Dingo is a strategic card game for four players. In this game, being the last player to play a black card of a given rank gets you points, but being the second-to-last gives your opponent points. So what’s a player to do? A good Dingo player has to keep track of the location of as many cards as possible! That, plus a healthy amount of plain intuition, lets a player determine when they should play and when they might be better off passing.
Dingo doesn’t appear to be very closely related to any other card game we’ve seen. That means someone probably just invented it from scratch. Who that might be, though, we don’t know. We do know that it’s played most frequently in Cleveland, Ohio, so that’s most likely where it started out.
Object of Dingo
The object of Dingo is to score the most points possible. This is primarily done by being the last player to play a black card of a particular rank.
A game of Dingo requires a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. You can easily give your game a real upgrade by playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Remove all of the diamonds from the deck, except for the A♦. Arrange the diamonds in ascending rank order and place them in a pile, face up, in the middle of the table, with the 2♦ showing. These diamonds are called rabbits. Shuffle the remaining 40 cards and deal them out evenly. Each player will have ten cards.
Discards and exchanges
Starting with the dealer, each player discards one card other than an ace from their hand, face up, to a discard pile visible to each of the players. Aces may never be discarded. Players should take care to keep the discard pile squared up, so that only the most recent card played to it is visible.
After everyone has discarded, the dealer chooses one card from their hand and passes it to their left. That player looks at the card passed to them, and likewise passes a card from their hand to the left. This continues until all four players have passed. Each player, again starting with the dealer, then discards a card, as before.
The dealer then leads the next round of passing, this time passing a card to the player directly across from them. The player to the dealer’s left does likewise. Then the turn continues to the left, with the player across from the dealer passing a card back to the dealer. Finally, the player to the dealer’s right passes a card back across to the player on the dealer’s left. Each player in turn, again starting with the dealer, discards a third card.
The final round of passing begins with the dealer, as you might expect, passing a card to their right. The turn still follows the usual clockwise order, though, meaning that the only player who gets to see the card they’ve gotten before choosing to pass a card of their own will be the player to the dealer’s right. Once this is done, there is a fourth and final round of discards. Each player will have discarded four of their initial ten cards, leaving them with their final six-card hands.
Hunting the rabbits
With the players having established their hands, the hunts now begin. The dealer calls out the rank of the card showing on the rabbit pile (for the first hunt of the game, this will be the 2). Whichever player holds the heart of that rank, called the dingo, must immediately play it. If nobody holds the dingo, meaning it was discarded, the hunt ends with nobody scoring, and the rabbit is discarded.
If someone does play the dingo, each player after them in turn may play one of the black cards of that rank, known as the wolves. Unlike the dingo, a player holding a wolf is not compelled to play it; they may simply pass. Wolves can only be played by players other than the dingo player.
When the dingo and only one wolf is played, the wolf catches the rabbit—the person playing the wolf places it and the rabbit in a score pile in front of them. The dingo player also places the dingo in their score pile. If both wolves are played, the second wolf played catches the rabbit. The dingo player places both the dingo and the first wolf in their score pile.
If all three players pass, with no wolves being played, the rabbit is discarded. The dingo then counts against the player who played it. They place the dingo in a penalty pile placed at right angles to their own score pile.
After each hunt is completed, the hunt for the next-higher rank begins. This continues for each rank from 2 all the way up to king.
Hunting the A♦
After the players complete the king hunt, they hunt the ace. Because all of the aces, including the A♦ (the rabbit), are in the players’ hands, this hunt goes a little differently. First, the dingo is played, as usual. Each player in turn then may play one or both wolves (playing wolves is still optional). If both wolves have been played by the time whoever holds the rabbit takes their turn, they may play it then. (If a player holds wolves and the rabbit, they must play the wolves first. They can then immediately play the rabbit afterward.) After the other three players have taken their turn, the dingo player gets a turn to play wolves or the rabbit, if they have them. The hunt then ends.
If the dingo was the only card played and everyone else passed, the dingo is added to that player’s penalty pile, as usual. If any wolves were played, those that played them add them to their own score pile. The dingo player scores for the dingo. The player holding the rabbit adds it to their score pile if they were able to play it; otherwise, they reveal it to the other players and put it in their penalty pile.
After the ace hunt is complete, the players expose their remaining cards. Players should not have any red cards remaining in their hand; playing these cards at some point in the hand is compulsory. Any players who are found to hold any red cards forfeit the game.
Each player tallies up the value of their score piles. The A♦ is worth ten points, all other aces three points each, face cards and 10s two points each, and 9s and lower one point each. The players then compute the value of their penalty piles the same way, although the A♦ is worth only three points in the penalty pile. Finally, by subtracting the value of the penalty pile from that of the score pile, the players arrive at their scores for the game.
Whichever player has the highest score wins the game. In the event of a tie, the player holding the highest rabbit in their score pile (not their penalty pile) wins.
Khanhoo is a rummy game for two to four players. It was originally from China, though it experienced a period of popularity in England at the end of the nineteenth century. Khanhoo may be one of the earliest rummy games ever to be played. It seems likely that it at least influenced Conquian, considered to be the ancestor of most rummy games.
Object of Khanhoo
The object of Khanhoo is to be the first player to form their entire hand into combinations called melds.
A special 61-card deck is needed to play Khanhoo. To make one, take two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all of the 10s. Then, take out the face cards in hearts, spades, and diamonds, and all of the remaining number cards from the clubs. Shuffle these two decks together, and add one joker, and you’ll have your Khanhoo deck. It will contain the joker, two each of the J-Q-K♣, and two each of aces through 9s in the other three suits. You’ll also need something to keep score with.
Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Then deal a sixteenth card to the player to the dealer’s left. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. (In a four-player game, the entire deck will be dealt out, so there will be no stock.)
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left choosing one card to discard. This starts a discard pile, usually placed to one side of the stock. The turn then passes to the left. This player draws one card, either from the stock or the discard pile, and then discards one card. Turns continue in this manner, with a draw and a discard by each player in turn.
If the stock runs out, its top card is set aside, the discards are flipped over, and then shuffled to form a new stock. The old top card then forms the new discard pile.
As the entire deck is used in the four-player game, there is no stock. Instead, each player simply draws the card that was discarded by the player to their left.
The players’ goal is to form their hands into melds. The valid melds, and their point values, are as follows:
- Sequence (1 point): Three or more cards of the same suit in consecutive order, e.g. 6-7-8♥. Note that sequences will never include face cards or clubs, as the only “sequence” that can be formed using them is actually the more valuable royal assembly (see below). Aces are considered low in sequences (just below the 2). Note that the point value does not increase if more cards are added.
- Aces (1 point): Three aces of any suit (duplicates are allowed).
- Triplet (2 points): Three number cards of the same rank and of three different suits (no duplicates allowed).
- Royal assembly (3 points): J-Q-K♣.
- Court melds (4 points each): K♣-9♥-9♥, Q♣-8♠-8♠, or J♣-7♦-7♦.
- Khanhoo (5 points): A♥-2♠-3♦.
- Double aces (10 points): Six aces of any suit.
- Double triplet (10 points): Two triplet melds of the same rank. That is, six number cards of the same rank, with each suit appearing exactly twice.
- Double royal (10 points): J-J-Q-Q-K-K♣.
- Double khanhoo (15 points): A-A♥-2-2♠-3-3♦.
As players form melds, they keep them in their hand (that is, they do not lay them out on the table). Thus, the players can rearrange and expand or split melds at will. The joker is wild, substituting for any other card in a meld without restriction.
In a three- or four-player game, after a player discards, another player may intervene by claiming the discard before the next player can draw it. They may only do this, however, if they can immediately use the card in a meld other than a sequence. Taking the discard out of turn in this way is called bumping. When a player bumps, they must place the meld that the discard is part of face-up in front of them. They may then no longer alter the meld in any way (e.g. by making it from a khanhoo to a double khanhoo). They then discard as normal and play passes to the left, with the intervening players skipped.
If the player who would have normally had the right to the bumped discard (i.e. the player to the left of the player who discarded it) also wants the card, they may challenge the bump. Both players must then declare the type of meld they wish to use the discard for. If the player that wishes to bump can form a higher meld, they get the right to the discard. If the other player can make a meld of equal or higher value to the bumping player, then no bump happens, and play proceeds as normal.
Ending the hand
When a player has formed their entire hand into melds, they make one final discard and announce that they are out. Each player then reveals their hand, placing it on the table with each meld broken out. Each player then scores the value of their melds, with the player that went out also getting a five-point bonus.
The deal passes to the left, and a new hand is dealt. Game play begins until one or more players reaches a score of 50 points or more. Whichever player has the highest score at that point is the winner.
Solo is a trick-taking game for four players. Rather than higher bids simply increasing the number of tricks to be taken, as is common in trick-taking games, in Solo, the bids also affect whether or not a player will have a partner for that hand.
Solo is an offshoot of the French game Manille. It is sometimes referred to as Spanish Solo due to its former popularity in Spain and Latin America. This also helps distinguish it from the similarly-named Solo Whist and Six-Bid Solo, the latter of which is more similar to Skat. It is also sometimes referred to as Ombre.
Object of Solo
The object of Solo is to accurately judge the strength of your hand, and use this information to secure a contract which you can then fulfill.
Solo is played with a 32-card deck. To create such a thing, set aside all the 2s through 6s from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with 7s through aces in each of the four suits. You’ll also want something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper.
Prior to the first hand, everyone should mutually agree on one suit that serves as the color. This suit is usually clubs, but it is essentially arbitrary, and it makes no real difference which suit is color. Bids made committing to make this suit trump will be ranked higher than an equivalent bid in one of the other suits.
Shuffle and deal out the entire pack. Each player will receive eight cards.
Solo uses a somewhat idiosyncratic card ranking for the trump suit. First, the two black queens are always trumps, regardless of what the actual trump suit is. The Q♣ is the highest trump, and the Q♠ the third-highest trump. Wedged between the two queens is the 7 of trumps. The rest of the cards rank in their usual order, with the ace just below the Q♠. Therefore, the full ranking of a red trump suit is (high) Q♣, 7, Q♠, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8 (low). A black trump suit ranks exactly the same, although since its queen is elevated above its usual position, there is no queen that ranks between the king and jack.
Non-trump suits rank in their usual order, including the 7 in its typical position as the lowest-ranking card of the suit. For a red non-trump suit, the full ranking is (high) A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low). In a black non-trump suit, the queen is missing (having been moved instead to the trump suit), and thus ranks as (high) A, K, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).
Types of games
Before a hand can be played, the players must decide which type of game to play. This is done through a bidding process, with the winner becoming the declarer and selecting which type of game is to be played. The types of games that are available, ranked from lowest to highest, are:
- Simple game in suit (2 points): The declarer names one of the three suits that are not in color as the trump suit. They then name any one of the four aces. Whoever holds that ace becomes the declarer’s partner for that hand. (Note that the partner does not immediately reveal themselves; they do so by simply playing the ace at an appropriate time during the hand.) The partners commit to capturing at least five tricks between the two of them.
- Simple game in color (4 points): The same as a simple game in suit, except the trump suit is the suit that is in color.
- Solo in suit (4 points): The same as a simple game in suit, except there is no partner. The declarer must collect five or more tricks all by themselves.
- Solo in color (8 points): The same as a solo in suit, but with the suit in color as trump.
- Tout in suit (16 points): The declarer names as trump one of the three suits not in color. They must collect all eight tricks without the assistance of a partner.
- Tout in color (32 points): The same as a tout in suit, but the suit in color is trump.
Solo uses a similar one-on-one bidding style to that of Skat. Bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left. If they do not wish to bid, they may pass. If they have a bid they want to make, they say “I ask.” The player to their left can then “bid” against them by inquiring as to the first player’s bid. As the lowest bid is a simple game in suit, the player is assumed to have bid at least this high, so the second player asks “Is it in color?” If the first player responds that it is, the second may then ask “Is it a solo?” If the first player responds in the affirmative, they continue with “Is it a solo in color?” and so on.
When the first player does not want to keep bidding higher, or should it become evident that they are willing to bid higher than the second player is comfortable with going, either player may pass. If the second player passed, then the third player may continue the questioning where the second left off. If the first player passes, the second player is committed to making a bid of at least the same rank that the first player passed on, and they are questioned about it by the third player. Bidding concludes with the surviving player bidding against the dealer. Whichever player emerges from this bid victorious becomes the declarer. They may name any game and trump they like, so long as it ranked at least as high as their winning bid (i.e. they may name a higher game than they bid).
Additional rules on bidding
If all four players pass, the player holding the Q♣ must reveal it, and immediately becomes the declarer in a simple game. They must then choose a trump suit (with the suit they choose of course deciding whether the game is in color or not).
A player holding both black queens can never pass. Instead, they must always make a bid of at least solo in suit.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player, proceeding clockwise, contributes one card to the trick. Players must follow suit if able; if they cannot, they may play any card, including a trump. Whoever plays the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. That player then leads to the next trick.
It should be noted that the black queens are part of the trump suit and not part of the suit printed on the card. That means that if diamonds are trump, someone leads clubs, and you have the Q♣ in addition to some other clubs, you cannot play the queen! Instead, you have to play one of your other clubs. Playing the Q♣ would be playing a trump card, the same as playing a diamond. That can only be done if you hold no other cards of the suit led.
Once all eight tricks are played, the hand is scored. If the declarer successfully won the required number of tricks required, they score the point value of the game. If they did not, the point value of the game is deducted from their score. In a simple game, the declarer’s partner scores the same amount that the declarer does.
Game play continues until a previously-agreed-to number of hands is played, or one or more players exceeds a certain point threshold. Whoever has the highest score at that point is the winner.
Hearts is a classic game for four players. Unlike most card games, Hearts works on golf rules—the player with the lowest amount of points is the winner. Winning is generally done by avoidance of certain cards that score points—namely, the hearts, after which the game is named, and also the ultimate old maid, the Queen of Spades.
Hearts received a boost in popularity in the 1990s because Microsoft included a computerized version of it in its Windows operating system.
Object of Hearts
The object of the game is to have the lowest score at the end of the game by avoiding the thirteen Hearts and the Q♠. Or, collect absolutely everything and watch your opponents suffer.
You will need scorekeeping equipment (pencil and paper, or one of several smartphone/tablet apps that do all the math for you) and a standard 52-card deck of cards. Use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for the full effect of the Q♠’s wrath—her role in Hearts is why her artwork on the Denexa deck depicts her with a uniquely…unpleasant expression.
Shuffle and deal out the entire deck. Each player should end up with thirteen cards.
At the beginning of the first hand, each player selects three cards and pass them to the left; they will receive three replacement cards from the right. On the second hand, cards will be passed to the right; on the third, straight across. No passing occurs on the fourth hand. The fifth hand restarts the cycle, passing to the left, and so on.
After passing has occurred, the player holding the 2♣ leads it. The next player to their left responds by playing a club, if they are able; otherwise, they may play any card except for a heart or the Q♠. The other two players follow in turn. These four cards played to the table are called a trick. After all players have played a card, the player who played the highest club collects the trick and places it into a score pile separate from their hand. The 2 is the lowest card of any suit, and the ace is the highest card.
The player that won the first trick then leads any card, except for a heart; again, all players must follow the suit led, if able. There is now no restriction on what may be played if the player cannot follow suit. After all four cards have been played, the player who played the highest card of the suit led collects the cards and gets to start the next trick, and the process repeats.
When a player who is unable to follow suit plays a heart, hearts are said to have been broken. Hearts can then be led to subsequent tricks.
After the thirteenth trick, all players will have exhausted their hand. Each player looks through their score pile and adds up their score, as follows:
- The thirteen hearts: one point each.
- The Q♠: thirteen points.
In the uncommon event that one player has managed to score all thirteen hearts and the Q♠—an act known as shooting the moon—rather than scoring 26 points, they score zero for the hand, and all three of their opponents score 26!
The deal passes to the left, the cards are shuffled, and a new hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player exceeds 100 points; the player with the lowest score at that point is the winner.
The Jack of Diamonds variant of Hearts, also known as Omnibus Hearts, adds a fifteenth point card to the game, the J♦. Unlike the other scoring cards, however, the J♦ is not a penalty; it is a bonus, worth −10 points. Like all other scoring cards, however, it cannot be played on the first trick of a hand, and it must be collected in order to successfully shoot the moon.
Some groups allow a player to opt to score −26, rather than forcing their opponents to score 26, when shooting the moon. This avoids some unfortunate scenarios where a player shoots the moon, forcing an opponent over 100 and ending the game, but causing the shooter to lose to a player that still has a lower score after the 26 points are accounted for.