Jersey Gin

Jersey Gin is an adaptation of Gin Rummy for three players. A three-player Gin game similar to this one first surfaced in Jersey City, New Jersey, where it was discovered by noted card game expert John Scarne. Scarne analyzed the rules of the game and found them to be “full of mathematical bugs”; he took the liberty of correcting the rules to make them fairer. He then published his corrected rules under the name “Jersey Gin”.

Object of Jersey Gin

The object of Jersey Gin is to arrange your hand into melds and be the first to knock, hopefully ensuring that the total of your unmatched cards is lower than that of your opponent.

Setup

To play Jersey Gin, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We’d be pretty pleased to know that you’re using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You should also have something to keep score with, like a pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal ten cards, face down, to each player. 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, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Everything in Jersey Gin revolves around melds. Three or four of a kind is one type of meld. Another is a run or sequence of three or more cards of the same suit, in sequence, such as 5-6-7♣. Cards rank in their usual order. Aces are always considered low, and cannot be used consecutively with the king. That is, neither Q-K-A nor K-A-2 are considered valid melds.

Each card also has a point value in Jersey Gin. Aces have a value of one point, face cards have a value of ten. All other cards are worth their face value. These values are used to calculate a player’s deadwood, the value of the cards in their hand that cannot be formed into melds.

Play of the hand

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They start their turn by drawing one card. This may be either the top card of the discard pile or the top card of the stock. They then end their turn by discarding a card, face up, from their hand. Play then passes to the next player to the left, who does the same thing, and so on and so forth.

The discard pile should be kept squared up at all times: fishing through the discards is prohibited. If a player wants to use the information of what the discard pile contains, it is their responsibility to remember what has been discarded throughout the game.

Ending the hand

When a player’s deadwood score reaches ten or less, they may knock by discarding their card face-down and knocking on the table. Each player then lays their hand face up on the table, with each meld identifiably broken out. The two players that didn’t knock may reduce their deadwood counts by adding cards to their opponents’ melds, which is known as laying off. The difference between the knocker’s score and that of each of their opponents is added together to arrive at the knocker’s total score for the hand. For instance, a player knocks with a deadwood count of 9, while their opponents have 11 and 14. The knocker scores (11–9) + (14–9) = 7 points for the hand.

If the player with the lowest underwood score is not the player who knocked, the lowest player is said to have underknocked. They score for the hand as if they had knocked, plus a ten-point underknock bonus.

Rather than knocking, a player may elect to continue playing until their deadwood score reaches zero. When this happens, they declare gin and reveal their hand, scoring the opponent’s deadwood total plus a 40-point bonus. The opponents may not lay off deadwood on a gin hand.

After the end of the hand, the deal rotates for the next hand. Game play continues until a player reaches 100 points. This player then scores an additional 100 bonus points. Each player scores a box bonus of 25 points for each hand that they won.

The break (when the stock runs out)

Unlike in standard Gin Rummy, the game doesn’t just end when the stock runs out. Instead, when the stock is reduced to three cards, the break occurs. The next player to draw is called the breaker. Special rules apply after the break. Players cannot knock, and a card can only be drawn from the discard pile if it can immediately be used in a meld.

After the breaker completes their turn, they lay their melds face up, keeping their deadwood concealed in their hand. The next person to play draws, then lays their melds out in the same way, and may lay off any cards that they can on the breaker’s melds. The third player completes their turn similarly, with the opportunity to lay off on either of their opponents’ melds. If there are still cards left in the stock, then it is the breaker’s turn again, who may now lay off on any meld.

If a player goes gin, it is handled in the usual way, as described above. Otherwise, the hand continues until the stock is completely out of cards and the final player has discarded. At that point, the hand is scored, treating the player with the lowest deadwood as though they had knocked. If there is a tie involving the breaker, the breaker wins it; if the other two players tie, the player to the left of the breaker wins it.

See also

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Malilla

Malilla is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Players vie to take tricks that contain aces, 7s, and face cards, as those are the only cards worth any points!

Malilla originated in Spain, where it is called Manilla, and most likely derives from an earlier French game called Manille. From Spain, it crossed the Atlantic to Mexico, where it remains popular today.

Object of Malilla

The object of Malilla is to be the first partnership to score 35 or more points. This is achieved by winning tricks containing aces, 7s, and face cards.

Setup

Malilla is traditionally played with a 40-card Spanish deck. Outside of Spain, however, it is commonly replicated using a subset of the standard 52-card deck. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 10s, 9s, and 8s. This will yield a deck with ten cards in each of the four suits (aces, kings, queens, jacks, and 7s through 2s). You also need something to keep score with; pencil and paper works admirably.

Determine partnerships by whatever method is convenient, such as high-card draw or even just mutual agreement. Partners should sit opposite one another, with their opponents in between. The turn of play should alternate partnerships as it progresses clockwise around the table.

Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player. The first 39 cards should be dealt face down. The 40th and last card in the deck should be dealt face up to the dealer. This card indicates the trump suit for the hand. Once all players have seen it, the dealer can add it to their hand.

Card ranking

For the most part, the cards rank in their usual order in Malilla. However, the 7 is elevated to become the highest-ranking card, leading to a complete ranking of (high) 7, A, K, Q, J, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).

The card ranking influences the point values of each of the cards, as well. The 7 is also the most valuable card in the game. The point values of each card are:

  • 7: five points.
  • Ace: four points.
  • King: three points.
  • Queen: two points.
  • Jack: one point.
  • 6s through 2s: zero points.

Game play

If the dealer’s last (face-up) card is a point-scoring card, the dealer’s team scores that many points as a bonus. These points are, in most cases, scored immediately. The only exception to this is if the bonus would cause the dealer’s team to win the game. In that case, the bonus points are held in abeyance until the end of the hand, and are only scored after the results of the hand are scored.

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. The other players, in turn, each contribute a card to the trick. When all four players have played, the person who contributed the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick.

There are a few restrictions on what can be played to a trick. As in most trick-taking games, in Malilla, you must follow suit. If you cannot follow suit, you may play almost any card, including a trump. The exception is that you cannot play a 7 of a non-trump suit that has not yet been led in that hand. (In the rare case that this is the only card available to play, this rule is waived.) Also, if an opponent has played the card that is winning the trick as of your turn, you must beat it if it would be legal for you to do so.

Once a player has won a trick, they collect the cards and place them in a won-tricks pile shared with their partner. For ease of scoring later, it may be a good idea to keep the point-scoring cards in a separate pile than the non-scoring cards. The winner of each trick leads to the next one. (Note that it is always OK to lead a 7—the restriction on them only applies to playing them when not following suit.)

Scoring

After all ten tricks have been played, each partnership totals the value of the point-scoring cards they captured. Whichever partnership collected more points over the course of the hand wins it. They subtract their points collected from 35 and score the difference. If both partnerships tie, both collecting 35 points, neither partnership scores for that hand.

If a partnership captures all ten tricks, they will have collected 70 points, thereby scoring 35 points for the hand. This is sufficient to win the game, and is called a capote.

If neither side reaches a score of 35 after the hand is scored, then the deal passes to the left and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one partnership ends the hand with a score of 35 or more. That partnership is the winner.

Irregularities

Malilla is unusually harsh on players who fail to play correctly. Any irregularity in dealing results in the errant dealer being forced to surrender the cards to the next dealer. If it is discovered that a player made an incorrect play to a trick, such as failing to follow suit when able, or not winning the trick when able, the partnership committing the foul loses the entire game.

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Buck Euchre (Dirty Clubs)

Buck Euchre (also known as Dirty Clubs) is somewhat of a cross between Euchre and Rams. It’s a trick-taking game for four players. Unlike regular Euchre, however, it’s every player for themselves; there’s no partnerships!

Like Rams and other games in its family, Buck Euchre penalizes players for failing to collect at least one trick. If a player is not confident in their ability to take a trick, they can, in most cases, simply drop out of the hand.

Object of Buck Euchre

The object of Buck Euchre is to be the first player to reach a score of zero points or less. This is accomplished by either:

  • Choosing the trump suit and winning at least three tricks, or
  • Not choosing the trump suit, but staying in the hand and winning at least one trick, or
  • Recognizing that your hand is total garbage and dropping out of the game to avoid a penalty.

Setup

Buck Euchre uses the same stripped deck that regular Euchre does. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 8s through 2s. You’ll be left with a 32-card deck composed of ace to 9 in each of the four suits.

You’ll also need some way of keeping score. Pencil and paper works all right, but you can use any method that suits your fancy. Each player starts the game with 25 points.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. (You may deal this as a batch of three to each player, followed by a batch of two, if desired.) Turn the top card of the stub face up and place it on top of the stub. The suit of this card, the upcard, is the proposed trump suit.

Card ranking

Buck Euchre uses the same card ranking that regular Euchre does. In case you’re in need of a refresher, here it is:

Cards rank in a different order in the trump suit then they do in the other suits. The highest trump is the right bower, the jack of trump. The next highest trump is the left bower, the jack of the same color as trump. This is followed by the ace, king, queen, 10, and 9 of trump.

In the non-trump suits, cards rank (high) A, K, Q, J, 10, 9 (low). (In the suit that’s the same color as trump, the jack will, of course, be missing from the ranking, because it is considered a trump.)

Game play

If the upcard is a club, clubs automatically become trump. Otherwise, the trump suit is determined by the bidding round, as described below. Note that if clubs become trump automatically, since the bidding round is bypassed, every player is obliged to play the hand.

Bidding

The player who fixes the trump suit is called the declarer. The declarer is obligated to take at least three of the five tricks in the following hand.

The player to the left of the dealer has the first opportunity to accept or reject the upcard’s suit as trump. If they accept, they do so by stating “I order it up.” If a player orders up, the dealer takes the upcard into their hand and discards any other card face down onto the stub. When a player declines to order up, the opportunity passes to the left. If the first three players pass, the dealer may accept the upcard’s suit as trump by drawing it and discarding, as before. Otherwise, they turn the upcard face down.

If the dealer rejects the upcard’s suit as trump, the player to the left of the dealer has the first opportunity to name another suit as trump. They may also pass, if they wish. If all four players decline to name a trump suit, then the hand is played with no trump.

If a trump suit has been decided, either by accepting the turned-up trump or by selecting one of the other three suits as trump, the other players then have the opportunity to drop out of the hand, going clockwise from the player to the declarer’s left. Any player who remains in the hand must take at least one trick. Failure to do so will subject the player to a penalty.

Play of the hand

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Proceeding clockwise from the lead player, every player contributes one card to the trick, until all four players have played. Players must follow suit, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. (Note that the left bower is considered part of the trump suit. Playing it to a trick led by a card of its “natural” suit is not considered following suit.) The player who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played, wins the trick.

When a player wins a trick, they take the cards from it and place them face-down in a won-tricks pile in front of them. To keep it clear how many tricks the player has taken, it’s a good idea to put each trick at right angles to the one before it. After a player wins a trick, they lead to the next one.

Game play continues in this manner until all five tricks have been played.

Scoring

When the hand is over, players score as follows:

  • If any player collects all five tricks, the game ends, with that player winning.
  • Any player who dropped out of the hand scores nothing, positive or negative.
  • The declarer scores a penalty of five points if they failed to collect three or more tricks. They are said to have been euchred or set back.
  • Any non-declarer that stayed in the hand scores a penalty of five points if they failed to collect at least one trick.
  • Any player that doesn’t meet one of the conditions above loses one point for each trick they took.

The deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Further hands are played until a player’s score reaches zero or less. That player is the winner. If two players reach zero or less on the same hand, the player that is further in the negative wins the game. If the players have the same score, they tie.

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Kaluki (Caloochi)

Kaluki (also known as Caloochi) is a game in the Rummy family that was popular in the eastern United States in the middle part of the 20th century. It can be played by two to four players, but is best for four.

Despite its homophonic name, it is not to be confused with the Caribbean game named Kalooki, which is a totally different game based on Contract Rummy.

Object of Kaluki

The object of Kaluki is to be the first player to deplete their hand of cards. A player achieves this by forming combinations of cards called melds.

Setup

To play Kaluki, shuffle together two standard 52-card packs of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, complete with jokers. You’ll be left with a 108-card pack that has two of each card, ace to king, in each of the four suits, with four jokers.

You also need some form of token to keep track of the scoring with. Poker chips work well, as do buttons, pennies, or any number of other small doodads. Establish whether or not each counter will hold some form of monetary value. If so, determine how much they’re worth and exchange them for cash appropriately. (If you’re using pennies as tokens, you really shouldn’t make them worth anything more than 1¢, since otherwise, you risk making a mockery of fiat currency systems.) Simply distribute the tokens equally between the players if you opt not to play for money.

Shuffle. The player to the dealer’s right cuts the cards, exposing the bottom card of the half of the deck they lifted up. Should this be a joker, the player cutting the cards keeps it and is dealt one fewer card than the other players. The player then completes the cut. Deal fifteen cards to each player (unless the player at their right kept a joker, in which case skip them in the last round of dealing). Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn over the top card of the stock. This card, the upcard, will become the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Before actual game play begins, the dealer gets a chance to draw the upcard. If they do, they replace it with a discard from their own hand, which becomes the new upcard, and their turn ends. If they choose not to take the upcard, the play simply passes to the dealer’s left. They do not get a draw from the stock or any other consideration if they simply don’t like the upcard.

The player at the dealer’s left gets the first full turn. They may draw either the top card of the stock or the upcard. If they take the upcard, it must immediately be used in a meld. After drawing, they may meld, as described below, if able. Thereafter, they discard one card, and the turn passes to the next player.

Melding

Each card in Kaluki has a point value, used to determine the value of melds it is used in. Aces are worth eleven points, face cards ten, and all other cards their face value.

Valid melds are the same as in most other Rummy games: three or four of a kind, or three or more cards of the same suit in sequence. An added stipulation is that duplicate cards are not allowed in melds. That is, in three or four of a kind, all of the cards must be of different suits. J♠-J♣-J♦ is a valid meld, but J♠-J♦-J♦ is not. Aces may be either high or low in sequences, but not both. K-A-2 isn’t something you can meld.

The first set of melds a player makes in each hand is their initial meld. These melds must total at least 51 points. If other players have melded, the player may lay off on their opponent’s melds as well, and count these toward their initial meld total. However, a player must lay down at least one meld of their own to satisfy the initial meld requirement.

After a player has made their initial meld, they may meld on their turn as much or as little as they please.

Ending the hand

The hand ends when a player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand. Each of the winner’s opponents pays them one unit for each unmelded card left in their hand, and two units for each joker. If a player is able to meld all fifteen of their cards in one turn, they have gone Kaluki and the payouts are doubled—two units for each unmelded card in hand, and four for each joker.

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Calypso

Calypso is a trick-taking game where each player has their own trump suit! It is a partnership game for four players. Each player has the goal of making thirteen-card runs in whichever suit is trump for them. The result is a game quite different from every other trick-taking game in the book.

R.W. Willis, of Trinidad, invented Calypso. On a vacation to England in October 1953, he shared his game with Bridge player Kenneth Konstam. Konstam helped Willis to simplify and balance the rules of the game, and quickly became one of its greatest proponents. With the help of the Bridge expert’s promotion, Calypso became the subject of several books. Card manufacturers released box sets of cards and props for running a Calypso game.

Unfortunately, Calypso’s fate was much like that of Zetema. For whatever reason, Calypso never achieved lasting acceptance among card players. David Parlett theorizes that it may have been a victim of Canasta’s tremendous popularity at the time, or possibly that its unusual rules were outside of players’ comfort zones.

Whatever the case may be, Calypso faded from public view only a few years after its big debut. As with Zetema, however, card game authors’ curiosity about Calypso has prevented it from being forgotten entirely.

Of all “invented” card games not invented by me, Calypso is the one I most enjoy, and most wish I had thought of first.” -David Parlett

Object of Calypso

The object of Calypso is to win tricks, using the cards contained within them to make calypsos. A calypso is a set of thirteen cards of the player’s trump suit (one of each rank).

Setup

Calypso uses a lot of cards: a 208-card pack. To form such a deck, take four decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards with the same back design and color and shuffle them together. You’ll also need something to keep score with, either a pencil and paper or an app on your smartphone.

Determine partnerships by any suitable method, such as by high-card draw or simply mutual agreement. Players should be seated so that their partner is seated across from them, with their opponents at their immediate right and left.

Each player also needs to determine which suit will be their trump suit before play begins. Again, if every player has a preference that doesn’t conflict with the other players’, or nobody really cares which suit they’re playing, mutual agreement will suffice. Otherwise, a high-card draw may be necessary. Customarily, the spade player’s partner will be the heart player and the diamond player’s partner will be the club player. However, there is no real reason this convention needs to be followed if anyone has strong feelings to the contrary.

Shuffle, using the multiple-deck shuffling method, if required. Deal thirteen cards, face down, to each player. Set the rest of the deck aside, face down; it will be used for subsequent deals.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. They may lead a card of any suit, including their trump suit. Each player in turn plays one card to the trick. They must follow suit if able; otherwise, they may play any card they wish.

Because there are four trump suits, determining who wins each trick can be somewhat complex. The following rules decide the winner of a trick:

  • If the lead player led their own trump suit and was the only player to play a card from their trump suit, they win the trick. For example, if the diamond player led a diamond, and everyone played diamonds, the diamond player wins the trick, regardless of the rank of the cards played. If the diamond player led a diamond, and the only player not to play diamonds was the club player, who played a spade, the diamond player would still win the trick.
  • If the lead player led their trump suit, another player was unable to follow suit, and they played a card from their own trump suit, then whichever card is higher wins. For example, if the diamond player led the J♦, and the spade player played the Q♠, the spade player would win the trick.
  • If the lead player leads any of the three suits that are not trump for them, and everyone follows suit (or plays non-trump cards), the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. This happens even if it was not played by the player that suit belongs to. That is, if, say, hearts are led by the club player, the heart player does not “trump” and automatically win the trick. They can only win the trick by playing the highest heart without being trumped by the spade or diamond players.
  • If the lead player leads any of the three suits that are not trump for them, a player cannot follow suit, and they play a card of their own trump suit, that player wins the trick. For example, the spade player leads the 9♥. If the club player is out of hearts and instead plays the 4♣, the club player would win the trick.
  • If multiple players cannot follow suit to a non-trump lead and play their own trumps, the highest-ranked trump takes the trick. For example, the spade player leads the 9♥, which is followed by the 4♣ from the club player, and the 6♦ from the diamond player. The diamond player would win the trick.
  • If two cards tie for taking the trick, the one that was played first takes the trick. (This may happen if two identical cards are played, or two trumps of the same rank are played to a trick.)

Cards rank in their usual order. Aces are high. The winner of each trick leads to the next one.

Building calypsos

When a player wins a trick, they can use the cards in it toward a calypso. Each player will always have one calypso of their suit in progress. Incomplete calypsos are fanned out face-up in front the player they belong to. When a player gets cards from winning a trick, they place any cards of the opponents’ suits in a face-up won-tricks pile at their side. Then, they pass any cards of their partner’s suit that were in the trick across the table to them, for the partner’s use in their calypso. Finally, they add any needed cards to their own calypso.

A player can only have one calypso in progress at at time. If they or their partner happen to win a trick that contains a duplicate of a card already in their calypso, this card is simply added to the won-trick pile.

When a player has obtained one card of each rank in their trump suit, they have completed their calypso. They square up the cards into a pile and set it aside. The player may then use any unused cards in the last trick won to start a new calypso.

Scoring

After all thirteen tricks have been played, the deal passes to the left. The new dealer gives each player thirteen more cards from the undealt portion of the deck. Game play continues, with players continuing to build the calypsos they already have in progress.

When all of the cards dealt in the last batch of thirteen have been exhausted, the game ends. The scores are then calculated. Each partner first calculates the value of their calypsos: 500 for the first, 750 for the second, and 1000 each for the third and (almost impossible) fourth. Both partners’ scores are then combined. Each side adds to their calypso scores 10 points for each unused card in their won-tricks pile and 20 points for each card in their uncompleted calypsos to arrive at their final total. Whichever partnership has the higher score wins the game.

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Skin

Skin is a banking game for three to seven players. Unlike most banking games, the banker has no inherent edge over the rest of the players. The players are just as likely to walk away a winner as the banker is. As a result, when it was spread in casinos, the house simply ran the game and charged a rake, much the way they do with poker. You’re not likely to find a game of Skin in the casinos anymore, though.

Skin is likely descended from the quite similar Italian banking game Ziginette. At the height of its popularity, it was played throughout the American Midwest and South.

Object of Skin

The object of Skin is to win money when the dealer matches their card before you match yours.

Setup

You’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards to play Skin. Why not treat your players to a game dealt with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? You’ll also need something to bet with—as usual, poker chips are usually best, but you can also use tokens of some other type (which may or may not have a cash value). Straight cash can theoretically be used, but is likely to make dealing the game more difficult.

Determine the first banker, who also serves as dealer, by shuffling the pack and dealing one card, face up, to each player in turn until someone is dealt an ace. That player is the banker. Before dealing, the banker/dealer declares the minimum and maximum bets they are willing to accept. The banker should have enough money on hand to cover a maximum bet by every player at the table. The dealer thoroughly shuffles the deck in preparation for the deal.

Game play

The first card is dealt to the player to the dealer’s right. This player has the right to either bet on this card or reject it. If they reject the card, they must sit out until the turn of play makes it around to them again. (There is little rational reason for rejecting a card, but some players may have superstitions regarding particular cards.) The rejected card is then offered to the next player to the right, and so on.

When a player accepts the card, the banker deals themselves a card. If the first two cards dealt form a pair, they are simply discarded and a new card is offered to the player that accepted the first one. Otherwise, the player places a bet on the center of their card between the minimum and maximum allowed. The dealer stacks an equal amount of their money on top of the player’s bet.

After the bet is placed, the banker deals the next card face-up in the center of the table. If this card is the same rank as the player’s, the dealer takes all of the money on the player’s card (the player’s bet plus the dealer’s match). The player’s card and the matching card are both discarded, and the other two cards of that rank are dead for the rest of the deal—they’re simply discarded whenever they’re revealed. If the card does not match the either the player’s or the dealer’s cards, it is offered to the next player to the right of the player who bet, as before, and so on.

Side bets

Once two players are in the game, they may wager against one another that the other player’s card will be matched before their own. Both players must, of course, agree to the proposed wager and its amount. Such side bets are placed in an unambiguous location so they won’t be confused with the bet against the dealer. (Betting can get quite complex with so many players betting against each other and the dealer!) A player must have established a bet with the dealer before they can bet against another player. A player that has no card (either because it’s not their turn yet, or because they rejected the card offered to them) cannot place a side bet.

Later play

Once the player to the dealer’s left has been offered a card, the dealer goes around the table again, offering cards to players without them (either because they rejected the card offered on the first round or because they lost). If there’s nowhere else for a card to go, it is simply placed in the center of the table. Thereafter, when a player needs a new card on their turn, they simply choose one from the middle of the table.

It is important for the dealer to keep track of which cards are dead. Any dead cards must be discarded whenever they are encountered. It’s quite easy to forget that a rank is already dead and offer it to another player!

When the banker loses

If the banker deals a card that matches their own in rank, every active player wins their bet with the dealer. The dealer may then choose to take a new card. If so, each player has the option to bet against the dealer’s new card. They are not obligated to, however. The dealer can also decline to draw a new card, and simply continue dealing until any outstanding side bets are settled.

Ending the deal

The deal ends whenever the banker chooses not to take a new card and all side bets are settled, or when the deck runs out, whichever comes first. The player to the left then becomes the new banker. Game play continues anew with the incoming dealer.

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Minnesota Whist

Minnesota Whist is a variant of Whist that is played in Minnesota and South Dakota. The game is so popular in these areas that players just call it “Whist”. It most likely derives from a similar Scandinavian game, which crossed the Atlantic along with Norwegian immigrants. You’ll need four players, in partnerships, to play Minnesota Whist.

Object of Minnesota Whist

The object of Minnesota Whist differs depending on if the hand is a “high bid” or a “low bid”. For high bids, the object is to collect seven or more of the thirteen tricks. For low bids, the object is to collect six or fewer tricks.

Setup

Minnesota Whist uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Choose Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards—even if you drop them in 10,000 lakes, they’ll still be perfectly fine. You also need something handy to keep score with. Pencil and paper works reasonably well for the purpose.

Partnerships can be determined by any convenient method. High-card draw works if you prefer a random method, but if partnerships form by mutual agreement, that works too. Partners sit across from one another, such that as the turn passes to the left, players of alternating partnerships will play after one another.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. This will use the entire deck.

Game play

Cards rank in their usual order in Minnesota Whist, with aces high. Notably, unlike other forms of Whist, there is no trump suit.

Bidding

Each player selects one card from their hand and plays it face down in front of them. If they wish for a high bid hand, they play a black card. If they prefer a low bid, they play a red card. Note that these cards are still part of the player’s hand, so players will normally select the lowest card they have of the appropriate color to prevent giving away more information than they have to.

The player to the left of the dealer turns their bid card face up. If it is a red card, the next player to the left reveals their card. This continues until someone reveals a black card. This player (and by extension, their partnership) is said to have granded. All players then return their bid cards to their hands (any players after the player who granded do not reveal their bid cards). The game is then played as high bid. Only if nobody grands, i.e., all four players reveal a red card, is the hand played as low bid.

Play of a high bid hand

The player to the right of the granding player leads to the first trick. Each person to the left plays a card to the trick in turn. Players must always follow suit if able; otherwise, they may play any card. The player who contributed the highest card of the suit led to the trick wins it. Won tricks are not added to the hand. Instead, they are placed face-down in a won-trick pile in front of one of the partners. Each trick should be placed at right angles to the previous tricks, to allow the number of tricks won to be easily counted later.

When all thirteen tricks have been played, each partnership counts the number of tricks that they won. Whichever team collected more tricks scores one point for each odd trick (each trick collected in excess of six).

Play of a low bid hand

A low bid hand is played exactly like a high bid hand, except that the player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. The team that collected more tricks loses one point for each odd trick.

Ending the game

After each hand is played, the deal passes to the left, and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one partnership scores thirteen or more points. That team wins the game.

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