Hasenpfeffer

Hasenpfeffer is a trick-taking game, based on Euchre, for four players in partnerships. Hasenpfeffer adds a bidding system to determine who gets to choose the trump suit. It also adds a joker as the most powerful trump in the game. However, if you hold the joker, and nobody else bids, you have to, whether you want to or not!

Despite the German name, Hasenpfeffer isn’t from Germany, but instead most likely originates from the Pennsylvania Dutch, much like Euchre itself. While there is a rabbit stew called hasenpfeffer, the name more likely derives from the German idiom “Hase im Pfeffer“, which roughly translates to “in a pickle”. This is particularly appropriate, considering that the player dealt the joker may well find themselves in a pickle because of it!

Object of Hasenpfeffer

The object of Hasenpfeffer is to be the first partnership to score ten or more points. Points are scored by taking tricks and by fulfilling contracts made by bidding.

Setup

Hasenpfeffer uses a unique 25-card pack. Fortunately, such a deck is easy to construct from a pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Just add one joker and take out all the 2s through the 8s. You’ll be left with a deck with aces through 9s only in each of the four suits, plus the joker, of course.

The players need to be divided into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another. The turn of play will alternate between partnerships when going clockwise. You can decide the partnerships by whatever method you agree on—random card draw or just mutual agreement both work.

Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Place the odd, 25th card face down in the center of the table, forming the widow.

Card ranking

As in Euchre, the card ranking in the trump suit is a little different than usual. The trump suit contains two extra cards the other suits do not: the joker, and an extra jack from the suit of the same color as the trump suit. The rank of cards in the trump suit is as follows:

  1. The joker.
  2. Right bower. Jack of trumps.
  3. Left bower. The jack of the suit as the same color as trumps is considered a trump, and is ranked here. (For example, if clubs were trump, the J♣ would be the right bower, and the J♠ would be the left bower.)
  4. All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7.)

Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower).

Game play

Bidding

The bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left. This player may either pass or bid any number of tricks, from one to six, that they think their partnership can take if they get the right to choose the trump suit. The next player to the left, if they wish to bid, must make a higher bid than the preceding player; they may also pass. This continues until all four players have had a chance to bid. The dealer gets the final bid; the bidding does not continue for a second round.

Should all four players pass, the player holding the joker reveals it to the other players. This player is obligated to make a bid of three tricks, which automatically becomes the high bid for the hand. If the joker is the widow card (meaning nobody holds it), the hand is void, and a new hand is dealt by the next dealer.

The side which won the bidding becomes the declarers, and their opponents become the defenders. The high bidder takes the widow card into their hand, declares the trump suit for the hand, then discards one card, face down. The high bid becomes the declarers’ contract for that hand.

Play of the hand

The high bidder leads to the first trick. Each player to the left, in turn, then plays a card. If a player is able to follow suit, they must. Otherwise, they are free to play any card they wish, including a trump. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.

When a player wins a trick, they do not add it to the hand. Rather, captured tricks are kept in a shared discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since scoring depends on the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. Whichever player wins a trick leads to the next one.

Scoring

After all six tricks have been played, the hand is scored. If the declarers managed to capture a number of tricks equal to or greater than stipulated by their contract, they score one point per trick collected. If they do not, they lose points equal to the contract. For example, a partnership has a contract of four. If they take five tricks, they score five points. If they take three, they score –4.

Regardless of whether the declarers make their contract or not, the defenders always score one point for each trick they take.

Game play continues until one partnership reaches a score of ten or better. That team is the winner. If both partnerships reach a score of ten on the same hand, the declarers for that hand win the game. This makes it impossible to win a game while defending, unless the declarers fail to make their contract.

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Tresette

Tresette is an Italian trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Much like in Pinochle, players also score points for melds that they find in their hands. Melds in Tresette are much more simple, however, because they can only include aces, 2s, and 3s. These cards, along with the face cards, are the only cards that count when collected in tricks.

Object of Tresette

The object of Tresette is to be the first partnership to score 31 or more points. Points are scored by taking certain cards in tricks and by forming melds consisting of aces, 2s, and 3s.

Setup

Tresette uses the 40-card Italian deck. (This is the same deck used to play Seven and a Half, Scopa and Briscola, among others.) To create the requisite deck, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove the 10s, 9s, and 8s. Now you’ll have a deck that has ten cards in each suit (ace through 7, and the three face cards). You’ll also want something to keep score with—pencil and paper works great.

Tresette is traditionally played in a counter-clockwise fashion (to the right). For the sake of simplicity, we’ve reversed the directions so that it proceeds to the left, like most normal card games. If your players want some added authenticity to their Tresette game, you can reverse it back. It really makes no difference.

Determine partnerships by any convenient method, such as by drawing cards or just mutual agreement. Players should sit next to each other, so that as the turn proceeds around the table, it alternates between partnerships.

Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, ten cards to each player.

Card ranking

Tresette uses an extremely odd card ranking. Aces are high, but 3s and 2s are ranked even higher than the aces. If that’s not enough, the jacks outrank the queens! What’s left is in the usual order. That gives a full card ranking of (high) 3, 2, A, K, J, Q, 7, 6, 5, 4 (low).

Game play

Melding

There are two types of melds in Tresette, and they both involve only the aces, 2s, and 3s. The first is three or four of a kind. (Again, just aces, 2s, and 3s count—three of a kind in any other suit gets you nothing!) The second, called a nap, consists of 3-2-A of the same suit.

If a player holds a meld at the beginning of the hand, they declare it by stating “Good play”. They do not reveal the meld, and multiple players may declare melds. Upon winning their first trick, a player that declared a meld announces the type of the meld or melds they hold, such as “four 2s”, or “three aces and a nap”.

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Play is the same as it is in most every trick-taking game, but we’ll give you the rundown anyway. Each player in turn plays a card. They must follow suit if able, and if not, they can play whatever they want. After all four have played, whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and leads to the next one. Each partnership maintains a won-tricks pile, shared between the two partners, in which they store the cards from tricks that they’ve won.

Unlike in most other card games, in Tresette, you can share information about your holdings and what you want your partner to do. However, anything you say is public knowledge; your opponents are in on it too! When you lead to a trick, you can ask your partner to “play their best” card of that suit. If you’re playing to a trick led by someone else, you can announce how many cards you hold of the suit led. You can also announce, at any time, if you hold two, one, or zero cards in a suit (but not which suit it is).

Scoring

Play continues until all ten tricks have been played. The hand is then scored. Each partnership first scores one point for each card in their melds. That is, for each four-of-a-kind melded, they score four points, and they score three for every other meld. Each team then counts the number of 2s, 3s, and face cards that they captured in tricks. For every three of these cards captured, they score one point. Any remainder is disregarded. For each ace that the partnership collected, they score one point. Finally, the partnership that took the last trick also scores one point.

Game play continues until one partnership scores 31 or more points. That partnership is the winner.

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Spinado

Spinado is a game in the Stops family for three to five players. Although the basics of the game are more or less identical to Newmarket (Michigan), it changes the winning conditions for the various pots in the middle of the table. In addition, it grants the A♦ the title of spinado, giving it a special role in the game.

Object of Spinado

The object of Spinado is to obtain the most chips over the course of the game. Chips are collected by playing particular cards associated with individual pots that the players contribute to.

Setup

Spinado is played with a stripped deck of only 47 cards. To make a Spinado deck, remove the 8♦ and all of the 2s from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with a deck of four suits with kings down to 3s, as well as four aces (the diamonds, of course, will be missing the 8).

You also need something to bet with, such as poker chips or some other form of counter, like marbles or beans. If desired, you can have each chip represent some amount of real-world money. If so, each player will need to buy in. Otherwise, give an equal amount of chips to each player.

You will need some way of organizing the three pots in the center of the table. The pots in Spinado are Matrimony, Intrigue, and Game. Each player antes one chip to each pot at the beginning of the hand.

Shuffle and deal out the entire deck, dealing one hand to every player plus one. That is, if playing with four players, deal five hands of nine cards each. If there are any extra cards left over, place them in the extra hand. This hand is discarded and serves no part in game play.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left starts the hand by playing any card they wish. Whoever has the next highest card of the same suit—cards rank in their usual order, with aces low—may play it next. And so on it goes, until play is stopped by the next-higher card in the sequence being in the dead hand (or removed, as when an ace or the 7♦ is played). When that happens, the last person to play can choose any card they wish, and play continues from the new starter.

The A♦ is called the spinado, and has a special power not granted to any other card. The player holding the spinado can play it alongside any other valid play, interrupting the sequence. Because the 2♦ is removed from the deck, the spinado also stops play, so the person playing it also gets to start a new sequence. That means the player holding the spinado can essentially play three cards in a row!

If a player holds K-Q♦ and gets the chance to play them both, they collect all of the chips in the Matrimony pot. Likewise, if a player can play Q-J♦, they take all of the chips in the Intrigue pot. A lucky player who can play K-Q-J♦ takes both pots!

Ending the hand

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand and collects the Game pot. Any uncollected amounts in the Matrimony and Intrigue pots are carried over to the next hand. In fact, the pots are more often left unclaimed than not, because of the difficulty in both getting the two necessary cards and getting the chance to play them!

If a player holds the spinado at the end of the hand, having failed to play it, they must pay the winner two chips for each card in their hand.

The deal passes to the left and each player except the winner of the previous hand antes again to each pot. The game continues until some predetermined time or number of hands. Whichever player has the most chips at that point wins the game.

See also

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Trente et Quarante (Rouge et Noir)


Trente et Quarante (French for “30 and 40”), also known as Rouge et Noir (“Red and Black”), is a gambling game of French origin. From a player’s standpoint, it’s very similar to Baccarat—two hands are dealt out, and the only decision the player must make is which hand will win. Once popular in casinos throughout Europe, Trente et Quarante is now mostly found in France, Italy, and Monte Carlo.

Object of Trente et Quarante

The object of Trente et Quarante is to successfully predict whether the rouge (red) or noir (black) hand will have the lower score after each of them have been dealt cards totaling at least 31 points.

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Setup

In order to play Trente et Quarante, you’ll need six standard 52-card decks of playing cards (such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards). Since you’re going to be managing 312 cards at a time, it might be a good idea to find a dealing shoe and discard holder, like those used in Baccarat. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as chips.

Like most casino games, Trente et Quarante is played on a printed felt layout, which is divvied up into various regions corresponding to the different bets available. The image at right shows the traditional layout.

Shuffle the cards (using the multiple-deck shuffling technique if needed). Square the deck up, then roll it forward. The back of the cards should be facing the players and the cut card on the bottom of the deck should be facing you. Give the spare cut card to any player and have them insert it into the deck wherever they wish. Complete the cut by sliding the bottom part of the deck behind the cut card away and putting it on the top (far side) of the deck. Remove the cut card that was on the bottom, and is now in the middle, of the deck, and place it into the deck near the bottom (usually about one deck from the end of the shoe). When this card is reached, the cards will need to be shuffled. Place the cards into the shoe.

Game play

Basic bets

Before any cards are dealt, players may wager on any of the following bets:

  • Noir: A bet that the noir (black) hand will win.
  • Rouge: A bet that the rouge (red) hand will win.
  • Couleur: A bet that the hand of the same color as the first card dealt will win. That is, if the first card dealt on that hand is a black card, it is a bet that black will win; if the first card dealt is a red card, it is a bet that red will win.
  • Inverse: A bet that the hand of the opposite color as the first card dealt will win. It is the opposite of the couleur bet; it always wins when couleur loses, and vice versa.

Play of the hand

The dealer begins by dealing a row of cards representing the black hand. A running total of the hand’s value is tallied as the cards are dealt. Aces are worth one point, face cards ten, and all other cards their pip value. When the hand’s value reaches 31 or greater, no more cards are dealt to it. (The highest score possible is 40, achieved by drawing a ten-value card when the count is 30.) Then, the red hand is dealt on a second row, following the same procedure.

Whichever hand has the lower total (that is, closest to 31) is the winner. The dealer pays out all winning bets at even money and collects the losing bets. The cards are then discarded in preparation for the next hand.

When the two hands tie, it is called a refait. A refait on a score of 32 to 40 is simply a push—bets neither win nor lose. On a refait of exactly 31, however, all bets on the board are imprisoned. They must remain where they are until the next hand. If an imprisoned bet wins on the next hand, it is returned to the player with no payout. If the bet loses, it is collected as normal. (In some games, a player may choose to immediately surrender half their bet rather than have it imprisoned.)

Insurance

A player may place an insurance bet on any other bet they have on the board. This bet can be no more than 1% of the amount of the main wager. If the bet that it is tied to wins or loses, the insurance bet loses and is collected. If the bet pushes, the insurance bet also pushes. The only time that the insurance bet wins is on a refait of 31. Winning insurance bets pay out 49 to 1.

 

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Calabrasella

Calabrasella is a trick-taking game for three players. Playing much like a simplified form of Solo, Calabrasella features a lone player against their two opponents, trying to capture the most point-scoring cards in tricks. Because the solo player is at an inherent disadvantage to their two opponents, the game counteracts this by granting certain liberties to the soloist, namely the ability to take a high-ranking card from one of their opponents, and the opportunity to exchange up to four cards with those in the widow.

The name Calabrasella seems to indicate an origin in Calabria, the province on the peninsula that makes up the “toe” of Italy. In any case, by 1870 it had spread throughout Italy, to the extent that it was considered the national game.

Object of Calabrasella

The object of Calabrasella is to capture as many scoring cards in tricks as possible. The scoring cards are the aces, 2s, 3s, and face cards.

Setup

Calabrasella is played with a 40-card Italian deck. To create such a deck from a 52-card English deck, like a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove all the 10s, 9s, and 8s. You’ll be left with aces through 7s, plus the face cards, in each of the four suits. You’ll also need something to keep score with. The game is traditionally scored with hard scoring, so you’ll want some form of counters handy, like poker chips. If desired, each chip can represent an agreed-upon amount of real-world money.

Distribute the chips equally (or have players buy them). Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player. The four remaining cards are placed face down in the center of the table, forming the widow.

Card ranking

For the most part, the cards rank in their usual order in Calabrasella, with aces high. However, both the 2 and the 3 are elevated from their usual positions to become the highest-ranking cards, above the ace. The full card ranking is thus (high) 3, 2, A, K, Q, J, 7, 6, 5, 4 (low).

Game play

Bidding and exchanging cards

Each hand begins with an extremely straightforward bidding round. The player to the left of the dealer has the option to pass or play. If they pass, the next player to the left (that to the dealer’s right) has the option, and then finally the dealer. Should all three players pass, the cards are collected, shuffled, and the next player to the left deals a new hand. When a player elects to play, the bidding ceases immediately, with that player becoming the declarer. The other two players become the defenders.

The declarer names the suit of any 3 that they do not hold (or, if they hold all four 3s, the suit of a 2 they do not hold). The player holding that card must pass it to the declarer, who exchanges it for any unwanted card in their hand. (This unwanted card is kept concealed from the third, uninvolved player.) If no player holds the card the declarer named (because it is in the widow), then they simply lose out.

The declarer then discards at least one but as many as four cards from their hand. They then turn the widow face up on the table. The declarer then selects the same number of cards as they discarded from the widow, taking them into their hand. The unused widow cards and the discards are then set aside, taking no further part in game play.

Play of the hand

The player to the declarer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player must follow suit if able; otherwise, they may play any card. When all three players have contributed to the trick, the person who played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. That player then leads to the next tricks. Cards won in tricks are stored in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them; the defenders share one common pile.

Scoring

After all twelve tricks are played, the hand scores are tallied up, with the defenders’ scores being added together and the declarer’s scored separately. The player taking the last trick scores a three-point bonus. Each ace is worth three points, and each 3, 2, and face card is worth one point.

If the declarer scored higher than the defenders did, each defender pays the declarer the difference between the scores. If the declarer scored lower than the defenders, the declarer must pay each defender the difference. For example, if the declarer scored 19 points and the declarers 16, each defender would pay the declarer three chips. On the other hand, if the declarer scored only 11 points and the defenders 24 points, the declarer would pay 26 chips in all: 13 to each defender.

In the event that one side scores 35–0, the payouts are doubled—each payment made is 70 chips.

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Big Two

Big Two is a Chinese climbing game for two to four players. Although it plays much like Thirteen (tien len), it is unique among the climbing games in that it allows for the use of standard poker hands as valid combinations. For example, while most climbing games will let you play a five-card straight, only in Big Two could that straight be beaten by a flush or a full house!

Object of Big Two

The object of Big Two is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards. This is achieved by discarding cards as parts of valid combinations.

Setup

Anyone wanting to play a game of Big Two needs a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Of course, we’d absolutely love it if you chose a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You should also have something handy to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. Set aside any unused cards; they will have no effect on game play.

Card ranking

Big Two uses the card ranking order usually found in other climbing games of Asian origin: aces are high, and 2s are even higher than the ace. This gives a full ranking of (high) 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low).

Ties in rank (as when single cards or pairs are played against each other) are broken by suit. Suits rank in the following order: (high) spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds (low).

Game play

Combinations

Play of the hand in Big Two revolves around different combinations of cards. The valid combinations that can be played fall into four categories, which have no rank or standing relative to each other. These four categories are:

Within the category of five-card combinations, there are a number of valid combos based on poker hands, which do have ranks relative to each other. These combinations are more or less what you’d expect if you’re familiar with poker, with some caveats. From highest to lowest:

1. Royal flush
A royal flush consists of A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit. Ties are broken by the suit of the royal flush, thus the best five-card combination is the spade royal flush.
2. Straight flush
Five cards of the same suit, in sequence (example: 4-5-6-7-8♠). In straight flushes, 2s rank below 3s, as they do in most climbing games, and aces can be either high or low, but not both, so 6-5-4-3-2 is fine, but 2-A-K-Q-J and 4-3-2-A-K are not. The highest-ranking card is used to determine the rank of the straight flush; if two straight flushes have the same top rank, then the tie is broken by the suit of the highest-ranked card.
3. Four of a kind
Four of a kind consists of all four of a particular rank of card, plus one unmatched fifth card. (example: 5-5-5-5-J). Ties are broken by the rank of the cards (four 6s beats four 5s). Note that unlike in most other climbing games, four-of-a-kinds are not a valid combination by themselves, and must be played along with a fifth card.
4. Full house
A full house consists of three of one rank of card and two of another (example: 7-7-7-3-3). Ties are broken by the rank of the three matching cards (Q-Q-Q-9-9 beats 10-10-10-K-K).
5. Flush
A flush consists of five cards of the same suit, not in any particular order (example: 5-6-9-J-K♦). Unlike in poker, ties are broken by the suit of the flush. Only if two flushes are of the same suit is the rank of the highest card used in determining the which flush is higher.
6. Straight
A straight consists of five cards of any suit in sequence (example: 4♦-5♣-6♣-7♠-8♥). If all cards are the same suit, it becomes a straight flush. The rules for what constitutes a valid straight and how to rank it are otherwise the same as those for a straight flush.

Note that lower poker hands than straights cannot be played as five-card combos—there is no provision for playing a three-of-a-kind with two extra cards, two pairs, etc. These must be played by themselves as trips, pairs, or single cards.

Play of the hand

Game play begins with the player holding the 3♦, the lowest-ranked card in the game. If nobody holds the 3♦, then play starts with the 3♣, and so on upward to whoever is determined to hold the lowest card that’s actually in play. This player plays face up to the table any combination they desire that contains the low card. The next player to their left must then play a higher combination of the same length. That is, they must play a higher single card if the first player led with a single card, a pair if the first player led with a pair, etc. If the player cannot or does not wish to play higher, they may also pass, with the option to play again on their next turn.

This continues, with each player playing progressively higher combinations, until all of a player’s opponents pass to their play. (In a four-player game, this means three consecutive passes, or two consecutive passes in a three-player game.) When this happens, the remaining player is free to play whatever combination they wish. The next player to their left must then beat this new combination, as before, and the game continues on in this fashion.

Players must keep their hands visible at all times, and if asked how many cards they hold, must respond truthfully. This is to allow players holding high cards in reserve to play them to stop an opponent they fear may be able to play their last cards.

Ending the hand

The hand ends whenever a player runs out of cards. At this point, the hand is scored. Each player counts the number of cards they have remaining. If they have nine or fewer, they score one point for each card left in their hand. If they have ten through twelve cards left, they score two points per card remaining. An unlucky player left with all thirteen cards—having never played a card the whole hand—scores 39 points, three points per card!

The deal rotates to the left and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player reaches a predetermined score (such as 100 points). Whichever player has the lowest score at that point is the winner.

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Last One

Last One is a variant of Crazy Eights for two to six players. Like other Crazy Eights variants, Last One takes the base gameplay of its parent game and adds additional cards beyond 8s that have special effects. It also incorporates a scoring system, allowing the game to go on beyond a single hand. Last One dates back to at least the 1970s, having been reported then being played in Maine.

Object of Last One

The object of Last One is to be the last one remaining under a certain point threshold. This is achieved by discarding as many cards as possible from your hand.

Setup

To play Last One, you’ll need access to a standard 52-card deck of playing cards with two jokers. If you don’t, do yourself a favor and grab a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, whether it be the time-honored pencil and paper or something more modern, like a scorekeeping app on a phone.

Shuffle and deal the cards out. The dealer may choose to deal any number of cards for the hand, from four to eight. The dealer may also deal a nine-card hand if there is unanimous agreement among the players. 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.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left normally goes first, unless the first upcard has a special effect that would change this, as described below. As in Crazy Eights, they must play a card to the discard pile that matches the current upcard in either suit or rank. This card becomes the new upcard. If a player has no cards that they are able or willing to play to the discard pile, they draw one card from the stock and the turn passes to the next player.

When a player is reduced to having one card in their hand, they must call out “last one”. If they fail to do so by the time the next person plays, they draw two cards from the stock as a penalty.

When the stock is depleted, set aside the current upcard and shuffle the remainder of the discard pile, turning it face down to start a new stock.

Special card effects

Almost half of the cards in the deck have some special effect that happens when they are played. The only cards that do not are 5s–7s, 9s, 10s, queens, and kings.

2s

The next player must draw two cards and their turn is skipped.

3s

After playing a 3, a player may stack any additional card on top of it, essentially giving them a free play. This stacked card becomes the new upcard.

4s

Playing a 4 starts a run of plays called a melee. The player who discarded the 4 is the aggressor and the next player in turn becomes the defender. If anyone holds the 5 of the same suit as the 4, they may play it. In so doing, they become the new aggressor and the previous aggressor becomes the defender. This continues, with anyone holding the 6 of the appropriate suit being able to play it and becoming the new aggressor, and so on. If a player does not play, the most recent defender draws a number of cards equal to the pip value of the last card played. Play then continues as normal, starting with the player in turn order after the defender.

8s

An 8 may be played at any time. The player who plays it names any one of the four suits, with the next player required to play a card of that suit, or switch suits with another 8.

Jacks

The next player in turn is skipped.

Aces

The turn of play reverses direction. If, before the ace was played, play was proceeding to the left, it now proceeds to the right, and vice-versa.

Jokers

A joker can represent any natural card in the deck, as chosen by the person who plays it. The next player must continue with a card of the same rank or suit as the card named.

Ending the hand

The hand ends when a player runs out of cards. That player, as well as any other player who holds only one card, scores zero for the hand. All other players total up the values of the cards in their hand, with jokers worth 40 points, 8s worth 25, aces worth 15, face cards worth 10 each, and all other cards worth their pip value. The total arrived at is added to their score.

The deal then passes to the left. When players reach a predetermined score threshold (such as 250 points), they drop out of play, sitting out of further hands. Game play continues until only one player is left. That player wins the game.

See also

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Dou Dizhu

Dou Dizhu (斗地主), which roughly translates into English as Fight the Landlord, is a Chinese climbing game for three players. In Dou Dizhu, one player takes on the role of “landlord”, fighting to be the first to run out of cards. The other two players team up to try to dispense with their cards before the landlord does!

Dou Dizhu is a fascinating example of a climbing game because of the great flexibility the game affords players in choosing combinations of cards. This allows players to form complex strategies in planning their next moves. Because of this, the game is said to be easy to learn but hard to master.

Object of Dou Dizhu

The object of Dou Dizhu is to be the first player to run out of cards. (If playing with a partner, your partner being the first out is just fine too.)

Setup

To play Dou Dizhu, you need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards, with two jokers that are different from each other somehow. Happily, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards fit the bill wonderfully. One joker should be designated as the higher joker. (On Denexa cards, we recommend this to be the red joker, the one with the dragon.) You’ll also need some way of keeping score. A hard-score method, using counters like poker chips, works the best, but you can also keep score with pencil and paper or similar.

Shuffle the deck. Take the top card and flip it face-up, randomly inserting it somewhere into the middle of the deck. Each player in turn draws a card from the deck until each have seventeen cards in their hand. Note which player takes the face-up card. The remaining three cards become a widow and are left face-down in the center of the table.

Card ranking

As with many Asian climbing games, the cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, but with the 2 ranked even higher than that. The jokers rank even higher than the 2, with one joker (the red joker) outranking the other (the black joker). Thus, the full rank of cards is (high) , ★, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low). Suits are not relevant to game play.

Game play

The auction

The player who drew the face-up card in the deck bids first in the auction. They can choose to bid one, two, or three, or pass. The next player to their left then bids, and must bid higher than the first player or pass. A player can make a bid after initially passing. Bidding continues until either there are two consecutive passes or someone bids three. Once a winner has been established, they become the landlord. The landlord takes the widow into their hand, giving them a 20-card hand.

Combinations

Play of the hand in Dou Dizhu revolves around different combinations of cards. The valid combinations in Dou Dizhu are:

  • Single card
  • Pairs
  • Trips (three of a kind)
  • Straights (five or more cards in sequence, e.g. 3-4-5-6-7)
  • Quads (four of a kind)—but see restriction below
  • Consecutive pairs (three or more pairs in sequence, e.g. 3-3-4-4-5-5)
  • Consecutive trips (two or more trips in sequence, e.g. 3-3-3-4-4-4)

There are some restrictions on when the high-ranking 2s and jokers can be used. They can appear as single cards, or in pairs or trips. They cannot be used in straights or consecutive pairs or trips.

In addition, extra cards called kickers may also be attached to trips and consecutive trips. A kicker can be either a single card or a pair. For example, 7-7-7-5 and 7-7-7-5-5 are both valid combinations. When attaching kickers to consecutive trips, there must be one kicker or kicker pair for each triplet, each of which must be a different rank. For instance, 3-3-3-4-4-4-9-J and 4-4-4-8-8-8-7-7-Q-Q are both valid, but 3-3-3-4-4-4-9-9 is not (as this is one pair kicker for two triplets, not one single card for each triplet). Both 2s and jokers can be used as kickers, but not both jokers at the same time.

Quads must always be played with kickers to be used as a regular play. This can take the form of two single cards (5-5-5-5-8-K) or two pairs (5-5-5-5-8-8-K-K). Quads played without kickers are a special combination called a bomb (described below in “Bombs and rockets”).

Play of the hand

The landlord plays first. They may play any combination of cards they wish. The next player to the left then must play a higher-ranking instance of the same combination. To be considered the same combination, the same number of cards must be played: straights must be of the same length, consecutive pairs must have the same number of pairs, the same number of kickers must be played, etc. Combinations are ranked by the highest card present, with any kickers disregarded. For example, 7-7-7-5 is higher than 4-4-4-A (because the ace is a kicker and is thus not counted toward the rank of the combination). If a player cannot or does not want to play higher, they may pass.

This continues, with play continuing around the table, each player playing higher and higher combinations. Players may jump back into game play, even after passing, on their next turn. After two consecutive players have passed, the remaining player is free to play whatever combination of cards they choose (i.e. they are not compelled to play the same type of combination as before). As before, play continues to to the left, with the next player following up on the most recently played combination with a higher one of the same type.

Bombs and rockets

There are two special combinations in the game. These are the bomb, four of a kind with no kickers, and the rocket, which is a pair of jokers. Bombs and rockets may be played at any time, regardless of the combination being played. A bomb can only be beaten by a higher-ranked bomb or a rocket, and a rocket is unbeatable.

Ending the hand

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. If that player is the landlord, each of their opponents pays them the amount bid (one, two, or three chips). If the landlord did not go out, the landlord must pay each opponent the amount bid. The payout is doubled for each time a bomb or rocket was played over the course of the hand.

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Backhand

Backhand is a spinoff of Blackjack that removes one key element from the game—the ability to stand! In Backhand, the goal is not to be the closest to 21 without going over, as it is in Blackjack. Instead, the player must keep taking cards until they’re sure the next one is going to make them bust. If they’re right, only then do they win the hand!

Backhand was created by Louis Ginns in 2016 as a way of practicing Blackjack strategy. Ginns found himself focusing on guessing whether or not the next card to come was going to cause a bust, and soon abandoned Blackjack altogether in favor of developing a whole new game around this concept of predicting when a bust was going to happen. Ginns has since created an entire series of games based on the Backhand concept, introducing elements such as head-to-head play against a house dealer or another player.

Object of Backhand

The object of Backhand is to accurately predict when the next card to be dealt will send the value of the player’s hand over 21.

Setup

Backhand is played with one or more decks of playing cards, such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. One deck of cards is required for every two players in the game, so a three-player game would require two decks, a five-player game would require three decks, and so on.

Backhand can be played as either a betting game or simply to be the first to win a certain number of hands (or score a certain number of wins within a given number of hands). Ginns has also created a number of additional scoring systems to provide players with different challenges. If playing with betting, you’ll need something to bet with, like poker chips, and also to agree on maximum and minimum bets. Otherwise, you’ll need some way of keeping track of the number of hands each player has won. Pencil and paper works well for this purpose.

Players place the amount of their wagers in front of them (if playing with betting). Shuffle and deal two cards, face up, to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

Before a player has the chance to act on their hand, any aces are discarded from the hand and replaced with a card from the stock. Aces are only discarded from the initial two cards dealt to the player; if an ace is dealt as a replacement card for a discarded ace, the newly dealt ace is retained. Players then evaluate the value of their hand. Aces are worth one point, face cards are worth ten, and all other cards their pip value.

The players act on their hands one at a time, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. When a player wins or loses their hand, their bet (if playing with them) is paid out at even money or collected by the dealer, respectively. Action then passes to the next player to the left.

Hits and backhands

If a player’s hand is valued at 11 or less, the player is dealt additional cards until they arrive at a score of 12 or higher. When a player has a score above 12, they may choose to hit or call backhand. Players choosing to hit receive one additional card. If the player’s new total exceeds 21, then they have busted, and the player loses. If the new total is 21 or less, the player has the option to hit again or call backhand, as before. Should a player hit to five cards without busting, they win the hand.

When a player calls backhand, one card is dealt face-up, but not added to the hand. (This card is not counted toward a possible five-card hand.) If this card would have made the player’s score higher than 21, the player wins the hand. Otherwise, the player loses.

Push hands

Special rules apply to hands with a score of 17 through 20 on the first two cards (after any aces have been replaced). These hands are called push hands. In this situation, a player cannot immediately call backhand. Instead, they have the option to either hit or push the hand away. (This is not to be confused with the meaning of push in Blackjack, which is to tie.)  If the player chooses the latter, the hand is discarded and two new cards are dealt. Any aces are replaced, as usual, and the hand proceeds as before. If the player is dealt another hand with a value between 17 and 20, they may push again, if desired.

A player may also choose to play the push, rather than push the hand. When playing the push, the player receives one additional card, as if hitting. If their combined total with this card remains at 21 or below, they win the hand. If they bust with this card, they lose the hand, as usual.

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Crash (Thirteen-Card Brag)

Crash, also known as Thirteen-Card Brag, is a more laid-back, social variant of Brag for two to four players. There are two main differences between Crash and Brag. First, in Crash, a player receives thirteen cards, and divides them into up to four three-card Brag hands. In essence, Crash does to Brag what Chinese Poker does to poker. Additionally, the usual Brag betting mechanic is stripped away in favor of a simple point scoring method. If money is involved, it is in the form of an agreed-upon payment from the losers to the winner.

Object of Crash

The object of Crash is to split the thirteen-card hand given to a player into four Brag hands in such a way that, ideally, each of the hands is stronger than their opponents’ hands.

Setup

To play Crash, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We, of course, endorse choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You’ll also want something to keep score with. Specialized scoreboards are available, but you can just use pencil and paper (or a mobile scorekeeping app) if that’s all you have handy.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. Any undealt cards are set aside and not used.

Game play

Each player looks at their hand and decides how to divide it into up to four three-card Brag hands. (If you’re not a Brag expert, here’s the rank of Brag hands). Each hand formed must be at least a pair or better. Players will have at least one card left over; they may have more if they cannot (or don’t want to) form at least a pair in all four possible hands. All unused cards are simply discarded. When a player has set their hand in a way they’re satisfied with, they place their three-card hands face down in front of them, with the highest-ranking hand the furthest to the left, the next-highest hand just to the right of it, and so on, with the lowest-ranked hand to the far right.

The showdown

After all players have set their hand, each player turns up their highest-ranked hand and compares them with each of their opponents. Whichever player has the highest hand scores one point. The players then turn up the second-highest hand, with the holder of highest scoring a point. This repeats for the third and fourth hands. A tie for highest hand is called a stick-up or stopper, and nobody scores for that particular hand.

Note that if a player did not form four hands, their highest ranked hand must still always be scored as hand #1, the second as #2, etc. A player with, say, only three hands simply does not compete for hand #4.

If, at any time, a player’s hands are found to have been placed out of order, this constitutes a foul. A player who fouls their hand automatically loses the game and takes no further part in game play.

If one player scores for all four points on a hand, it is called a crash. A player that scores a crash automatically wins the game.

Special combinations

There are a number of special combinations that can appear in a Crash game:

  • If a player has four of a kind and uses all four cards in their set hands (i.e. does not discard any of them), the player scores one extra point. Should multiple players hold four-of-a-kinds, only the highest-ranking four of a kind gets the bonus point. For the purposes of ranking four-of-a-kinds, 4s are the highest rank, then aces, then the rest of the ranks in their usual order.
  • If a player has six pairs, a player may, at their option, choose to declare this rather than setting their hand. In this event, the hand is void and the same dealer deals a new hand. (If the player would rather play the hand, often because it’s possible to form runs from the pairs, they may choose to do so instead.)
  • If a player has a thirteen-card straight, from ace down to 2, they may simply reveal their hand, which automatically wins the game.

Ending the game

After all four hands have been evaluated, the deal passes to the left, and new thirteen-card hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player reaches a score of seven points. That player immediately wins; no further hands are evaluated once a player reaches a score of seven.

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