Jorge Zhang

Personal website

Cockroach Poker Review

Cockroach Poker is our go-to bluffing card game because of how simple it is to teach and play.

Us playing Cockroach Poker


In Cockroach poker, players get dealt a hand of cards. Each of these cards has 1 insect depicted on it. The starting player chooses a player and gives them a card from their hand while telling the receiving player what kind of insect it is. For example, the starting player could pass a cockroach, but say that it is a spider. The receiving player then decides whether it actually is a spider or not (they can say “this is a spider” or “this is not a spider”). If the receiving player is wrong, then they keep that card face-up in front of them. But if they are right, then the giving player has to keep the card instead!

The receiving player has one more option available to them. Instead of declaring what they think the passed card is, they can pick it up and look at it. If they do so, they have to pass it to a player who has not already seen the card while declaring what insect type it is. Eventually, once someone is forced to take a card, that person then has to give a card from their hand to someone else. The goal of the game is to not collect insects. If a player ever has 4 of a kind, they lose (unlike most games, in Cockroach Poker there is no winner: just one loser).


Cockroach Poker seems like the kind of game that would lack any strategy, but there is a surprising amount of nuance involved in the game. For example, by looking at the face-up cards and one’s hand, one could figure out a rough estimate of the probability that someone is telling the truth. One player had a strategy of randomly choosing the card that they passed to others.

If someone has 3 of a kind, they sometimes can’t afford to call a bluff due to the fact that it would cause them to lose the game if they did. I applied this logic to it’s fullest extent, which let the other players give me all sorts of insects. Eventually, I found myself in this position:

A snapshot of my collection right before I lost the game

As you can see, sometimes a risky play can pay off. For me, that’s what makes Cockroach Poker so engaging: the game rewards risky plays and strong bluffs.

Have you ever played Cockroach Poker? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

© 2020 Jorge Zhang