Not every card game makes you go it alone. Many of the world’s great games are designed around partnership or team play. Working together with a partner toward a shared victory can be extremely satisfying. Succeeding in such a game often involves not only attention to the game itself and its strategy, but learning how to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your partner’s hand, and adjusting your play to accommodate them.
However, there are a few important considerations that you need to be aware of before you can start playing any partnership game. These aren’t difficult to resolve, but a little bit of thought put into them will ensure that your game goes smoothly and everyone has fun.
The first thing that needs to be established when playing a partnership game is who will be partners with who. There are two ways of handling this: by leaving it up to chance, or intentionally pairing players with one another. Which works better will depend on your players and the type of game you’re wanting to play.
One method of establishing teams is to do so by a random draw. If you’re doing a normal two-teams-of-two arrangement, take two red cards and two black cards out of the deck. Shuffle those four cards and let everyone pick one. The two players drawing red cards will play against the two who drew black cards.
For other numbers and sizes of teams, adapt accordingly. For example, for three teams of two, use three different suits with two cards each.
The benefit of the random-draw method is that it is unlikely to cause hurt feelings regarding who is playing with who. If you don’t like your partner, well, it’s the deck’s fault, not yours.
However, choosing randomly may result in unbalanced teams if there is a big disparity in skill or experience between players. If the draw pairs two highly-skilled players against two that have never played the game before, nobody’s going to have fun. Another downside is that it may pit close friends or significant others against each other, which may not sit well with some people.
Another option for choosing teams is to simply work out through discussion who will be with who. Sometimes, this is easy to decide. If two pairs of spouses get together to play a friendly game, it’s natural for the couples to play against each other. A group may choose to pair an inexperienced player with a strong player to help them learn the game. In Contract Bridge, some partners work together so well that they never play the game unless it’s with their established partner.
However, there are some pitfalls to this approach. Remember the kid in gym class that was last to get picked for a team? Nobody wants anyone at their game night to feel that way. Also, losses or disagreements over play can spark tensions between partners. Such escalations can lead to hard feelings, or even worse, as happened in the famous Kansas City Bridge Murder in 1929.
Once the teams have been decided, you need to determine where everyone will be sitting. For most games, players should sit so that there is an opponent to the left and to the right of them. As the turn of play goes around the table, players of opposing partnerships will alternate in taking their turns. For four-player games, this also means that players will be sitting across from their partner.
For six-player games using two teams of three, players should sit A-B-A-B-A-B. When playing with three teams of two, they should sit A-B-C-A-B-C.
A practice especially common in Contract Bridge that has spread to other partnership games is to have one scorekeeper on each partnership. This promotes fairness by not allowing one team to have total control over the score. It also permits the two scorekeepers to check their scores against each other, preventing errors.
Triple Play, also known as Hand, Knee, and Foot, is a variation on Canasta for four players in partnerships. Like Hand and Foot, Triple Play gives each player extra hands of cards they must play through before going out. However, while Hand and Foot requires a player to play out their hand and one extra hand, in Triple Play, you have two extra hands to get rid of, or three in all! That means a Triple Play player effectively has a 39-card hand!
Most widely-played games evolved over time, their creators lost to history. Not so with Triple Play—it was invented by Sue Henberger of Huntley, Illinois. We even have an exact date when Henberger first began thinking of creating the game: New Year’s Eve, 2005. That night, she and three of her friends began discussing the possibility of adding new rules to their usual Canasta game to stave off boredom. Henberger kept working on the game and playtesting it, before finally introducing it to her local Canasta club, to great success. From one Illinois Canasta club, the game began to spread nationwide.
Object of Triple Play
The object of Triple Play is to score more points than your opponents over the course of four hands. Points can be scored by forming melds of three or more cards and canastas, which are melds of seven cards.
To play Triple Play, you’ll need a massive number of cards—six standard decks, plus twelve jokers (two per deck), 324 cards in all! Once you’ve put together such a big deck, you’ll want it to last as long as possible, so protect your investment by choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be holding a lot of cards in your hand, so you’ll probably want the bridge-size cards. You also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper or a smartphone app.
Determine partnerships, either by some form of random draw, or by mutual agreement. Partners should sit on opposite sides of the table, so that players of alternate partnerships play as the turn proceeds clockwise around the table.
Shuffle (using the multiple-deck shuffling technique) and deal a fifteen-card hand to each player. Next, deal out a thirteen-card knee pile for each player, and an eleven-card foot pile. Players may look at their hands, but not the knee and foot piles. The foot piles are stacked neatly in front of each player, face down, with the knee pile atop it at right angles.
The remaining undealt cards are placed in the center of the table, forming the stock. The top card of the stock is turned face-up and placed next to it. This is the upcard, the top card of the discard pile. If the upcard is a joker, 2, red 3, 5, or 7, bury it face-down in the middle of the stock and draw another card.
Card ranks and scoring
The following are the scores and special properties of all of the cards in the game:
- Red 3s: Red 3s serve as a bonus card and are simply laid in front of the player and a new card is drawn to replace them. 100 points.
- Jokers: Jokers are wild. 50 points.
- 2s: 2s are also wild. 20 points.
- Aces: 20 points.
- K–8s: 10 points.
- 7s–4s: 5 points.
- Black 3s: Cannot be melded.
Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.
Play of the hand
Any player holding a red 3 in their hand at the beginning of the hand lays it face-up on the table and immediately draws a replacement. Any further red 3s that a player draws while playing their initial fifteen-card hand are similarly exposed and replaced. One player on each partnership is responsible for collecting their and their partners’ melds and red 3s and keeping them on the table in front of them.
After the red 3s have been replaced, play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. On a player’s turn, they will draw and then meld if possible. Normally, they will then discard.
The first action a player takes is to draw. In most cases, they will do this by simply drawing the top two cards from the stock.
A player can also pick up the discard pile and add it to their hand. To do so, the player must have two cards in their hand that they can immediately meld with the top card of the discard pile. (Any other cards in the discard pile are inaccessible to them until they demonstrate that they can legally meld the top card.) If this is the partnership’s first meld for that deal, additional cards from the hand may be melded alongside the card from the discard pile in order to satisfy the opening-meld requirement.
Because black 3s cannot be melded, a player cannot draw from the discard pile when the upcard is a black 3. If the top card of the discard pile is a wild card, then the player can only draw from the discard pile if the player is holding two other cards of the same natural rank. That is, if there is a 2 on the discard pile, you must hold two other 2s to draw from it; you cannot substitute jokers for the 2s).
After drawing, a player may form one or more melds, or add to any existing melds formed on previous turns. A meld consists of three to seven cards of the same rank. Melds are traditionally fanned out so that each card’s index is visible.
A meld can contain only one wild card in a meld of three to five cards, and no more than two in a meld of six or seven. Melds of 5s and 7s can never contain wild cards. A player can also make a meld that consists of all wild cards. A meld with no wild cards is said to be a natural or clean meld; a meld that does include them is a mixed or dirty meld.
On the first turn of the deal that a partnership melds, they must meet a minimum point threshold, as follows:
- First deal: 50 points
- Second deal 90 points
- Third deal: 120 points
- Fourth deal: 150 points
Once the initial meld has been made, melds made by that partnership on subsequent turns on that deal are not subject to the minimums. Existing melds can be extended by either player in the partnership with more natural cards, or with wild cards, if possible. Players cannot move cards between melds, nor can they establish two separate melds of less than seven cards of the same rank. Players cannot add to their opponents’ melds.
A meld of seven cards is called a canasta. Traditionally, a canasta is denoted by squaring the meld up into a pile, with a red card on top for a natural canasta, and a black card on top for a mixed canasta. A canasta cannot contain more than seven cards; once a canasta has been completed, the partnership can begin a new meld of the same rank.
After melding, a player that began their turn by drawing from the stock ends it by discarding a single card. If a player began their turn by picking up the discard pile instead, they do not discard. Instead, they knock on the table to signify when they are done melding. The next player has no choice but to draw from the stock.
Picking up the knee and foot
When a player finishes their partnership’s first canasta, they pick up their knee pile and add it to their hand. They then continue their turn as usual. On their partner’s next turn, after drawing, they also pick up their knee pile. The partner must remember to pick up their knee pile on their own. Nobody can remind them to do so; anyone who does is subject to a stiff 1,000-point penalty!
Beginning when a player picks up their knee pile, they no longer draw a card to replace red 3s. They simply play them and continue their turn.
After a player has picked up their knee pile, when they run out of cards, they pick up their foot pile and continue play from there. If a player’s last card was discarded, they do not pick up their foot pile until the beginning of their next turn.
Ending the deal
Throughout the game, each partnership works toward completing a set of five canastas known as the basic book. The basic book is as follows:
- A natural canasta of 5s
- A natural canasta of 7s
- A canasta of wild cards
- Any natural canasta
- Any mixed canasta
When a player runs out of cards after picking up their foot pile, they may go out if their partnership has completed their basic book. To do so, they must first ask their partner if they can go out. Their partner’s answer is binding; a player cannot go out if their partner withholds their permission to do so.
In the rare event the stock runs out before a player can go out, follow the same procedure used in Hand and Foot to end the deal.
Each partnership totals the value of the cards it has melded. From this total, they deduct the value of any cards remaining in their hands, as well as their knee and foot piles. Unplayed red 3s have a value of –500 points each; unplayed black 3s are –100 points each.
Then, the following canasta bonuses are added:
- 7s: 5,000 points per canasta.
- 5s: 3,000 per canasta.
- Wild cards: 2,500 points per canasta.
- Natural canastas: 500 points per canasta.
- Mixed canastas: 300 points per canasta.
The following bonuses are also included:
- Red 3s: 100 points each.
- Collecting seven or more red 3s: 300 points.
- Going out: 200 points.
All of the above is combined to reach the total score for the deal and recorded on the score sheet. Then, the cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. The partnership with the highest score at the end of four hands is the winner.
Diloti is a Greek fishing game for two players (or four players in partnerships). It plays similarly to another Greek fishing game, Kontsina. However, it also incorporates bonuses for capturing all the cards in one fell swoop, as in Xeri. This, along with the ability to form cards into sets that can only be captured together, makes Diloti one of the most strategic games in the fishing family.
Object of Diloti
The object of Diloti is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured with a card matching them in rank, or by using one card from the hand to capture a combination of cards that add up to its rank. Particular attention is given to capturing all the cards on the table on one turn, which scores higher.
If you want to play Diloti, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you want to give your players the best Diloti game ever—and who doesn’t?—you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app. You can also use a Cribbage board.
If you’re playing with four players, determine partnerships by some convenient method like high-card draw, or simply mutual agreement. Partners should be seated across from each other, so that as the turn progresses around the table players from alternating partnerships get a turn.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Then, deal four cards face up to the center of the table. If three or more of these cards are the same rank, shuffle all four of them back into the deck and deal four new cards. Place the stub next to these four cards, forming the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left plays first. On each turn, a player plays a single card from their hand. If it doesn’t match with anything else on the table, they simply play it face-up to the table. This is called laying the card. If possible, however, a player will try to capture cards from the table, since this is how points are scored.
A player may form one or more cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5 and form all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it. The declaration should be formed into a pile on the table, with all indices visible, to denote it can only be captured as a unit, as well as allowing players to see its value.
A player can also capture multiple cards by playing a card whose rank is equal to the total of the values of the cards being captured. For example, with a 5 and a 3 on the table, playing an 8 will capture both cards. Cards’ values are equal to their pip value; face cards have no value. If multiple combinations of cards add up to the card played, all of them can be captured at once. For example, if there are an 8, 6, 5, 3, and 2 on the table, an 8 could capture all five cards (8 alone, 5+3, and 6+2).
When a player captures cards, they place them, as well as the card used to capture them, face down in a pile in front of them. (In the four-player game, each player shares a captured-cards pile with their partner.) No player can inspect these cards for any reason until the end of the hand.
A player may form cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5, then group all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it.
After a declaration has been formed, any player can capture it if they have a card of a proper value. An opponent may also raise the declaration by adding an additional card to it, thus increasing the value of the card needed to capture it. A player cannot raise their own declaration or one formed by their partner. Of course, a player cannot raise the value of a declaration above 10, because no single card in the deck has a value greater than 10.
To form a declaration, a player must have a card in their hand that can capture it. Likewise, to raise a declaration, the raising player must hold a card with the new value of the declaration. The player that formed or raised the declaration cannot use the card for any other purpose but capturing the declaration (unless it is captured or raised by another player). After forming a new declaration, a player cannot lay cards, nor form new declarations until the existing declaration is captured (either by themselves or someone else) or raised by an opponent. This restriction passes to an opponent who raises a declaration already on the table.
A more complex type of declaration is the group declaration. A group declaration is a set of multiple single cards or bundles of cards, where the value of each set is equal. For example, with a 2, 6, and two 4s on the table, a player could make a group declaration with a value of 8 (the first set being 2+6 and the second being 4+4). Later, all four cards could be captured by playing an 8. When forming a group declaration, a player should state that they are doing so by stating “group of 8s”. This avoids ambiguity regarding the type of declaration being made.
The real power of a group declaration is that it can incorporate existing regular declarations as one of the sets. For example, Alpha creates a declaration of 7 by playing a 3 onto a 4. The next player, Bravo, raises the declaration to 9 by adding a 2 to it. Then they combine it with another 9 on the table to make a group declaration. Bravo (or any other player) could then capture all four cards with another 9.
A player is permitted to incorporate an existing regular declaration that they are obliged to capture into a new group declaration. This is the only way a player can form a new declaration while they already have a uncaptured declaration on the table. A player may also incorporate their partner’s declaration into a group declaration. All of the same restrictions that apply to a player with a pending regular declaration apply to a player that has formed a group declaration as well.
Beginning on the second turn of the hand, when a player plays a single card that captures every face-up card on the table, they are said to have captured those cards xeri (an Greek word meaning “plain” or “dry”). A xeri capture scores more points than cards captured otherwise. Because of this, a good deal of the strategy in Diloti involves blocking your opponents from getting xeris, while seizing any opportunities your opponent may leave open to get one.
To record a xeri, the player places one card from the batch captured face up and at right angles to the rest of the their won-cards pile.
Replenishing the hands
After six turns, the players will have run out of cards. The dealer then deals every player a new hand of six cards from the stock. Play continues as before.
When the last batch of cards has been dealt from the stock, the game continues until all the cards have been played. This ends the hand. The last player to capture cards takes any cards remaining on the table and adds them to their won cards. (This does not count as a xeri.)
After the hand ends, each player or partnership looks through the cards in their won-tricks pile and totals up their score for the hand, as follows:
- Ten points for each xeri
- Four points for capturing the most cards. If both players or teams tie at 26 cards, neither side scores these four points.
- Two points for capturing the 10♦
- One point for each ace captured
- One point for capturing the 2♣
The scores are recorded on the scoresheet, the deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Game play continues until a player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or higher. Whichever side has the higher score at that point wins the game.
Envite is a trick-taking game for four to as many as twelve players in teams. Although it includes a round of bidding, the result of this doesn’t affect the trump suit—it merely sets the stakes for the hand. Each team has a captain that is solely responsible for speaking for their teammates. To communicate with the captain, the players must send secret signals, and hope their opponents don’t catch on!
Envite plays like a more elaborate version of the mainland Spanish game of Truc, blending in the practice of secret signals found in Mus. Envite was created in Spain’s Canary Islands. It is still widely played there, with tournaments common during local holidays.
Object of Envite
The object of Envite is to successfully capture two of the three tricks on each hand, thus scoring points (stones). When a team reaches twelve or more points, they win the game. Traditionally, a match of three games is played, with the team winning two out of three winning the match.
Envite is normally played with a Spanish 40-card deck. If all you’ve got on hand is a standard English-style 52-card deck, like a pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you can make an equivalent deck pretty easily. Just remove all the 8s, 9s, and 10s. What’s left over will be a 40-card deck made up of face cards and 2s through 7s in each of the four suits.
You’ll also need something to keep score with. Players in the Canary Islands typically use a “hard score” method. If you wish to do so too, you’ll need 22 chips, stones, or tokens of some kind. You can also use pencil and paper if that works better for you.
Divide up into two teams through whatever means is convenient, like random-card draw or mutual agreement. Each team should also designate a captain that will speak for the team in matters of bidding. (This can also be done randomly, if needed to avoid arguments!) Players should be seated so that as the turn proceeds around the table, players of alternating teams take their turn.
If playing with an odd number of players, one team’s captain will control a “dummy” hand. Establish this spot the same as if a real player were sitting there. It will receive a hand and play in turn just like any other player.
Evite is normally played with a series of signals that players can use to indicate to their captain what is in their hand. The signals used are the same for both teams. A key Evite skill is learning how to pass the signals to the captain without the opponents noticing. Which signals are allowed and what they mean should be agreed upon before the game starts.
Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. After the hands have been dealt, turn up the next card of the deck and place it in the middle of the table. The suit of this card will become the trump suit for the ensuing hand. The remainder of the stub takes no part in play.
In Envite, the trump suit is enlarged as more players are added to the game:
- Four players (two per side): (high) 2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Five or six players (three per side): (high) 3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Seven or eight players (four per side): (high) 5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Nine or ten players (five per side): (high) 2♦-5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Eleven or twelve players (six per side): (high) A♦-2♦-5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
In non-trump suits, the cards rank in more or less their usual order, with the ace inserted between the jack and the 7, for a full ranking of (high) K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3-2 (low). Note that if you’re playing with more than four players, the cards that are added to the trump suit do not count as belonging to the suit printed on the card. They are part of whichever suit the trump is for that hand.
The bidding process in Envite is more like a negotiation between the two captains. While it’s going on, the players on each team are furtively signaling their captain as to what they hold, hoping to feed them information that can help them decide how strong their team’s position is.
By default, winning a hand is worth two stones (points). If neither captain acts, the hand simply proceeds at this stake. However, either captain may challenge the other to increase the stake to four stones. If the challenged captain declines, then the challenging team automatically wins the hand at a value of two stones. The captain may also accept playing the hand for four stones, or may raise the stakes further to seven stones.
If the stake is raised to seven stones, the other captain may then, as before, forfeit the hand (with the other team scoring four stones), agree to play at a stake of seven stones, or raise further to nine. The next raise after this is a raise to make the ensuing hand determine the winner of the whole game.
Play of the hand
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s right, who leads a card to the first trick. Each player in turn, continuing to the right, must play a card of the same suit, if able. If they cannot, they may play any card, including a trump. The highest card of the suit led, or the highest trump if any were played, wins the trick. The player that won the trick then leads to the next one.
Leading with a trump is called trawling. When a player trawls, all players must play a trump if they are able. If any player doesn’t have a trump to play, their team immediately loses the hand. Their opponents score the value of the hand as determined in the bidding, plus a two-stone bonus.
Otherwise, game play continues until one team scores two tricks. Whichever team does so wins the hand, and scores the value of the hand. The deal then passes to the right, and another hand is played.
When a team’s score reaches eleven points, any points in excess of eleven are ignored. (That is, if a team were to have a score of, say, eight stones, and then win a hand valued at four stones, their score would become eleven; the extra point is ignored.) This team is said to be lying down. Special rules apply when a team is lying down, because only one more stone is needed to win the game.
When a team is lying down, the normal bidding procedure doesn’t happen. Instead, the captain of the team that is lying down chooses whether or not to forfeit the hand. If they forfeit, the opponents score one stone. Should the lying-down team play the hand and lose, the opponents score three stones. When a lying-down team wins a hand, they win the game.
If both teams are lying down, the hand is played no matter what, and the winner of the hand wins the game.
Traditionally, Envite is played in best-of-three matches. Whoever wins two out of the three games wins the overall match.
Omi (also known as Oombi) is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships played in the island nation of Sri Lanka. Like in Court Piece, the trump suit is decided in the middle of the deal—you have to choose a trump before having your entire hand! Other than that, though, Omi is a simple game playing much like many other trick-taking games. To win, a partnership just has to take more tricks than their opponents.
Object of Omi
The object of Omi is to score the most points by collecting tricks.
Omi is played with 32 cards from a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and set aside all of the 6s through 2s. Your deck will then be left with aces through 7s in each of the four suits.
Determine who’s partners with who in whatever way you like. You can just decide however you want, get some random method like a high-card draw to decide for you. However you decide, partners should sit across from each other. This should be done so the turns will alternate as you go around the table.
Traditionally, the discarded low cards (6s–2s) are used as scoring tokens. Separate them into two batches by color (red and black). Designate one player on each partnership to hold all of the out-of-play cards of one color. As a partnership scores points, the member of the opposing partnership holding cards gives one score card for each point to the player on that partnership who did not start with any score cards. Thus, one partnership will be starting with black cards and receiving red cards from their opponents as they score points, and their opponents will start with the red cards and get black cards from their opponents.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The player to the dealer’s left, the declarer, then decides on the trump suit, using only these four cards. They cannot consult their partner for advice! Once the trump suit has been named, deal each player four more cards. Players will each have an eight-card hand.
The declarer goes first. They lead any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays a card from their hand to the trick until all four have played. Players have to follow suit if they are able. Otherwise, they can play any card, including a trump. Whoever played the highest trump wins the trick; if there are no trumps played, the highest card of the suit led wins. The winning player collects the four cards making up the trick and puts them in a won-tricks pile they share with their partner, being sure to keep tricks won later separate by placing them at right angles to the previous trick. Whichever player wins the trick leads to the next one.
Game play continues like this until all eight tricks have been played. Then, each partnership counts the number of tricks they collected, and score as follows:
- All eight tricks: Three points.
- Five to seven tricks: Two points for the dealer’s team, or one for the declarer’s team.
- Tied at four tricks: No points are scored for the hand, but the winner of the next hand scores one extra point.
After the hand is scored, the deal passes to the left for the next hand. Game play continues until one partnership reaches a total score of ten points. That side is the winner.
Court Piece (one of many names it is known by in India) or Rang (as it is known in Pakistan), is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Court Piece features an unusually tough requirement for scoring points, called courts. A partnership has to collect more tricks than their opponents for seven hands in a row to score! This is not quite as difficult as it seems, though—when a team wins a hand, they have the advantage of choosing the trump suit on the next hand. This makes it more likely that a partnership will be able to rack up a streak of wins.
Object of Court Piece
The object of Court Piece is to score more courts than your opponents. Courts are primarily scored in two ways:
- By taking seven or more tricks on seven consecutive hands.
- By taking the first seven tricks on one hand.
Court Piece uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. As per usual, we suggest using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You’ll also want something like a piece of scratch paper for recording the score and the number of hands each team has won.
Partnerships can be determined by some random method, or simply deciding who wants to be partners with who. Players should sit between their opponents, with their partner across from them. Thus, as the turn proceeds around the table, it will alternate between players. The first dealer should also be determined, randomly.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The player to the dealer’s left examines their cards and, without consulting with their partner, chooses a suit to be trump. Then, deal the rest of the deck out, so that all players have thirteen cards.
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left leading to the first trick. Each player in turn plays one card to the trick. If a player has a card of the suit led, they must play it; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump. When all four players have contributed a card to the trick, whoever played the highest trump wins the trick. If nobody played a trump, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.
Captured tricks are removed from the table and neatly stacked in front of one of the partners of the side that took the trick. (Both partners share a won-trick pile.) Tricks should be kept separate, such as by placing them at right angles, so the number of tricks taken can clearly be discerned. When a player wins a trick, they then lead to the next one.
Court Piece has special procedures for handling a revoke (i.e. when a player fails to follow suit). If a player revokes, but realizes their mistake before the trick has been played out, they may call attention to it and play an appropriate card instead. Everyone that played after the revoking player may then change the card they played. The trick is awarded, and play continues as usual.
If it is discovered over the course of the hand that a player revoked on a previous trick, the revoking partnership forfeits the hand, which ends immediately. The opponents score a court. If the dealer’s side revoked, the previous dealer’s partner deals the next hand; if the dealer’s opponents revoked, the deal passes to the left.
Aside from a revoke, the first opportunity to score a court occurs after the seventh trick has been played. If one side has captured all of the first seven tricks, they score a court. Customarily, the hand is abandoned at this point, and the next hand is dealt. If the winners choose to, however, they may play on with the hope of collecting all thirteen tricks. This feat is very rarely achieved, but if it is, it scores 52 courts for the side that did it! There is no penalty for trying and failing to capture all of the tricks.
If the two teams split the first seven tricks between them, the hand is played out, ending after all thirteen tricks have been played. Each partnership counts up the number of tricks they took and compares them. Whichever side took more tricks wins the hand.
A running tally of how many consecutive hands the presently-dominant side has won is kept on the score sheet. If the same team that won the first hand also wins the second, the count increases from one to two, and if they win again it increases to three, and so on. If their opponents manage to break the streak by winning a hand themselves, however, the counter resets, with that side starting over with a tally of one.
Should a team reach a streak of seven consecutive hands won, they score a court. The counter is then reset to zero.
Passing the deal
After a hand ends, one player on the losing team deals the next hand. This grants the winning partnership the advantage of getting to declare trumps on the upcoming hand. If the outgoing dealer’s team won the hand, the deal simply passes to the left. If the dealer’s team lost the hand but the opponents did not score a court, the same player deals again. When a court is scored, the deal passes to the outgoing dealer’s partner.
Tresette is an Italian trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Much like in Pinochle, players also score points for melds that they find in their hands. Melds in Tresette are much more simple, however, because they can only include aces, 2s, and 3s. These cards, along with the face cards, are the only cards that count when collected in tricks.
Object of Tresette
The object of Tresette is to be the first partnership to score 31 or more points. Points are scored by taking certain cards in tricks and by forming melds consisting of aces, 2s, and 3s.
Tresette uses the 40-card Italian deck. (This is the same deck used to play Seven and a Half, Scopa and Briscola, among others.) To create the requisite deck, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove the 10s, 9s, and 8s. Now you’ll have a deck that has ten cards in each suit (ace through 7, and the three face cards). You’ll also want something to keep score with—pencil and paper works great.
Tresette is traditionally played in a counter-clockwise fashion (to the right). For the sake of simplicity, we’ve reversed the directions so that it proceeds to the left, like most normal card games. If your players want some added authenticity to their Tresette game, you can reverse it back. It really makes no difference.
Determine partnerships by any convenient method, such as by drawing cards or just mutual agreement. Players should sit next to each other, so that as the turn proceeds around the table, it alternates between partnerships.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, ten cards to each player.
Tresette uses an extremely odd card ranking. Aces are high, but 3s and 2s are ranked even higher than the aces. If that’s not enough, the jacks outrank the queens! What’s left is in the usual order. That gives a full card ranking of (high) 3, 2, A, K, J, Q, 7, 6, 5, 4 (low).
There are two types of melds in Tresette, and they both involve only the aces, 2s, and 3s. The first is three or four of a kind. (Again, just aces, 2s, and 3s count—three of a kind in any other suit gets you nothing!) The second, called a nap, consists of 3-2-A of the same suit.
If a player holds a meld at the beginning of the hand, they declare it by stating “Good play”. They do not reveal the meld, and multiple players may declare melds. Upon winning their first trick, a player that declared a meld announces the type of the meld or melds they hold, such as “four 2s”, or “three aces and a nap”.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Play is the same as it is in most every trick-taking game, but we’ll give you the rundown anyway. Each player in turn plays a card. They must follow suit if able, and if not, they can play whatever they want. After all four have played, whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and leads to the next one. Each partnership maintains a won-tricks pile, shared between the two partners, in which they store the cards from tricks that they’ve won.
Unlike in most other card games, in Tresette, you can share information about your holdings and what you want your partner to do. However, anything you say is public knowledge; your opponents are in on it too! When you lead to a trick, you can ask your partner to “play their best” card of that suit. If you’re playing to a trick led by someone else, you can announce how many cards you hold of the suit led. You can also announce, at any time, if you hold two, one, or zero cards in a suit (but not which suit it is).
Play continues until all ten tricks have been played. The hand is then scored. Each partnership first scores one point for each card in their melds. That is, for each four-of-a-kind melded, they score four points, and they score three for every other meld. Each team then counts the number of 2s, 3s, and face cards that they captured in tricks. For every three of these cards captured, they score one point. Any remainder is disregarded. For each ace that the partnership collected, they score one point. Finally, the partnership that took the last trick also scores one point.
Porrazo (also sometimes called Porosso, Parosso, or Parear) is a fishing game of Mexican origin for two to five players. (Four players may play either in partnerships or singly.) Like the most well-known fishing game, Cassino, game play centers around playing cards to the table and then capturing them with cards from the hand of the same rank. However, in Porrazo, there are all manner of available bonuses for playing the right card at the right time.
Porrazo first appeared in American game books around the turn of the twentieth century. It experienced a couple of decades of popularity before being quietly dropped from the books and fading into obscurity in the 1920s.
Object of Porrazo
The object of Porrazo is to be the first player or partnership to score 61 points. Points are scored chiefly by forming pairs of cards between the cards on the table and the cards in your hand.
To play Porrazo, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Hopefully, you’ve got a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards you can press into service for the occasion. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Because of the frequent scoring and the target score of 61 points, using a Cribbage board for scoring is a natural fit (see how to keep score with a Cribbage board). If you don’t have a Cribbage board, or you’re playing with more than three individual players (since most Cribbage boards have three scoring tracks at most), you’ll probably have to use pencil and paper or something like that.
Shuffle and deal three cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Rondas and rondines
Before any cards are played, the players look at their cards and may declare any pairs or three-of-a-kinds that they may have. A pair is declared as a ronda and a three-of-a-kind as a rondine. The ranks of the rondas and rondines are not declared. The hand is then played out, and the player with the highest ronda or rondine scores a bonus, as follows:
A rondine always outranks a ronda. That is, three aces, the lowest rondine, outranks a pair of kings, the highest ronda. Only the highest declaration scores a bonus; the others score nothing. Any ties go to whichever player is first in turn order, going clockwise from the dealer. The ronda/rondine bonus is not scored until the set of three cards is played out. This means it’s possible the game may end before the bonus is scored.
Play of the hand
After any declarations have been made, the player to the dealer’s left goes first. On their turn, a player must play one card, face-up, to the table. If there are any cards already on the table of the same rank, the player captures one card of that rank, and they place the captured card along with the card that they played in a face-down won-cards pile in front of them. (If there is a pair of cards on the board and a player holds a third card of that rank, they capture only one of the table cards, not both.)
A player can also capture a sequence of two or more consecutive cards if the card that they play to the table matches the lowest card of the sequence. For example, if a 7, 8, 9, and 10 are all on the table, a player may capture them all by playing a 7. For the purposes of sequences, aces are considered consecutive to kings, so if the table contained Q-K-A-2, it would be a sequence that could be captured by a jack.
If a player can make no captures, the card they play simply remains on the table. That card can then be captured by any player on a later turn. (Depending on the card being played, the card may score for being played in place, as described below.)
When the players have exhausted their hands, the dealer replenishes them by dealing three more cards to each player from the stock. Any cards already on the table stay there, and play continues.
Occasionally, a player may be able to capture all of the cards off the table in one fell swoop. This is called a limpia. The simplest limpia occurs when there is one card on the table, and the player captures it by pairing. If there are more cards than that, the only way a limpia can happen is if they all form a sequence.
A player making a limpia immediately scores the same point value as a ronda of the last rank of the sequence captured in the limpia (or the rank of the card captured, if only one card was involved). Note that the last rank is not necessarily the highest rank. For example, if a sequence of K-A-2-3-4 is captured as a limpia, it would only score one point. This is because the 4 is the last rank in the sequence. The fact that a king is involved, despite its higher rank, is irrelevant.
Playing in place
If a player places an ace through 4 on the table without capturing anything, and the pip value of that card matches the number of cards on the table, that card is said to be played in place. That is, a card is played in place if it is an ace played to an empty table, a 2 as the second card on the table, a 3 as the third card on the table, or a 4 as the fourth card on the table. A 5 or above cannot be played in place. Playing a card in place scores the player the pip value of the card.
If a card could both be played in place or capture a card, a player can choose to forgo the capture in order to play it in place. This is the only situation in which a player is not compelled to take a capture.
Once per hand, after dealing three cards to the players, the dealer may deal a tendido (layout). This can occur after the first three cards have been dealt, or after any time the dealer replenishes the player’s hands. When the dealer chooses to deal their tendido, they deal two pairs of cards, face up in a horizontal row, to the table. The two cards in each pair may be swapped, but cards cannot be crossed between the two pairs.
The dealer counts from left to right or right to left, as desired, to find any cards that appear in their “correct” places in the tendido: an ace in the first position, a 2 in the second, etc. If any cards have been so dealt, the dealer scores the pip value of the card. Also, if any pairs, three- or four-of-a-kinds have been formed within all of the cards now on the table, the dealer may score for them. The points scored equal the same as a ronda or rondine of the appropriate rank. Four-of-a-kinds score twice as much as a rondine of that rank.
The cards of the tendido remain on the table after being scored and can be captured just like any other card on the table.
If a player places a card on the table without capturing anything, and the next player in turn plays a card of the same rank, it is called a porrazo. If the next player plays a third card of this same rank, then this is a counter-porrazo. If a porrazo is allowed to stand, that player immediately scores the same value as a ronda of the appropriate rank and captures the card, as normal. Should a player counter-porrazo, the original porrazo does not score, the counter-porrazo scores the same value as a rondine of the appropriate rank, and the player captures both the non-capturing card and the card played for the porrazo.
After a counter-porrazo has been played, the next player may be able to play the fourth card of that rank. This is called a san benito and scores the player the entire game! Therefore, especially in a two-player game, it may be better to simply let a porrazo stand rather than countering it and risking the san benito. (One can sometimes use players’ ronda declarations to deduce whether a san benito may be possible.)
A porrazo (or a counter-porrazo or san benito) must take place with cards all from the same deal. That is, if the players run out of cards and new cards are dealt, it interrupts the sequence of play, and any porrazo cannot be declared using cards from before the hands were replenished.
Ending the hand
If playing with an even number of players, the deck will, at some point, be exhausted. If playing with an odd number of players, there will be three odd cards left in the deck. These three cards are placed face up on the table immediately after the last three-card hands are dealt to the players. They do not count as a tendido for the dealer.
After the players’ hands are exhausted, on the dealer’s last turn, they automatically capture all of the cards remaining on the table. This does not count as a limpia, even if they would have been able to legitimately capture it as one.
Each player or partnership counts the number of cards in their captured-cards pile. Whoever has the highest number of captured cards wins the hand. They score the difference between the number of cards they captured and that of their next-closest opponent.
The deal passes to the left, and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or more points. Play immediately ceases—even if it happens in the middle of a hand—and that player is the winner.
Botifarra is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Unlike many trick-taking games, Botifarra includes a number of rules restricting which cards can be played when. As a result, players are able to deduce information about what their opponents may hold.
The game originates from the disputed region of Catalonia (currently a province in the northeast corner of Spain, but which declared its independence in October 2017). The game is popular enough that organized duplicate-style tournaments are played there.
In Catalonia, Botifarra is traditionally played counter-clockwise (all action proceeding to the right). The description below is written to follow the clockwise fashion most card games follow. If you wish to play it the traditional way, just reverse the directions.
Object of Botifarra
The object of Botifarra is to be the first partnership to reach 101 or more points. Points are scored by collecting face cards, aces and 9s in tricks.
Botifarra is typically played with a 48-card Spanish deck. To make an equivalent deck from the 52-card English deck, like a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 10s. You also need something to keep score with, such as paper and pencil.
Determine partnerships by whatever method is convenient, either randomly or by mutual agreement. (Players often choose to play three games per session, so that each player may play one game partnered with each of the other players.) As is typical, players should be seated across from their partner. This ensures that the turn of play alternates between partnerships as it proceeds around the table.
Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player (dealing out the entire pack).
In Botifarra, the highest card is the 9. All other cards rank in their usual order. The full rank of cards, therefore, is (high) 9, A, K, Q, J, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).
Determining trumps and doubling
Unlike in most other trick-taking games with trumps, there is no bidding or random trump selection in Botifarra. The dealer simply chooses a trump suit for the hand, or botifarra, which is to select no trumps. The dealer may also elect to pass the right to choose to their partner. (They cannot then pass the decision back to the dealer.)
After a trump suit has been chosen, the dealer’s opponents may choose to double, thereby doubling the points scored by the winner of the hand. If the hand is doubled, the dealer’s partnership may redouble, multiplying the value of the hand by four. The opponents can then reredouble, increasing the multiplier to eight. (This is the highest multiplier possible.) Players get the opportunity to speak in turn order from the last player to make a declaration.
A botifarra bid automatically doubles the value of the game, so
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays one card to the trick. Once all four players have played a card, the highest trump played, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick.
Botifarra has a number of unique restrictions on which card you can play. First, of course, you must always follow suit if you can. Secondly, you must head the trick if you are able. The only exception to this is when the trick is currently being won by your partner. When this is the case, subject to suit-following rules, you may play any card worth points (9s, aces, or face cards). If you wish to play a card worth no points, it must be the lowest card you hold of the suit you’re playing in. (Because of this rule, your opponents are able to determine that any other cards that you hold of that suit must be higher.)
Once a player wins a trick, they place it face-down in a shared won-tricks pile located in front of either them or their partner. Tricks should be kept distinct from one another somehow, such as by putting them at right angles to the previous trick. Whichever player won the trick leads to the next one.
Once all twelve tricks have been played, the players count up the value of their tricks captured, as follows:
- Tricks taken: 1 point each
- 9s: 5 points each
- Aces: 4 points each
- Kings: 3 points each
- Queens: 2 point each
- Jacks: 1 point each
The maximum trick score possible on one hand is 72 points. Whichever partnership scores more subtracts 36 from the value of their tricks to arrive at their score for the hand. This score is multiplied as decided before the hand and recorded on the scoresheet. (If the partnerships tie at 36 points each, neither team scores.)
Samba is an expansion upon Canasta that adds more cards and more melds! In Samba, you can meld sequences of the same suit, a feature found in most rummy games but absent in Canasta. The number of cards available is bigger in Samba, too—it’s played with a triple deck, compared to the double deck used in Canasta! Like Canasta, it is a partnership game for four players.
Samba was borne of the Canasta craze of the early 1950s, and, for a time, was a fad itself. Some playing card manufacturers cashed in on the trend by selling prepackaged triple decks of cards, marketed for use in Samba.
Object of Samba
The object of Samba is to be the first partnership to reach the lofty score of 10,000 points. Points are scored by forming melds: combinations of three or more cards of the same rank, or three or more cards of the same suit in sequence. Special attention is given to expanding these melds to their maximum size of seven cards.
Samba uses a gargantuan deck of cards for a non-casino game: 162 cards in all. To form this monster, shuffle together three decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards with the same back design, being sure to include the jokers. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well, but anything that can accommodate a five-digit score should work.
Figure out who’s partners with who by whatever method you want. Each player should sit across from their partner, so that as the turn of play progresses clockwise around the table, it alternates between teams.
Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Place the deck in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up and place it next to the stock. This turned-up card is the first card in the discard pile.
Card ranks and scoring
The following are the scores and special properties of all of the cards in the game:
- Red 3s: Red 3s serve as bonus cards. When a player gets one, they simply lay them out in front of them, and a new card is drawn to replace the 3. 100 points each. If you collect all six, they score 1,000 for the whole set. If a partnership fails to form two seven-card melds of any type before the end of the hand, however, red 3s score negative instead of positive.
- Jokers: Jokers are wild. 50 points each.
- 2s: 2s are also wild. 20 points each.
- Aces: 20 points each.
- Ks–8s: 10 points each.
- 7s–4s: 5 points each.
- Black 3s: Can only be melded at the end of the hand, and prevent the discard pile from being taken when one is the upcard. 5 points.
Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.
Play of the hand
The player on the dealer’s left goes first. A player begins their turn by drawing. They always have the option of drawing one card from the stock. However, if the top card of the discard pile can, by itself, be legally added to a meld that the player’s team already holds, or they hold two other natural cards of the same rank to form a new meld with, they can take the entire discard pile into their hand. (There is one caveat to this, explained below in “Freezing the discard pile”.) Note that you cannot take just the top card or any portion of the discard pile—it’s gotta be the whole thing. While this seems like an odd choice to make in a game where you’re trying to eventually run out of cards, a big discard pile usually has ample opportunities for forming and expanding melds.
After a player has drawn, they may meld as much as they are able and want to. (If a player takes the discard pile, they must immediately meld the top card of that discard pile.) In general, a player can lay down new melds, as well as add to existing ones. There are a few restrictions on melding, though, as described below. When a player is satisfied with their melds for that turn, they discard one card, and the turn passes to their opponent on the left.
There are two types of meld in Samba, the set and the sequence, the latter of which is also called an escalera (Spanish for ladder). A set consists of three to seven cards of the same rank. An escalera is made up of three to seven cards of the same suit, in consecutive order. For the purposes of escaleras, aces rank high, and the cards proceed in their usual order down to the 4. (Black 3s cannot be used in escaleras.)
Note that the discard pile cannot be taken in order to form a new escalera. The discard pile can be taken if its top card would be able to extend the escalera without any other cards from the hand being used.
When a player forms a meld, they may play it on their turn, placing it face up on the table. Melds should be kept fanned out, and clearly separate from each other. Each partnership shares melds, and each player can add to their partner’s melds as well as those they’ve already played. A partnership can have multiple sets of the same rank, or multiple escaleras of the same suit. A player may combine two existing sets into one big set, although they cannot divide a larger set into smaller ones. (Escaleras may not be merged or split.)
Jokers and 2s are both wild cards, and can substitute for any other card in a set. Any given set may not contain more than two wild cards. Wild cards can only be used in sets; they are prohibited in escaleras. A meld that contains no wilds is said to be natural or clean, while one containing at least one wild is mixed or dirty.
The initial meld
Players are required to meet a point threshold the first time their partnership melds, depending on their score at the beginning of the hand. The player may use as many melds as they need to in order to exceed this threshold. Once a partnership has made their initial meld, they are no longer subject to any minimum meld value.
The initial meld values are:
*A minimum of 15 exists only by virtue of no valid meld having a score below this.
Canastas and sambas
Melds are capped at a maximum size of seven cards. A set reaching this size is called a canasta, and a seven-card escalera is called a samba. To indicate this, the meld is squared up into a pile. Natural canastas are indicated with a red card on top, mixed canastas with a black card on top, and sambas are turned face down. No more cards can be added to a canasta or samba.
Freezing the discard pile
Should a red 3 or wild card end up in the discard pile, either by being the initial upcard, or (in the case of wild cards) by being intentionally discarded there, the discard pile is considered frozen. The offending card is placed at right angles to the pile, causing it to stick out when further cards are placed on top of it. When the discard pile is frozen, it may only be taken if its top card can be used to form a new meld with two or more natural cards of the same rank from the hand (i.e. you cannot take a frozen discard pile to add to an existing meld). A discard pile topped by a wild card can never be taken.
Depletion of the stock
It is rare that the stock is depleted before someone goes out. Nevertheless, if it does happen, the game simply continues without a stock; play continues with players taking the discard pile, melding if able, and discarding, until a player goes out as normal, or is unable to take the discard pile, at which point the hand ends and is scored as usual.
If, however, the final card of the stock is a red 3, special rules apply. The player taking the 3 declares it as usual, then does any melding possible, after which play stops. This player is not entitled to discard.
In order to go out, a partnership must have formed at least two seven-card melds (canastas or sambas). At this point, a player may go out by disposing of their remaining cards, either by forming new melds, adding to existing ones, or discarding.
Before going out, a player may ask their partner “May I go out?” This is done to avoid having a high total value of cards held by the partner charged against the partnership at the end of the hand. The answer the partner gives is binding. The only answer permitted is “Yes” or “No”—if any further information is given, the opposing partnership is entitled to answer the question “May I go out?” for the offending partnership. In that case, their answer is binding, with results that can end up being pretty hilarious.
After a player has gone out, the hand is scored. Each team scores the value of the cards it has melded, and the value of cards held in hand is deducted against the partnership’s score (except for any undeclared red 3s, which are handled as discussed in “Penalties” below). The following bonuses, if applicable, are also scored:
- Natural canastas and sambas: 500 points each.
- Mixed canastas and sambas: 300 points each.
- Red 3s: 100 points each, unless all six are held, in which case they are 166⅔ points each (for a total of 1,000). If a partnership has not completed at least two seven-card melds, they score –100 for each red 3, or –1,000 for all six.
- Going out: 200 points.
After all of the above has been accounted for, if neither partnership has reached 10,000 points, all cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. If one or both partnerships has exceeded a score of 10,000, the partnership with the higher score at that point wins the game.
Throughout the game, various penalties can occur, as set out below:
- Undeclared red 3s at end of hand: –500 points each.
- Attempting to go out anyway when a partner says no: –100 points.
- Not being able to go out after having asked “May I go out?”: –100 points.
- Taking the upcard when unable to use it: –50 points.