals achieved in the middle. 2, 3, 4, on up can play. At 10 or so it’s just total mayhem, anyhow. Definitely file the fingernails.
    Patrick Purdy
    Proprietor of Orca Bay Gallery, where we have a large assortment of carvings from St. Lawrence Isl.
    Such fine work!

  2. Question. Did you write a book containing the event of Kate catching the chold molester or is that just part of her history???

  3. I did not, Jerry. It is only referred to in retrospect. The fullest description is when Jack tells Gamble about it in A Cold Day for Murder.

    And believe me when I say you aren’t the first person to ask that question. At this point I’m kinda wishing I had.

  4. Thanks for the quick answer. I’ll look forward to your “going back” and filling in the past in an actual book. If you do not do it, that is okay to because I have plenty of your Kate books to read. I managed to buy all of them this year, even one that you had signed. I can’t imagine someone giving that up.

  5. Sorry- I was not sure where to post this question. I have just discovered this series and LOVE it! Thank you for giving us so many adventures with Kate. I just finished “The Singing of the Dead” and am a little confused…isn’t it actually Doug Gordaoff who is related to Angel- given that it is his last name that can be traced back, and that Anne only became a Gordaoff through marriage? If I am wrong, would you mind giving me a complete family tree? I don’t mean to pick out an error, I am just genuinely confused! Thank you so much!

  6. I’m still puzzling out that family tree myself.

    But seriously, folks. Lots of intermarrying between families with the same names in Alaska, because as huge as it is the population is relatively small. There’s another story there, if I ever have time to write it.

  7. Thanks for all your wonderful books, Dana–I wish you could write as fast as I can read.

    Not very enthusiastic comment re: Blindfold Game with the intention of encouragement–
    The second half of the book felt much more like “your” writing to me than the first half. Per your acknowledgements, I also hope your agent will leave you alone about writing thrillers–or that you take more of a free hand to include your usual wonderful deepening of characters and less Tom Clancy. I basically hung in there the first half because I had hopes that “you” would emerge at some point, which, thank goodness, happened.

  8. Don’t blame my agent. I’m always going to be someone who pushes the envelope, who hangs her ass out as far as she can, seeing if she’s going to fall over the edge or not. This won’t always make you happy, but it will make for better books. Writing Blindfold Game made me exercise the plot muscle between my ears, which inspired the writing of A Deeper Sleep.

    And I might as well tell you that I’m currently at work on my second thriller, Prepared for Rage, which will come out next year. There will be another Kate Shugak novel the year after that.

  9. Is the Kanuyag river really a river in Alaska? Is Niniltna really a village in Alaska? Is the park actually Wrangell? You use so many real places I would like to pin point the books setting more closely.

  10. Nope. Nope. Nope.

    Well…the Park is loosely based on the Wrangell-St. Elias. I’ve moved the borders back to where it’d probably take up a third of the state.

    I mix real in with what I make up. Confusing, isn’t it? Just a minute, I’ll flash my literary license…

  11. Loved Deeper Sleep. Gol, how I love that Kate Shugak. I know it is 15th, so I was sort of on tenterhooks–will this be as good as the others? The answer? A resounding YES!

    Some of this one was hard to take, of course, with some old characters not surviving. But,
    what a great petite sexy intelligent wonderwoman you have created! I love it that she is short and round and can beat nearly any man alive. (Maybe not Chopper Jim?) Thanks, Dana Stabenow, for all the pleasure you have given me. I look forward to the 16th, eagerly! ‘Course, you knew that–I closed the book saying “Oh, dear!” aloud. Unfinished business…

  12. I’m confused. I get the basic facts behind Deeper Sleep. Louis Deem was shot by Howie, paid to do so by the aunties. Willard shot Enid and Fitz, and has forgotten he has done so because of his handicaps. So what’s Jim so guilty feeling for? Did he line up the aunties to set Louis down? Or is he feeling guilty because he didn’t put any effort into “finding” Louis’ killer, and because he made sure Bernie had an alibi? and Kate is feeling guilty because she hasn’t told Jim about Abigail’s two younger sisters being molested by Louis? I’m sorry, but someone needs to take me by the hand and lead me through this. and we have to wait two more *&#$%@*&%$ years before we get another Shugak book. For heaven’s sake, Dana, take extremely good care of yourself, especially while on all Coast Guard boats!!!!! We couldn’t stand to lose you!!!! We’d miss all those upcoming books too!!!!

  13. So Jim did line up the aunties to take down Louis? That doesn’t seem like Jim’s way of doing things, at all, at all.

    Unless I’m misunderstanding your reply…..

  14. Who could play the role of Kate for the movies?
    I suggest Jill Hennessy of NBC’s Crossing Jordan. She can do the action, mystery and has the looks.

  15. I just acquired a copy of “A Deeper Sleep”. I have not yet read it, but I did notice that the bibliography includes “Red Planet Run”, the same error that occurs in “Blindfold Game” (but in “A Taint in the Blood” it is correct). Remember Murder by the Book in Houston?

  16. I have read most of your books & thoroughly enjoyed them, especially the Kate Shugak series. Until now, that is. Somehow “Play With Fire” had escaped my notice & when I saw it at my local bookstore recently, I bought a copy & looked forward to reading it. However, less than halfway through the story, when Kate actually chortles because a little dog is snatched up by an eagle, I stopped liking Kate. Call me a bleeding heart animal lover, but I fail to see the humor in someone’s pet being swooped away for a snack. Still, I overcame my newfound distaste for the heroine & forged ahead, determined to enjoy the book. This resolve was short lived when in the next chapter, Kate regales us with a tale of “rednecks” from Alabama & Tennessee who, with their uncouth manners & bad driving, cause an accident. This hackneyed stereotype of anybody who lives below the Mason-Dixon line is too ignorant & worn out to be truly offensive. Nevertheless, it *is* irritating, being as how I are one of them thar rednecks. Do I want to spend my hard earned money lining the coffers of an author who uses her characters to flout her own blanket prejudices against an entire group of people (readers) based on their geographical location? Do I relish paying someone to insult my intelligence? No, I most emphatically do not. Nor will I again. Kate wishes the rednecks were in Dixie, you tell us. Obviously, she’s glad she *isn’t*. Just as obviously, (not much reading between the lines necessary here, folks) she echoes your sentiments. Well guess what, Ms. Stabenow? You may be glad you aren’t in Dixie, too, but not half as glad as we are. 🙂

  17. Well, I guess you told me, didn’t you, Constance? Sorry you didn’t like the book. For what it’s worth, the eagle snatching the dog story is true, as reported on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News, and the plot of Play With Fire is based on three true incidents of religious intolerance here in Alaska during the past twenty years, one resulting in destruction of private property, one which resulted in the resignation of an entire school board, and one which resulted in attempted murder.

  18. I thought the eagle-dog scene was hilarious, and Kate did try to warn the woman. There’s idiots everywhere — France, Tennessee, Alabama, Alaska — so your redneck reader should learn to lighten up. I can say that as I am a hillbilly in the North Carolina mountains (y’all) and spent a lot of time as a swamp-stomper in Brunswick County NC (the Green Swamp where Cape Fear was filmed). I’ve liked all your books, esp. the SF ones. Thanks.

  19. Dana, Ive got to say I have thoroughly enjoyed every book in the Kate Shugak series, and now I am delving into the life of Liam Campbell. Are you planning on adding more books to the Kate series? As for the formentioned comments on the rednecks, as a recent transplant to Kentucky, your description of the rednecks is right on for a portion of the population. I have lived all over the country and you find rednecks in every state from coast to coast, i’m sure there are a few in Alaska as well. Thanks for the many hours of enjoyment you have provided.

  20. I can’t wait for the next Kate book. I have them all and have read all of them at least 3 times. Some of them I have read more than that. Dana can you by any chance write 2 kate books a year? Just kidding.

  21. Dana, Hi from the UK! Hope this is the right place to post this. I’m just re-reading my Kate books before a trip to Alaska coming up soon. I really enjoy the books and the memories they stir up from my last trip in 2001. I’ve always enjoyed good murder mysteries and yours have the added dimension of the wonderful atmosphere and ambience of Alaska! We shall be taking the train from Anchorage up to Fairbanks stopping at Denali on the way then driving around including visits to Valdez, Seward and Homer with whale watching and grizzly bears at Brooks River included. I’m buzzing with excitement. We arrive in Anchorage on the 22nd June and will be in Homer from the 2nd to the 5th July. I’m planning buying ‘Prepared for Rage’ whilst I’m there and wondered whether you’ll be around anywhere for book signings whilst we’re there. Oh, and a couple of little things to finish – I really liked little Stephanie in ‘Midnight Come Again’ – do you have any plans to bring her into Kate’s life again, and please, please stop people hurting Mutt! Looking forward to the next Kate book, Sue

  22. Hello backatcha, Sue! Sounds like a fabulous trip. So many people have no idea how big Alaska is and think they can see everything in two days. Glad you’re taking some time.

    Homer has a very nice bookstore, the Homer Bookstore on Pioneer Avenue, they keep my titles in stock. Their website is Call or write them before you get to Homer and tell them you want a copy of the book. They’ll call me to come down and sign it, and it’ll be ready for you to pick up. Don’t have any public appearances scheduled until next year.

  23. Hi Dana, Thank you for your reply and so quickly too. Also thanks for the information about the bookstore, I’ll do just as you suggest. You’re so right about people trying to see Alaska in 2 days! This is our second 2 week trip and even then we shall only have scratched the surface. Most people think they’ve seen Alaska when they’ve done the cruise from Vancouver and we’ve been nowhere near that yet. If I spot you around Homer I’ll give you a wave as I know what you look like from your book jacket photo, I’m likely to be around the bookstore and the Seams to Bee quilt shop when we’re not out being adventurous. Thanks for all the pleasure your books have given me and keep up the good work! Sue

  24. From those of us who are visually impaired, would you please tell Marguerite Gavin how much we enjoy her excellent reading of the audiobooks in this additively charming series. She has become the voice of Kate for us.

  25. Thank you, Joyce. Believe me, she is aware, and you’ll be happy to hear that she’s back on the Kate Shugak job, narrating Whisper to the Blood.

  26. Thanks, Dana, for your Kate Shugak books! I’m just getting into my 3rd one now, and I truly admire your writing skill. Keep them coming. I’ve spent some time up there, from Juneau to Prudhoe Bay, and I relive many of those days through your colorful narratives of the people and places. Next time we are on the Kenai for reds and silvers, I’ll check out the Homer Bookstore. Do you love hooking salmon too? Aloha, Norm & Jo

  27. Coincidentally, my wife and I planned a cruise to AK the last part of this Sept, about the same time I discovered Kate. Both a great intro to AK. A place is always more than just scenery – it’s an interaction between people, animals, and their environment. Your books give a great feel for all of that – thanks. Wish we were younger. We’ve always loved to experience things intimately – through hiking and backpacking. There’s so much we would like to get back to – smell, feel…. The cruise was a teaser. Well, we can always enjoy it vicariously through Kate, Mutt, and your other characters. Keep them coming!
    David and Judy Peterson
    Longwood, Fl

  28. Brings back memories of the many long dark winter nights in Seldovia playing cards (and game boards)…But, also of the many hours you and I spent during library night selecting books…have often wondered if your series came out of your “Seldovia” experiences…let’s see – think we read every Nancy Drew book the library had?? I do know we use to walk home with our arms full…Proud of your accomplishments! Best to you.
    -Kathy Vanderpool Laird

  29. Hi,
    Just wanted to say thank you for the great stories! I just discovered your books and now can’t drive anywhere without one playing. I’m going to have to figure out the sequence and start listening to them in proper order.
    Keep up the great work!

  30. Just a note to tell you how much I have enjoyed the Kate Shugak series.
    Although Jack met his death in “Hunters Moon” The series has been livened up with Kates’ bedevilment of Chopper Jim. These two characters compliment one another.
    You have made me aware of the Alaskan native population culture and the problems they face in todays society.
    Kates moose story was very moving and well done.
    Thank you for having Kate chair the meeting of the NAtive Association and her acting on “Roberts Rules of Order”. A must read for new chairpersons.

    Again thank you for your series.

    I hope to view your TV debut.

  31. Dana, we used to play what you call “Snerts,” but we called it “Peanuts.” I have 9 siblings and we all know how to play, so at times the game was quite chaotic if we got five or six or even more players. Our standard set-up was four players, seated on the floor.

  32. We used to play this game! I never knew it has a name. We used to play cards after every holiday dinner and this was one of them. All of us kids (back in the olden days when we were kids) ended up not standing, but kneeling on our chairs so we could hover close to the piles.

  33. When I was reading your book where this game was played, as I read the rules I shouted to my husband, “Nerts, they are playing Nerts in this book”! We’ve played for years, including a rousing game last night after Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for an enjoyable series and much beloved characters.

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