All Fours, also known as Seven Up, is a trick-taking game for two to seven players (although three to five is the most common, and four is probably the optimal number). All Fours is a very old game, originating in English pubs; it appears in game books as far back as The Compleat Gamester from 1674. Its rules have gradually changed over the years, but the central premise of the game—scoring points for high, low, jack, and game—has remained unchanged.
All Fours has the distinction of being the first game to use the term jack, referring to the point for collecting what was then called the knave of the trump suit. Over time, the term jack began being applied to the actual card and not just the point it awarded. By the time indices became standard on playing cards, the most junior of the court cards bore a letter “J”, and knave for a rank of playing cards was simply a linguistic curio.
Object of All Fours
The object of All Fours is to be the first player to reach a score of seven points. Players score points by capturing the highest and lowest trump in play, the jack of trumps, and the highest-value cards in play.
All Fours requires the use of one 52-card deck of playing cards. Always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards to make sure your cards make it through the whole game.
Shuffle and deal three cards at a time to each player. Make two passes so that each player has a hand of six cards. Turn the next card of the deck face up; this is the upcard. The deck stub is placed next to the upcard, forming the stock.
Determining the trump suit
The upcard indicates the first suit that can potentially be designated as the trump suit. This is initially up to the player at the dealer’s left, who can accept the upcard’s suit as trumps by stating “I stand.” Otherwise, they decline it by stating “Beg.” The dealer then has the opportunity to accept the upcard’s suit by saying “I give you one”—if this is done, the player to the dealer’s left scores one point. If the dealer does not wish to accept the upcard’s suit, they declare “Refuse the gift”, and a procedure called running the cards begins.
To run the cards, the dealer gives each player another batch of three cards and turns up a new upcard from the stock. If this card’s suit is the same as the previous upcard, the cards are run again. Otherwise, the new suit becomes trump. If this new upcard is a jack, the dealer scores one point. Players then discard back down to six cards, putting the discards face down into a discard pile. In the event that no new suit is turned up before the stock runs out, all cards are collected, and the same dealer deals a new hand.
Play of the hand
After the matter of determining trump has been resolved, actual game play begins. The player to the left of the dealer goes first, leading the first trick. Each player plays to the trick in turn. If able, each player follows the suit lead, unless they are unable, in which case they may play any card. Additionally, playing a trump is always acceptable. The player who plays the highest card of the suit led (aces rank high) collects the trick, unless a trump is played, in which case the highest trump played wins the trick. Collected tricks are not added to the player’s hand, but rather a separate score pile kept in front of them. The winner of the trick leads the next one.
If it determined that a player previously revoked (i.e. did not follow suit when able), the player is ineligible to score the points for Jack or Game (see below) on that hand, and all other players score one point, unless the jack of trumps is in play, in which case they score two points.
When all six tricks have been played, the following four points are scored, in order, by the appropriate players:
- High—playing the highest trump in play during the hand,
- Low—capturing the lowest trump in play during the hand,
- Jack—capturing the jack of trumps,
- Game—accruing the highest total of cards captured during the hand, scoring as follows: ten for each 10, four for each ace, three for each king, two for each queen, and one for each jack. 9s and below do not count toward the game score. If two players tie for game, the point is not scored.
Due to the fact that not all cards are dealt during the hand, the trump scoring for High is not necessarily the ace, and the trump scoring for Low is not necessarily the two. Likewise, the point for Jack is not always scored, since the jack of trumps is not always in play.
After the hands are scored, new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player scores seven points.