Toepen is a simple and quick trick-taking game for three to eight players, although it is most frequently played with four. In Toepen, only the last trick counts—whoever wins it wins the entire hand! However, it’s possible the game may not even get that far. A player who feels confident can raise the value of the hand in the middle of play, and if everyone else decides to drop out rather than keep playing, they can win the hand that way, too!
Toepen is most frequently played in the Netherlands, where it is often played as a drinking game. Accordingly, the game is set up so that one player loses rather than one player winning—the losing player is the one who buys the next round of drinks!
Object of Toepen
The object of Toepen is to win the last trick of each hand.
To play Toepen, you’ll need a 32-card pack identical to the one used for Piquet. To make such a pack, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards—if you’re drinking, the waterproof plastic will be invaluable in guarding against spills! Remove all of the 2s through 6s. The remaining 32 cards will be the 7s through aces in each of the four suits.
Toepen scoring is easiest using the hard score method. Distribute the same number of tokens (chips, bottle caps, drink stirrers, condiment packets, whatever is on hand) to each player. Ten tokens for each player is the usual number, but you can adjust if you want a longer or shorter game. If there’s nothing handy to use as tokens, they can be represented as points on a score sheet.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock.
One thing making Toepen unusual is the number cards ranking higher than aces and face cards! Other than that, however, cards rank in their usual order. That makes the full rank of cards (high) 10, 9, 8, 7, A, K, Q, J (low).
Discards and declarations
Before game play begins, if any player’s hand consists of only aces and face cards, they may discard it, face down, and draw a new hand of four cards from the stock. Another player may challenge the discard, if they wish. The discarded cards are then exposed. If the challenger was correct, and there were any number cards in the hand, the discarding player loses one token. If the discard was correct (the hand contained no number cards), the challenging player loses a token instead. In either case, the player keeps the new hand they drew from the stock. When the stock is exhausted, no further player may discard their hand.
When any discards have been taken care of, any player holding four 10s must stand up for the rest of the hand. Likewise, a player holding three 10s must whistle or sing (probably badly and obnoxiously, since this is a drinking game). This indicates to the other players the strength of the player’s hand. However, a player holding three or four jacks may, if they wish, take the same action as if they instead had the same number of 10s in order to mislead their opponents.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick, playing any card they wish. Each player in turn, proceeding to the left, plays one card to the trick. They must follow suit if possible; if they cannot do so, they may play any card. Whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. They then lead to the next one, with the cards played in the first trick remaining on the table.
Game play continues until the players have played all four of the cards from their hand. The winner of the fourth and final trick wins the hand. The other players lose the number of chips the hand is worth. By default, the hand is worth one chip, but this can be changed over the course of the hand by knocking, described below. Lost chips are put out of play, not given to the winner of the hand.
The deal for the next hand passes to the player that wins it.
Knocking and folding
A player who is happy about how the hand is going may knock at any time. When a player knocks, they propose adding one chip to the value of the hand. For example, the first knock proposes to raise the hand’s value from the default of one chip to two; the second would raise it from two to three, and so on.
If a player does not wish to continue playing at the raised stakes, they may immediately fold by laying their cards face down on the table (or calling out “fold” if they have no cards in their hand). A player who folds must immediately pay the prior hand value. For example, if a knock raises the hand value from three to four chips, a player who folds would pay three chips. A player who folds takes no further part in the hand. If a player does not immediately fold upon hearing the knock, they commit to playing on at the increased hand value.
If all of the players fold except for the knocking player, that player automatically wins the hand and pays nothing. They then deal the next hand, as usual.
A player cannot knock if doing so would cause the hand to be worth more than the number of chips they have. They may, however, choose to stay in if another player knocks, even if this would cause the hand to be worth more than they could cover.
Ending the game
Game play continues until one player runs out of chips. This player loses the game. If you’re playing Toepen as a drinking game, the loser is responsible for buying the everyone the next round of drinks.
If you find it preferable to find a winner rather than a loser, have players drop out as they run out of chips. The last player with any chips wins the game.