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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Jubilee

Jubilee is a simple Czech counting game for two to seven players. Players use cards from their hand to add to or subtract from a running total. If they can manage to make the total an exact multiple of 25, they score points. If they overshoot too far, though, they get slapped with a penalty!

Object of Jubilee

The object of Jubilee is to score the most points by making the running point total a number divisible by 25 as many times as possible.

Setup

Jubilee uses a unique 61-card deck. Starting with two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards (with all four jokers), discard all the diamonds, as well as the hearts from one deck, and both copies of 10-J-Q-K♣. You’ll be left with a deck composed of A–K♥, A–9♣ (×2), A–K♠ (×2), ★ (×4). You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player. Place the rest face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

Each card in Jubilee has a numerical value. Aces are worth the most, at fifteen. Face cards are worth ten. Jokers are worth zero. All other cards are their face value. These values are positive in clubs and spades, but negative in hearts.

The player to the dealer’s left plays one black card from their hand, face up, and states its point value, then draws a card. The next player also plays a card, adding its value to that of the card before, stating the new running point total, and draws a card to end their turn. The only restriction on play is that the point total cannot drop below zero. If a player only has hearts that would cause the total to become negative, they show their hand to the other players and skip their turn until they can play.

When a player brings the running total to a score divisible by 25 (25, 50, 75, 100, 125, etc.) they score ten points for a jubilee. If the score is divisible by 100, they score 20 points. If a player goes past a jubilee, they score –5 points. (For example, if the total is 19 and you play the 9♣, the total is now 28, so you have gone past the jubilee at 25. Likewise, if the total is 104 and you play the Q♥, the total becomes 94, and you have gone past the jubilee at 100.)

When the stock is exhausted, players continue without drawing. Game play continues until every player has exhausted their hand. Whoever has the highest score at that point wins. (The total will always end on 189 assuming the math was done correctly.)

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Pif Paf

Pif Paf (pronounced with a long sound in Pif, like peef) is a Brazilian card game that combines rummy-style game play with betting. It can be played by three to eight players. Players race to be the first to form their entire hand into melds. Whoever does that first gets to collect the pot!

Object of Pif Paf

The object of Pif Paf is to be the first player to arrange your hand into melds.

Setup

Pif Paf is played with a 104-card deck formed by shuffling two standard 52-card decks (like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards) together. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips. If desired, each chip can have a real-world cash value; if so, give each player chips equal to the amount of their buy-in. On the other hand, if you want to just play for fun, give each player an equal number of chips to start with.

Each player antes. Shuffle and deal nine cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

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

Betting

Each hand begins with a round of betting. The player to the dealer’s left has the first opportunity to bet. Betting is conducted the same as betting in poker. Players cannot raise beyond the ante multiplied by the number of players in the game (for example, in a four-player game with a 5¢ ante, the maximum bet allowed is 20¢). Should all players but one fold, that player takes the pot by default and the hand is not actually played.

Play of the hand

After the betting round is resolved, the player to the dealer’s left goes first. They begin their turn by drawing one card from the stock. Then, they discard a card, placing it next to the stock to form the discard pile. This ends their turn. Thereafter, each player may draw either the unknown card from the top of the stock or the top card of the discard pile, as is typical in rummy games.

Players attempt to form melds as they play the game. There are two types of meld in Pif Paf. The first is the sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. The second is the group, which is three or more of a kind, containing exactly three suits. For example, Q♠-Q♥-Q♦ and Q♠-Q♥-Q♦-Q♦ are both groups, but Q♠-Q♦-Q♦ is not, and neither is Q♠-Q♥-Q♦-Q♣. Players keep their formed melds in their hand and do not lay them down on the table or otherwise reveal them.

If the stock is exhausted before a player goes out, simply turn over the discard pile to form a new stock without shuffling it.

If a player discards a card that is the last card another player needs to go out, they may claim that card out of turn. In the event that there are multiple players who could go out with the same card, the next player in turn order from the player that discarded it gets the right to claim it first.

A player may go out when they can form all nine of the cards from their hand into melds. They discard and then reveal their hand, broken out into melds. If all of the melds are valid, then they win the hand and collect the pot. The winner of the hand then deals the next one.

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Sampen

Sampen (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable) is a simple card game from China. It can be played by as few as two or as many as eight players. Sampen is nearly entirely luck-based, although players do have a few choices available to them. Its straightforward game play and lack of deep strategy make it a good option for young children.

Object of Sampen

The object of Sampen is to be the first player to get rid of all of your cards.

Setup

To play Sampen, you’ll need to build a special 60-card deck. To do this, start with two standard 52-card decks of the same back design and color—Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards is our preferred option, of course. From each deck, remove the aces through 10s of clubs. From the other three suits, remove the 10s and face cards. You’ll be left with two 30-card decks consisting of A–9♠, A–9♦, A–9♥, and J-Q-K♣. Shuffle these two 30-card decks together to form the full 60-card deck.

Note that as long as each card has one duplicate elsewhere in the deck, the exact composition of the deck is somewhat immaterial to the game play. If you wish, you can simply play with a full 104-card double deck (which allows you to accommodate even more players).

The number of cards you’ll need to deal depends on the number of players:

  • Two or three players: deal fifteen cards
  • Four players: deal thirteen cards
  • Five players: deal eleven cards
  • Six players: deal nine cards
  • Seven or eight players: deal seven cards

Place the rest of the deck face-down in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn over the top card of the stock. This card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Because the game is played with a double deck, each card in the deck has a duplicate, either in one of the players’ hands or the stock. If a player holds the duplicate (matching in both rank and suit) to the upcard, they may discard it. They then play another card from their hand to the discard pile to serve as the new upcard. A player then discards this card’s duplicate, and so on.

A player may occasionally end up being dealt both copies of a given card. To rid themselves of such a pair, a player must first be able to match another upcard. Then they can play one card of the pair, then the other as its match, then finally another card to serve as the next upcard.

If the duplicate to an upcard isn’t played, the dealer should confirm that none of the players actually hold it. If that is the case, the dealer turns over the top card of the stock, which becomes the new upcard.

Game play continues until one player successfully discards all of their cards. That player is the winner.

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One-Eyed Jack

One-Eyed Jack is a game for two to four players, played in North Carolina and Tennessee. When played by two or three, they play against each other; four play in partnerships. One-Eyed Jack uses a board created with an extra deck of cards. Players compete to claim spots on the board to complete rows of five adjacent spaces.

Like many card games, especially ones with special equipment, One-Eyed Jack has been adapted as a commercial game. It has been published by two different companies, under the names Sequence and Double Series. The commercial sets include a pre-printed board, chips, and a double-deck of cards, all you need to run the game.

Object of One-Eyed Jack

The object of One-Eyed Jack is to be the first player to complete two rows (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) of five adjacent spaces. In the three-player game, players need only complete one row.

Setup

Instructions for cutting a card to fit a One-Eyed Jack board.One-Eyed Jack uses two standard 52-card decks of playing cards. We’d like to take the time to advise you to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, as per usual.

You’ll also need a third deck of cards you don’t want to use for anything else ever again. (Once you’ve gotten some Denexa cards, you can use whatever you were playing with before for this.) Remove all of the jacks from this deck and add two jokers, leaving you with 50 cards. Now, cut each card in half (yes, with scissors! not what we usually mean when we say “cut the cards”!). Then, make another cut to the opposite side of the index to make the piece square. You should end up with 100 square-shaped card pieces. (See the image at right for a diagram of how to cut the cards.)

Now, take your 100 card squares and paste them down in a 10×10 grid on whatever you want to use as a game board. You can use something as simple as posterboard, or get more elaborate and glue them to a piece of wood and apply a coat of varnish. No matter what you do, make sure the four corner squares are the four joker pieces. The rest can be in any order, either random or following some sort of pattern.

You will also need something to serve as markers on the game board. Each player or partnership should have identifiable markers belonging only to them. Differently-colored poker chips work well, but anything will do as long as they will fit in the squares on the board.

To set up for the actual game, supply each player with roughly the same number of markers (about 50 or so should do). Shuffle the two decks together and deal to each player seven cards if there are two players, six if there are three, or five if there are four. The rest of the deck is set aside to become the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. That player reveals one card from their hand and plays it face-up to the table. They then place a marker on either of the two spaces on the board corresponding to that card. You cannot play a chip in an occupied space, however. Then, they draw a replacement card, ending their turn.

There are no jacks on the board, because the jacks instead of special properties. The two-eyed jacks (J♦-J♣) serve as wild cards. Upon playing them, a player can place a marker on any square they wish. One-eyed jacks (J♠-J♥) are kill cards. When played, you may choose any chip on the board and return it to its owner.

Sometimes, due to a two-eyed jack, a player will have a card in their hand that has both spots on the board occupied. They have two choices when this happens. The player can hold onto the card and hope to draw a one-eyed jack to kill one of the markers in the way. They can also reveal the card and draw a replacement before taking their actual turn.

The four corner spaces are considered community property. These can be used by any player as part of a row, same as if they had a chip on the square.

The first player or partnership to form two horizontal, diagonal, or vertical rows of five claimed squares wins the game. The two rows are allowed to intersect (therefore only requiring nine chips instead of ten). In the three-player game, only one row is needed to win.

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Pirate Bridge

Pirate Bridge is a variation of Bridge that doesn’t use established partnerships from hand to hand. Partnerships are determined each deal by whoever is bold enough to make the first bid, and whoever else accepts it. That means your ally this hand might become your enemy the next!

Pirate Bridge was invented by R.F. Foster, and was originally published in 1917. Of note is that Pirate Bridge’s publication actually preceded the development of Contract Bridge. Nonetheless, Pirate Bridge is nowadays usually played the same as Contract Bridge, just with a different bidding procedure. As a result, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the rules of vanilla Contract Bridge before jumping in to Pirate Bridge.

Object of Pirate Bridge

The object of Contract Bridge is to accurately predict the number of tricks in excess of six that a prospective partnership will be able to win, and thus win two games, which constitute a rubber.

Setup

Pirate Bridge is played with all of the familiar trappings of Contract Bridge and its descendants. You’ll need a 52-card pack of playing cards, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, of course. You’ll also need a Bridge scoresheet, although it’s set up slightly differently than the sheets used in traditional partnership Bridge. Instead of two columns headed “WE” and “THEY”, each player has their own column. As in other forms of Bridge, a horizontal line is drawn across the sheet, separating it into two halves.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player.

Game play

Bidding begins with the dealer. A bid consists of a number, representing the number of odd tricks (tricks in excess of six) that the partnership will collect during the course of the hand, and either a suit to become trump for the upcoming hand or “no trump”. From lowest to highest, the suits rank clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, no trump. The lowest possible bid is 1♣, a bid to take seven tricks with clubs as trump. 1♣ would be overcalled by a bid of 1♦, and so on up to 1♠, then 1NT, which would be overcalled by 2♣.

On their turn to bid, a player may either pass or make a bid. Upon a bid being made, each player in turn must either accept the bid, agreeing to join that player’s partnership, or pass. If nobody agrees to accept the bid, then the bid is rejected and the player making it is treated as though they had simply passed. If all four players pass, the cards are shuffled, and a new hand is dealt.

Once a bid has been made and accepted by another player, the next player to the left may propose a higher bid, which likewise must be accepted by any other player (including one of the participants in the previously accepted bid) in order to become the new high bid.

Rather than overcalling an opponent’s accepted bid, a player may instead double it, which keeps the bid the same but doubles the risk of breaking and the reward of fulfilling the contract. Any bid so doubled by an opponent can be redoubled by one of the players who accepted the original bid, which again doubles the risk and reward of accepting the contract. A player can also attempt to propose a bid higher than the doubled bid, though this must of course be accepted by a potential partner.

Bidding continues until three consecutive players decline to propose a new bid; the current high bid at this point becomes the contract. The winning bidder becomes the declarer, their partner the dummy, and the other partnership the defenders.

Play of the hand and scoring proceeds according to typical Contract Bridge rules. Play begins with the declarer and proceeds clockwise, even if the declarer and dummy are seated next to one another. Each partnership’s hand score is recorded on the score sheet in the columns belonging to the two allied players.

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Pope Joan

Pope Joan is a game in the Stops family for four to eight players. It was popular amongst families in the Victorian era. Pope Joan is similar to Newmarket (also known as Michigan) with a few added quirks. Most notably, the 8♦ is missing from the deck, so the 9♦ is extremely difficult to put into play. As a result, playing that card, called Pope Joan, awards its owner with a special payout.

Object of Pope Joan

The object of Pope Joan 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

Equipment

Pope Joan uses a 51-card deck of playing cards, formed by removing the 8♦ from the standard 52-card deck. Individuals found using cards other than Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are to be questioned as to their motives.

You’ll also need chips for keeping track of who is winning. You can have your players buy in and have your chips represent real money if you like, but because the game is more luck-based than poker, it is probably better to just let the chips have no cash value. See our post on counting chips for tips on selecting and counting chips. Give each player an equal number of chips to start out with.

Pope Joan is traditionally played with a special board consisting of eight pockets or indentations to hold each of the various pools of chips. These are labeled “Pope”, “Matrimony”, “Intrigue”, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Game. A custom-made board is not necessary to play the game, however; whatever means of keeping the pots separate will work. Some ideas include simply drawing divisions on a large sheet of paper or posterboard, using eight drinking glasses (although be advised that using red plastic cups may give onlookers the wrong idea as to what kind of game you’re playing), eight chip trays, a cupcake tin, or whatever. Just be sure that each container is clearly labeled as to which pool the divider contains.

The ante and deal

The first dealer should be determined randomly. They ante six chips to the Pope pool, two each to Matrimony and Intrigue, and one each to all of the remaining pots. The dealer is the only person who antes.

Deal the cards out as evenly as they will go, to as many hands as there are players, plus one. For example, if playing with three players, deal four hands of thirteen cards. The cards to the extra hand should be dealt last, after the dealer’s cards, but before the player to their left’s. Some hands may receive more cards than others; this is fine.

The final (51st) card dealt is turned face up. The suit of this card becomes the “trump” suit for the hand. It should be noted that, in this game, the trump suit does not rank higher than the other suits, as a true trump suit does. If this card is eligible to win any of the pots (see below), the dealer immediately collects the corresponding pot.

Game play

Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left, who plays the lowest card that they hold of any suit they wish, face up. The player that holds the next-higher card of that suit then plays it, and so on. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. Players keep playing progressively higher cards of the same suit until nobody is able to continue. This happens because 1) the ace of that suit has been reached, 2) the 7♦ is played, or 3) the necessary card is in the extra, unplayed hand. When this occurs, the last player who was able to make a valid play then starts a new sequence with the lowest card they hold of any suit.

Each pool on the board, except the Game pool, is associated with a particular card or set of cards. When someone plays these cards, they collect the appropriate pot. These pools are:

  • Ace, King, Queen, Jack: The appropriate card of the trump suit.
  • Intrigue: The queen and jack of trump.
  • Matrimony: The king and queen of trump.
  • Pope: The 9♦.

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player takes the Game pot. Each of the winner’s opponents pays them one chip for each card left in their hand (except for the 9♦). Any remaining chips in any of the pools remain on the table for the next hand.

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Liar’s Poker

Liar’s Poker recasts the bluffing spirit of the game of poker into an I Doubt It-style affair, doing away with the gambling aspect altogether. That makes it an excellent game for younger players, or to familiarize new players with the poker hands. It can be played with two to eight players, but is best with three to five.

Object of Liar’s Poker

The object of Liar’s Poker is to successfully determine whether the active player in fact has the hand they claim to have.

Setup

Liar’s Poker is played with a 54-card deck of playing cards, formed by adding two jokers to a standard 52-card deck. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t wish you’d use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards in your game. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper is fine, but it’s much simpler to use a supply of markers, such as poker chips.

Select the first active player by any convenient means, such as mutual agreement or high-card draw. Shuffle and deal five cards to that player only. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The first player looks at the five-card hand they have dealt. They then declare any standard poker hand that they assert the hand contains (jokers act as wild cards). They may simply declare the hand type that they purport to hold (e.g. “a pair”), or they may declare more specifics, such as “a pair of 10s”, “a pair of 10s with an ace kicker”, etc. The player to the left of the active player must decide whether or not they believe the declaration. If they do, they accept the hand, and the cards pass to that player.

The new active player then looks at the cards. They don’t reveal whether or not the declaration was true or not. Instead, they may discard up to four cards, face down, and draw new ones to bring the hand back up to five cards. They must then make a declaration higher than that of their predecessor. This may be a wholesale improvement in the hand (e.g. going from “a pair” to “two pair” or “a pair of 5s” to “a pair of 9s”) or it may disclose more information than the previous one. For example, if the previous player declared “a pair of jacks”, then “a pair of jacks with a queen kicker”, “a pair of jacks with a 7”, etc. would

If a player doesn’t believe a declaration that has been presented to them, they call “Liar!” If the declaration was honest, then the active player reveals just as many cards needed to prove the declaration correct, and the doubter is given one point. Otherwise, the cards are discarded, face down, and the liar gets one point. In either case, the cards are shuffled. The player that scored the point is dealt a new hand and becomes the new active player.

Game play continues until one player reaches a predetermined number of points. The player with the lowest score at that point is the winner.

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