How To Play Dirty Santa

If you already looked at the Dirty Santa history and rules you must have a pretty good idea of how this Christmas gift exchange game works, but it will be even easier to understand the game play by participating or observing a live event.

Here are two different example games with set rules and options and exact description of how these games would play out. This will give you a practical example to follow and easily understand the game.

First Game

Setup: There are 5 people playing. Maximum price for gifts is not set. There is no theme and the optional rule is using a 2 minute timer to end the game.

Order: Five numbers (the amount of people playing) are written down on pieces of paper and tossed into a bowl. Everyone picks out the number to determine their order. Once the order is determined everyone sits around the pile of 5 gifts in the order that they received.

Play: First player opens a gift and shows it to everyone. Second player opens a gift. Third player steals from the first player. First player opens another gift. Fourth player opens an unopened gift. Fifth player opens the last unopened gift.

Now all the gifts have been opened. Since the game uses timed ending option, the organizer sets the timer to count down 2 minutes. The game continues with mandatory stealing. Note that with mandatory staling there is no “order” to follow other than choosing who to steal from, however as the rules state, you can not steal back the gift stolen from you immediately and have to wait for the next turn.

The game continued until the timer bell rings and at that point everyone ends up with the gift in their hand.

Second Game

Setup: 10 people playing. Game ends when all gifts are opened and someone refuses to steal. Game includes “Surprise Dirty Santa Gift” to encourage better gift selection, this means that whoever brings the gift that gets stolen the most gets an extra, surprise gift. Optional rule used: “No stealing from neighbors” which means you can not steal from person standing before or after you.

Order: 10 numbers are written down on pieces of paper and tossed into a bowl as there are ten players. People pick random numbers and gather around gifts in sequence.

Play: Player One opens a gift. Player Two opens a gift. Player Three opens a gift. Player Four decides to steal a gift from player three, but is denied by organizer, the rules state no stealing from neighbors. Player Four steals from Player One. Player One opens another gift. Player Five opens another gift. Player Six steals from Player Three. Player Three opens another unopened gift. Player Seven opens another gift. Player Eight opens another gift. Player Nine steals from Player Six. Player Six steals from Player One. Player one opens another gift. Player Ten opens the last gift.

At this point the first player gets another go to steal a gift. Player one steals a gift from Player Five. Player Five steals a gift from Player Three. Player Three steals from Player Eight. Player Eight refuses to steal and the game ends.

Few Gifts

More Gift Ideas


What's a good date to hold a party?

It's recommended to run a Dirty Santa in mid December, but the best date is the one majority can attend.

What Is Dirty Santa?

Dirty Santa is a Christmas gift exchange game where guest swap and steal random gifts.

Can only 3 players play?

Yes, 3 players could play it but it works better in larger groups, more the merrier.

What is the most important Dirty Santa rule?

If someone steals a gift from you, you can not immediately steal the same one back. Otherwise you'd get stuck in a never ending stealing loop.