Reading Your Opponents: the Psychology of UNO

Card Tells

A "tell" is an unconscious signal transmitted by one UNO player to the others cunning enough to detect it, telling something about the player’s hand or his state of mind. Learn to recognize tells to improve your game.

Physical tells are the easiest to spot. When a player constantly scratches his neck with his fan of cards, it signals that he is either short of blue cards, or has all of the zeroes. When a player rearranges the cards in his hand without licking his lips, it is likely that he is short on red cards or has no Action Cards. If you see a player move his cards from his right hand to his left (or from his left hand to his right, if he is left-handed), you are probably about to be a victim of the Behold the Scarabaeus maneuver, a sophisticated cheating technique. Be on your guard!

Behavioral tells are trickier to observe. What you're looking for is a sudden shift in playing style, such as when a player's card shedding suddenly shifts from a classic demi-sfumato approach to the more modern clair-obscur, or an unexpected move from an established pattern of accarezzévole card handling to a bruscamente one. The consequences are obvious: If the player's card shedding goes from classic to modern, expect an increase in Wild Cards and nines. In the reverse, watch for Skip Cards and fours. If the card handling goes from aggressive to gentle, watch for a Prise de Fer. If handling gets even more aggressive, be prepared for a devastating Coup d'arrêt.

The Five UNO Personalities

Every game includes players with five distinct personalities. Learn to identify them, and learn to win!

The Rube enters the game with his mouth open and his mind closed. He's awkward and unsophisticated, double-dipping into the salsa and smearing nacho cheese on the cards. His obnoxiousness is only exceeded by his naïvety. He'll pepper you with questions about the rules and accidentally lay down a non-compliant card as though it were a valid shed.
    Summary: Keep your distance and observe closely. This may be a Grifter in disguise.

The Bogan treats UNO like he treats himself: as if it were something cheap and uncultured. The Bogan compensates for his poor education, cheap and tacky clothing and entirely uncultured upbringing by criticizing the game and other players. Catchphrases like, "This is stupid," or "That's a Zero, not a Skip Card, you dolt!" pepper his speech.
    Summary: Float above his influence. Your best bet is to beat him quickly and without comment.

The Grifter goes by many names and he carries with him a bottomless bag of tricks. If he's not actually cheating, he's still playing a dirty game of UNO, and you won't notice until it's too late. He'll adopt any or all of the five personalities and use them to confuse you and keep you under his thumb.
    Summary: Stay strong. Stay vigilant for cheats but play to win.

The Whiner won’t stop talking. First, he doesn't like the grape soda. Then, he's getting a rash from the felt on the table. Next, he's got nothing but blue cards! You will bear witness to his inner monologue whether you want to or not.
    Summary: You can't make them happy, so don't try. A common cloak for the Grifter.

The Savant appears calm, unhurried, gentle and wise; the Savant knows all and sees all. The Savant is the personality of the fledgling UNO master.
    Summary: Dream of sitting on an uncarved rock, casting a line into the endless stream

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