Nine-Card Don, often known as simply Don, is a game in the All Fours family. It is played with four players in partnerships.
The name Don most likely comes from Dom Pedro, an alternate name for Cinch. Dom Pedro was played in both the United States and Ireland, likely spreading from the latter country to Britain. Today, Nine-Card Don is played in Wales and northern England. A thirteen-card variant of Don is still played in Ireland.
Object of Nine-Card Don
The object of Nine-Card Don is to be the first partnership to reach a score of 121 points. Points are scored by collecting certain point-scoring cards in tricks.
Nine-Card Don is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Always choose Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards to make sure your cards are durable enough to last for game after game.
You also need some method of keeping score. Many players choose to keep score on a Cribbage board (see our article on Cribbage for more information on how to score using the Cribbage board). Twice around the Cribbage board equals the goal score of 121 points. If no Cribbage board is handy, you can keep score with pencil and paper or any other convenient method.
Determine partnerships through mutual agreement or by a random method such as high-card draw. Partners should sit opposite one another, with their opponents sitting in between. The turn of play should alternate partnerships as it progresses around the table.
The player to the dealer’s left is called the pitcher and is responsible for leading to the first trick. As being the pitcher is a fairly powerful position, the first pitcher should be determined randomly. Shuffle and have one person from each partnership draw a card. Whoever draws the higher card (aces are high) chooses the first pitcher, which will normally be themselves or their partner.
Shuffle and deal nine cards to each player. Set aside the remaining sixteen cards, which take no part in game play. The pitcher’s partner may not look at their hand until a card is led to the first trick. This custom prevents the partner from cheating by signaling what card they’d like the partner to play.
The pitcher leads to the first trick. The suit of this card becomes the trump suit. 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. The player winning the trick takes the cards and places them in a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them. The winner of the first trick then leads to the second one.
Scoring during the hand
As certain trumps are played to tricks, the partnership collecting them immediately scores for them. The point-scoring trumps are:
- 5: ten points.
- 9: nine points.
- Ace: four points.
- King: three points.
- Queen: two points.
- Jack: one point.
Additionally, any non-trump 5 captured scores five points for the partnership capturing it.
Scoring for game
When all nine tricks have been played, the hand is over. Now, the players need to determine who scores the points for game. Each team totals up the value of the cards in their won-tricks pile. Aces are worth four points apiece, kings are worth three, queens two, jacks one, and 10s are worth ten points each. No other cards have any value for game. The teams then compare their totals. Whichever team has the higher total scores eight points for game. If the two teams tie, neither team scores these points.
After the points for game have been scored, the deal passes to the left. The next dealer is the pitcher of the hand just concluded.
Ending the game
Play immediately ceases whenever one partnership reaches or exceeds a score of 121 or more points. That partnership wins the game.
Twenty-Nine is a game that is played in South Asia, predominately in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. A trick taking game for four players in partnerships, Twenty-Nine is unique in that the trump suit remains concealed from the time it’s decided to the first time it becomes relevant.
The game is one of a family of trick-taking games played throughout the Indian subcontinent where the jack and 9 are the two highest cards in each suit. Most likely, these are descendants of the European Jass family of games (which Klaberjass is a part of), which use the same card ranking. One of the Jass games was probably exported to the region by the Dutch, which in turn spawned the South Asian family of jack-9 games.
Object of Twenty-Nine
The object of Twenty-Nine is to be the first partnership to score six victory points. Teams score victory points by successfully fulfilling contracts, which is done by taking at least the number of card points bid.
Twenty-Nine is played with a 32-card deck. Starting with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 6s, leaving 7 through ace in each of the four suits.
The cards removed from the deck are traditionally used for scorekeeping and declaring trumps. Each side receives one black 6 and one red 6, which are used to indicate positive and negative points respectively. To indicate positive points, the red 6 is turned face-down and overlaps the black 6 in such a way that the number of pips visible equal the number of victory points the team has scored. Each player also receives one card of each suit for declaring which suit will be the trump suit.
The players divide into two partnerships, either by mutual agreement or through some random method. Partners should sit across from one another, such that each player’s opponents are sitting to their left and right.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table; it will be used after the bidding round.
As mentioned above, the two highest cards in each suit are the jack and 9. The 10 also ranks out of the typical order, raking above the king. The full rank of cards in Twenty-Nine is (high) J, 9, A, 10, K, Q, 8, 7 (low).
For the purposes of determining the value of tricks taken, the cards score as follows: jacks score three points, 9s score two, aces and 10s score one. The other cards do not have any value at all.
The astute reader will notice that there are seven card points in each suit, or 28 altogether. The name of the game Twenty-Nine, derives from the 28 card points plus one extra point that was formerly awarded for taking the last trick. Even though scoring this twenty-ninth point has fallen out of favor, the name Twenty-Nine has stuck.
Choosing the trump suit
Before actual game play begins, there is a bidding round where the players vie for the right to name the trump suit. The player to the dealer’s left bids first, naming any number of points between 15 and 28. This bid is a commitment for that player’s partnership to take at least that many points if they win the bidding. If a player doesn’t wish to bid, they may pass. The next player to the left may then either bid (higher than the first bid, if any) or pass. This continues on around the table until all players have passed but one. That player wins the bidding. If the first three players pass, the dealer is compelled to make a bid of fifteen, and bidding immediately ceases.
The high bidder selects one of the four suits to be the trump suit. To indicate this, they place one of the out-of-play cards of the corresponding suit face-down in the middle of the table. The high bidder and their partner become the declarers, while their opponents become the defenders. The winning bid becomes the declarers’ contract. The dealer then deals the remainder of the deck out, giving an additional four cards to each player.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick, with each player to the left playing in turn. Players must follow suit if able. Whoever plays the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. That player collects the cards played and puts them in a face-down won-tricks pile that they share with their partner.
The first time that a player is unable to follow suit, the high bidder must turn the card they used to declare trump face up for the other players to see. From this point forward, if one or more cards of the trump suit are played to a trick, the highest trump will take the trick. A player does not have to play a trump if they don’t want to.
The king and queen of trump is a special combination called the royals. If a player holds both of these cards, and the trump suit has been revealed, they may reveal the two cards immediately after their partnership wins a trick. If the declarers hold the royals, it reduces the value of their contract by four points. If they are shown by the defenders, it increases the declarers’ contract by four points. Note that both the king and queen must be in the player’s hand at the same time. If one or both of the cards have been played to a trick (most likely because trump hadn’t been revealed yet), they cannot be scored as the royals. The royals cannot reduce the contract below 15 points or increase it above 28.
The hand ends after the eighth trick has been played. The declarers count the number of points taken in tricks. If they successfully fulfilled their contract, they score one victory point. If they did not, they lose one victory point.
Truco is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Versions of it are widely played in many South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Chile. Each of these countries its own unique variant of the game. Truco is one of the most popular games in Brazil, where three different versions of it are played; one of these is the version listed below.
In comparison to most Western card games, a game of Truco is quite rowdy. Many things that would be considered outright cheating are explicitly allowed in Truco, and a game often devolves into raucous (but good-natured) shouting as players attempt to bluff and intimidate one another.
Object of Truco
The object of Truco is to be the first partnership to score twelve points by taking at least two of the three tricks in each hand.
Truco is played with a special 40-card stripped deck. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove the 8s, 9s, and 10s, leaving a deck of aces, face cards, and 7s through 2s in each of the four suits.
You will also need some method of scoring. Brazilian players traditionally score the game with large, bean-like seeds called tentos. You will need at least 22 beans if you wish to keep score with this method. The tentos are placed in a bowl in the center of the table. One partner removes one tento from the bowl for each point scored, keeping them visible on the table in front of them. You can also score the game with the tried-and-true pencil and paper if you wish.
Players divide into two partnerships and seat themselves so that partners sit across from one another. Usually, partnerships are decided by mutual agreement; if some players are inexperienced at the game, they are often paired with a player that has more experience. Partnerships may also be decided by high-card draw, if desired.
Prior to the first hand, each partnership may retreat to a location where the other team will not overhear them and devise a system of signals to use throughout the game. These signals can communicate anything that the players desire, including the overall strength of their hand, the cards they hold, what they want their partner to play, and so on. Nothing’s off limits! However, verbal discussion of what is in your hand is absolutely prohibited. You can only communicate this information by signals.
Truco has a very particular shuffling and dealing procedure. Only a single riffle shuffle is allowed—the wash and strip shuffle used in the casino shuffling method is not allowed. The player to the dealer’s left performs one to three cuts, although they are required to cut the cards into exactly two stacks. Scarne cuts and other cuts that produce more than two piles of cards are not permissible. The player cutting the cards may then request that the cards be dealt from either the top or the bottom of the deck.
The dealer then deals three cards, face down, to the player to their right, who is called the mão. This player has the option to keep the cards, pass them to their partner, or reject them altogether. What happens next:
- If the mão chooses to keep the cards, the dealer deals three cards to the dealer’s partner, then the mão’s partner, and finally themselves.
- If the mão chooses to pass the cards to their partner, they are dealt another hand of three cards, which they may either keep or reject. The mão may not pass any more cards once their partner has a hand.
- If the mão rejects the cards, they are turned face up and will remain out of play for the remainder of the hand. They then receive another three-card hand, which they may keep, reject, or pass to their partner. The mão may not reject more than three potential hands per deal.
After the deal is complete, the dealer sets the deck stub aside, and it takes no further part in game play.
Truco uses a very unconventional card ranking. 3s, 2s, and aces rank higher than the face cards, and one card of each suit is elevated to rank even higher than the remainder of the pack. The cards rank as follows: (high) 4♣, 7♥, A♠, 7♦, 3, 2, A, K, J, Q, 7, 6, 5, 4 (low).
Play of the hand
The mão leads to the first trick. The next player to the right plays the next card, and so on until all four players have played. Whoever played the highest card, irrespective of suit takes the trick. Players can play any card they wish; there is no requirement to follow suit or play higher than the other cards in the trick.
In the second or third tricks, a player may play their card face down if desired. Face-down cards are unable to win the trick and essentially discarded. This option is not available on the first trick of the hand.
The winner of a trick takes the four cards played to it and puts it face-down on their partnership’s won-tricks pile. They then lead to the next trick.
If two players on the same time tie for high card, that partnership wins the trick, and whichever of the two players played first is entitled to lead to the next trick. If two players on opposing teams tie for high card, the trick belongs to no one. When a trick is tied, whichever team won the first trick that hand is the winner of the entire hand. If it is necessary to play another trick to determine the hand, whichever of the tying players played first gets to lead to the next trick.
The hand ends after the three tricks are complete or the outcome of the hand has been determined. Whichever team wins the hand takes one tento.
Raising the stakes
Any player may call “truco” prior to winning a trick in order to raise the stakes for the current hand to three tentos. This player, the trucador, must then wait for their opponents to respond to the truco before playing a card. The opponents have three options:
- Run away. The opposing team rejects the raised stakes. The trucador’s team immediately wins the hand for one tento.
- Accept. The opposing team accepts a stake of three tentos.
- Raise (retruco). The opposing team wishes to raise the stake further, to six tentos. The trucador’s team then has the option to run away, accept the six-tento stake, or reraise to nine tentos. If they propose a stake of nine tentos, the opponents may then reraise to queda, i.e. a stake of twelve tentos, the amount necessary to win the entire game.
Either of the trucador’s opponents may give the answer to the truco, but whichever one speaks first is binding. The opponents may consult with each other verbally and/or through signals before giving a final answer.
You are not allowed to raise the stakes beyond that which would be required to win the game. If you have a score of six, you can truco (raising the stakes to three tentos, which would give you a score of nine if you won). If your opponent retrucos, raising to six, accepting this and winning would give you a score of twelve, enough to win the game. Therefore, you cannot raise again to nine, since accepting the six-tento stake is enough for the win.
If a truco is accepted, the trucador and any players after them play to the trick. Whichever team wins the trick wins the hand at the stake agreed upon.
A team gains one tento if their opponents violate any of the following rules:
- Shuffling, cutting, or dealing against the procedure described above.
- The mão attempts to reject cards when not allowed to do so.
- Disclosing the content of one’s hand, either by discussing it verbally or by showing cards. (Signals are okay.)
- Raising the stakes beyond the amount needed to win the game.
You cannot score your twelfth tento as a result of your opponents breaking the rules. Instead, they lose one tento and you remain at a score of eleven.
A score of eleven
When a team reaches a score of eleven, one less than needed to win the game, special rules apply to them. First, the dealer simply deals a hand of three cards to each player, and the mão is no longer permitted to pass or reject cards. Before actual game play starts, the players on the leading team pass their hands to one another, briefly look at them, and return them to their owners. They then have the option to run away (end the hand) at a cost of one tento, or play the game for a stake of three tentos. If they play the hand, neither team is allowed to truco. If the leading team wins this hand, they win the game.
Should both teams reach a score of eleven, an iron hand is played. The game considers teams in this situation to have only gotten there due to luck, since they apparently cannot pull off an indisputable win. The dealer deals three-card hands to each player, and they cannot look at their cards. The hand is played by turning cards up, one at a time, and awarding the tricks as appropriate. Therefore, the iron hand is determined entirely by luck. If an iron hand results in a tie, additional iron hands are played until the outcome of the game is determined.
Briscola (pronounced with all long vowels, like breeze-cola) is a simple Italian trick-taking game for two to four players. When four play the game, they play as two-player partnerships; in two- and three player games, each player plays for themselves.
Object of Briscola
The object of Briscola is to take tricks containing the most point-scoring cards as possible.
The composition of the deck in Briscola depends on the number of people playing. The two- or four-player game uses the same 40-card Italian pack used in Scopa. To prepare such a deck, take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove the 10s through 8s, leaving ace through jack and 7 through 2 in each of the four suits. The three-player game uses a 39-card deck, prepared the same way, but removing one of the 2s (which one doesn’t matter, but it should be communicated to all of the players).
You’ll also need something to keep score with. Scoring is not too complicated in this game (at the most you’ll be playing three hands), so while pencil and paper will work, you can also use a smartphone application, a small dry-erase board, or even memory if you trust everyone not to fudge the numbers.
In the four-player game, the players should either mutually agree to partnerships, or else draw cards from a shuffled deck to determine who is on which partnership (the two players drawing higher cards play against the two drawing lower cards). Partners should sit opposite one another, such that when proceeding around the table, each player is from alternating partnerships.
Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Turn up the next card of the deck. This card, the upcard, fixes the trump suit for the hand. Place the deck stub in the center of the table; it will form the stock.
Briscola uses an idiosyncratic card ranking, elevating the 3 to the second-highest card, just below the ace. All other cards rank in their usual order. Therefore, the full card ranking is (high) A, 3, K, Q, J, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2 (low).
The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. Each player, proceeding around the table to the left, then plays one of their cards to the trick. There is no obligation to follow suit; a player may play any card they please. The player who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led, if there is no trump, wins the trick. That player adds it to a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them (in the four-player game, partnerships share a common won-tricks pile). There is no need to keep the tricks separated in the pile.
After each trick, the players each draw a card, starting with the player who won the trick, then proceeding clockwise. The player that won the trick then leads to the next one.
After the stock has been depleted, the next and final player to draw takes the upcard. In the four-player game, the players now briefly exchange hands with their partner, look at their partner’s last three cards, then switch back. Then, the last three tricks are played as usual.
When all of the tricks have been played, the hand is scored. Players turn up their won-trick piles and total up the number of points found in it according to the following list:
- Aces: eleven points.
- 3s: ten points.
- Kings: four points.
- Queens: three points.
- Jacks: two points.
- 7s–2s: zero points.
In the two- and four-player games, one more hand is played, with the deal passing to the left (to the first hand’s non-dealer in the two-player game). In the three-player game, each player deals one hand, for a total of three hands. Whichever player or partnership scored the most points across all of the hands is the winner (in the event of a tie, the winner of a tie-breaker hand wins the game).
Pepper is a trick-taking game similar to Euchre, played in Ohio and Iowa. Though it’s quite a bit simpler and easier to learn than Euchre, it still provides ample opportunity for the use of cunning strategy. Pepper is best as a four-player partnership game, though variants for two and three players exist.
Object of Pepper
The object of Pepper is to accurately predict the number of tricks that you will capture in a hand if allowed to select the trump suit, or to stop your opponents from capturing the number of tricks they need.
Pepper is played with a stripped 24-card deck. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 2s through 8s, leaving you with 9s through aces (six cards) in each of the four suits. You will also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player.
Rank of cards
Pepper uses an unusual ranking of cards, although it will be familiar to those who have played Euchre or Five Hundred. In non-trump suits, cards rank in the conventional order, i.e., from highest to lowest: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9.
In the trump suit, however, the cards rank differently. The jack of the trump suit is called the right bower, and the jack of the same color of the trump suit is called the left bower. (For example, if the trump suit were diamonds, the J♦ would be the right bower and the J♥ would be the left bower.) Both are considered part of the trump suit, ranking above all other cards in that suit. The complete rank of cards in the trump suit, then, is right bower (J), left bower, K, Q, 10, 9.
Each hand begins with the bid, where the players compete for the right to choose the trump suit. The available bids are the numbers one through five, signifying an intent for their partnership to collect one to five tricks respectively, and bids of little pepper and big pepper, which are both bids to collect all six tricks. A bid of big pepper, which is higher than little pepper, essentially doubles the potential risk or reward to the partnership.
Bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer, who may make any of the bids described above, or pass. Each bid must be higher than the bids preceding it. Bidding continues until there are three consecutive passes. The high bid becomes the contract for that player’s partnership. The high bidder’s partnership becomes the declarers, and the opposing side the defenders. The high bidder may name any of the four suits as trump, or declare there will be no trump for that hand.
Play of the hand
The high bidder leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if able; if not, they may play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump was played to that trick, in which case the highest trump takes the trick.
Captured tricks are not added to the hand. Instead, all of the tricks a partnership takes are kept in a combined pile in front of one of the partners. To speed scoring at the end of the hand, it’s a good idea to keep the tricks separate somehow, like by turning each trick at right angles to the previous one before putting it on the pile.
After all six tricks have been played, the hand is scored. If the declarers made their contract (i.e. they captured the number of tricks bid or more), they score one point for each trick taken by the partnership. If they failed to make the contract, they lose six points, regardless of the amount of the contract. If the high bid was big pepper, the partnership scores twelve points for taking all six tricks and loses twelve if they did not. The defenders score one point for each trick taken.
Game play continues until one partnership scores 30 points or more. Whichever partnership has the higher score at that point is the winner. If the score is tied, the game ends as a draw.
Variants for two and three players
Pepper can also be played with two or three players without partnerships. In both cases, three eight-card hands are dealt; in the two-handed variant, one of these is discarded unused. Bids in this version go up to seven, with the pepper bids representing an intent to take all eight tricks.
Continuing our series of posts about games named after numbers (in the tradition of 13, 21, 31, and 99), now we have Twenty-Eight. Twenty-Eight, named after the number of points available in the game, is a four-player partnership game played with a stripped deck of only 32 cards.
Object of Twenty-Eight
The object of Twenty-Eight is to be the first partnership to score ten victory points by collecting jacks, 9s, aces, and 10s.
Twenty-Eight is played with a special 32-card deck. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 6s through 2s from the deck, leaving the 7s through 10s, the face cards, and the aces in each deck.
Twenty-Eight is a game for four players. The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.
Additionally, score is kept in Twenty-Eight, so you’ll need some way of keeping track of that. Most people will use pencil and paper, but there’s no reason you can’t do something like use the faces of a ten-sided die to keep score if you have one handy.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The remainder of the deck is set aside for the time being.
Not only does Twenty-Eight use a 32-card deck, but the cards in that deck rank differently than in most other games. Jacks and 9s are placed higher than their conventional place in the ranking, giving us a ranking of J, 9, A, K, Q, 10, 8, 7. Suits are all equally important at this stage in the game.
After the cards have been dealt, bidding for the right to fix the trump suit begins. The player to the dealer’s right bids first, bidding any amount from 14 to 28, signifying the trick score that their partnership will collect on that hand. This player does not have the right to pass, although all subsequent players do. The next bid is then placed by next player to the right, and so on until three players have passed in succession. If the currently-active bid is your partners, you must bid at least 20 to overcall their bid. The final bid forms the contract for that partnership, which become the declarers, while the other partnership becomes the defenders.
Once the right to choose trump has been decided, the player with that privilege takes one card of the desired trump suit and places it face down on the table in front of them (although it is still considered part of their hand), keeping the suit secret from the other three players. At least initially, the trump suit will not be known by the other three players, and therefore will have no effect in the game. Once this is done, the dealer will deal four more cards to each player, giving each player a total of eight cards.
The player to the dealer’s right leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit, if able; the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The player who selected trump may not lead a trick with the trump suit unless they have no other option, and they may not use the face-down trump card in a trick. Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile face down in front of one of the partners. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.
If a player is unable to follow suit, they call for the trump suit to be revealed, after which the face-down card is added to the bidder’s hand and can be played at any time. After this has occurred, any player who is unable to follow suit must play a trump if able; otherwise, they may play any card. A trump may only be played when a player cannot follow suit. When a trump has been played to a trick, the highest trump wins the trick, rather than the highest card of the suit led. If the trump suit was never revealed, the player who chose trump reveals the face-down card and plays it to the eighth trick.
After all eight tricks have been played, the declarers’ trick score is calculated from the cards captured in tricks:
- Jacks: three points
- 9s: two points
- Aces and 10s: one point
The declarers then score victory points as follows, depending on their bid:
Game play continues until one partnership has reached a score of ten victory points. The partnership with the highest score at that point is the winner.
Trex, also known as Trix, is a game for four players which is popular in the Middle East. Unusually, Trex has five different sets of game rules that could be in force for any given hand, so it could be considered to really be five games in one.
Object of Trex
The object of Trex is to accurately judge your hand to select the most favorable set of rules to play it under (when able), thereby scoring the most points.
Trex uses the standard 52-card deck. Naturally, we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, but I guess if you wanted to play with something else, you could…we’d be so disappointed, though….
You also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper is the traditional route, but if you’re more comfortable using a chalkboard, a dry erase board, an abacus, or your phone, we’re pretty flexible around here.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. The player who is dealt the 7♥ exposes it, and is said to own the kingdom for the first five hands.
Upon receiving their hand, the player who owns the kingdom selects any of the five games listed below for the hand about to commence. Once this is done, the hand is played out and scored. The next hand is then dealt by the player who owns the kingdom, and they select any of the four games that weren’t already chosen. This continues until the player has played all five games, and then the kingdom passes to the player to their right, who also deals all five games in whatever order they see fit, and so on until all four players have owned the kingdom, meaning twenty hands have been dealt.
All of the games except Trex follow a trick-taking format. The dealer leads to the first trick; thereafter, each trick is led by the winner of the previous one, with play proceeding to the left. Players must follow suit if able; otherwise, they may play any card. The winner of each trick is the player who plays the highest card of the suit led. Won tricks are not taken into the hand, but placed in a discard pile in front of the player, with any cards affecting the score extracted and placed face-up to allow players to keep track of what cards have been taken by whom (except in Eltoosh).
Each diamond captured by the player scores +10 points.
Each trick won by the player scores –15 points. Tricks are kept in a face-down discard pile, with each trick laid at a right angle to the previous, allowing for easy counting at the end of the hand.
Each queen captured by the player scores –25 points. A player holding a queen may elect to double it by exposing it before the first trick is played. In so doing, the penalty for capturing this particular queen is increased to –50 points, and the holder of the queen scores +25 points. If the player holding the doubled queen is the one that captures it, they score –50 and the player that led the trick scores +25 points.
King of Hearts
The K♥ scores –75 points when captured by a player. Hearts may not be led to a trick unless the player has no other option.
The player holding the K♥ may double it, as in Girls, by exposing it prior to the first trick. The penalty for capturing the K♥ is increased to –150, and the holder of the king scores +75. If the player captures their own king, they score –150 and the player that led the trick scores +75.
Trex is, unlike the other four contracts, a Stops game, closely resembling Fan Tan. Upon receiving their hands, any player holding all four 2s, or three 2s and a 3 of the fourth suit, may expose these cards, and the hand is abandoned. The player who owns the kingdom is not necessarily required to choose Trex as the game on the redealt hand, so long as other options remain available.
The dealer plays first, with play continuing to the left. If a player is unable to legally play a card, they simply pass, but if they are able to make at least one play, they are compelled to do so. Play starts with the jacks; they are placed in the center of the table in a vertical row. Further cards may be played to these jacks, so long as they are the same suit and one rank higher or one rank lower than any cards previously played to them. In this manner, each jack is built up to the ace (which is high) and down to the two.
Solo Whist is a trick-taking game for four players. Whereas Whist is a strategic partnership game, Solo Whist provides a more relaxed, accessible, non-partnership alternative.
Solo Whist gained popularity as a Whist alternative in the late 19th century. Solo Whist was particularly popular on the commuter rail of the era, where its structure made it possible for travelers to easily join and drop out of the game as they boarded or departed the train.
Although Solo Whist is sometimes just called Solo, there is another game by that name: Solo (Ombre), which derives from the French game Manille, rather than Whist.
Object of Solo Whist
The object of Solo Whist is to successfully estimate the strength of one’s hand and accurately place a bid for the hand. If one doesn’t successfully win the bidding, the object is to stop the winner from completing the bid.
Solo Whist is played with a standard 52-card deck. While you could use any manner of 52-card deck out there, if you want a deck that’s durable enough to last through any game, always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Solo traditionally handles scoring through counters of some form, such as poker chips. If the players desire, each counter can be purchased in an initial buy-in and represent some amount of real money. Otherwise, the counters can serve as valueless MacGuffins. Score can also be kept with pencil and paper.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player in sets of three, with the thirteenth card being dealt by itself. The dealer’s thirteenth card, the last card in the deck, is turned face-up. The suit of this card is considered the default suit for this hand.
Each hand begins with a bidding round, with the player to the dealer’s left opening the bidding. Players may make any of the following bids, from lowest to highest:
- Prop (1 credit): Player makes a proposal to join in a temporary alliance with any other player in an attempt to capture eight tricks. So long as no higher bid has been made, any other player may respond with “Cop”, accepting the proposal and joining the alliance, should the bid not be overcalled. The default suit becomes trump.
- Solo (1 credit): The player will win five tricks, playing alone. The default suit becomes trump.
- Misère (2 credits): The player will lose all thirteen tricks, playing alone. There is no trump.
- Abundance (3 credits): The player will win nine tricks, playing alone. If the bid is successful, the player will name any suit desired as trump.
- Abundance in Trump (3 credits): The same as an abundance, but using the default suit as trump.
- Misère Ouverte (4 credits): The same as a misère, but the player must play with their hand exposed after the first trick.
- Slam (6 credits): The player will win all thirteen tricks, playing alone. There is no trump, and the player leads to the first trick.
A bid may only be overcalled by a higher bid. Players may also elect to pass; upon passing, a player cannot rejoin in the bidding for this hand. (There is one exception: if the player to the dealer’s left passes, the next player bids Prop, and the remaining players pass, the player to the left of the dealer has the option to call “Cop”.) Bidding continues as long as necessary: until there has been both a Prop and a Cop, or any higher bid, and all other players pass.
If all four players pass, the hand is abandoned and a new hand is dealt by the same dealer. If a player bids Prop and no other player accepts the bid by calling “Cop,” the bidder has the option to change their bid to any higher bid. If they decline, the deal is abandoned.
The successful bidder or bidders become the declarer(s), and the other players become the defenders. The defenders’ goal is to prevent the declarers from fulfilling their contract.
Play of the hand
After bidding concludes, the dealer takes their thirteenth card into their hand, and the player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick, unless the bid was slam, in which case the declarer leads. Players must follow suit unless they are unable, in which case they may play any card, including a trump. Tricks are won by the player who played the highest card of the suit led, or if the trick contains a trump, the highest trump. Collected tricks are not added to the player’s hand, but are placed face-down in a won-tricks pile in front of the player, with succeeding tricks placed at right angles to one another to allow them to be counted later. (If the contract is Prop, the declarers may stack their tricks in a single pile in front of one of the partners, rather than maintaining separate stacks).
After the first trick is concluded, but before the second trick begins, the declarer must spread their hand face-up if the contract is Misère Ouverte.
When all thirteen tricks have been played out, the declarer counts their tricks to determine whether the contract was made or broken. If it was made, all defenders pay the declarer the amount of their contract (for a made Prop bid, a defender must pay one credit each to both of the declarers). If the declarer(s) failed, they must pay the amount of their contract to each defender. (If keeping score with pencil and paper, simply score the amount of the contract under each declarer if successful or under each defender if not successful.)
Contract Bridge is the game most people are referring to when they just say “Bridge”. It’s a classic game for four players in partnerships. Contract Bridge is the king of the trick-taking games. Most of the successful games of that family that have succeeded after Contract Bridge came to the fore bear some resemblance to it. In particular, those who have played Spades will find picking up Contract Bridge to be relatively straightforward.
Contract Bridge was one of the most popular games of the 20th century. Though it first appeared in 1920, many date the game’s “birth” to November 1, 1925, when yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt perfected it. One of the game’s strong suits is that it lends itself equally to social play for fun, but also for strategic, analytical play—so much has been written about Contract Bridge theory, one could scarcely hope to digest it all. The only other card game that is as prolific in terms of works written about it is the many variants of Poker.
Object of Contract Bridge
The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.
Scorekeeping is traditionally done on pencil and paper by one player from each partnership, with both scorekeepers logging the scores of both sides to keep each other honest. The score sheet is divided vertically, with headings of “WE” and “THEY” (referring to the two partnerships), as well as horizontally, resulting in a sheet divided into four quadrants. Preprinted bridge score pads are available for purchase.
Bridge is usually played with two decks of cards with contrasting backs, like those offered in a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. While one deck is being dealt, the next dealer shuffles the unused deck so that it’s ready for the next hand, thus saving time.
Deal thirteen cards to each player, one at a time.
Bidding begins with the dealer. Bids consist of a number, representing the number of odd tricks (tricks in excess of six) the partnership will collect during the course of the hand, and either a suit to become trump for the upcoming hand or “no trump”. From lowest to highest, the suits rank clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, no trump. Therefore, the lowest bid is 1♣, which would be overcalled by a bid of 1♦, and so on up to 1♠, then 1NT, which would be overcalled by 2♣.
Rather than overcalling an opponent’s bid, a player may instead double it. This allows the last bid to stand, but doubles the risk of breaking and the reward of fulfilling the contract. The responsibility for fulfilling the contract remains with the partnership that originally made the doubled bid. A player will generally double when they are confident the proposed contract cannot be successfully completed. Any bid doubled by an opponent can be redoubled, which again doubles the risk and reward of accepting the contract.
Players who do not wish to make a bid may pass. Whenever three consecutive players pass, bidding is closed, and the last bid becomes the contract. The winning bidder becomes the declarer, their partner the dummy, and the other partnership the defenders.
Play of the hand
The defender to the declarer’s left leads to the first trick. As soon as this opening lead is made, the dummy reveals their hand, spreading it face-up, grouped in vertical columns by suit. The dummy takes no further part in game play; instead, when it is the dummy’s turn to act, the declarer plays a card from the dummy hand.
Players must follow suit if possible. If a player is unable to follow suit, they may play any card. The highest played card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump was played, in which case the highest trump wins. Aces are high.
Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile face down in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of 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. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.
After the thirteenth trick has been played, both sides count the number of tricks collected and tally the trick score for that hand. Trick scores are entered under the horizontal rule dividing the sheet.
If the declarer succeeded at making the contract, the scores are as follows:
- Trump was clubs or diamonds—20 for each odd trick bid
- Trump was hearts or spades—30 for each odd trick bid
- No trump—40 for the first odd trick bid, plus 30 for each additional odd trick bid
Multiply these values by 2 if the contract was doubled, or by 4 if it was redoubled. Therefore, a successful bid of 2♠ would score 30×2=60, a successful bid of 3♦ doubled would score 20×3×2=120, and so on.
If the contract was not fulfilled, the declarer scores zero, and the opponents score a premium (see below).
Whenever one side reaches 100 points, the game is concluded. The winner of the game is now said to be vulnerable, which affects the scoring of some premiums, as described below. A horizontal line is drawn across the score sheet to separate games. Trick scores then reset to zero—points from the first game are not carried over to the next—and the next game begins. When a side wins two games, a rubber is concluded. At the end of a rubber, trick scores are added to all of the premiums accrued during the game, and the partnership with the most points wins the rubber.
All premium scores are entered above the line. Premium scores do not affect when games end and are not tallied until the end of a rubber.
The following premiums are scored for overtricks (odd tricks taken in excess of the contract):
- If the contract was not doubled or redoubled—the trick value, as would be scored below the line (described above)
- If the contract was doubled—100 if not vulnerable or 200 if vulnerable
- If the contract was redoubled—200 if not vulnerable or 400 if vulnerable
A partnership is also eligible for premiums based on the number of honors held in one hand. The five honors are the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of trump, or the four aces in a hand played with no trump. Honor bonuses are not affected by doubling/redoubling or vulnerability.
- Four honors in one hand (trump contract)—100
- All five honors in one hand (trump contract)—150
- All four aces in one hand (no-trump contract)—150
If the declarer does not make contract, the defenders score a premium depending on how many tricks below contract—called undertricks—the declarer collected:
|Defenders not vulnerable|
Other available premiums:
- Collecting 12 tricks, called a small slam—500 if not vulnerable, 750 if vulnerable (not affected by doubling/redoubling)
- Collecting all 13 tricks, called a grand slam—1000 if not vulnerable, 1500 if vulnerable (not affected by doubling/redoubling)
- Fulfilling a doubled contract—50
- Fulfilling a redoubled contract—100
Finally, after a rubber has been completed and the score has been tallied, the winner of the rubber scores points based on how many total games were played before they won the rubber:
- Win in two games (opponents shut out)—700
- Win in three games (opponents won one game)—500
Whist is a classic trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. While it’s nowhere near as popular as it was in the past, it still offers players the opportunity for strategic—some would say scientific—play. It serves as an excellent introduction to trick-taking games in general, and Contract Bridge specifically.
Whist is an extremely old game, dating back to the 1600s. It derives from an even older game called Ruff and Honors. Whist received a boost in popularity from a 1742 publication called A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist, written by a gentleman named Edmond Hoyle. Despite the high price of one guinea for what amounted to little more than a pamphlet, the work sold out. Hoyle followed up on A Short Treatise on Whist with another publication, An Artificial Memory for Whist. That work, along with other essays on games such as Piquet, Brag, Quadrille, Chess, and Backgammon, helped establish Hoyle as an authority on games, to the point that “according to Hoyle” became general English slang. A Short Treatise on Whist remained the canonical governing document of Whist until 1864.
As for Whist, it remained popular into the early twentieth century. It is the direct parent of Bridge Whist, which gave rise to Bridge and then Contract Bridge, the dominant social game of the twentieth century. Contract Bridge went on to influence countless other games, such as Spades.
Object of Whist
The object of Whist is to score points by taking the most tricks possible.
Whist uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To make sure your cards stand up to hours and hours of play, always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
You will also need some manner of score-keeping apparatus. This could range from the humble pencil and paper to something more extravagant, like bins filled with rubies, diamonds, and emeralds representing each trick won by a side. Actually, don’t use the latter as your score-keeping method. It’s super tacky, and might make your friends suspect that you are part of some kind of illegal smuggling operation, tempting them to call the FBI tip hotline after the game if you win.
The players divide into two partnerships. Any convenient method can be used to do this, such as high-card draw, or simply mutual agreement. Partners sit across from one another, so that the turn of play alternates between partnerships when going clockwise.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. The final card of the deck, the dealer’s thirteenth card, is exposed. This card’s suit becomes the trump suit for the hand. This final card remains face-up on the table until the dealer’s first play of the hand. At that point, the dealer picks it up and adds it to their hand.
The player to the left of the dealer leads first. Each player to the left then plays a card. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. Otherwise, they are free to play any card, including a trump. The person who played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump is present, in which case whoever played the highest trump wins.
Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles to the previous one, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.
After all thirteen tricks have been played, the hand is scored by counting the number of tricks scored by each partnership. Each trick in excess of six counts for one point.
Game play continues until one partnership reaches a pre-defined number of points, such as 25. That team wins the game.