Poke is a unique two-player game that combines the mechanics of a trick-taking game with that of poker. In the first part of the hand, players draw cards to make the strongest poker hand they can. In the second, they play those hands out in the style of a classic trick-taking game.
Poke was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, perhaps best known for his classic board game Acquire. The rules of Poke were first published in Esquire magazine in 1946, and it was later included in Sackson’s 1969 book A Gamut of Games.
Object of Poke
The object of Poke is to score points by forming good poker hands and collecting tricks.
To play Poke, you’ll need a typical 52-card deck of playing cards. It should come as no surprise that we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need a Contract Bridge-style scoresheet. If you don’t have a pre-printed Bridge scorepad handy, you can easily make a scoresheet by hand. Divide the page into two columns (one for each player, traditionally labeled “WE” and “THEY”) and then divide the columns into upper and lower halves by a horizontal line. Unlike regular poker, there is no betting, so you won’t need chips or money or anything like that. (Unless you just have to bet on it.)
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
The non-dealer acts first. They examine their hand, hoping to have a hand that is strong both as poker hand and at trick-taking. With this in mind, they decide whether they wish to discard any cards. If they do, they may discard up to three cards, and are dealt replacements from the stock. However, drawing doubles the player; any tricks the dealer captures will count double at the end of the hand. If the player is still not satisfied with their hand, they may discard a second time, and doing so redoubles them, making their opponent’s tricks count quadruple. Should a player choose to simply stand pat, they incur no penalty and are not doubled or redoubled.
After the non-dealer finalizes their hand, the dealer has the chance to draw cards. Unlike the non-dealer, the dealer’s first draw is free; they are not penalized for choosing not to stand pat. The dealer also has the option to double and redouble themselves by drawing a second and third time.
Play of the hand
The non-dealer leads any card they wish to the first trick. The dealer responds by playing any card from their hand. Whoever played the higher card wins the trick. Unlike in most trick-taking games, suits are wholly irrelevant to trick play; there is not even a requirement to follow suit. In the event of a tie, the player who led to the trick wins it. After a trick has been played, leave it on the table, keeping it clear who played which card. When a player wins a trick, they lead to the next one.
If a player has a pair in their hand, they may lead both cards at once. This effectively leads to two tricks at the same time. Their opponent can only beat this type of lead by playing a higher pair; if they cannot, they may play any two cards and lose both tricks. Likewise, a player holding three or four of a kind may lead the whole set at once, and their opponent can only beat them if they have a higher-ranking set with the appropriate number of cards.
After all five tricks have been played, each player counts up the number of tricks they have won. If a player’s opponent was not doubled or redoubled, each trick the player captured scores one point. If the opponent was doubled, each trick is worth two points; with a redoubled opponent, each trick is worth four points. These points are recorded below the horizontal line on the scoresheet.
Once the trick scores have been tallied, the players determine who had the better hand according to the usual rank of poker hands. Whichever player had the stronger hand scores an honor score as follows:
- Royal flush: 1,000 points
- Straight flush: 750 points
- Four of a kind: 600 points
- Full house: 500 points
- Flush: 400 points
- Straight: 300 points
- Three of a kind: 200 points
- Two pair: 100 points
- One pair: 50 points
This honor score is recorded above the line. If a player takes in all five tricks on a hand, they score a 250-point bonus, also recorded above the line.
After the hand is scored, the non-dealer collects the cards, shuffles, and deals the next hand.
Game and rubber
Game play continues until one player reaches 20 or more points below the line, ending the first game. This player scores a 100-point bonus above the line for winning the first game. (If both players tie at 20 or more points below the line, it is ignored until further game play breaks the tie.) The scores below the line are then zeroed out, and another game is played.
When a player wins two games, a rubber is completed. The player ending the rubber scores the usual game bonus, plus a 500-point rubber bonus above the line if their opponent won a game, or a 750-point bonus if they didn’t. The scores above the line are then totaled, and whichever player has the higher score is the winner.
Tong-Its is a rummy game for three players. A Philippine offshoot of Tonk, Tong-Its is a lively game that introduces a bluffing aspect to rummy. Since players are not penalized for keeping their melds secret, a player may declare the end of the hand believing they have the lowest unmatched card total. But if one of their opponents thinks they’re wrong, they can challenge them, and potentially snatch the victory away from them!
Object of Tong-Its
The object of Tong-Its is to reduce the number of unmatched cards in your hand by forming combinations of cards called melds.
To play Tong-Its, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of cards. You can choose any kind you like, but we really think you’d enjoy using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Scoring in Tong-Its is usually done with the hard score method, so you’ll need a bunch of something like poker chips, beans, or other markers to keep score.
All player ante two chips to a pot in the center of the table. Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player, starting with yourself. After all players have received twelve cards, deal a thirteenth card to yourself. The remaining fifteen cards are placed in a pile in the center of the table, forming the stock.
The dealer goes first. Their first order of business is to identify any melds they may hold. If they so desire, they may open their hand by placing some or all of their melds (see below) face-up on the table. They then end their turn by discarding a card, starting a discard pile, and the turn passes to the left.
Starting on the second player’s first turn, and for the rest of the game, a player starts their turn by drawing a card. They may draw the top card of the discard pile only if they can complete a new meld from their hand with it, and this meld must then be placed face-up on the table. Otherwise, they must draw from the stock. After a player has drawn, they may lay down any melds they may have in their hand. Then, they may lay off cards on any existing melds they or their opponents have laid down. Finally, the player ends their turn with a discard.
There are two types of melds in Tong-Its, both of which should be familiar to a connoisseur of rummy games. These are three or four cards of the same rank, and the sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. Of note is that aces are low in Tong-Its, so A-K-Q is not a valid sequence; any sequence involving an ace must also contain the 2 and the 3 of that suit. A card must be counted toward only one meld; it cannot be shared between multiple melds.
Notably, unlike other rummy games, a meld still counts for the player if it is kept concealed in the hand. In fact, there is a special bonus for holding a concealed four-of-a-kind in the hand. Keeping melds concealed can be a good idea, as it prevents your opponents from laying cards off to them. However, if you do not open your hand by exposing at least one meld, you risk taking penalties should the hand end before you do so! Remember that whenever a meld is formed with a card from the discard pile, that meld must always be exposed.
There is one special situation involving the four-of-a-kind. A player may place a concealed four-of-a-kind face down on the table. A player who does so is considered to have opened their hand, yet they are still eligible to receive the concealed four-of-a-kind bonus at the end of the hand.
Ending the hand
There are three ways the hand can end: by a tongit, by a draw, and by the stock running out.
When a player runs out their entire hand, they can call tongit and end the hand immediately. A player calling tongit may play out all of their cards by melding them, or they may end their turn as usual by discarding their final card.
A player who thinks they have the lowest deadwood (unmatched card) total can end the hand by calling “draw”. A player can only call “draw” if all of the following are true:
- They have opened their hand.
- They did not lay off to their existing melds on the previous turn.
- No other player laid off to their existing melds since their last turn.
When a player calls “draw”, their opponents may choose, in turn, to either fold or challenge the draw. Only a player who has opened may challenge. If both opponents fold, the hand ends, with the player calling “draw” winning the hand outright.
However, if one or both opponents challenge, the player calling “draw” and all challengers must expose their hands. Each player calculates their deadwood score: aces count one, face cards count ten, and all other cards their pip value. Whoever has the lowest deadwood score wins. If there is a tie, the challenger wins, and if there is a tie for lowest between multiple challengers, the one to the left of the player calling “draw” wins.
When a player challenges a draw, the value of the hand to the winner increases from one unit to three. If you’re not confident that you have a lower deadwood score than the player who is ending the hand, it may be better to simply fold rather than risk having to pay out three chips!
Exhausting the stock
When the stock runs out, the hand ends when whoever draws the last card ends their turn. All players who have opened compare their deadwood totals. Whoever has the lowest wins. If there is a tie, the player who drew the last card from the stock wins. If there was a tie between the other two players, the player to the left of the one who drew the last card wins.
When a winner has been decided, each loser must pay to the winner:
- For winning:
- Three chips if they won by calling tongit
- Three chips if they won by a challenged call of “draw” (whether or not they were the caller or the challenger)
- One chip for any other kind of win
- Three chips for each concealed four-of-a-kind in the winner’s hand
- One chip if the loser did not open their hand
- One chip for each ace the winner held, either in their hand or in melds (note that aces laid off on the winners hand, or aces that the winner laid off on their opponents’ melds, do not count)
After the payments are settled, the winner shuffles and deals the next hand. All players ante again to the pot. The pot is only awarded to a player who wins two hands in a row.
Court Piece (one of many names it is known by in India) or Rang (as it is known in Pakistan), is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Court Piece features an unusually tough requirement for scoring points, called courts. A partnership has to collect more tricks than their opponents for seven hands in a row to score! This is not quite as difficult as it seems, though—when a team wins a hand, they have the advantage of choosing the trump suit on the next hand. This makes it more likely that a partnership will be able to rack up a streak of wins.
Object of Court Piece
The object of Court Piece is to score more courts than your opponents. Courts are primarily scored in two ways:
- By taking seven or more tricks on seven consecutive hands.
- By taking the first seven tricks on one hand.
Court Piece uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. As per usual, we suggest, using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You’ll also want something like a piece of scratch paper for recording the score and the number of hands each team has won.
Partnerships can be determined by some random method, or simply deciding who wants to be partners with who. Players should sit between their opponents, with their partner across from them. Thus, as the turn proceeds around the table, it will alternate between players. The first dealer should also be determined, randomly.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The player to the dealer’s left examines their cards and, without consulting with their partner, chooses a suit to be trump. Then, deal the rest of the deck out, so that all players have thirteen cards.
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left leading to the first trick. Each player in turn plays one card to the trick. If a player has a card of the suit led, they must play it; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump. When all four players have contributed a card to the trick, whoever played the highest trump wins the trick. If nobody played a trump, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.
Captured tricks are removed from the table and neatly stacked in front of one of the partners of the side that took the trick. (Both partners share a won-trick pile.) Tricks should be kept separate, such as by placing them at right angles, so the number of tricks taken can clearly be discerned. When a player wins a trick, they then lead to the next one.
Court Piece has special procedures for handling a revoke (i.e. when a player fails to follow suit). If a player revokes, but realizes their mistake before the trick has been played out, they may call attention to it and play an appropriate card instead. Everyone that played after the revoking player may then change the card they played. The trick is awarded, and play continues as usual.
If it is discovered over the course of the hand that a player revoked on a previous trick, the revoking partnership forfeits the hand, which ends immediately. The opponents score a court. If the dealer’s side revoked, the previous dealer’s partner deals the next hand; if the dealer’s opponents revoked, the deal passes to the left.
Aside from a revoke, the first opportunity to score a court occurs after the seventh trick has been played. If one side has captured all of the first seven tricks, they score a court. Customarily, the hand is abandoned at this point, and the next hand is dealt. If the winners choose to, however, they may play on with the hope of collecting all thirteen tricks. This feat is very rarely achieved, but if it is, it scores 52 courts for the side that did it! There is no penalty for trying and failing to capture all of the tricks.
If the two teams split the first seven tricks between them, the hand is played out, ending after all thirteen tricks have been played. Each partnership counts up the number of tricks they took and compares them. Whichever side took more tricks wins the hand.
A running tally of how many consecutive hands the presently-dominant side has won is kept on the score sheet. If the same team that won the first hand also wins the second, the count increases from one to two, and if they win again it increases to three, and so on. If their opponents manage to break the streak by winning a hand themselves, however, the counter resets, with that side starting over with a tally of one.
Should a team reach a streak of seven consecutive hands won, they score a court. The counter is then reset to zero.
Passing the deal
After a hand ends, one player on the losing team deals the next hand. This grants the winning partnership the advantage of getting to declare trumps on the upcoming hand. If the outgoing dealer’s team won the hand, the deal simply passes to the left. If the dealer’s team lost the hand but the opponents did not score a court, the same player deals again. When a court is scored, the deal passes to the outgoing dealer’s partner.
Play continues for a predetermined length of time. Whichever side has the most courts at that time wins the game. If neither team has scored any courts, or both teams are tied, the result is a draw.
Pluck is a three-player trick-taking game. In Pluck, each player has a trick quota on every hand that they must meet. If they fail to make the quota, they pay the price on the next hand—the players that took enough tricks get to steal from them!
Object of Pluck
The object of Pluck is to capture tricks in excess of a quota set by the player’s position relative to the dealer. Doing so both scores a player points and allows them to exchange for better cards on subsequent hands.
To play Pluck, you’ll need a special 51-card pack. To make such a pack, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Remove all of the 2s except the 2♣, then add in the two jokers. You’ll be left with a deck with aces through 3s in each of the four suits, two jokers, and the 2♣. You’ll also probably want something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.
The two jokers used in Pluck must be different in some way, because one will be designated the “big joker” and the other as the “little joker”. As you might guess from the names, the big joker outranks the little joker. (If you’re using Denexa cards, the red joker, with the dragon, lends itself to being the big joker; the black joker, with the jester, then becomes the little joker.) Be sure that it’s communicated to all of the players which joker is which.
Shuffle and deal out the entire deck. Each player will receive seventeen cards.
The cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. The big joker is considered to be the highest trump, followed by the little joker as second-highest trump, then the ace of trump, and so on.
Each player has their own quota of tricks that they are required to capture on each hand.
- The dealer: seven tricks
- Player to left of dealer: six tricks
- Player to right of dealer: four tricks
Note that the three quotas add up to exactly seventeen tricks, the total number of tricks in the game. This means that if anyone exceeds their quota at all, by even one trick, another player will be short.
Play of the hand
Upon looking at their hand, the dealer declares the trump suit. Whoever holds the 2♣ leads it to the first trick. The next player to their left responds by playing a club, if they are able; otherwise, they may play any card they wish. The final player follows in turn. These three cards played to the table are called a trick. After all players have played a card, the player who played the highest trump, or the highest club if none were played, wins the trick. They collect the three cards and place them into a score pile, separate from their hand.
The player that won the first trick then leads any card, except for a trump (see below); again, all players must follow the suit led, if able. After all three cards have been played, whoever played the highest card of the suit led collects the cards and gets to start the next trick, and the process repeats. Players should keep the tricks separate in their score piles; one good way of doing this is to place each newly-captured trick at right angles to the preceding one.
The first time a player who is unable to follow suit plays a trump, trumps are said to have been broken. Trumps can then be led to subsequent tricks. When clubs are trump, trumps are broken even for the first trick, because, of course, the first trick always contains at least one club.
After all seventeen tricks have been played, the hand is scored. Each player counts the number of tricks that they have. A player scores one point for each trick that they collected in excess of their quota. If a player captured tricks less than or equal to their quota, they score nothing for that hand.
After the hand is scored, the player to the outgoing dealer’s left deals the next hand.
Beginning with the second hand, and on every hand thereafter, players are entitled to plucks based on their score in the previous hand. A player earns one pluck for each extra trick they collected on the preceding hand. Players can be plucked from once for each trick they were short of their quota on the previous hand.
Plucking takes place immediately after the cards have been dealt, before the dealer announces the trump suit. The plucking player passes one card, face down, to the player they are plucking from. That player then passes back, also face down, the highest card they hold of suit of the card they just received. Because the trump suit is not yet known, the jokers cannot be passed during plucking.
Ending the game
Game play continues until one player reaches a score of 20 points or more. That player is the winner.
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.
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.
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:
- The joker.
- Right bower. Jack of trumps.
- 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.)
- All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9.)
Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.