Backhand is a spinoff of Blackjack that removes one key element from the game—the ability to stand! In Backhand, the goal is not to be the closest to 21 without going over, as it is in Blackjack. Instead, the player must keep taking cards until they’re sure the next one is going to make them bust. If they’re right, only then do they win the hand!
Backhand was created by Louis Ginns in 2016 as a way of practicing Blackjack strategy. Ginns found himself focusing on guessing whether or not the next card to come was going to cause a bust, and soon abandoned Blackjack altogether in favor of developing a whole new game around this concept of predicting when a bust was going to happen. Ginns has since created an entire series of games based on the Backhand concept, introducing elements such as head-to-head play against a house dealer or another player.
Object of Backhand
The object of Backhand is to accurately predict when the next card to be dealt will send the value of the player’s hand over 21.
Backhand is played with one or more decks of playing cards, such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. One deck of cards is required for every two players in the game, so a three-player game would require two decks, a five-player game would require three decks, and so on.
Backhand can be played as either a betting game or simply to be the first to win a certain number of hands (or score a certain number of wins within a given number of hands). Ginns has also created a number of additional scoring systems to provide players with different challenges. If playing with betting, you’ll need something to bet with, like poker chips, and also to agree on maximum and minimum bets. Otherwise, you’ll need some way of keeping track of the number of hands each player has won. Pencil and paper works well for this purpose.
Players place the amount of their wagers in front of them (if playing with betting). Shuffle and deal two cards, face up, to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Before a player has the chance to act on their hand, any aces are discarded from the hand and replaced with a card from the stock. Aces are only discarded from the initial two cards dealt to the player; if an ace is dealt as a replacement card for a discarded ace, the newly dealt ace is retained. Players then evaluate the value of their hand. Aces are worth one point, face cards are worth ten, and all other cards their pip value.
The players act on their hands one at a time, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. When a player wins or loses their hand, their bet (if playing with them) is paid out at even money or collected by the dealer, respectively. Action then passes to the next player to the left.
Hits and backhands
If a player’s hand is valued at 11 or less, the player is dealt additional cards until they arrive at a score of 12 or higher. When a player has a score above 12, they may choose to hit or call backhand. Players choosing to hit receive one additional card. If the player’s new total exceeds 21, then they have busted, and the player loses. If the new total is 21 or less, the player has the option to hit again or call backhand, as before. Should a player hit to five cards without busting, they win the hand.
When a player calls backhand, one card is dealt face-up, but not added to the hand. (This card is not counted toward a possible five-card hand.) If this card would have made the player’s score higher than 21, the player wins the hand. Otherwise, the player loses.
Special rules apply to hands with a score of 17 through 20 on the first two cards (after any aces have been replaced). These hands are called push hands. In this situation, a player cannot immediately call backhand. Instead, they have the option to either hit or push the hand away. (This is not to be confused with the meaning of push in Blackjack, which is to tie.) If the player chooses the latter, the hand is discarded and two new cards are dealt. Any aces are replaced, as usual, and the hand proceeds as before. If the player is dealt another hand with a value between 17 and 20, they may push again, if desired.
A player may also choose to play the push, rather than push the hand. When playing the push, the player receives one additional card, as if hitting. If their combined total with this card remains at 21 or below, they win the hand. If they bust with this card, they lose the hand, as usual.
Triple Draw Lowball (often called just Triple Draw) is a form of lowball poker for two to six players. It’s a fairly simple game, especially if you’re familiar with Five-Card Draw or other Draw Poker variants. However, having four chances to bet instead of one makes Triple Draw an exciting, competitive game with large pots and lots of betting action. Triple Draw has become popular in Las Vegas casinos, being included in many high-limit mixed game rotations.
Object of Triple Draw Lowball
The object of Triple Draw Lowball is to form the lowest-ranking poker hand after drawing new cards up to three times.
Triple Draw uses the same standard 52-card deck as most other poker games. We suggest that you give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try if you haven’t yet. You’ll also need something to bet with, probably poker chips. The game is typically played with fixed limits (see “Betting in poker“), so all players should agree to what the limits will be.
Upon receiving their cards, players evaluate the strength of their hand. Triple Draw is most frequently played with deuce-to-seven lowball rules. In this version of lowball, straights and flushes are taken into consideration when ranking hands, and aces count high. That means the lowest possible hand is 2-3-4-5-7 (because 2-3-4-5-6 forms a straight). The first betting round then begins, with the player to the left of the big blind (the player under the gun) starting the betting. Betting follows the typical rules of betting in poker.
After the first round of betting is resolved, the first draw occurs, starting with the player to the left of the dealer (the small blind). This player discards any number of cards, from zero to five, face down in front of them. The dealer then deals them the appropriate number of replacement cards from the stub. This continues, clockwise, until all active players have had a chance to swap cards. The dealer then collects the discards and sets them aside.
When the first draw finishes, the second betting round begins, starting this time with the small blind player. This is followed by a second draw (conducted the same way as the first), then the third betting round, then the third draw, then the fourth and final betting round. Betting limits are typically doubled on the third and fourth betting rounds. If there are at least two active players left at the end of the fourth betting round, they reveal their hands. Whoever has the lowest-ranked poker hand wins the pot.
Razz is a form of seven-card stud poker, typically played as a lowball poker game. It can support from two to eight players. While nowhere near as popular as the more well-known poker games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, Razz has nevertheless been an enduring staple of high-level poker play. It was one of the games played at the second World Series of Poker in 1971. A Razz event has been held as part of the WSOP every year since 1973. Razz is the “R” in the frequently-used “HORSE” progression of poker games.
Object of Razz
The object of Razz is to win money by convincing the other players that you possess the best ace-to-five lowball hand. That is, you want the lowest-ranking hand according to the usual rank of poker hands, with straights and flushes disregarded.
Like most poker games, all you need to play Razz is a 52-card deck of playing cards and something to bet with. For the cards, you owe it to yourself to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Most people use poker chips as their betting instrument. We’ve seen other things used, but can get really strange in a hurry. You’ll need to establish betting limits, as well. Razz is typically played as a limit poker game, so make sure you establish what the limits are before playing.
All players ante. Shuffle and deal two cards face down to each player, then one card face up. This face-up card is referred to as the door card.
The player with the highest (and therefore worst) door card goes first. In cases where multiple players hold a card of the highest rank present, ties are broken by suit. Suits rank in the order (high) spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs (low). This player is required to make a mandatory bet called a bring-in bet. This is a blind bet equal to half of a normal bet. However, if the player wishes, they may “complete the bet” by making a full bet rather than a bring-in bet. After this first player, betting proceeds according to the normal rules for betting in poker.
After the first betting round concludes, all remaining players are dealt another face-up card. Whichever player is showing the lowest (and therefore best) hand leads off another round of betting. A fifth card is then dealt to each active player, again face up. At this point, the betting limit doubles (and remains doubled for the rest of the hand) for the ensuing betting round, which is again kicked off by the player showing the best hand. This process repeats for the sixth card.
The seventh and final card is dealt face down to each player. Occasionally, because a large percentage of the players stayed in the hand, there won’t be enough cards to go around. In this case, simply deal one card, face up, in the center of the table. This card serves as a “community card”—the seventh card of every player’s hand.
After the final betting round, any players still remaining in the game reveal their cards. Whoever has the best ace-to-five lowball hand takes the pot.
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.
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.
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.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em, often abbreviated as UTH, is an adaptation of Texas Hold’em to the player-versus-the-house format of casino table games. Two to eight people (including the dealer) can play. Introduced during the height of the 2000s poker craze, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a more approachable game for players that may be intimidated by the more confrontational style of betting found in traditional poker games.
Like Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a proprietary game owned and licensed by Scientific Games. UTH was originally developed by Roger Snow of ShuffleMaster, a manufacturer of card shuffling equipment. As with Three Card Poker, ShuffleMaster created specialized shuffling and dealing machines customized for UTH. ShuffleMaster was later acquired by Bally Technologies, which was later purchased by Scientific Games.
As with Three Card Poker, you won’t usually find the UTH tables in the poker room. Instead, look for them in the pit, alongside the Three Card Poker and Blackjack tables.
Object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em
The object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em is to recognize when you hold a hand that is likely to form a better poker hand than the dealer’s. This allows you to take advantage of opportunities to bet higher (and thus hopefully be paid higher). Alternately, the object is determine when the hand isn’t worth playing and exit the game to avoid a greater loss.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’re playing at home, why not take advantage of the opportunity to get out your Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? You’ll also need chips for each player to bet with. The dealer should be provided with a generous amount of chips for paying out winning wagers.
Casino UTH tables are covered in a felt surface with betting circles pre-printed on them, to organize the four bets that are available to the players. (An example of such a betting layout is shown at below right.) Unlike public-domain games like Blackjack, you’re unlikely to find UTH layouts available from anyone but Scientific Games. If you’re planning on dealing a home game instead of just playing in a casino, you’ll need to put one together yourself.
Players make their initial bets, as described below in “Making the initial bets”. After each player has bet, shuffle and deal five cards, face down; these will be the board cards. Deal two cards, also face down, to each player, including the dealer. These are the players’ hole cards.
Cards rank in their usual order in UTH, with aces high (although they can be used in an A–5 straight). Hands rank in the typical order; see rank of poker hands if you need a refresher.
Making the initial bets
A player may also choose to make an optional Trips bet. The Trips bet pays based on the best hand a player can make between their two cards and the five community cards. Whether or not the player’s hand is better than the dealer’s is immaterial to the outcome of the Trips bet. A player may choose to bet only the Trips bet, and not the Ante and Blind bets.
The Play betting circle remains empty until later on in the hand.
Play of the hand
After receiving their hand and being allowed to do so by the dealer, the player looks at their two cards. The dealer proceeds around the table, from left to right, giving each player their turn. On their turn, they may, if they wish, make their Play bet, which must be either three or four times the amount of the Ante bet. Otherwise, they check by tapping the table.
After all players have had a chance to bet or check, the dealer reveals the flop (the first three board cards). Each player who has not already made a Play bet gets a turn now. If they wish, they may now place a Play bet equal to twice the Ante bet. They may also check again, if they still do not wish to bet.
The dealer then reveals the last two board cards. Players have one last chance to make a Play bet, which is now limited to be exactly equal to the Ante bet. If a player still doesn’t want to bet, then they fold, surrendering all of the bets they’ve made to the dealer.
When all players have made a Play bet or folded, the dealer turns their hole cards face up. They declare the best five-card poker hand they can make using their two hole cards and the five board cards. If the dealer has at least a pair or higher, they are said to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify, the Ante bet will push, but the other two bets will still be paid out normally.
The dealer now proceeds around the table to each active player in turn, starting with the player to their right and working around to the left. The dealer reveals the player’s hole cards and announces the best poker hand the player can make. This hand is then compared to the dealer’s. If the dealer has a better hand, the dealer collects the Blind and Play bets, the Ante bet if the dealer qualified, and the player’s cards. Should the player have a better hand, they are paid out at even money on the Play bet and the Blind bet, as well as the Ante bet if the dealer qualified. If the player wins and has a straight or higher, they are paid at a higher rate on the Blind bet, as shown in the table below.
If the player made the Trips bet, it is settled regardless of if the player won or not. The Trips bet pays only if the player has three of a kind or better. If they do not, the bet loses and is collected by the dealer. If they do, it is paid according to the table below.
The payouts for the Trips and winning Blind bets are as follows:
|Royal flush||50 to 1||500 to 1|
|Straight flush||40 to 1||50 to 1|
|Four of a kind||30 to 1||10 to 1|
|Full house||8 to 1||3 to 1|
|Flush||6 to 1||3 to 2|
|Straight||5 to 1||even money|
|Three of a kind||3 to 1||even money|
After every player’s bets have been resolved, the cards are shuffled. Players then make their bets for the next hand.
Three Card Poker is a betting game played in casinos throughout the world. Unlike most forms of poker, the player wins when they can manage to beat the house, as in Blackjack and Mini Baccarat. Accordingly, Three Card Poker tables are usually located in the blackjack pit, not in the poker room.
Unlike most games played with traditional cards, Three Card Poker is a proprietary game. It was originally marketed by ShuffleMaster, a company which made and supplied automatic card shufflers to casinos. Due to a chain of acquisitions, the game is now owned by Scientific Games. Scientific Games still licenses the rights to the Three Card Poker name, as well as selling layouts and specialized shufflers that can also be programmed to deal three-card hands for each player.
Object of Three Card Poker
The object of Three Card Poker is to hold a hand higher than that of the dealer, or walk away when they feel they are unlikely to do so.
Unlike many casino table games, Three Card Poker is played with only one standard, 52-card deck of playing cards. Happily, that means if you’re wanting to play a home game, you can use your favorite deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need chips to bet with.
Casinos spread the game on a felt table with a printed layout that facilitates the placing and payout of bets. Each player position has three betting boxes, typically laid out as shown at right. Because Three Card Poker is a proprietary game, pre-printed felt layouts are not as readily available as those found in games such as Blackjack. If you’re playing at home, you will most likely have to get creative, making a betting layout for yourself.
All players place a bet (which must be between the posted table minimums and maximums) in the Ante box on the layout. If they wish, they may also place an additional bet in the Pair Plus circle. Shuffle and deal three cards face down to each player, including the dealer.
Rank of Three Card Poker hands
Because there are only three cards involved, the hands available in Three Card Poker and their ranking differ from traditional poker. The hands are, from highest to lowest:
- Straight flush: Three cards of the same suit, in sequence.
- Three of a kind: Three cards of the same rank.
- Straight: Three cards in sequence.
- Flush: Three cards of the same suit.
- Pair: Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card.
- High card: Three unmatched cards.
Competing pairs are evaluated by the rank of the pair, with the kicker (unmatched card) breaking ties. All other hands are evaluated by comparing the top-ranked card, then the second-highest, then the lowest. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high (although A-2-3 is a valid straight).
Play of the hand
Each player picks up their cards (touching the cards is allowed in Three Card Poker) and examines their hand. They now make the only decision in the game—whether to raise (play) or fold. If the player folds, they surrender their cards to the dealer, who collects their money from the Ante and Pair Plus circles. If they raise, they place another bet, exactly the same amount as their Ante wager, on top of their cards (which are placed in the box overlapping the Play box, such that a bet placed on top of the cards ends up being in the Play box).
When all players have acted, the dealer reveals their hand. If the dealer’s hand is queen high or better, they are said to qualify. Should the dealer fail to qualify, the hand ends immediately, with each player being paid even money on their Ante bet and the Play bet pushing. (It should be noted that, so long as the player hasn’t folded, the Ante bet always pays when the dealer fails to qualify, even if the player’s hand is lower than the dealer’s.)
If the dealer qualifies, each player’s hand is compared with the dealer’s. Starting with the player to their right, and proceeding counter-clockwise around the table, the dealer reveals each player’s hand. If the player’s hand is higher than the dealer’s, they are paid even money on both the Ante and Play bets. When the dealer’s hand is higher, both bets are lost. If the dealer and player tie exactly, both bets push.
Pair Plus and Ante bonus payouts
If the player holds a high enough hand, they may get paid no matter what the dealer holds. Usually, this will happen because they made the Pair Plus bet, which operates entirely independently of the other two bets. If the player has a pair or higher, they are paid according to the hand they hold; otherwise, the bet is lost. A player holding a straight or better also receives a bonus on their Ante bet (regardless of if they played the Pair Plus bet).
Pair Plus bet and Ante bonuses are paid according to the following paytable. Note that these are typical values; some casinos may pay different rates.
|Hand||Pair Plus||Ante bonus|
|Straight flush||40 to 1||5 to 1|
|Three of a kind||30 to 1||4 to 1|
|Straight||6 to 1||even money|
|Flush:||3 to 1||–|
Three Card Poker strategy
According to Michael Shackelford of the popular Wizard of Odds gambling probabilities site, the mathematically ideal strategy for Three Card Poker is to play hands of Q-6-4 and higher and to fold hands of Q-6-3 and lower.
It should be noted that the house edge on the Pairs Plus bet is 7.28%. This is not much better than betting on a slot machine. However, to many players, the chance to catch a straight flush and win $200 on a $5 bet is too great a temptation to resist…
Mus is a betting game for four players in partnerships. Players draw and discard until they reach a hand they’re happy with, and then the betting begins. But there’s not just one “best” hand—there’s four rounds of betting, each with wildly different criteria for how the best hand is determined, and one hand can’t be the best in all four categories!
Mus most likely originated in the Basque country, a region spanning the border between France and Spain. From there, the game spread throughout both of those countries. From Spain, Mus was carried to other Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.
Object of Mus
The object of Mus is to be the first partnership to reach a score of 40 points. This is done by, through drawing, forming hands that compete well in a number of different categories.
Mus is traditionally played with a Spanish deck of 40 cards. To recreate such a deck from an English-style 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 8s, 9s, and 10s. This will leave you with a 40-card deck consisting of face cards, 7s–2s, and aces in each of the four suits.
To keep score, you will need 22 counters of some kind, such as stones, beads, beans, marbles, or poker chips. These counters are kept in a pool in the center of the table. Uniquely, the value of each counter differs depending on who holds it! When a point is scored, one of the partners designated to do so draws a counter from the central pool. Upon reaching a score of five, this player returns four counters to the pool and passes the fifth to their partner. Thus, each counter this second player holds represents five points. When the second player has seven counters (representing a score of 35), they declare this and return them to the pool, putting their opponents on notice that they only need to score five more points to win.
Mus is traditionally played with a series of signals that players can use to indicate their holdings to their partner. These signals are the same for both teams. Part of the skill of the game is to figure out how to pass the signals to your partner without the opponents intercepting them. Which signals mean what, and what signals are allowed, should be discussed prior to game play.
As is usual with partnership games, partners should be seated across from one another, with an opponent on either side. The turn should alternate between partnerships as it passes around the table.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Mus is most widely played “with eight aces and eight kings”. To achieve this, the 3s are considered equivalent to kings, and the 2s are considered equal to aces. They are treated exactly the same as if they were the same rank (to the point that K-3 is considered a pair). Cards otherwise rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Unlike in most games, game play is always conducted to the right.
Mus or no mus
The player to the dealer’s right goes first. They examine their hand and determine if they would like to exchange some of their cards for new ones for the stock. If they do, they say “mus”. The next player to the right must then make the same determination, and so on.
If all four players agree to a mus, then they discard one to four cards, face down, and the dealer gives them replacements from the stock. Then, another round of declaring “mus” or “no mus” takes place. (If the stock is depleted, shuffle the discards to form a new stock.) This continues until a player calls “no mus”. The game then proceeds to the betting rounds.
There are four rounds of betting, each of which has different criteria for winning. The betting rounds are always conducted in the same order, and follow the same procedure. Betting in each round begins with the player to the dealer’s right. They may make an opening bid of at least two counters, or pass. If they pass, the next player to the right has the same option, and so on. Once a player makes an opening bid, the opponent to their right may:
- See: agree to the bid, the amount of which will be won by whoever has the best cards for the category bid on.
- Raise: accept the opening bid and propose an increased bet.
- Fold. decline the proposed opening bid. The side that didn’t fold immediately collects the previously-accepted bid amount, regardless of who actually has the better cards.
If all players fold to an opening bid, the “previously accepted” bid is only one counter. If all four players pass with no opening bid being made, the round is contested with a stake of one counter going to the partnership with better cards.
There is one additional, special bid called órdago. If your opponent accepts a bid of órdago, the entire game is decided by the outcome of the current round of betting. The hands are immediately revealed, and whoever has the best cards for that round wins the entire game.
It is important to note that all bids are for the partnership, not the players. You may well have an awful hand, but find yourself betting a high number of counters because you know, either through previous bidding or signals, that your partner is a lock to win the round.
After each round of betting, the players proceed to the next one. The hands are kept concealed until all four rounds are concluded (except when a bid of órdago is accepted).
The four rounds of betting are, in order:
- Grande: Betting on who has the highest hand. Hands are compared by their highest card. If there is a tie, the second-highest is used to break it, then the third-highest, and finally the lowest.
- Chica: Betting on who has the lowest hand. Hands are compared the same as in Grande, but comparing by the lowest card, then second-lowest, etc.
- Pares: Betting on who has the best pairs. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they even have any pairs. If at least one person answers yes, the betting round takes place. Unlike the previous two rounds, the player with the best combination is entitled to a bonus, in addition to the agreed-upon stake. Possible combinations, from highest to lowest, are:
- Duples: Two pair, like K-3-4-4 or 7-7-2-2. Duples are compared by their higher pair, then their lower one. Three-counter bonus.
- Medias: Three of a kind, with one unmatched card, like 5-5-5-Q or A-A-2-6. The rank of the three-of-a-kind is compared first, then the kicker. Two-counter bonus.
- Par simple: One pair, like K-3-7-A or J-J-6-4. The rank of the pair is compared first, then the higher kicker, then the lower kicker. One-counter bonus.
- Juego: Each player totals the value of their hand, with aces (including 2s) worth one, face cards (including 3s) worth ten, and all other cards worth their face value. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they have a hand worth 31 or more points. If at least one does, the hands will be compared for best juego. A hand value of 31 is the best, and entitles its holder to a 3-counter bonus if it wins. Second is a value of 32, then 40, and then in descending order down to 33 (all of which are worth a 2-counter bonus if it wins).
- Punto: Only if nobody holds a juego is the Punto round played. This is simply betting on the highest hand value (30 being best, since 31 and above would be a juego, and 4 being worst). The holder of the best hand scores a one-counter bonus on top of the agreed-upon bet.
In any case, if two hands are exactly identical, whoever comes first in turn order wins.
After all four rounds of betting take place, the hands are revealed and compared. Payouts on rounds where betting actually occurred (or all four players passed) are done in exactly the same order as the betting rounds (Grande, Chica, Pares, Juego/punto).
If a partnership reaches a score of 40, stop immediately—they win the game, even if one of the other rounds would have allowed their opponents to surpass them. If nobody has a score of 40 after all four rounds have been scored, the deal passes to the right and another hand is played.
Pif Paf (pronounced with a long E sound in Pif, like peef) is a Brazilian card game that combines rummy-style game play with betting. It can be played by three to eight players. Players race to be the first to form their entire hand into melds. Whoever does that first gets to collect the pot!
Object of Pif Paf
The object of Pif Paf is to be the first player to arrange your hand into melds.
Pif Paf is played with a 104-card deck formed by shuffling two standard 52-card decks (like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards) together. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips. If desired, each chip can have a real-world cash value; if so, give each player chips equal to the amount of their buy-in. On the other hand, if you want to just play for fun, give each player an equal number of chips to start with.
In Pif Paf, cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Each hand begins with a round of betting. The player to the dealer’s left has the first opportunity to bet. Betting is conducted the same as betting in poker. Players cannot raise beyond the ante multiplied by the number of players in the game (for example, in a four-player game with a 5¢ ante, the maximum bet allowed is 20¢). Should all players but one fold, that player takes the pot by default and the hand is not actually played.
Play of the hand
After the betting round is resolved, the player to the dealer’s left goes first. They begin their turn by drawing one card from the stock. Then, they discard a card, placing it next to the stock to form the discard pile. This ends their turn. Thereafter, each player may draw either the unknown card from the top of the stock or the top card of the discard pile, as is typical in rummy games.
Players attempt to form melds as they play the game. There are two types of meld in Pif Paf. The first is the sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. The second is the group, which is three or more of a kind, containing exactly three suits. For example, Q♠-Q♥-Q♦ and Q♠-Q♥-Q♦-Q♦ are both groups, but Q♠-Q♦-Q♦ is not, and neither is Q♠-Q♥-Q♦-Q♣. Players keep their formed melds in their hand and do not lay them down on the table or otherwise reveal them.
If the stock is exhausted before a player goes out, simply turn over the discard pile to form a new stock without shuffling it.
If a player discards a card that is the last card another player needs to go out, they may claim that card out of turn. In the event that there are multiple players who could go out with the same card, the next player in turn order from the player that discarded it gets the right to claim it first.
A player may go out when they can form all nine of the cards from their hand into melds. They discard and then reveal their hand, broken out into melds. If all of the melds are valid, then they win the hand and collect the pot. The winner of the hand then deals the next one.
Ziginette is an Italian gambling and banking game for any number of players, although it might get a little bit hectic with more than about eight. Card expert John Scarne described Ziginette in the mid-twentieth century as “the biggest money card game in Italy”, and noted that it was also popular among Italian-Americans. Ziginette was likely the basis for the similar American gambling game Skin.
Unlike most banking games, Ziginette has no inherent house edge. When casinos spread the game, they would take a 10% cut of the banker’s wins, thus ensuring they profit by running the game. Without this cut, neither the banker nor the players have an advantage.
Object of Ziginette
The object of Ziginette is to win money when the dealer matches their card before you match yours.
Ziginette is played with the 40-card Italian deck. (This deck is also used to play Seven and a Half, Scopa and Briscola.) To form such a deck, take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove the 10s, 9s, and 8s. What remains will be a deck that has ten cards in each suit (ace through 7, and the three face cards). You will also need something to bet with. Because of the all of the winning and losing that will be taking place, using chips is highly recommended. If Blackjack dealing equipment is available, such as a shoe and a discard rack, it might be useful, but is not required.
Determine the first dealer-banker by some random method, such as a high card draw. Before dealing the first hand, the banker must announce what the minimum and maximum bets will be. These limits must be an amount they’re comfortable with losing, because they will be responsible for paying out all winning bets.
Shuffle and deal two board cards face up to the center of the table. Then, deal a third card face up in front of the banker. If any of these three cards form a pair, it is called a playette. In this case, the cards are returned to the deck, which is shuffled before redealing.
The players may now place a bet on either of the board cards available to them. If they wish, they can bet on both cards, on just one, or neither.
Once the players have had an adequate time to make their bets, the banker deals a fourth card, face up. If it doesn’t match any of the cards previously dealt, it simply becomes another board card. Players may place wagers on it just like the others. However, if the new card matches one of the board cards, the banker collects all of the bets placed on the board card of that rank. When a card is matched in this way, it is removed from the board. The other two cards of that rank simply become dead and are discarded upon being dealt. This continues, with the banker dealing new cards and collecting losing bets.
When the banker deals a card matching their own, the hand ends. The banker must pay out every wager currently on the board at even money. The deal then passes to the player on the losing banker’s right.
In the event that all of the cards on the board are matched before the dealer’s, or that there are no bets left on the board and the players are unwilling to place new ones, the hand ends. In this situation, the banker has the option to deal another hand. If they do, they may adjust the betting limits prior to dealing. They may also elect to pass the bank to the next player, the same as if they had ended the hand by losing.
Seven and a Half is a simple counting game that is said to be a predecessor of Blackjack. It’s easy to see the resemblance. In Blackjack, the goal is to reach a score of 21 without going over—in Seven and a Half, the object is the same, except instead of 21, the target score is, you guessed it, 7½! It can be played by up to around eight players.
Seven and a Half most likely originated in Italy, and was spread throughout the world by Italian immigrants. It is still popular there, especially around Christmas, when it is traditionally played. Seven and a Half is also played in Spain and Brazil.
Object of Seven and a Half
The object of Seven and a Half is to, through selectively drawing more cards, obtain a better score than the dealer without going over 7½.
Seven and a Half is played with the 40-card deck commonly found in Italy. (This deck is also used to play Scopa and Briscola.) To form such a deck from a standard 52-card deck of cards like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove all the 10s, 9s, and 8s. You’ll be left with a deck that has ten cards in each suit (ace through 7, and the three face cards). You will also need something to bet with. Because of the all of the winning and losing that will be taking place, using chips is highly recommended. If Blackjack dealing equipment is available, such as a shoe and a discard rack, it might be useful, but is not required.
The banker (who also serves as dealer) has a considerable advantage, as in most banking games. Therefore, the first dealer should be determined by some random method, such as a high card draw. The banker must announce, prior to dealing the first hand, what the minimum and maximum bets will be. They will be responsible for paying out all winning bets, so they must set the limits to an amount they’re comfortable with losing. (The banker may declare new betting limits prior to dealing each hand.)
Each player who wishes to participate in the hand places their bet in front of them. Shuffle and deal one card, face down, to each active player, including the dealer.
Each player looks at their face-down card (their hole card), keeping it secret from the other players, especially the banker. Aces are worth one point. Face cards, other than the K♦, are each worth half a point. All other cards are their face value. The K♦ is a wild card, and can represent any positive whole number. (That is, no negative numbers and no fractional values!)
The player to the dealer’s left has the first turn to play. If they wish, they may state that they wish to hit or draw. If so, the banker deals them another card, face up. The player may continue to hit as long as they wish. When they are satisfied with the value of their hand, they stand or stay. The turn then passes to the next player to the left.
If a player draws to a total of eight or more, they have busted. They reveal their hole card, and the banker immediately collects their bet. The banker also removes their cards to the discard pile. This player sits out for the rest of the hand.
After each player has had a chance to participate, the dealer faces their hole card and draws as many times as they would like. Unlike in Blackjack, there are no rules on when they must hit or stay; they may play however they see fit. (Note that dealer is perfectly free to take into account the cards shown by the other players, and the number of remaining players in deciding when to hit!)
If the banker busts, they must pay each active player an amount equal to each of their individual bets. If they stand before busting, they collect the bets of each player with a total lower than the banker’s, and must pay each active player that ended with a total higher than the banker’s. Ties push, with the banker neither collecting nor paying any bets.
If a player draws to a total of exactly 7½ in two cards—that is after hitting once they hold either a 7 and a face card, or the K♦ and another face card—they immediately turn their hole card face up. This is considered an automatic stand.
At the end of the hand, a player holding 7½ in two cards is paid at a rate of 2 to 1. (That is, they are paid double their wager.) The only exception is if the banker also has 7½ in two cards, in which case it is a push, as usual. Two-card 7½s always beat 7½s formed with three or more cards. (This is also true when the banker has 7½ with two cards and a player has 7½ with three or more cards.)
When a player holds a two-card 7½, they take over as banker and dealer beginning with the next hand, unless the current banker also had a two-card 7½. If multiple players have such a 7½, the first one to the banker’s left is entitled to become the next banker.
Seven and a Half is generally a much less formal game than Blackjack. Nonetheless, a review of Blackjack dealing procedures may be helpful to assist a prospective dealer in keeping the game orderly.