Nine-Card Don

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.

Setup

Nine-Card Don is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. While any deck of cards will do, give your game that extra touch by choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. 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 that player 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.

Game 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.

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