Reading tells in Cards Against Humanity & Apples To Apples

Apples To Apples and Cards Against Humanity are similar games. Apples To Apples is a popular G-rated party game. Cards Against Humanity is like its R-rated cousin; exactly similar in play but with much darker, twisted content. These games are not seriously played and are usually just an excuse for the players to laugh at the humorous juxtaposition of ideas.

Even though these games are not serious at all, I couldn’t help but notice, when I occasionally play Cards Against Humanity, that there are often behavioral patterns (i.e., tells) that give away which player has played which card. Considering that no one takes these games seriously or cares about who wins, it’s not surprising that there is a lot of behavioral information. I thought I’d describe a couple of these patterns just because I thought they were interesting and because they could have applications to other games or situations.

In both Apples To Apples and Cards Against Humanity, each person in the game takes turns being what I’ll call the judge. The judge reads the query card and then judges the cards submitted from other players.

For example, in Cards Against Humanity, the judge might read this card: “White people like ________.” And then each of the other players play one card (from their seven cards) that they think is likely to be chosen, for whatever reason, by the judge. If there are three other players besides the judge, those three players might play cards that have these phrases:

  • A micropenis.
  • William Shatner.
  • Five-dollar Footlongs

The judge judges these cards however he or she feels. Usually the choice is made for comedic purposes; whatever the judge finds most amusing is what he or she chooses.

Usually, whenever a card is read, there will be a reaction from the players; people will laugh, snort, or make comments about the humor (or lack of humor) of the card that was read. The judge picks the most-liked card; whoever played that card is the winner of that round and gets a point.

Here are the major tells I see in these games:

1) The person who played the card will tend to be the person with the least reaction (usually, the person laughing least) to the reading of the card. This pattern is for a couple of reasons:

a) The person who played the card is familiar with the card; they have already found the humor it it so they won’t react with as much new amusement when hearing it as someone who has just heard it for the first time. 
b) The person who played the card also wants to listen to the amusement that the other players get from the reading of that card. The person who played the card will likely be silent so as not to interrupt or interfere with others’ reaction to the reading of the card.

When the cards are read, you should study who is quiet and who is laughing a lot. Generally, when a card is read and you notice a person laughing a lot at it, you can be quite certain that that person did not play that card. If you notice a lot of people laughing and one person remaining silent, it is highly likely that the silent person is the person who played that card. (The main exception to this is that some people will laugh even at their own cards in a consistent way.)

2) For some cards that have longer phrases, the person who played the card will start to react in some way to the card before the card is even finished being read.

a) For example, the judge starts to read the card that says, “Rush Limbaugh’s soft, shitty body.” Before he even finishes the words “Rush Limbaugh” a player starts giggling. Because nothing much of substance has yet been said, it is highly likely that that person knows the card and is anticipating the rest of the card being read.

The main application to knowing who played which card in these games is to choose a winner or loser when you are the judge. If there is someone winning that you don’t want to win, you could purposefully not choose their cards. If there is someone that you’d like to see get a point, you could choose their card. (The main application, of course, will be flirting with someone by always choosing their cards. Don’t forget to say something like: “Damn, girl, we have the same sense of humor!”)

  • Pingback: “@apokerplayer: Wrote a blog post on how to read C... - The Senior Partners()

  • Alan

    As an avid cards against humanity player, unlike poker, I’m almost ashamed I’d besmirch the fine high-integrity experience by using visual and verbal tells to gain an advantage on my opponents…

    Refusing to select “bukkake” as the winning card to “Why am I sticky” would clearly expose the ruse to your gaming partners, and may lead to future bans, and ostracism from your social group.

    Otherwise, great post!