(Alternate rules are listed at the bottom)
Object — Figure out which cards you have and accumulate fewer points than anyone else by replacing high cards for low ones, trading matching cards for a single card and swapping cards with your opponents.
To Start — Start each round by dealing everyone 4 cards face down (don't look at them yet). Place the rest of the cards face-down for the draw pile and one beside it face-up for the discard pile. Without looking at any of the dealt cards, each player lays them face down, side by side. The cards may be placed in any pattern or location as long as they're placed in a single layer and their order and location must remain the same throughout the round. All players may then look at 2 of their cards only once after each deal. Remember these cards because you can't look at them again. For the first round, decide who goes first. In the rounds that follow, the winner goes first, the loser shuffles and deals. In the case of a winning tie, the person with the lowest overall score goes first and in case of a losing tie, the player with the highest overall score shuffles and deals.
To Play — Taking turns in a clockwise direction; each player may take one of three actions:
1. Pick up the top card from the discard pile and replace, face down, one of their own cards or matching cards (see below for details on matching cards). The replaced card is then put in the discard pile, face up. Choice cards taken from the discard pile may only be used for their point value; the action may not be used.
2. Pick up the top card from the draw pile, look at it, and decide if you'd like to keep it or discard it. If you decide to keep it, replace, face down, one of your own cards or matching cards; or if you decide to discard it, place it face up in the discard pile. If it's a Choice card and you wish to use the action, carry out the action and then discard it.
3. Call Cabo (see below).
Note: Any card in a player's hand may be replaced or swapped, even the ones you don't know what they are.
If the draw pile runs out of cards, reshuffle the discard pile and place it face down for the new draw pile.
Matching Cards — 2-, 3-, or 4-of-a-kind matches may all be traded for only one card from the discard or draw pile. If a match is attempted but it is not a match, the attempted cards must be shown to everyone at the table and put back in their original places. The attempted replacement card is then discarded and the turn is lost.
Example: If you have a 5 and draw another 5, you may add the other 5 to your hand by replacing another card and on your next turn, discard both 5s for a single card.
Choice cards may be used for their points or the action may be used only when taken from the draw pile and discarded in the same turn. It is not obligatory to use the action and the action may not be used on cards taken from the discard pile or those discarded from a player's hand. When creating matches with Choice cards, the numbers must match, not just the action.
Calling Cabo — When a player believes he or she has fewer points than anyone else at the table, that player may use his or her turn to call Cabo. A player may not call Cabo out of turn or draw a card in the same turn as calling Cabo. Once Cabo is called, all players other than the one who called Cabo take one more turn. Any card drawn after Cabo is called is played as a regular turn which means matches can still be replaced for a single card and swap cards may still be used to swap.
Score — After everyone has played their last turn, flip over the cards and count the points of all cards in each player's hand. The player with the lowest score wins and receives 0 points. Everyone else receives the points in their hand. If the player who called Cabo doesn't have the lowest score, he or she receives 5 penalty points on top of their score. In the event of a tie, the player who called Cabo wins; if neither player who tied called Cabo they both receive 0 points.
Kamikaze — If you're ballsy enough to end a round with two 12s and both 13s then everyone else receives 50 points and you will receive 0 points regardless of who calls Cabo.
Ending the Game — Once a player exceeds 100 points, the player with the lowest score wins. If a player scores exactly 100 points, that player's score goes down to 50.
These are alternate rules as suggested by fellow Cabo players. It's fun to change the game every once in a while so try these if you'd like. If you make any of your own, write me and let me know how you've been playing!
Swapping Cards: When playing a swap card, a player may swap one opponent's card with another opponent.
Ending the Game: The game can potentially last forever (or 3 hours which can feel like forever) so one good way to keep this from happening is to limit how many times each player can go back to 50 points or how many times total it can happen in the game regardless of how many times a single person benefits.
You could also change the number you can go back to, like if a person reaches exactly 100 points, the player's score goes down to 70.
Starting with more than 4 cards: This is especially fun when playing with only 2 people since it adds more dimension to the game. An example would be to start with 6 cards and look at 3 of them before each round.