Canadian Salad

A saladCanadian Salad (also known as Wisconsin Scramble or any number of other things depending on where it’s being played) is a trick-taking game for three to six players. On each hand, players have a different objective, hoping to avoid certain cards that count against them. On the final hand of the game, all of the cards to avoid from previous hands all count against them at once—meaning the players have quite a lot to dodge!

Object of Canadian Salad

The object of Canadian Salad is to score the fewest points by avoiding the point-scoring cards or tricks in each hand.

Setup

Canadian Salad uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. It’s always a good idea to play with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards if you’ve got ’em (and if you don’t, why not?). Some cards are removed depending on the number of players, to make the deal come out evenly. When playing with three players, remove the 2♣. With five, take out the 2♣ and 2♦. Playing with six, remove 2-3♣-2-3♦. For a four-player game, use the full 52-card deck. In addition to cards, you’ll need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal the cards out evenly to each player, using the whole deck.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. If they are unable to, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. Upon winning a trick, the player collects the cards and adds them to a won-trick pile. If knowing the number of tricks won is necessary at the end of the hand (i.e. on the first and sixth hands), each trick may be placed at right angles to the previous one to keep them separated. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.

Each hand has a different condition for awarding points. Since everyone’s trying to avoid points, these are the things you want to keep from taking. What gets you points on each hand:

  1. On the first hand, each trick captured scores ten points.
  2. Each heart captured on the second hand scores ten points.
  3. Each queen captured on the third hand scores 25 points.
  4. Capturing the K♠ on the fourth hand scores 100 points.
  5. Whoever takes the fifth hand’s last trick scores 100 points.
  6. On the sixth and final hand, all of the scoring conditions on hands one through five apply.

Each hand is scored after the final trick has been played. After the sixth hand, whoever has the lowest score is the winner.

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Crates

Crates is a game in the Stops family that can be played by two to five players, with four players in partnerships being the usual arrangement. Like many games before and after it, Crates extends the basic game play of Crazy Eights, adding additional effects by various cards and an entire scoring system.

Crates was invented by a group of Chicago Contract Bridge players in 1970, who used it as a way to kill time waiting for Bridge sessions to start. It was spread throughout the United States by Bridge players traveling to tournaments in other states.

Object of Crates

The object of Crates is to have the lowest score at the end of fifteen hands. This is achieved by discarding as many cards as possible from your hand.

Setup

To play Crates, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We don’t think it’s too crazy to recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with. The traditional pencil-and-paper combo works well, as does one of the many smartphone applications developed for the purpose of keeping score.

If you’re playing the four-player partnership game, determine your partners first, either by mutual agreement or by some random method. Each player should sit across from their partner, with their opponents at their left and right. In partnership games, the partners share a score, but otherwise, play is governed by the same rules as non-partnership games.

As in Oh Hell!, the starting hand size varies from hand to hand. The first hand is dealt with eight cards, the second with seven, and so on until a one-card hand has been played. Thereafter, the hand sizes start increasing again, by one card each hand, until the fifteenth and final hand, which is again played with eight cards.

Shuffle and deal the appropriate number of cards. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up; this card, the upcard, will be the top card of the discard pile. If the upcard is an 8 or a 9, the dealer must name a suit for the first play of the game before looking at their cards. If it is a 9, the suit named must be the same color as that of the 9.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left plays first. They play one card from their hand of the same suit or rank as the upcard. If a player is unable to play, they draw one card from the stock, ending their turn. Play then passes to the next player in turn.

If a player is unable to draw when required to because the stock has been exhausted, they receive a pressure. A player’s first pressure of the game is worth five points. Each subsequent pressure in a game scores double the previous one; a player’s second pressure (even if on a later hand) is worth ten points. The third is then worth 20 points, the fourth 40, etc. (In partnership games, the two partners’ pressures are counted together.) Pressures are scored immediately as they happen. After scoring for a pressure, that player then turns the discard pile face down and shuffles it to form a new stock. They then draw from the replenished stock as usual, and their turn ends.

Special card effects

Many cards in Crates have special effects when played. The “typical” cards which do not have any immediate effect on game play when played are aces, 3s, queens, and kings.

2-sequences

When a 2 is played, it starts a run of cards called a 2-sequence. Normal play is suspended until the 2-sequence is resolved. The next player in turn from the player who played a 2 must play either another 2 or an ace. If they can, the next player in turn after them must do the same, and so on. This continues until a player is unable to play either of these cards. That player adds up the total pip value of all of the cards played in the sequence and draws that many cards from the stock. The next player in turn after the person who drew cards plays as usual off the last card of the 2-sequence.

4s

When a 4 is played, the next player’s turn is skipped.

5s

When a 5 is played, each player in turn draws a card, ending with the player before the one who played the 5. (The person who played the 5 does not have to draw a card.) It is important that each player draw in turn, in case a pressure occurs while resolving the 5.

6s

When a 6 is played, the person playing it must play a second card before their turn ends. If they are unable to play another 6 or card of the same suit, they must draw a card, as per usual.

Should a player be stuck with a 6 as their last card, they cannot actually go out, because the 6 would require them to play a second card, which they do not have, so they must draw. Such a situation is called a Cooper.

7s

In the two- and three-player games, the next player in turn draws a card. In bigger games, the player after the next one draws a card. (It’s your partner that draws the card in the four-player partnership version. Convention is to sarcastically thank your partner for the card when they play a 7.) In all cases, this does not count as a turn; they play as normal after drawing.

8s and 9s

Both 8s and 9s allow the player to call a new suit.  The following player is required to play a card of that suit, or switch suits with another card of the same rank. The suit called when playing a 9 must be the same color as that 9. There is no such restriction when playing an 8.

10s

The order of play reverses when a 10 is played. That is, if play had been proceeding to the left, it now goes around to the right, and vice-versa. In a two-player game, of course, 10s have no unusual effect.

Jacks

In a two-player game, a jack acts the same as a 7—the other player draws a card. In a three-player game, the player before the person playing the card draws one card. Jacks have no effect in games of four or more players.

Ending the hand

When a player holds two cards, they must say “One card” upon playing one of them. (The player is jeered by their opponents if they say “Uno” instead.) If they fail to do so, they must start their next turn by drawing two cards. (Note that this means that if another player goes out before their next turn, the penalty is never actually assessed.)

The hand ends when a player ends their turn with no cards. The only exception to this is if a 2-sequence is in progress when this happens. In that case, the hand ends when the 2-sequence is resolved first. (This means it’s possible for a player to run out of cards, watch the 2-sequence to go around back to them, and be forced to draw because they have no cards. The hand still ends then, meaning nobody ends with no cards.)

Scoring

Players score for the hand based on the values of cards left in their hand. Cards score as follows:

  • Aces: 1 point
  • 2s: 20 points
  • 4s: 15 points
  • 5s and 6s: 30 points each
  • 7s: 20 points
  • 8s: 50 points
  • 9s: 30 points
  • 10s: 25 points
  • Face cards: 10 points each

Scoring for 3s is a little more complicated. A hand with only 3s in it scores –50 points per 3 held. If there are other ranks in the hand, each 3 “covers” one of the other cards. Each card covered by a 3 scores only three points. The only cards that cannot be covered in this way are 8s.

Game play continues until fifteen hands have been played. Whichever player or partnership has the lowest score at that point wins the game.

See also

 

 

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Through the Window

Through the Window is a simple game of quick thinking, perfect for children. It can accommodate three to thirteen players. Although it’s played with cards, it’s really more of a word game than anything else!

Object of Through the Window

The object of Through the Window is to be the first player to name a noun that starts with the same letter as the card just revealed.

Setup

Through the Window is played with a typical 52-card deck of playing cards. Kids tend to get rambunctious with cards—make sure you use durable cards like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Shuffle and deal four cards, face down, to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Set the rest of the deck aside; it will not be used in further game play.

Game play

The dealer goes first. They say “I looked though the window and saw…” and, at that point, turn over one of their face-down cards. Players immediately say any noun that starts with the same letter. (For those of you who don’t remember, or haven’t yet taken, English class, a noun is a person, place, or thing.) For example, if a 3 is turned up, players might call out “tree”, “tiger”, “tank”, “tomato”, “Texas”, or whatever else they might think of. Whether or not something might realistically be seen out the window is beside the point, and coming up with particularly amusing things to see outside is part of the fun.

Whichever player was first to name a word collects the card and keeps it face up in front of them, separate from their face-down cards. The player to the dealer’s left goes next. They, too, say “I looked through the window and saw…” and turn over a card. Again, the players call out nouns to try to win the card. At this point and beyond, players may not repeat any words that successfully won a card. (Words that were called out but beaten to the punch by another player, however, are fair game.)

Game play continues until all of the cards have been awarded to a player. Each player counts the number of cards in their won-cards pile. Whoever has the most cards wins.

Strategy

Most of the game involves quickly seeing the card, recognizing its first letter (which may not be as obvious as it seems at first; 8→E is not necessarily a quick association for some people due to the A sound at the beginning of it), and recalling a word that starts with the right letter. The first two parts are just practice. If you’re having problems thinking of words, come up with some before the game. You only need words starting with A, E, F, J, K, N, Q, S and T. At this point it just becomes an exercise of quick memory.

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Comet

Comet, also known as Commit, is a game in the Stops family for four to about eight players. As in Pope Joan, the players know about one of the game’s “stops”—the 8♦ is removed from play. Unlike in that game, though the 9♦, called the comet, is much easier to play—it functions as a wild card!

Comet is supposedly named after the 1758 pass-by of Halley’s Comet, having been invented in France around that time period. The name Commit circulated just as early, however, leading to some question as to whether it was the original name and which, if either, is a corruption in spelling for the other.

Object of Comet

The object of Comet is to be the first to score 100 points. Players score points by being the first to run out of cards on each hand.

Setup

Comet is typically played with a deck composed of 51 cards or fewer. You can make such a 51-card deck by removing the 8♦ from any standard deck, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper.

There are two methods to dealing the game. One is to simply deal out the cards as far as they will go, then simply set aside the stub. The unknown cards in the stub will be the “stops” that halt progress in the game, which players will have to discover as they play. The other method is to simply remove additional 8s (and 7s if necessary) until the deck is evenly divisible by the number of players. This has the effect of allowing players to know the stops ahead of time and adjust their strategy.

Game play

In Comet, cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may play any card they wish, face up, to the table in front of them. Whoever holds the next higher card of the same suit then plays their card, then the next higher, and so on. Ideally, this continues until someone plays the king of that suit. Sometimes, however, it will be because the next card in the sequence would be one of the cards in the stub or the 8♦. As the game progresses, sequences may also stop due to previously-played cards. If the sequence is broken for any reason, the last person to play a card is free to play any card they desire, and the chain begins anew.

The role of the 9♦

The player holding the 9♦ (the comet) is free to play it at any time, even out of turn in an existing sequence. They may play it immediately after playing an in-sequence card, or after another player. When the 9♦ is played, normal play stops. The player to the left of the one who played the 9♦ must either play the 10♦ or the next card in the previous sequence, if any. If the player is unable to play either card, the next player to the left has the same option, and so on. Play proceeds normally after that.

For example, say a sequence begins with the A♣ and continues normally through the 6♣. Someone then plays the 9♦. The person to that players left must then play either the 10♦ or the 7♣. If they cannot, the next person to their left must play one of the two cards, if able, and so on.

Scoring

The player that runs out of cards first wins the hand. They score one point for winning the hand, another point for every card in their opponents’ hands, and two points for each king that was not played. If a player holds the 9♦, unplayed, at the end of the hand, they lose one point.

Pass the deal to the left, shuffle, and deal a new hand. Game play continues until one player reaches a score of 100 or more points. That player wins the game.

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Ultimate Texas Hold’em

Ultimate Texas Hold'em logo
Ultimate Texas Hold’em, often abbreviated as UTH, is an adaptation of Texas Hold’em to the player-versus-the-house format of casino table games. Two to eight people (including the dealer) can play.  Introduced during the height of the 2000s poker craze, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a more approachable game for players that may be intimidated by the more confrontational style of betting found in traditional poker games.

Like Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a proprietary game owned and licensed by Scientific Games. UTH was originally developed by Roger Snow of ShuffleMaster, a manufacturer of card shuffling equipment. As with Three Card Poker, ShuffleMaster created specialized shuffling and dealing machines customized for UTH. ShuffleMaster was later acquired by Bally Technologies, which was later purchased by Scientific Games.

As with Three Card Poker, you won’t usually find the UTH tables in the poker room. Instead, look for them in the pit, alongside the Three Card Poker and Blackjack tables.

Object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em

The object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em is to recognize when you hold a hand that is likely to form a better poker hand than the dealer’s. This allows you to take advantage of opportunities to bet higher (and thus hopefully be paid higher). Alternately, the object is determine when the hand isn’t worth playing and exit the game to avoid a greater loss.

Setup

Ultimate Texas Hold’em is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’re playing at home, why not take advantage of the opportunity to get out your Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? You’ll also need chips for each player to bet with. The dealer should be provided with a generous amount of chips for paying out winning wagers.

Casino UTH tables are covered in a felt surface with betting circles pre-printed on them, to organize the four bets that are available to the players. (An example of such a betting layout is shown at below right.) Unlike public-domain games like Blackjack, you’re unlikely to find UTH layouts available from anyone but Scientific Games. If you’re planning on dealing a home game instead of just playing in a casino, you’ll need to put one together yourself.

Players make their initial bets, as described below in “Making the initial bets”. After each player has bet, shuffle and deal five cards, face down; these will be the board cards. Deal two cards, also face down, to each player, including the dealer. These are the players’ hole cards.

Game play

Cards rank in their usual order in UTH, with aces high (although they can be used in an A–5 straight). Hands rank in the typical order; see rank of poker hands if you need a refresher.

Making the initial bets

Ultimate Texas Hold'em betting layoutThe basic bets in UTH are the Ante and Blind bets, which most players will usually make. A player must make both bets, or neither of them; the amount placed in each betting circle must be equal.

A player may also choose to make an optional Trips bet. The Trips bet pays based on the best hand a player can make between their two cards and the five community cards. Whether or not the player’s hand is better than the dealer’s is immaterial to the outcome of the Trips bet. A player may choose to bet only the Trips bet, and not the Ante and Blind bets.

The Play betting circle remains empty until later on in the hand.

Play of the hand

After receiving their hand and being allowed to do so by the dealer, the player looks at their two cards. The dealer proceeds around the table, from left to right, giving each player their turn. On their turn, they may, if they wish, make their Play bet, which must be either three or four times the amount of the Ante bet. Otherwise, they check by tapping the table.

After all players have had a chance to bet or check, the dealer reveals the flop (the first three board cards). Each player who has not already made a Play bet gets a turn now. If they wish, they may now place a Play bet equal to twice the Ante bet. They may also check again, if they still do not wish to bet.

The dealer then reveals the last two board cards. Players have one last chance to make a Play bet, which is now limited to be exactly equal to the Ante bet. If a player still doesn’t want to bet, then they fold, surrendering all of the bets they’ve made to the dealer.

When all players have made a Play bet or folded, the dealer turns their hole cards face up. They declare the best five-card poker hand they can make using their two hole cards and the five board cards. If the dealer has at least a pair or higher, they are said to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify, the Ante bet will push, but the other two bets will still be paid out normally.

Payouts

The dealer now proceeds around the table to each active player in turn, starting with the player to their right and working around to the left. The dealer reveals the player’s hole cards and announces the best poker hand the player can make. This hand is then compared to the dealer’s. If the dealer has a better hand, the dealer collects the Blind and Play bets, the Ante bet if the dealer qualified, and the player’s cards. Should the player have a better hand, they are paid out at even money on the Play bet and the Blind bet, as well as the Ante bet if the dealer qualified. If the player wins and has a straight or higher, they are paid at a higher rate on the Blind bet, as shown in the table below.

If the player made the Trips bet, it is settled regardless of if the player won or not. The Trips bet pays only if the player has three of a kind or better. If they do not, the bet loses and is collected by the dealer. If they do, it is paid according to the table below.

The payouts for the Trips and winning Blind bets are as follows:

Hand Trips Blind
Royal flush 50 to 1 500 to 1
Straight flush 40 to 1 50 to 1
Four of a kind 30 to 1 10 to 1
Full house 8 to 1 3 to 1
Flush 6 to 1 3 to 2
Straight 5 to 1 even money
Three of a kind 3 to 1 even money
Two Pair
Pair
even money

After every player’s bets have been resolved, the cards are shuffled. Players then make their bets for the next hand.

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Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer is a simple game for two players. Much like Gops, the exact composition of each player’s hand is known to both players, and all of the strategy comes from simply playing the right cards at the right time! As in Mate, the only element of luck is the cards the player is initially dealt, and this is canceled out by the players switching hands after playing through them. As a result, the game is one of the rare examples of a card game that is entirely based around strategic play.

Divide and Conquer was invented by Claude Soucie, a Canadian-born game designer with several published board games under his belt. Soucie was a longtime friend of renowned game inventor and author Sid Sackson; the latter published Divide and Conquer in his 1981 compendium Card Games Around the World.

Object of Divide and Conquer

The object of Divide and Conquer is win the majority of the game’s ten matches. A player does not necessarily know what card their opponent will play next, so this more or less involves outwitting the other player.

Setup

Divide and Conquer uses a very small number of cards. Take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and extract one queen, and one each of all of the cards 2–10. (Suit doesn’t matter.) These ten cards are all you need to play the game.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player, exhausting the pack.

Game play

Before beginning play, each player should carefully examine their hand. It is important to realize that the five cards they don’t have are the ones their opponent does have. Furthermore, all of the plays are left face-up on the table. That means that at any given point in time, each player knows the exact cards their opponent holds.

Each player places one card from their hand face down on the table. When both have done so, the cards are both revealed, and compared to see which is the winner. In most cases, the higher card wins (cards rank in their usual order). However, if the pip value of the lower card divides evenly into the higher card, the low card wins. The queen has a value of twelve for the purposes of division. Also, if the low card has a pip value of exactly one below the high card, the low card wins.

Some examples:

  • 9-5. The 9 wins because it is higher.
  • Q-6. The 6 wins because 12 ÷ 6 = 2.
  • 10-9. The 9 wins because it is one lower than the 10.
  • 9-3. The 3 wins because 9 ÷ 3 = 3.

After the winner of the match is determined, both cards are placed in the middle of the table. The cards should be placed so that the two cards are clearly next to each other, with each card on the same side of the table as the person who played it. The losing card should be turned at right angles to signify its loss. The next match is then played the same way.

After the fifth match, both players will be out of cards. The cards are assembled back into their original hands, and the two hands are then swapped. The players then play five more matches, using the cards their opponent was originally dealt.

Whichever player wins a majority of the matches wins the game. If the players evenly split the matches, the game is a tie.

Variation

For a longer game, use a fourteen-card deck composed of 2–10 of one of the black suits and 2-4-5-6-8 in one of the red suits. The values of the red cards are equal to ten plus the pip value, so the red 2 has a value of twelve, the red 4 is fourteen, etc. Deal seven cards to each player. The best of fourteen matches wins.

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Three Card Poker

Three Card Poker is a betting game played in casinos throughout the world. Unlike most forms of poker, the player wins when they can manage to beat the house, as in Blackjack and Mini Baccarat. Accordingly, Three Card Poker tables are usually located in the blackjack pit, not in the poker room.

Unlike most games played with traditional cards, Three Card Poker is a proprietary game. It was originally marketed by ShuffleMaster, a company which made and supplied automatic card shufflers to casinos. Due to a chain of acquisitions, the game is now owned by Scientific Games. Scientific Games still licenses the rights to the Three Card Poker name, as well as selling layouts and specialized shufflers that can also be programmed to deal three-card hands for each player.

Object of Three Card Poker

The object of Three Card Poker is to hold a hand higher than that of the dealer, or walk away when they feel they are unlikely to do so.

Setup

Unlike many casino table games, Three Card Poker is played with only one standard, 52-card deck of playing cards. Happily, that means if you’re wanting to play a home game, you can use your favorite deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need chips to bet with.

Casinos spread the game on a felt table with a printed layout that facilitates the placing and payout of bets. Each player position has three betting boxes, typically laid out as shown at right. Because Three Card Poker is a proprietary game, pre-printed felt layouts are not as readily available as those found in games such as Blackjack. If you’re playing at home, you will most likely have to get creative, making a betting layout for yourself.

All players place a bet (which must be between the posted table minimums and maximums) in the Ante box on the layout. If they wish, they may also place an additional bet in the Pair Plus circle. Shuffle and deal three cards face down to each player, including the dealer.

Game play

Rank of Three Card Poker hands

Because there are only three cards involved, the hands available in Three Card Poker and their ranking differ from traditional poker. The hands are, from highest to lowest:

  1. Straight flush: Three cards of the same suit, in sequence.
  2. Three of a kind: Three cards of the same rank.
  3. Straight: Three cards in sequence.
  4. Flush: Three cards of the same suit.
  5. Pair: Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card.
  6. High card: Three unmatched cards.

Competing pairs are evaluated by the rank of the pair, with the kicker (unmatched card) breaking ties. All other hands are evaluated by comparing the top-ranked card, then the second-highest, then the lowest. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high (although A-2-3 is a valid straight).

Play of the hand

Each player picks up their cards (touching the cards is allowed in Three Card Poker) and examines their hand. They now make the only decision in the game—whether to raise (play) or fold. If the player folds, they surrender their cards to the dealer, who collects their money from the Ante and Pair Plus circles. If they raise, they place another bet, exactly the same amount as their Ante wager, on top of their cards (which are placed in the box overlapping the Play box, such that a bet placed on top of the cards ends up being in the Play box).

When all players have acted, the dealer reveals their hand. If the dealer’s hand is queen high or better, they are said to qualify. Should the dealer fail to qualify, the hand ends immediately, with each player being paid even money on their Ante bet and the Play bet pushing. (It should be noted that, so long as the player hasn’t folded, the Ante bet always pays when the dealer fails to qualify, even if the player’s hand is lower than the dealer’s.)

If the dealer qualifies, each player’s hand is compared with the dealer’s. Starting with the player to their right, and proceeding counter-clockwise around the table, the dealer reveals each player’s hand. If the player’s hand is higher than the dealer’s, they are paid even money on both the Ante and Play bets. When the dealer’s hand is higher, both bets are lost. If the dealer and player tie exactly, both bets push.

Pair Plus and Ante bonus payouts

If the player holds a high enough hand, they may get paid no matter what the dealer holds. Usually, this will happen because they made the Pair Plus bet, which operates entirely independently of the other two bets. If the player has a pair or higher, they are paid according to the hand they hold; otherwise, the bet is lost. A player holding a straight or better also receives a bonus on their Ante bet (regardless of if they played the Pair Plus bet).

Pair Plus bet and Ante bonuses are paid according to the following paytable. Note that these are typical values; some casinos may pay different rates.

Hand Pair Plus Ante bonus
Straight flush 40 to 1 5 to 1
Three of a kind 30 to 1 4 to 1
Straight 6 to 1 even money
Flush: 3 to 1
Pair even money

Three Card Poker strategy

According to Michael Shackelford of the popular Wizard of Odds gambling probabilities site, the mathematically ideal strategy for Three Card Poker is to play hands of Q-6-4 and higher and to fold hands of Q-6-3 and lower.

It should be noted that the house edge on the Pairs Plus bet is 7.28%. This is not much better than betting on a slot machine. However, to many players, the chance to catch a straight flush and win $200 on a $5 bet is too great a temptation to resist…

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Mus

Mus is a betting game for four players in partnerships. Players draw and discard until they reach a hand they’re happy with, and then the betting begins. But there’s not just one “best” hand—there’s four rounds of betting, each with wildly different criteria for how the best hand is determined, and one hand can’t be the best in all four categories!

Mus most likely originated in the Basque country, a region spanning the border between France and Spain. From there, the game spread throughout both of those countries. From Spain, Mus was carried to other Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.

Object of Mus

The object of Mus is to be the first partnership to reach a score of 40 points. This is done by, through drawing, forming hands that compete well in a number of different categories.

Setup

Mus is traditionally played with a Spanish deck of 40 cards. To recreate such a deck from an English-style 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 8s, 9s, and 10s. This will leave you with a 40-card deck consisting of face cards, 7s–2s, and aces in each of the four suits.

To keep score, you will need 22 counters of some kind, such as stones, beads, beans, marbles, or poker chips. These counters are kept in a pool in the center of the table. Uniquely, the value of each counter differs depending on who holds it! When a point is scored, one of the partners designated to do so draws a counter from the central pool. Upon reaching a score of five, this player returns four counters to the pool and passes the fifth to their partner. Thus, each counter this second player holds represents five points. When the second player has seven counters (representing a score of 35), they declare this and return them to the pool, putting their opponents on notice that they only need to score five more points to win.

Mus is traditionally played with a series of signals that players can use to indicate their holdings to their partner. These signals are the same for both teams. Part of the skill of the game is to figure out how to pass the signals to your partner without the opponents intercepting them. Which signals mean what, and what signals are allowed, should be discussed prior to game play.

As is usual with partnership games, partners should be seated across from one another, with an opponent on either side. The turn should alternate between partnerships as it passes around the table.

Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

Mus is most widely played “with eight aces and eight kings”. To achieve this, the 3s are considered equivalent to kings, and the 2s are considered equal to aces. They are treated exactly the same as if they were the same rank (to the point that K-3 is considered a pair). Cards otherwise rank in their usual order, with aces low.

Unlike in most games, game play is always conducted to the right.

Mus or no mus

The player to the dealer’s right goes first. They examine their hand and determine if they would like to exchange some of their cards for new ones for the stock. If they do, they say “mus”. The next player to the right must then make the same determination, and so on.

If all four players agree to a mus, then they discard one to four cards, face down, and the dealer gives them replacements from the stock. Then, another round of declaring “mus” or “no mus” takes place. (If the stock is depleted, shuffle the discards to form a new stock.) This continues until a player calls “no mus”. The game then proceeds to the betting rounds.

Betting

There are four rounds of betting, each of which has different criteria for winning. The betting rounds are always conducted in the same order, and follow the same procedure. Betting in each round begins with the player to the dealer’s right. They may make an opening bid of at least two counters, or pass. If they pass, the next player to the right has the same option, and so on. Once a player makes an opening bid, the opponent to their right may:

  • See: agree to the bid, the amount of which will be won by whoever has the best cards for the category bid on.
  • Raise: accept the opening bid and propose an increased bet.
  • Fold. decline the proposed opening bid. The side that didn’t fold immediately collects the previously-accepted bid amount, regardless of who actually has the better cards.

If all players fold to an opening bid, the “previously accepted” bid is only one counter. If all four players pass with no opening bid being made, the round is contested with a stake of one counter going to the partnership with better cards.

There is one additional, special bid called órdago. If your opponent accepts a bid of órdago, the entire game is decided by the outcome of the current round of betting. The hands are immediately revealed, and whoever has the best cards for that round wins the entire game.

It is important to note that all bids are for the partnership, not the players. You may well have an awful hand, but find yourself betting a high number of counters because you know, either through previous bidding or signals, that your partner is a lock to win the round.

After each round of betting, the players proceed to the next one. The hands are kept concealed until all four rounds are concluded (except when a bid of órdago is accepted).

The rounds

The four rounds of betting are, in order:

  • Grande: Betting on who has the highest hand. Hands are compared by their highest card. If there is a tie, the second-highest is used to break it, then the third-highest, and finally the lowest.
  • Chica: Betting on who has the lowest hand. Hands are compared the same as in Grande, but comparing by the lowest card, then second-lowest, etc.
  • Pares: Betting on who has the best pairs. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they even have any pairs. If at least one person answers yes, the betting round takes place. Unlike the previous two rounds, the player with the best combination is entitled to a bonus, in addition to the agreed-upon stake. Possible combinations, from highest to lowest, are:
    • Duples: Two pair, like K-3-4-4 or 7-7-2-2. Duples are compared by their higher pair, then their lower one. Three-counter bonus.
    • Medias: Three of a kind, with one unmatched card, like 5-5-5-Q or A-A-2-6. The rank of the three-of-a-kind is compared first, then the kicker. Two-counter bonus.
    • Par simple: One pair, like K-3-7-A or J-J-6-4. The rank of the pair is compared first, then the higher kicker, then the lower kicker. One-counter bonus.
  • Juego: Each player totals the value of their hand, with aces (including 2s) worth one, face cards (including 3s) worth ten, and all other cards worth their face value. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they have a hand worth 31 or more points. If at least one does, the hands will be compared for best juego. A hand value of 31 is the best, and entitles its holder to a 3-counter bonus if it wins. Second is a value of 32, then 40, and then in descending order down to 33 (all of which are worth a 2-counter bonus if it wins).
  • Punto: Only if nobody holds a juego is the Punto round played. This is simply betting on the highest hand value (30 being best, since 31 and above would be a juego, and 4 being worst). The holder of the best hand scores a one-counter bonus on top of the agreed-upon bet.

In any case, if two hands are exactly identical, whoever comes first in turn order wins.

Resolution

After all four rounds of betting take place, the hands are revealed and compared. Payouts on rounds where betting actually occurred (or all four players passed) are done in exactly the same order as the betting rounds (Grande, Chica, Pares, Juego/punto).

If a partnership reaches a score of 40, stop immediately—they win the game, even if one of the other rounds would have allowed their opponents to surpass them. If nobody has a score of 40 after all four rounds have been scored, the deal passes to the right and another hand is played.

 

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Twenty-Five

Twenty-Five is the national card game of Ireland. Games of Twenty-Five can found be throughout the country, in pubs and homes alike. It is best for three to nine players. Since a game only lasts until a player takes five tricks, games of Twenty-Five are fairly quick, often lasting only two or three hands.

Object of Twenty-Five

The object of Twenty-Five is to be the first player or partnership to reach a score of 25 or more. This is done by winning five tricks.

Setup

Twenty-Five is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you have any choice in the matter, insist on using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.You will also need something to keep score with, such as the time-honored pencil and paper, or something more modern, like a smartphone application.

Players divide into teams, depending on the number of people playing and their preferences. With an even number of players, the players may pair up in partnerships. With nine, players may wish to form three teams of three. No matter how many are playing, however, it is always a viable option for each player to play by themselves. If playing with partnerships, partners should sit across from one another, such that as the turn proceeds around the table, no players on the same team take their turns consecutively.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Turn the next card (referred to here as the upcard) face up. This sets the trump suit for the hand. Set the deck stub aside; it will not take any further part in game play.

Card ranking

Twenty-Five uses an extremely unusual card ranking, which changes depending on which suit is elevated to trumps. Ordinarily, the ace is treated as though it is a one. In the red suits, the cards rank in their usual order. In the black suits, however, the order of the number cards is reversed, with the lowest number cards (the ace, 2, et al.) ranking highest! The adage players use to remember this is highest in red, lowest in black.

The order of cards is changed somewhat when a suit becomes trump. The 5 is always the highest trump, followed by the jack. The third highest trump is always the A♥, no matter what the trump suit is. This is followed by the ace of the trump suit (if the trump suit is not hearts), then the rest of the cards in their typical Twenty-Five order.

Got all that? In summary:

  • In trump suits
    • Hearts: (high) 5-J-A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-4-3-2 (low).
    • Diamonds: (high) 5-J-A♥-A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-4-3-2 (low).
    • Clubs, Spades: (high) 5-J-A♥-A-K-Q-2-3-4-6-7-8-9-10 (low).
  • In non-trump suits
    • Hearts: (high) K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 (low).
    • Diamonds: (high) K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A (low).
    • Clubs, Spades: (high) K-Q-J-A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 (low).

Game play

Robbing the trump

Before actual game play begins, the player holding the ace of trumps (i.e. not the A♥, unless hearts are trump) may rob the upcard that set the trump suit. To do this, they take the upcard and then discard any card from their hand, face down.

Of course, by robbing the trump, they are disclosing to the other players that they hold the ace of trumps. As a result, players may sometimes consider it advantageous to waive their right to rob the trump. Once a player has led to the first trick, nobody may rob the trump.

Play of the hand

Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left leading to the first trick. Each player in turn, proceeding clockwise, plays one card to the trick. Players must either follow suit or ruff (play a trump). If a player is unable to follow suit, they may play any card. When a trump is led, the other players must play a trump, if possible, unless the only trump they hold is the 5 of trump, jack of trumps, or A♥ (i.e. the three highest trumps). If these are the only trumps a player holds, they may play any card; they are never forced to play one of the top three trumps.

The player that contributed the highest trump to the trick, or the highest card of the suit led, if no trumps were played, wins the trick. That player (or their partnership) immediately scores five points. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.

If nobody has scored 25 points by the end of the hand, the player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals another hand. Game play continues until one player or team has scored 25 points. Game play stops immediately (the hand is not played out), with the player or team reaching a score of 25 being the winner.

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Rumino

Rumino is a rummy-type game of Italian origin for two to six players. Although it is played with a double deck, and uses reverse scoring (lowest score wins), at its core it plays much like Gin Rummy. The game also includes the rumino—a special type of seven-card meld that allows a player to win the game instantly.

Object of Rumino

The object of Rumino is to be the last player remaining with a score of under 100 points. Points are scored when a player has unmelded cards remaining at the end of the hand.

Setup

Rumino is played with a 108-card deck of playing cards, formed by shuffling together two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, complete with four jokers. You also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper.

Rumino is often played for money. If you choose to do so, all players should agree to the value of one stake. Collect this amount from each player and amass it into a pool to be won by the winner of the game.

Shuffle and deal seven cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn over the top card of the stock and place it face up next to it. This card, the upcard, is the first card in the discard pile.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They begin their turn by drawing a card, either the upcard or the top card of the stock. After this, they discard a card (which becomes the new upcard for the next player’s turn). The next player does the same thing on their turn.

Players are trying to form their hand into combinations of cards called melds. A meld is three or four of a kind, or three or four cards of the same suit in sequence. (Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.) If a player holds a joker, it is wild, and can substitute for any other card in a meld. When a player forms a meld, they keep it in their hand, rather than laying it out on the table.

While a player is forming melds, they are also keeping track of their deadwood count. This is the point value of all of the cards in their hand which are not part of a meld. Aces count for one point, face cards and jokers count as ten points, and all other cards count as their face value.

Going out

When a player reaches a deadwood count of seven or less at the beginning of their turn, they may knock. Knocking must be done before a player draws to start their turn. When a player knocks, every player lays their hand face up on the table, breaking the melds out separately. Each player then has the total value of their deadwood added to their score.

If a player manages to reach a deadwood score of zero, they may go gin instead of knocking. In this case, the player going gin scores –10, while all other players score their deadwood count, as before.

Ruminos

There are two special conditions known as ruminos: seven cards of the same suit, in sequence (e.g. 7-8-9-10-J-Q-K♦) or seven of a kind. Either of these may contain jokers. When a player obtains a rumino, they reveal it, and the game ends immediately, with the player holding the rumino as the winner.

Should a player have six cards to a rumino, and a card that could be used as the needed seventh card is discarded by another player, the player holding the potential rumino may interrupt and draw it out of turn. They then reveal their newly-completed rumino and win the game, as usual.

Ending the game

If no ruminos are scored, game play continues for several hands, with players’ scores gradually increasing. When a player reaches a score of 100 or more, they drop out of the game.

If playing for money, a player may rebuy into the game by contributing more money to the pool. A player’s first rebuy is the same as the initial stake. If a player rebuys again, their second rebuy is double that amount. The third rebuy is again double the cost (four times the amount of the initial buy-in), and so on. Whenever a player rebuys, their score is reset to that of whichever opponent has the highest score under 100. A player no longer rebuy when there are only two players left in the game (i.e. whenever the third-place finisher is eliminated from the game).

Whichever player is the last remaining with a score under 100 wins the game. That player collects the entire prize pool.

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