Kaiser, also known as Joffre, Three-Spot, or Troika, is a trick-taking game played throughout Canada, especially in the Ukrainian and First Nations communities of Saskatchewan. It is played with four players in partnerships.
Object of Kaiser
The object of Kaiser is to take the most tricks. Special attention is given to taking the trick containing the 5♥, and avoiding the trick containing the 3♠.
Kaiser is played with a unique setup of cards. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 6s through 2s. Then, remove the 7♥ and 7♠. Finally, return the 5♥ and 3♠ to the deck, bringing it to a total of 32 cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like the tried and tested pencil and paper.
Choose partners by whatever method is convenient, be it a random method like high-card draw, or just mutual agreement. Partners must sit across from each other, such that the turn of play alternates between partnerships as it goes around the table.
Shuffle and deal out the entire deck. Each player will get eight cards. If a player receives a hand with no aces, face cards, 5♥, or 3♠, they may declare a misdeal. All four players throw in their cards, and the same dealer deals new hands.
After the players have had a chance to take a look at their hands, players bid to fix the trump suit. The player to the dealer’s left has the first opportunity to bid, and each player proceeding clockwise must either bid higher. Any player may also pass. The final bid goes to the dealer, who has the privilege of being able to simply equal the previous bid rather than overcalling it. There is only one round of bidding; each player only has one chance to bid.
The minimum bid is six points. Players may also make no trump bids (stated with “no” after the number, e.g. “seven no”), which outrank a normal bid of the same amount. No trump bids increase the risk and reward of the contract. The highest possible bid is twelve no.
After the bidding has concluded, the player with the winning bid names the trump suit. They and their partner become the declarers. The other partnership becomes the defenders. The declarers’ high bid becomes their contract, their goal score for the hand.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays to the trick. Players must follow suit if able; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump.
After all four players have played to the trick, the person who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played, wins it. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.
The player winning the trick takes the cards and places them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of one of the partners. (Since the number of tricks won matters, it’s a good idea to place each trick at right angles to the previous one to keep the tricks identifiable.) The winner of the trick then leads to the next one.
The hand continues until eight tricks have been played and the players have exhausted their hands.
After the hand has been completed, the partnerships each tally up the value of their won tricks:
- One point for each trick
- Five points for capturing the 5♥
- ‒3 points for capturing the 3♠
If the declarers made their contract, they add the value of their tricks to their score. However, if they broke the contract, they subtract the value of the tricks. If the contract was played at no trump, then the trick score is doubled before being added to or subtracted from the score.
If the defenders have a score of 45 or less, they add the values of their collected tricks to their score, regardless of whether or not the declarers made their contract. Note that it’s possible for the defenders to have a negative hand score, if they captured the 3♠ but less than three tricks. (In this case, their game score actually goes down.) If the defenders have a score greater than 45, their score is only affected if they have a negative hand score.
New hands are dealt and game play continues until one team reaches a score of 52 or more. The partnership with the higher score wins the game.