Young Adult Programs

Joker’s Wild

Length of Program

1-2 hours, depending on the number of players in the tournament and whether or not you will be playing a single or double elimination tournament.

Program Description

Whether it is a board game, a card game, or a series of logic puzzles, a gaming tournament is always a fun way for teens to spend an afternoon in the library. All you have to do is pick the game or games, print up some rules, make some trophies, and let the games begin! You can also have teens visit various Web sites where they can make their own word games, crossword puzzles, etc.

Games are great for impromptu programs for teens who will not participate in organized programs. Make some games available in the teen area for them to play when they are ready.


To plan your tournament, decide what games will be included. Games that are good for contests include checkers, chess, Connect Four®, Chinese Checkers, Scrabble®, dominoes, marbles, rummy, gin rummy, spades, bridge, or canasta. Do not pick a game such as Monopoly®, that takes more than about 30 minutes to play, unless you want the tournament to last a long time. Monopoly® might be a good choice for a library “lock-in.”

Once you have selected the game(s) for the tournament, determine how many copies of the game are needed. If your library doesn’t own the games or if you need more copies, purchase them or ask colleagues, patrons and the community to donate or loan them. Many people have great board games gathering dust in a closet! If you choose a card game, have multiple decks of cards so that several games can be played simultaneously.

For a single-elimination tournament, each teen competes in at least one game. However, only the winners of each game continue to the next round. The number of rounds depends on the number of teens participating. A single-elimination tournament is a good idea when you have more than ten kids playing in the tournament. If you have ten or less players, a double-elimination tournament is a good idea because it will allow all players to compete in at least two games before being eliminated. A double-elimination tournament will require you to set up brackets. All teens play in the first round. The winners of each of these games are moved into one bracket, and the losers into another.

Consider borrowing or buying a giant chess game for an outside chess tournament of gigantic proportions. The Wholesale Chess Sets and Equipment Web site at offers giant chess sets for about $450.00. As an alternative to purchasing, ask local chess clubs and recreation centers if they have a set they will loan the library for a short period of time.

Decide what prizes you will give at the tournament. Certificates of Participation are the easiest, cheapest way to acknowledge all players who compete in a tournament. 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place, and participant ribbons are also relatively inexpensive; they usually cost less than $0.40 per ribbon. Order trophies and ribbons online from Trophy Central at Or purchase trophy bases from a local trophy store and hot glue a chess piece such as a knight, or a stack of checkers to the bases to make simple trophies.

Books to Display

  • The Complete Book of Card Games by George Hervey and Peter Arnold.
  • The Encyclopedia of Games: Rules and Strategies for More Than 250 Indoor and Outdoor Games, From Darts to Backgammon by Brian Burns.
  • The Great Book of Family Games by Chicca Albertini.
  • Play Winning Checkers by Robert Pike.
  • Start Playing Chess by Rosalyn Katz.

Books to Booktalk

  • Chess: From First Move to Checkmate by Daniel King.
  • Crusader by Edward Bloor.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
  • The Kings are Already Here by Garret Freymann-Weyr.
  • Saint Marie by Yang Yeo-Jin.
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess by Fred Waitzkin.

Bulletin Board

Got Game?

Create a giant checkerboard on your bulletin board from black and white cardstock. Use red cardstock to create die cut letters that spell out “Got Game?” Post these two words across the checkerboard. In a corner, on an 8.5” x 11” piece of cardstock, post the tournament information including date, time, game, rules, and how to sign up to enter.

Prizes and Incentives

If you host a tournament, a great idea for first, second, and third prizes are various versions of the game itself. For example, if you are hosting a checkers tournament give a full size game of checkers to the winner, a travel edition of the game for second place, and a mini-keychain version for third place.

Oriental Trading Company sells a number of reasonably priced game sets, as well as mini playing cards key chains that include a mini deck of real playing cards in a protective case. Also fun are the round playing cards they sell.

Games and Activities

Pick-Up Sticks

If you do not have any games or cards available and can’t afford to buy any, or if you want to provide activities for those who have been eliminated from the tournament, play “pick up sticks” with colored toothpicks.

Make Your Own Board Games

Mancala may be the oldest game in the world. Variations are played in almost every country. Instructions for making a simple Mancala game are available on many Web sites and in many books. A Girl’s World at has instructions for making one using an egg carton, marbles, and a few other items easily found around the house.

Making Your Own Board Games at, provides directions to make and play two antiquated, yet interesting games. "Hnefatafl" is an ancient board game of the Vikings, and "Senet" is an Egyptian precursor to Backgamon.

Make Your Own Word Games

Teens can easily make their own crossword puzzles, word searches, mazes, cryptograms, criss-cross puzzles, hidden messages, and more. An easy online source to help develop the games is Discovery’s School Puzzlemaker at


If you have public performance rights, show these videos and DVDs during a movie program. Otherwise, display them for home use.

  • Jumanji. (104 minutes)
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer. (109 minutes)
  • Wonderworks-The Mighty Pawns. (58 minutes)

Web Sites

Once a player registers, he or she can play chess online, free of charge, on an easy to use graphical interface that can be accessed from any browser. No software installation is required.

Play Checkers Online
Teens can play checkers against the computer. No registration or software download is required.

Yahoo Fun for Everyone
Teens can register for a free Yahoo account and challenge each other in a variety of games, including chess, checkers, backgammon, Mahjong, dominoes, and many more.


  • Board Games: Classic Board Games Edition.
  • Family Game Pack Royale.


  • Chess Life.
  • GAMES Magazine.


Texas Reading Club 2005 Programming Manual / Go Wild...Read!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011