Reversis

Ace of Diamonds and Jack of HeartsReversis is an old trick-taking game for four players. In most trick-taking games, the goal is to capture as many cards as you can. In Reversis, however, you want to avoid taking the face cards and the aces! None of the other cards matter, although there is a special bonus for not winning a single trick. You can turn it on its head, however, and win every trick, which gets you even more!

Reversis is a very old game, appearing as early as 1601. By the 1870s, it was still being included in card game books, but was all but dead in terms of actively being played. Nevertheless, the game most likely served as the root of an entire family of trick-taking games where the goal was avoidance of certain cards. Today, the most well-known member of this family is Hearts, now considered a classic in its own right. In fact, most authors call the whole group of card-avoidance games the “Hearts family”, despite Reversis’s probable status as grandparent of most of these games.

Object of Reversis

The object of Reversis is to avoid capturing in tricks any aces or face cards. A secondary objective is to avoid taking any tricks, a feat called the espagnolette. Failing that, a player may aim to take all the tricks, which is called the reversis.

Setup

Reversis uses an unusual 48-card pack formed by taking a standard 52-card deck (like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards) and stripping out all of the 10s. Additionally, you will need chips to keep score with. A traditional Reversis set included chips equal to 468 base units, denominated in 1, 6, and 48 units. You can probably get away with the easier to deal with 1 (white), 5 (red), and 25 (green) of most standard chip sets. Divide the chips up evenly; each player should start with at least 100 credits.

On the first hand, all players ante five credits to the pot, except for the dealer, who antes ten credits. Shuffle and deal eleven cards to each player. Then, deal one extra to your own hand, and one card face down in front of each player (but not part of their hand). This will exhaust the entire deck.

Game play

The exchange

Before play begins, the dealer discards any one card they wish from their hand. This brings them to the same eleven cards that the other players have.

The three other players have the right to discard one card from their hand, then draw the face-down card in front of them. They cannot look at this card before deciding whether to discard. If the player decides not to discard, they may look at the face-down card without putting it in their hand. All four unwanted cards (the dealer’s discard, the discards of any other player, and any cards not drawn by the players) are set aside to form the talon.

Play of the hand

Play proceeds much the same as it does in any other trick-taking game. The player to the dealer’s left goes first, leading any card they wish to the first trick. Each other player must play a card of the same suit if they can. Otherwise, they may play any card. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick.

Once a trick has been won, the player that won it places it face down in front of them in a separate won-tricks pile. The player that wins each trick then leads to the next one.

Special payments

Special payments usually occur whenever an ace or the J♥, which is known as Quinola, is played. These payments occur immediately, irrespective of who eventually wins the hand.

Aces

When able, a player will usually discard their ace when another suit they have no cards in is led, to avoid taking the ace in a trick. When this happens, the player who wins the trick containing the off-suit ace pays the person who played the ace one credit. If the ace in question is the A♦, the payment is increased to two credits.

However, other times person holding an ace will be forced to play it when that ace’s suit is led. In that case, the player who was forced to play the ace pays the person who led to the trick one credit. As before, if the A♦ is forced, the payment doubles to two credits.

It is rare that a player leads an ace, although it sometimes happens (usually because they unexpectedly won the lead for the last trick, and the ace was their last card). In this event, however, no payment is made immediately. When the winner of the hand is decided, that player may collect the appropriate amount (two credits for the A♦, one for any other ace) from the person who played the ace. However, if the winner of the hand does not explicitly request payment before the next hand is dealt, they forfeit their right to collect.

Quinola

When the Quinola (J♥) is played, much larger payments come into play. If the J♥ is played to a trick that was led by another suit, the player that wins the trick pays the person who played the J♥ five credits. The player that played the J♥ then also takes the entire pot! If there are multiple pots, as described below, the player takes only the most recently-formed pot. If there is only one pot and it is won, a new one must be formed. Each non-dealer must again ante five credits to form a new pot, with the dealer contributing ten credits.

When an opponent forces the player holding the J♥ to play it to a heart lead, the player holding the J♥ pays that opponent ten credits. Both of the other two opponents must pay the player who led to that trick five credits. Additionally, the person who played the J♥ must make a payment called a remise. The first remise is equal to amount of the first pot, and is added to that pot. The second remise is again the same size as the pot, but goes to form a second pot, which is kept separate from the first. The third remise forms the third pot, which is the same size as the second pot, and so on. When all of the pots have been won, and a new pot is formed by anteing, the remise procedure is restarted from the beginning.

An example of the remise process: the pot (Pot #1) contains 25 credits. A player must pay a 25-credit remise to it, increasing it to 50 credits. The dealer antes five credits to Pot #1 at the start of the next hand. On the next hand, if the pot is not taken, the remise is 55 credits, but this goes to form a new pot, Pot #2. The dealer of the next hand then antes to Pot #2, bringing it to 60 credits. If the pot is not taken on the third hand, the remise will be 60 credits, payable to Pot #3. Remember, when a player successfully dumps the J♥ on an non-heart trick, they always take the most recently formed pot (in this case, Pot #3).

If a player leads with the J♥, the eventual winner of the hand may collect ten credits from that player and five credits from the other two opponents. As with payments when aces are led, the winner must speak up before the next hand is dealt to collect their winnings! (Note that a player leading the J♥ may well be pulling off a reversis, as described below.)

Ending the hand

The hand ends when all eleven tricks have been played. Each player totals the value of the cards they captured. Aces are worth four points, kings are worth three, queens two, and jacks one. All other cards bear no value. The player with the fewest points is said to have won the party. The player with the least is said to have lost the party.

If there is a tie in points, the player with the fewest tricks takes precedence. If there’s still a tie, the dealer takes precedence, followed by the player to their left, and so on around the table. (Note that this procedure applies to both winning and losing the party.)

Once the winner and loser have been determined, the loser pays the winner. The amount of the payment is four chips, plus the point value of all of the cards in the talon. If the winner and loser are sitting across from each other, the required payment doubles.

The deal passes to the next player to the left. The dealer antes five credits to the most recently formed pot. None of the other players ante. Game play continues until some predetermined time or number of hands. Whoever has the most in chips at that point wins the game.

Special bids

There are two special bids that can occur whenever a player has a particularly good or bad hand. These are the reversis, in which a player tries to take all the tricks, and the espagnolette, when they try to lose all the tricks.

The reversis

When a player takes the first nine tricks, they are considered to be undertaking the reversis. This happens whether they want it to or not! At this point, any ace and Quinola payments that have already taken place are refunded. (This includes a player taking the pot.) For the rest of the hand, these payments are not made.

If the reversis player successfully takes all eleven tricks, they collect 32 credits from the player across from them, and 16 credits from the other two opponents. They also take the most recent pot if they played the J♥ during the first nine tricks.

Should one of the reversis player’s opponents take the tenth or eleventh trick, the reversis is said to be broken. The reversis player pays 64 credits to that opponent (if both the tenth and eleventh tricks were taken by opponents, only the winner of the tenth trick is paid off). If the reversis player played the J♥ during the first nine tricks, they must pay a remise. If the reversis was broken by the J♥ winning a trick, the reversis player pays only 54 credits.

The espagnolette

Before a player can even attempt the espagnolette, they must hold all four aces. Holding three aces and the J♥ also qualifies. To undertake the espagnolette, a player simply fails to follow suit when able at least once during the first nine tricks. (If a player takes no tricks but follows suit for the whole hand, it is not considered an espagnolette.) The espagnolette player must follow suit, if able, on the tenth and eleventh tricks.

Other than the ability to disregard the suit led, there is no real reward for successfully completing the espagnolette. The player will simply automatically win the party (even if other players took no tricks) and the typical five credits for successfully discarding their aces. If they held the J♥ and three aces, they will win the party, plus the payments for discarding the three aces, plus the payments and pot for discarding the J♥.

If a player going for the espagnolette takes a trick, they are considered to have automatically lost the party. Additionally, they must pay back double the amount each player paid them for aces and the J♥. If they won a pot, they must return it and pay a misere.

Additionally, a player is considered to have lost the espagnolette if another player makes the reversis. In this case, the espagnolette player must pay the full 64-credit sum due to the player making the reversis. No other player is required to pay a thing. Should the player abandon the espagnolette in order to break the reversis, there is no penalty for the failed espagnolette, as the broken reversis preempts all other payments.

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Kabu

Kabu is a Japanese banking game for two to six players. Kabu is quite similar to the game of Baccarat, where players do their best to reach a score of nine, and scores above nine have their first digit dropped.

Traditional Kabu is played with a deck of Japanese hanafuda, or “flower cards”. This adaptation of the game for the Western deck was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, who published it in his 1981 book Card Games Around the World.

Object of Kabu

The object of Kabu is, through selective drawing of cards, to obtain a score of nine or as close as possible to it.

Setup

Japanese Kabu is normally played with hanafuda, a traditional Japanese deck featuring four cards each of twelve “suits”, one for each month, January to December. In Kabu, the November and December cards are set aside. Each card uses the numerical value of the month it represents (1 for January, 2 for February, etc.) in adding up the player’s score.

To play Kabu with the typical English-style deck, simply remove all of the face cards from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck: ace through 10 in each of the four suits. You’ll also need some chips for betting. Distribute the chips evenly to each player. (Sackson recommends a starting stack of ten credits, plus fifteen for each player in the game. This would yield 40 credits for the two-player game, 55 for the three player game, etc.)

Shuffle and deal two cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They look at their cards and add up their total value. Aces are worth one point, and all others their face value. If the score exceeds nine (the best possible score), the first (tens) digit is dropped to arrive at a score under nine. If the player is satisfied with their score, they may pass. Otherwise, they may request a card from the stock. Then, the next player has the opportunity to draw, and so on around the table. Players may draw a maximum of two cards (making a four-card hand altogether). Drawing continues until all players have either passed or drawn twice.

After the drawing portion of the hand is complete, each player reveals their hand and announces the total. Each player then pays each opponent with a higher score the difference between their hands’ values. For example, if Jim holds a seven-point hand and George holds a four-point hand, George would pay Jim three credits.

The cards are collected and shuffled, then the next hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player does not have enough chips to pay the amount owed to their opponents. That player does not actually pay any of their opponents. Instead, each player counts up the number of chips they hold. Whoever has the most chips wins the game.

 

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Samba

Samba is an expansion upon Canasta that adds more cards and more melds! In Samba, you can meld sequences of the same suit, a feature found in most rummy games but absent in Canasta. The number of cards available is bigger in Samba, too—it’s played with a triple deck, compared to the double deck used in Canasta! Like Canasta, it is a partnership game for four players.

Samba was borne of the Canasta craze of the early 1950s, and, for a time, was a fad itself. Some playing card manufacturers cashed in on the trend by selling prepackaged triple decks of cards, marketed for use in Samba.

Object of Samba

The object of Samba is to be the first partnership to reach the lofty score of 10,000 points. Points are scored by forming melds: combinations of three or more cards of the same rank, or three or more cards of the same suit in sequence. Special attention is given to expanding these melds to their maximum size of seven cards.

Setup

Samba uses a gargantuan deck of cards for a non-casino game: 162 cards in all. To form this monster, shuffle together three decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards with the same back design, being sure to include the jokers. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well, but anything that can accommodate a five-digit score should work.

Figure out who’s partners with who by whatever method you want. Each player should sit across from their partner, so that as the turn of play progresses clockwise around the table, it alternates between teams.

Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Place the deck in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up and place it next to the stock. This turned-up card is the first card in the discard pile.

Game play

Card ranks and scoring

The following are the scores and special properties of all of the cards in the game:

  • Red 3s: Red 3s serve as bonus cards. When a player gets one, they simply lay them out in front of them, and a new card is drawn to replace the 3. 100 points each. If you collect all six, they score 1,000 for the whole set. If a partnership fails to form two seven-card melds of any type before the end of the hand, however, red 3s score negative instead of positive.
  • Jokers: Jokers are wild. 50 points each.
  • 2s: 2s are also wild. 20 points each.
  • Aces: 20 points each.
  • Ks–8s: 10 points each.
  • 7s–4s: 5 points each.
  • Black 3s: Can only be melded at the end of the hand, and prevent the discard pile from being taken when one is the upcard. 5 points.

Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.

Play of the hand

The player on the dealer’s left goes first. A player begins their turn by drawing. They always have the option of drawing one card from the stock. However, if the top card of the discard pile can, by itself, be legally added to a meld that the player’s team already holds, or they hold two other natural cards of the same rank to form a new meld with, they can take the entire discard pile into their hand. (There is one caveat to this, explained below in “Freezing the discard pile”.) Note that you cannot take just the top card or any portion of the discard pile—it’s gotta be the whole thing. While this seems like an odd choice to make in a game where you’re trying to eventually run out of cards, a big discard pile usually has ample opportunities for forming and expanding melds.

After a player has drawn, they may meld as much as they are able and want to. (If a player takes the discard pile, they must immediately meld the top card of that discard pile.) In general, a player can lay down new melds, as well as add to existing ones. There are a few restrictions on melding, though, as described below. When a player is satisfied with their melds for that turn, they discard one card, and the turn passes to their opponent on the left.

Melding

There are two types of meld in Samba, the set and the sequence, the latter of which is also called an escalera (Spanish for ladder). A set consists of three to seven cards of the same rank. An escalera is made up of three to seven cards of the same suit, in consecutive order. For the purposes of escaleras, aces rank high, and the cards proceed in their usual order down to the 4. (Black 3s cannot be used in escaleras.)

Note that the discard pile cannot be taken in order to form a new escalera. The discard pile can be taken if its top card would be able to extend the escalera without any other cards from the hand being used.

When a player forms a meld, they may play it on their turn, placing it face up on the table. Melds should be kept fanned out, and clearly separate from each other. Each partnership shares melds, and each player can add to their partner’s melds as well as those they’ve already played. A partnership can have multiple sets of the same rank, or multiple escaleras of the same suit. A player may combine two existing sets into one big set, although they cannot divide a larger set into smaller ones. (Escaleras may not be merged or split.)

Jokers and 2s are both wild cards, and can substitute for any other card in a set. Any given set may not contain more than two wild cards. Wild cards can only be used in sets; they are prohibited in escaleras. A meld that contains no wilds is said to be natural or clean, while one containing at least one wild is mixed or dirty.

The initial meld

Players are required to meet a point threshold the first time their partnership melds, depending on their score at the beginning of the hand. The player may use as many melds as they need to in order to exceed this threshold. Once a partnership has made their initial meld, they are no longer subject to any minimum meld value.

The initial meld values are:

Score Minimum
Below 0 15*
0–1,499 50
1,500–2,999 90
3,000–6,999 120
7,000–9,999 160

*A minimum of 15 exists only by virtue of no valid meld having a score below this.

Canastas and sambas

Melds are capped at a maximum size of seven cards. A set reaching this size is called a canasta, and a seven-card escalera is called a samba. To indicate this, the meld is squared up into a pile. Natural canastas are indicated with a red card on top, mixed canastas with a black card on top, and sambas are turned face down. No more cards can be added to a canasta or samba.

Freezing the discard pile

Should a red 3 or wild card end up in the discard pile, either by being the initial upcard, or (in the case of wild cards) by being intentionally discarded there, the discard pile is considered frozen. The offending card is placed at right angles to the pile, causing it to stick out when further cards are placed on top of it. When the discard pile is frozen, it may only be taken if its top card can be used to form a new meld with two or more natural cards of the same rank from the hand (i.e. you cannot take a frozen discard pile to add to an existing meld). A discard pile topped by a wild card can never be taken.

Depletion of the stock

It is rare that the stock is depleted before someone goes out. Nevertheless, if it does happen, the game simply continues without a stock; play continues with players taking the discard pile, melding if able, and discarding, until a player goes out as normal, or is unable to take the discard pile, at which point the hand ends and is scored as usual.

If, however, the final card of the stock is a red 3, special rules apply. The player taking the 3 declares it as usual, then does any melding possible, after which play stops. This player is not entitled to discard.

Going out

In order to go out, a partnership must have formed at least two seven-card melds (canastas or sambas). At this point, a player may go out by disposing of their remaining cards, either by forming new melds, adding to existing ones, or discarding.

Before going out, a player may ask their partner “May I go out?” This is done to avoid having a high total value of cards held by the partner charged against the partnership at the end of the hand. The answer the partner gives is binding. The only answer permitted is “Yes” or “No”—if any further information is given, the opposing partnership is entitled to answer the question “May I go out?” for the offending partnership. In that case, their answer is binding, with results that can end up being pretty hilarious.

Scoring

After a player has gone out, the hand is scored. Each team scores the value of the cards it has melded, and the value of cards held in hand is deducted against the partnership’s score (except for any undeclared red 3s, which are handled as discussed in “Penalties” below). The following bonuses, if applicable, are also scored:

  • Natural canastas and sambas: 500 points each.
  • Mixed canastas and sambas: 300 points each.
  • Red 3s: 100 points each, unless all six are held, in which case they are 166⅔ points each (for a total of 1,000). If a partnership has not completed at least two seven-card melds, they score –100 for each red 3, or –1,000 for all six.
  • Going out: 200 points.

After all of the above has been accounted for, if neither partnership has reached 10,000 points, all cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. If one or both partnerships has exceeded a score of 10,000, the partnership with the higher score at that point wins the game.

Penalties

Throughout the game, various penalties can occur, as set out below:

  • Undeclared red 3s at end of hand: –500 points each.
  • Attempting to go out anyway when a partner says no: –100 points.
  • Not being able to go out after having asked “May I go out?”: –100 points.
  • Taking the upcard when unable to use it: –50 points.
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Écarté

Écarté (pronounced \e.kaʁ.te\ or roughly ay-car-tay) is a French trick-taking game for two players. A novel feature of the game is that rather than the traditional bidding round prior to trick-play, the players shape their hands into their final form by discarding and drawing cards. The winner might well be decided before the first card is played!

Écarté was at its height in the 19th century. It was mentioned in several works of fiction of the day, such as The Count of Monte Cristo (where it was noted as being preferred over Whist by the French) and the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. The game gradually lost its popularity, however, and is now relatively obscure.

Object of Écarté

The object of Écarté is to form a hand capable of taking the majority of the five tricks, and then doing so.

Setup

Écarté uses the same deck as Piquet. If you don’t happen to keep a Piquet deck laying around, just grab your trusty deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and take out all of the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck having aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works, as well as the Card Caddy Connector, or chips or other tokens (you’ll only need nine of them).

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up and set it aside. The suit of this card, the upcard, determines the trump suit. If the upcard is a king, the dealer scores one point.

Card ranking

The cards rank a little out of their usual order in Écarté. The ace ranks between the face cards and the number cards. This makes the full rank of cards (high) K, Q, J, A, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).

Game play

The exchange

The non-dealer decides whether or not they wish to play with their hand, as dealt. They can either play with what they’ve got by saying “I play”, or propose an exchange by saying “I propose.” If the non-dealer proposes, the dealer has veto power—if they decline, then the play proceeds without an exchange.

If the exchange is accepted, the non-dealer discards any number of cards they wish, then draws back up to five cards. The dealer then has the opportunity to do the same thing. The non-dealer may then propose again or start the actual play of the hand, and the dealer may refuse the proposal, as before.

Should there be less than ten cards left in the stock and exchanging still going on, the non-dealer always has the first priority in taking the number of cards they want, even if that doesn’t leave enough for the dealer to make their desired exchange. When the stock is depleted, there’s no further exchanging—the hand immediately begins. (Neither player can ever draw the upcard, no matter how bad they might want to.)

After the exchange, if either player ended up with the king of trumps, they can show it to their opponent. Doing so scores one point.

Vulnerability

If either player prevents an exchange at all, whichever one turned it down (the non-dealer if they call “I play”, or the non-dealer if they reject the proposal) is said to be vulnerable. A vulnerable player’s opponent can score extra points if they win the hand, so it’s important not to be too overconfident with your hand.

Note that it is possible to avoid vulnerability by starting an exchange and then discarding no cards. This allows your opponent a chance to improve their hand, however.

After the first exchange has taken place, neither player becomes vulnerable by turning down the opportunity for an exchange.

Play of the hand

The non-dealer leads to the first trick. The dealer then plays a card in response, following suit and heading the trick if possible. That means that if they have a card of the suit led, they must play it, playing a higher card if possible. Otherwise, they must trump, if they can. Only if they cannot do either of those are they free to play any other card.

Whoever played the higher trump, or the higher card of the suit led if neither player played a trump, wins the trick. They take the cards and put them in a won-tricks pile on the table in front of them. (It may be helpful to put each pair of cards crosswise, so the number of tricks taken is easily counted.) That player then leads to the next trick.

Scoring

After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored. Whichever player takes the majority of the tricks (i.e. three or more) scores one point. If they took all five tricks, they score an additional point. One more point is scored if the opponent was vulnerable on that hand.

Further hands are played until someone reaches a score of five points. That player is the winner. (If the winning point is scored prior to the actual play of the hand due to the king of trumps, the hand is not played out.)

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Put and Take

Put and Take is a simple gambling game for two to nine players. The game is divided into two rounds: a put round where players put money into the pot when one of their cards matches the dealer’s, and a take round where they take money out on a match. There’s absolutely no skill or decisions to make in Put and Take—the outcome is purely the luck of the cards!

Object of Put and Take

The object of Put and Take is to win money by not matching the dealer’s cards in the first round and matching the dealer’s cards on the second round.

Setup

Put and Take uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Are you planning on playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? If not, why not?

All players should agree to the value of one credit, the basic unit of value in the game. The game can be conducted in cash, but it’s much tidier if the players purchase chips worth one credit each. Distribute the chips accordingly.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player other than the dealer. (There is no ante.)

Game play

The first half of the hand is the put round. The dealer turns one card face-up from the deck. Any players holding a card of the same rank as the upturned card must pay one credit to the pot for each card of that rank that they hold. The dealer then turns another card. Players must put two credits into the pot per card of this rank that they hold. This continues until five cards have been dealt, with players paying three credits on the third card, four on the fourth, and five on the fifth.

The five cards in front of the dealer are then discarded. The take round now begins. It is conducted exactly the same as the put round, except that the players now take money from the pot when they match the dealer’s card. If the pot runs out before the take round ends, the dealer must pay the remaining balance to any players.

Any remaining chips in the pot after the take round go to the dealer.

Variation

If you wish to increase the amount of money moving around the table, have the players put and take one credit per card on the first card, two credits on the second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, and sixteen on the fifth.

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Fünfzehnern (Fifteens)

Fünfzehnern, also known in English as Fifteens, is a trick-taking game for three or four players. Unlike most other trick-taking games, Fünfzehnern doesn’t allow you to lead just any old card. Instead, you have to keep leading cards of the suit you first won the lead with, as long as you have them!

Fünfzehnern is an old German game. Descriptions of it date back to at least the late 1800s.

Object of Fünfzehnern

The object of Fünfzehnern is to take in tricks as many cards ranked 10 and above as possible. The ultimate goal of this is to achieve a hand score of fifteen points or better.

Setup

Fünfzehnern is played with the same pack used to play Piquet. To make such a pack from a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck of cards with aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all. If playing with three players, remove one of the four suits entirely, giving you a 24-card deck. You also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works fine, but Fünfzehnern is traditionally managed with a “hard-score” method (chips or counters are paid into and taken from a central pool).

Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player, using the entire deck.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. All other players must play a card of the same suit, if possible. Otherwise, they may play any card. Once everyone’s played, the person who played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. That person takes the cards that made up the trick and stacks them into a face-down won-tricks pile. That player then leads to the second trick.

When a player takes the right to lead from another player, they must continue to lead with cards of the suit they won the lead in. Only when they run out of cards of that suit can they change to a different suit. The only exception is if they have a card of a different suit which they know is unbeatable (i.e. because it is an ace, or because all the cards of that suit that would outrank it have been played).

For example, Riley leads hearts, and Marty wins the trick. Marty may now only play hearts as long as he has them. He holds the A♠, though, so he can also lead this, as he knows it is unbeatable. As soon as he runs out of hearts, he can lead to whatever suit he pleases. At this point, if Riley manages to beat Marty on a trick that he led diamonds to, Riley must continue to lead diamonds until he runs out of them.

Forcing (zwang)

Holding both a king and queen of the same suit is called a force, or zwang. If the ace of that suit has yet to be played, the player may lead the queen and declare “zwang“. The player holding the ace of that suit is then compelled to play it on that trick. This, of course, wins the trick, but the forcing player now knows the king they hold is the highest unplayed card of that suit.

Scoring

When all eight tricks have been played, each player totals up the values of the cards in their won-tricks pile:

  • Aces: five points each.
  • Kings: four points each.
  • Queens: three points each.
  • Jacks: two points each.
  • Tens: one point each.

9s, 8s, and 7s have no point value.

After each player arrives at a point value, they subtract fifteen from it. The resulting number is their score for the hand. (If using the hard-score method, take one chip from the pot for each point taken above fifteen, and pay into the pot one chip for each point taken below fifteen.)

Game play continues until a predetermined time or number of hands.

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Burraco

Burraco is a Rummy game much like Canasta. It is best played by four players in partnerships. Burraco adds several interesting features to Canasta, such as an extra hand each team must play before going out and the ability to meld runs rather than just sets of the same rank.

The Canasta branch of the Rummy family originates in South America. Burraco is most likely an evolution of one of several similarly-named games played there. At some point, it migrated across the Atlantic to Italy, where it really hit its stride. Burraco is incredibly popular there, played in tournaments with an official governing body!

Object of Burraco

The object of Burraco is to score 2,000 points before your opponent by forming melds of three or more cards of the same rank, and burracos, which are melds of seven or more cards of the same rank.

Setup

To play, you’ll need to shuffle together two decks (preferably of the same back design and color) of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, including the jokers. This will give you a 108-card deck. You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper. If you’re really confident in your math skills, go ahead and use a pen. You might impress someone.

Determine partnerships by whatever method works for your group. Dealing out four cards and the two highs versus the two lows is a good way of doing it if you want a random method. Of course, if you can just agree on partnerships, so much the better. You could go further at this point and come up with team uniforms, mascots, and chants too, but that would be sort of silly. In any case, each player should sit opposite of their partner, so that as the turn goes around the table it alternates between partnerships.

Shuffle. The player to the dealer’s right cuts the deck. The dealer takes the bottom part of the deck and deals eleven cards to each player. Meanwhile, the player who cut retains the top part of the deck and, dealing from the bottom of the stack, makes two piles of eleven cards each. These two piles are called the pozzetti. Stack the pozzetti, putting them at right angles to one another to keep them separate. Place the bottom part of the deck atop the top part, completing the cut and forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up, forming the discard pile.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may draw either the top card of the stock or take the entire discard pile into their hand. Once that is done, they may lay down any melds they have. Then, they end their turn by discarding.

It should be noted that when you draw from the discard, you take the entire pile, not just the top card. Also, unlike in Canasta, there is no requirement that you have to be able to immediately use the top card of the discard—you can take the discard pile whenever you want! There is one restriction: if there is only one card in the discard pile and you take it, you cannot discard this card on the same turn. This is to prevent a player from presenting the same card their opponent on their right discarded to their opponent on their left. (Note that if you have the other card of the same rank and suit as the card you just drew, discarding the other card is totally fine!)

Melding

There are two types of meld in Burraco. The first is the set, which is three or more cards of the same rank. The second is the run or sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit (cards rank in their usual order). As players form melds, they may lay them down face up on the table. Each player shares melds with their partner, and can add on to melds laid down by either player on any previous turn. A player may meld as many cards as they want on any single turn.

Aces may be played either high or low in sequences, but a meld cannot have more than one ace in it (i.e. you cannot have an ace at each end of the sequence). You can have more than one sequence of a given suit, but you cannot merge two melds that happen to grow to the same endpoints into one big meld. You also cannot divide one run into smaller melds.

Each partnership can only have one set for each rank. You cannot have a set of jokers or 2s.

Wild cards

Jokers and 2s are considered wild cards. Each meld can only contain one wild card (one joker or one 2, not one of each). In a meld, a wild card can take the place of any natural card.

In runs, a 2 can also be used as its natural value (e.g. in a run of ). 2s are not counted as wild cards when they are used in such a way. For example, 2-3-4♥-★ contains just one wild card—the joker. If there is no other wild card in a meld, a 2 used as its natural value can be pressed into service as a wild card. With a meld of 2-3-4♥, a player could add the 6♥ by changing the 2 into a wild (i.e. form 3-4-2-6♥, with the 2 standing in for the 5♥).

A wild card must always be placed at the low end of a run if it is not being used for one of the inside cards. For example, 7♠-★-9♠ is a valid meld, but 7-8♠-★ is not (it should be corrected to ★-7-8♠). If a player wishes to later extend the sequence upward using the joker, move the joker to the high end position. For example, if a player holds the 10♠ with a meld on the table of ★-7-8♠, they can move the joker to the end to make 7-8♠-★-10♠. This rule is to prevent a player from conveying to their partner which direction they want the run extended in.

If a player obtains a natural card that is already represented in one of their runs as a wild card, the player can place that card into the meld. For example, with a meld of 7-8♠-★-10♠, a player could replace the joker if they pick up a 9♠. The resulting meld would be ★-7-8-9-10♠. The melded wild card then moves to its usual position at the low end of the sequence. Note that you cannot replace one wild card with another wild card (e.g. to force a wild 2 into becoming a natural card).

Burrachi

Any meld of seven or more cards is called a burraco. If a burraco has no wild cards, it is called a clean burraco. Otherwise, it is a dirty burraco. A clean burraco is worth more points at the end of the hand than a dirty one.

Traditionally, a burraco is indicated by turning the end card at right angles to the rest of the cards. Clean burrachi are denoted by turning a second card in addition to the first.

Taking a pozzetto

When a player runs completely out of cards, they are able to take one of the pozzetti from the center of the table. If they take the pozzetto in the middle of a turn (i.e. before they discard), they simply pick it up and continue on with their turn. When a player discards their last card instead, they take the pozzetto but keep it face down in front of them until their next turn. This is to keep them from passing any information about their holdings to their partner.

After one player has taken a pozzetto, the other one is reserved for their opponents. The first player of the opposing partnership to run out of cards takes that pozzetto. Once a partnership has taken care of their pozzetti, when either player runs out of cards, they must be able to close instead.

Ending the hand

A player can close, ending the hand, as long as the following conditions are met:

  • That partnership has already picked up their pozzetto. (It is not necessary for the player who took the pozzetto to be the one that goes out.)
  • That side has at least one burraco.
  • They end their final turn with a discard. That is, they cannot meld all of their cards without discarding.
  • The final discard cannot be a wild card.

The hand also ends automatically if the stock is drawn down to two cards. After the player who drew the third-from-last card completes their turn, game play stops.

One other way the hand can end is with a stalemate. This is when the discard pile only has one card in it, and each of the players takes a turn where they simply draw the preceding player’s discard. After four turns (a complete orbit) of this, the hand ends.

Scoring

After the hand ends for any reason, each partnership totals the values of the cards in their melds, then subtracts the values of the cards left in their hands. Card values are as follows:

  • Jokers: 30 points each.
  • 2s: 20 points each.
  • Aces: 15 points each.
  • Ks–8s: 10 points each.
  • 7s–3s: 5 points each.

Additionally, each partnership scores the following bonuses, if applicable:

  • Clean burrachi: 200 points each.
  • Dirty burrachi: 100 points each.
  • Closing: 100 points. If neither team actually closed (due to stock depletion or stalemate), neither gets this bonus.

If a partnership failed to pick up their pozzetto, they take a –100 point penalty. The only exception is if a player got their pozzetto but never got to look at it; in this case the pozzetto is treated like the player’s hand and scored appropriately.

Game play continues until one partnership exceeds a score of 2,000 points. Whichever team has the higher score at that point is the winner.

See also

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Conquian (Coon Can)

Conquian, also known as Coon Can, is a rummy game for two players. Conquian follows an open (face-up) melding style, and allows users to rearrange their melded cards. One unusual feature of the game is that players are not allowed to draw cards into the hand—any new cards the player gets must immediately be melded!

Conquian is one of the oldest rummy games in existence, and it is believed to be the common ancestor of the entire family of Western rummy games. It is believed to originate from Mexico, although it could share a common Phillipine heritage with Panguingue. The roots of the rummy family may trace even further back, to the Chinese game of Khanhoo.

Object of Conquian

The object of Conquian is to be the first player to lay down eleven cards in melds.

Setup

Conquian is played with the traditional 40-card Spanish deck. To get your hands on such a deck, just take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all the 10s, 9s, and 8s. You’ll be left with the aces, face cards, and 7s through 2s in each of the four suits.

Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player. Place the stub face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

The non-dealer plays first. They turn the first card of the stock face up. If they can form a valid meld with that card and two or more others from their hand, they can lay all the cards in the meld face-up in front of them as a group, then discard one card from the hand, placing it next to the stock to start the discard pile. Otherwise, they simply discard the card from the stock. The turn then passes to the dealer. They have the opportunity to use the discard to form a meld. If they can’t or don’t want to, they draw the next card from the stock and can meld it if possible, and so on.

Melding

There are two types of valid melds in Conquian. The first is the set or group, which is three or four cards of the same rank (e.g. 5-5-5). The second is the run or sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit (e.g. 3-4-5♦ or 7-J-Q♠). Note that a nine- or ten-card sequence would make it impossible to go out, so a player will usually avoid sequences of longer than eight cards if they can help it. For the purposes of runs, aces are always considered low, and 7s are considered consecutive with jacks.

A player can only lay a new meld down when they have access to a card from the center of the table that can be added to it. That is, unlike in most rummy games, a player can never lay down a fully-formed meld from the hand. Nor can a player lay down cards on their opponent’s melds—all cards must be played only to a player’s own melds.

Players may rearrange their melds on the table in order to meld new cards from the stock or discard. A player may, for instance, move a card from a set of 4s to extend an A-2-3 sequence. They could then extend it further with a matching 5 from the discard pile. All cards on the table must be part of valid melds with three or more cards after rearranging.

Forcing

A player is not required to accept a card from the stock or discard pile that they are able to meld. However, if a player notices their opponent passing up a melding opportunity, they can compel the opponent to take the card and meld it anyway. This is a surprisingly powerful move, since it can occasionally force a player to make a meld that makes it impossible to go out.

Ending the hand

Game play continues until one player has melded eleven cards, i.e. the ten from their hand plus one more from the center of the table on the last turn. If the stock is depleted before a player goes out, the hand is considered a draw.

 

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Play or Pay

Play or Pay is a simple game from the Stops family for three or more players. One player starts a sequence, and each player in turn must play the next higher card that continues it—or pay up!

Object of Play or Pay

The object of Play or Pay is to be the first player to run out of cards.

Setup

Play or Pay uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We accompany that statement with the familiar exhortation to give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips or some other convenient value-bearing token.

Discuss with your players whether or not actual money will be changing hands in the game. If so, sell the players the amount of chips they wish to purchase. Otherwise, distribute an equal number of chips to each player.

Shuffle and deal out the deck as far as it will go. Some players may receive more cards than others; this is perfectly fine.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left begins the first sequence, playing any card that they desire, face up in front of them. The next player to the left must then play the next-highest card of the same suit if they hold it. If they don’t, they pay one chip to the pot and play passes to the left. Eventually, one player will be able to play the card (since every card in the deck was dealt) and the next player after them will be required to play the next card in sequence. This continues on up to the king of that suit, which is followed by the ace, and then the 2.

The sequence ends when the card immediately below the card that started the sequence—that is, the thirteenth card of the suit—is played. Whichever player holds this card immediately plays a card of one of the other three suits to start a new sequence.

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand. Each of their opponents pays one chip to the pot for each card they hold in their hand. The winner then collects the entire pot, and the deal passes to the left for the next hand.

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Kowah

Kowah is a rummy-esque game for two to four players, from the Indonesian island of Java. In this game, players try to form their eight-card hands into triplets—but winning the game requires holding three cards of the same rank and suit!

Object of Kowah

The object of Kowah is to form a hand of a certain structure so that the player can make a declaration of checki. Then, the player must obtain a card of the same rank and suit as two others in their hand.

Setup

Kowah uses a highly unusual 120-card deck. To build such a deck, start with four decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. From each deck, remove the aces through 10s of clubs. From the other three suits, remove the 10s and face cards. You’ll be left with two 30-card decks consisting of A–9♠, A–9♦, A–9♥, and J-Q-K♣. Shuffle these four 30-card decks together to form the full 120-card deck.

Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They draw from the stock, then discard one card from their hand, placing it face-up next to the stock to form the discard pile. Upon discarding, the turn passes to the left. Thereafter, players may draw either the top card of the stock or the top card of the discard pile at the beginning of their turns.

Declaring checki

Players are trying to form a hand that meets either of these criteria:

  • Two threes-of-a-kind (suits do not matter) and a pair of the same rank and suit. For example, 5♠-5♥-5♦-7♥-7♠-7♦-A♦-A♦.
  • Three of a kind and a five-of-a-kind consisting of two pairs of the same rank and suit and one card of the same rank but a different suit. For example, 5♠-5♥-5♦-7♠-7♠-7♦-7♦-7♥.

Upon forming one of these hands, they declare checki, and place the pair of identical cards face up on the table in front of them. (For a checki of the second type, they may place either pair face up.) These cards are still considered part of the player’s hand.

When a player has declared checki

After player has declared checki, each time an opponent draws from the stock, they must reveal the card they have drawn. If it is a third card matching the same rank and suit as two in a checki player’s hand, they may claim that card. Likewise, if a player discards a card that would be the third card of the rank of suit a checki player needs, they may claim that card out of turn. As play continues, additional players may declare checki and are then able to claim cards out of turn the same way.

Game play continues until a checki player gets the third card they need. This player wins the game. If the stock is depleted before a player gets the card they need, the hand ends without a winner.

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