Backhand

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.

Setup

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.

Game play

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.

Push hands

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.

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Jubilee

Jubilee is a simple Czech counting game for two to seven players. Players use cards from their hand to add to or subtract from a running total. If they can manage to make the total an exact multiple of 25, they score points. If they overshoot too far, though, they get slapped with a penalty!

Object of Jubilee

The object of Jubilee is to score the most points by making the running point total a number divisible by 25 as many times as possible.

Setup

Jubilee uses a unique 61-card deck. Starting with two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards (with all four jokers), discard all the diamonds, as well as the hearts from one deck, and both copies of 10-J-Q-K♣. You’ll be left with a deck composed of A–K♥, A–9♣ (×2), A–K♠ (×2), ★ (×4). You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

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

Game play

Each card in Jubilee has a numerical value. Aces are worth the most, at fifteen. Face cards are worth ten. Jokers are worth zero. All other cards are their face value. These values are positive in clubs and spades, but negative in hearts.

The player to the dealer’s left plays one black card from their hand, face up, and states its point value, then draws a card. The next player also plays a card, adding its value to that of the card before, stating the new running point total, and draws a card to end their turn. The only restriction on play is that the point total cannot drop below zero. If a player only has hearts that would cause the total to become negative, they show their hand to the other players and skip their turn until they can play.

When a player brings the running total to a score divisible by 25 (25, 50, 75, 100, 125, etc.) they score ten points for a jubilee. If the score is divisible by 100, they score 20 points. If a player goes past a jubilee, they score –5 points. (For example, if the total is 19 and you play the 9♣, the total is now 28, so you have gone past the jubilee at 25. Likewise, if the total is 104 and you play the Q♥, the total becomes 94, and you have gone past the jubilee at 100.)

When the stock is exhausted, players continue without drawing. Game play continues until every player has exhausted their hand. Whoever has the highest score at that point wins. (The total will always end on 189 assuming the math was done correctly.)

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Farmer

Farmer is a gambling game for two to eight players that highly resembles Blackjack in terms of its core game play. The primary difference in game play is that, in Farmer, the goal score is 16 rather than 21. Betting is radically different in Farmer, however, and instead of all bets being paid out from the central bank, money is anted into a central pot which is taken by those who obtain a score of exactly sixteen.

Object of Farmer

The object of Farmer is to be the player who gets closest to a count of 16 without going over.

Setup

Farmer uses a special 45-card deck. Starting with a standard deck, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 8s and all the 6s except for the 6♥. You will also need something to bet with, like poker chips. Players should agree to the amount of the ante (which also equals the amount of all other transactions in the game).

In order to determine the first dealer, any player may shuffle the deck and begin dealing cards face up, one at a time, to each player. The player that the 6♥ is dealt to is the first dealer, called the farmer.

All players ante to the pot, which is called the farm. The farmer shuffles and deals one card face down to each player, starting with the player to their left.

Game play

Players look at their cards, evaluating their scores. Aces are worth one, face cards are worth ten, and all other cards are worth their face value. After a player draws, scores for each card are added to obtain the score for the hand.

Starting with the player to the farmer’s left, each player is given the opportunity to draw cards. Each player is required to draw at least one card. Players do not actually draw the cards from the stock, they merely say “Hit”, and are dealt an additional card, face up, by the farmer. When they are satisfied with their hand, they say “I stay”. If a player should exceed a score of sixteen, called busting, they do not announce this publicly; they simply stay. After the player has stayed, the next player to the left is given an opportunity to draw, and so on, with the farmer drawing last.

After all players have drawn, the players’ face-down cards are revealed, and the hands are evaluated. If a single player has a score of exactly sixteen, they win the farm. If there’s a tie, with multiple players holding a score of sixteen, the following rules are checked, in this order, to determine who wins:

  1. The player with the 6♥ wins.
  2. If none of the players hold the 6♥, the player with the fewest cards wins.
  3. If there are players tied for the fewest number of cards, the farmer wins.
  4. If the farmer is not involved in the tie, the first player to the left of the farmer wins.

If there are no players with a score of exactly sixteen, the farm remains for the next deal. Each player with a lower score pays the amount of the ante to the player who is closest to sixteen without going over. If there are multiple players tied for closest to sixteen, these payoffs are aggregated into a side pot, which is then split as evenly as possible amongst the players (with any remainder going into the farm).

Regardless of whether the farm was won or not, all players that have busted pay the amount of the ante to the farmer (except for the farmer, who of course cannot pay himself).

If the farm was won, the player that won it becomes the farmer on the next deal. If not, the same farmer deals again. Either way, all players must ante again before the start of the next deal.

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Cribbage

Cribbage is a classic two-player game that is based around the running count of cards played. The game is often associated with the Cribbage board, a score-keeping device that is theoretically useful for any number of games, but in practice used exclusively for Cribbage.

Cribbage is based upon an older English game called Noddy, but the invention of Cribbage itself is attributed to Sir John Suckling, a seventeenth-century English poet-soldier who was widely regarded as the best card player in England. In 1641, Suckling led a conspiracy to release a friend who was being held in the Tower of London. His plot was exposed, and he fled to France. He was convicted of high treason in absentia, making him unable to return to England. Exiled, cut off from his income, and fearful of falling into poverty, Suckling swallowed poison and died in 1642.

Object of Cribbage

The object of Cribbage is to be the first player to reach the score of either 61 or 121 (depending on the length of game desired). Players score points by forming card combinations with the cards in their hand and the cards already played.

Setup

Cribbage uses one standard 52-card pack. Many Cribbage boards include a deck of low-quality cards, but we of course recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

You will also need a way to keep score. While pencil and paper works, traditionally score is kept on a Cribbage board, the use of which is described below.

Determine how many points constitutes a game—traditionally, the game is played to 121, but if a shorter game is desired, it can be shortened to 61. Shuffle and deal six cards to each player.

Game play

Using the Cribbage board

A Cribbage board consists of a piece of wood or plastic with two tracks of sixty holes drilled into its surface. Each track also has a 61st start/end hole separate from the rest of the track. The board also includes two like-colored pegs for each player, usually with one player controlling red pegs and one controlling blue pegs. Players track their progress through the game by inserting these pegs into the board, progressing up one side and then down the other in a U shape. For a 61-point game, the pegs will make one lap around the board; for a 121-point game, the pegs will make two laps.

The game begins with each player placing one peg in the starting hole, representing a score of zero. Scoring on the Cribbage board is called pegging, and the first score by each player is recorded by placing the second peg the appropriate number of holes down the track. For example, if a player were to begin by scoring two points, they would place their second peg two holes down the track. Thereafter, scoring is recorded by removing the trailing peg and leapfrogging it over the first one, placing it the appropriate number of holes beyond the formerly-leading peg. In the example above, if the player were to score another two points, they would remove the trailing peg from the start hole and place it two holes beyond their leading peg, that is, the fourth hole, representing their total score of four.

Scoring with a Cribbage board presents a number of advantages over other scoring methods. For one, it is much quicker than pencil-and-paper scoring. Mathematical errors are less likely, since the board provides a visual method of calculating a score. It also allows for error-checking, since the number of spaces between the two pegs represents the last score that was pegged, making it easy to verify that the correct number of points were pegged and clearing up any confusion as to whether something was scored or not. Using two pegs also guards against a player pulling the peg out and forgetting where it was supposed to go.

The crib and the starter

Each player selects two cards from their hand and sets them, face down, in a central pile called the crib, an action which is called laying away. The crib is essentially a third hand that will be scored for the dealer at the end of the hand. The crib remains face down until that time and takes no part in game play.

The non-dealer cuts the deck stub. The dealer then takes the top card of the bottom half of the pack and exposes it. This card is called the starter. If the starter is a jack, it is called “His Heels”, and the dealer pegs two points. Otherwise, though, the starter takes no immediate part in gameplay, and is set aside for the time being.

Play of the hand

The non-dealer goes first, playing a card from their hand face-up on the table, announcing the value of the card played—aces are one point, face cards are ten points, and all other cards are their face value. The dealer does likewise, calling out the total value of their card plus their opponent’s card, and so on, alternating turns, with each player calling out the running total of the cards played. Players should take care to place their cards in such a way that both the order played and the person who played them remain clear.

As cards are played, players may score points for the following combinations:

  • Fifteen (2 points): Playing a card that makes the running count 15.
  • Pair (2 points): Playing a card that makes a pair with the card played immediately before it. Face cards must be the same rank; two kings would an appropriate pair, but a queen and a king would not.
  • Sequence/run: Playing a card that creates a sequence with the previous two or more cards. Note that the sequence doesn’t necessarily have to appear in order; 5-7-6 is a valid sequence. A sequence of three scores 3 points, a sequence of four 4 points, and so on. Aces are low only.
  • Triplet (6 points): Playing a card that makes a three-of-a-kind with the two cards played immediately before it.
  • Four (12 points): Playing a card that makes a four-of-a-kind with the three cards played immediately before it.

It is customary to call out the points scored as you’re pegging them, e.g. “Fifteen for two” when scoring a fifteen. Note that any cards interrupting the chain will cause the combination to be invalid; 2-3-8-4 cannot be scored as a sequence, nor can 5-8-5 be scored as a pair.

The running count of cards played cannot exceed 31. If a player has no card that they can play without sending the count above 31, they call out “Go” rather than playing. The other player then pegs one point (or two if they were able to make the count exactly 31 just before the Go). The opponent of the player that called “Go” then plays any cards they have that can still be played without exceeding 31 and scores for any combinations made. The player who called Go then leads, with the running count resetting to zero; no combinations can be made with the cards played prior to this lead from this point onward.

Game play continues until the hands are exhausted. Whoever plays the last card scores one point for Go (as their opponent now cannot play), or two points if the running total ends on exactly 31. The hands are now counted out.

Counting out

Each hand is then examined for scoring combinations, as listed below, a process known as counting out. The non-dealer’s hand is counted out first, then the dealer’s, then the crib (this order is important because it can influence who reaches the ending score first). Each hand is considered to have five cards: the four cards actually dealt to each player, and the starter, which acts as a community card.

The scoring combinations possible are listed below:

  • His Nobs (1 point): A jack of the same suit as the starter. (Note that if the starter is, itself, a jack, this was already scored as “His Heels” and is not scored again.)
  • Fifteen (2 points): A combination of cards that totals fifteen.
  • Pair (2 points): Two cards of the same rank.
  • Run: Three or more cards that form a sequence. A sequence of three scores 3 points, a sequence of four 4 points, and so on. Aces are low only.
  • Flush: Excluding the crib and the starter, four cards in the hand of the same suit scores 4 points. If there are four cards in the hand or the crib that are the same suit as the starter, the flush scores 5 points.

Note that each card is not limited to appearing in one combination; it can be used multiple times, even in combinations of the same type! Therefore, if one were to hold four jacks, one would score 12 points, as follows: J♠-J♣ (pair for 2 points), J♥-J♦ (2 points), J♠-J♥ (2 points), J♣-J♦ (2 points), J♠-J♦ (2 points), J♥-J♣ (2 points). A hand consisting of 4-5-5-6 would score for two runs of three (4-5-6 twice, each using a different 5) as well as for a pair of 5s, and two fifteens (4+5+6=15 twice, again each using a different 5) for a total score of 6 for the runs + 2 for the pair + 4 for the two fifteens = 12 points.

As each player counts out the score, they announce the combinations that they see and peg them as they are called out. When they are done, if the opponent notices any unscored combinations, they may call “Muggins”, and claim the points for themselves.

The crib is counted out last, and all points scored from it are pegged by the dealer. After the crib is counted out, the next hand is dealt, with the deal passing to the non-dealer from the first hand. Game play continues until either player reaches a score of 61 or 121, as agreed; play immediately ceases, even if the score is reached in the middle of the hand.

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