Bacon

Bacon is a simple trick-taking game for four players, in partnerships, that functions a lot like a simplified version of Euchre. Bacon originated in the United States in the early twentieth century. It makes an excellent introduction to the mechanics of trick-taking games, and especially those with trumps, for those who are unfamiliar with them.

Object of Bacon

The object of Bacon is to be the first partnership to reach ten points by collecting more tricks than the opponents.

Setup

Bacon uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. You could use any deck of cards…but choosing Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards makes your game that much more special. You will also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper.

Players should determine who their partner is, either by mutual agreement or by some randomly-determined method. Players on the same partnership are seated across from one another, so that proceeding around the table in turn order, the partnerships alternate.

Shuffle and deal five cards face-down to each player, then one additional card, the upcard, face-up to the center of the table. The deck stub is set aside and, in most cases, takes no further part in game play.

Game play

The auction

Game play begins with the auction, which determines the trump suit, although it is not technically an auction in the strictest sense of the term. The player to the left of the dealer has the first chance at accepting the suit of the upcard as the trump suit. They may select this suit as trump by stating “pick it up”, or decline to do so by saying “pass”.

If the player passes, the next player to the left is offered the same options, and so on around to the dealer. Should the dealer pass, the upcard is discarded and a new upcard is drawn from the deck stub and the process repeats. If the fourth upcard is passed on by all four players, the hand is considered acquitted, the cards are thrown in, and a new hand is dealt by the same dealer.

When a player chooses to pick up a trump, they have the option to “go alone”. By doing so, the player is venturing that they will be able to win the majority of the tricks with their partner sitting out of the hand. If they are successful, their score for the hand will be doubled (see “Scoring” below). Of course, winning with only one partner will be more difficult, so this should be kept in mind before making the decision to go alone.

When a player picks up a trump or declares themselves a loner, their partner has veto power over each of these decisions. The veto is binding and results in the same effect as if the player passed, if they vetoed the pick-up, or if they never made the declaration to go alone. In practice, the veto is rarely exercised, but it can be an important option in situations where a player has reason to believe that their partner is greatly overestimating the strength of either of the partners’ hands.

The partnership that chose the trump suit is called the declarers, and their opponents the defenders. If there is only one declarer, because they decided to go alone, they are simply called the loner.

Play of the hand

Game play begins with the player to the left of the declarer who called “pick it up” taking the upcard into their hand and then discarding any card face-up. This player then leads to first trick. Turn order proceeds to the left, with each person playing a card of the same suit as the card led, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. When all four players have had a chance to play, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a card of the trump suit was played, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.

The cards in the trick are collected by the player who won them. Captured tricks are not added to the hand, but are kept face-down in a captured-tricks pile. Because the number of tricks captured is important to the outcome of the game, they should be kept separated somehow. Placing tricks at right angles to one another works well for this purpose.

This process repeats until five tricks are played and all players have depleted their hands.

Scoring

Winning three or four tricks over the course of a hand is worth one point, and winning all five tricks is worth two points. These scores are doubled if they were achieved by a loner or the defenders (for a total of two points for three or four tricks and four points for a shutout). Game play continues until one partnership reaches ten points. That partnership is the winner.

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Hand and Foot

Hand and Foot is a North American variant of Canasta. Like its parent game, it is best for four players in partnerships. Hand and Foot adds a twist to the basic game of Canasta by introducing more cards—a lot more cards—and giving each player two hands to have to contend with. It gives a partnership more specific requirements to fulfill before going out.

Object of Hand and Foot

The object of Hand and Foot is to score more points than your opponents by forming melds of three or more cards and piles, which are melds of seven cards.

Setup

The players divide into two partnerships, sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise. Set aside an area of the table for each partnership’s melds, and a neutral area accessible to all players for the stock and the discard pile.

Hand and Foot requires a 270-card deck consisting of five standard 52-card decks plus jokers, a truly impressive number of cards for a non-casino game. If you’ve got five sets of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, well, you’re one of our best customers and we love you. Shuffle the decks together (it might help to use the multiple-deck shuffling technique). Split the deck in two, forming the stocks, with a gap between the two halves of the deck for the discard pile.

Unlike in most games, in Hand and Foot, the players are responsible for dealing their own cards. Each player takes a small portion of one of the stocks and deals two piles of eleven cards face down in front of them. If a player managed to pull exactly 22 cards from the stock, they immediately score a 100-point bonus. Otherwise, any excess cards are returned to the stock. Each player selects one of the eleven-card piles as their hand, and the other eleven cards are passed to their right, forming that player’s foot. The foot is kept face-down in front of the player.

One card from one of the stocks is turned face-up and placed between them. This is the top card of the discard pile, otherwise known as the upcard. If the upcard is a joker, 2, or red 3, discard it face-down into one of the stocks and draw another card.

Game play

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.
  • Twos: Twos are also wild. 20 points.
  • Aces: 20 points.
  • K–8s: 10 points.
  • 7s–4s: 5 points.
  • Black 3s: Cannot be melded. 5 points.

Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.

Play of the hand

Before game play actually kicks off, any red 3s the players hold in their hand are placed in the partnership’s melding area and new cards are drawn to replace them. Likewise, any red 3s encountered throughout the game are laid down and new cards drawn to replace them.

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. The flow of the turn is to draw, meld if able and willing, and end the turn by discarding.

A player begins their turn by drawing. They may draw either the top two cards of one of the stock piles or the top seven cards of the discard pile (or the whole pile if it contains less than seven cards). In order to draw from the discards, the player must be able to immediately meld the top card of the discard pile with two cards from their hand. (The other six cards are inaccessible to them until they demonstrate that they can legally meld the top card.) If this is the partnership’s first meld for the hand, additional cards from the hand may be melded alongside it in order to satisfy the opening-meld requirement. Because black 3s cannot be melded, a player may never draw from the discard pile if 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 rank (e.g. if there is a joker on the discard pile, you need two other jokers to draw from it, you cannot substitute twos for the jokers).

After drawing, the player may meld, if able. A partnership’s first melds of the hand must meet a minimum value, depending on the round of the game:

  • First round: 50 points
  • Second round: 90 points
  • Third round: 120 points
  • Fourth round: 150 points

A meld consists of three to seven cards of the same rank (traditionally fanned out so that the indices of all of the cards in the meld are visible). A meld can contain no more than one wild card in a meld of three, four, or five cards and no more than two in a meld of six or seven. A player can also make a meld that consists of all wild cards.

After a meld has been laid down, further melding by that partnership on that hand is not subject to the minimums. When a meld has been laid down, it can be extended by either player in the partnership, either by adding more natural cards to it or by adding wild cards. Players cannot move cards between melds, or establish two separate incomplete melds of the same rank. Players cannot contribute to their opponents’ melds.

A meld of seven cards is called a pile, so called because it is traditionally denoted by squaring the meld up into a pile. A pile with no wilds, or a pile with only wilds, is called a clean pile, while a pile with a mix of natural cards and wilds is called a dirty pile. This distinction is important because clean piles score higher. The type of pile is traditionally indicated by its top card; clean piles are squared up with a red card on top, and dirty piles with a black card on top. A pile cannot contain more than seven cards; once a pile has been completed, a new meld of the same rank can be established.

Picking up the foot

When a player has exhausted their hand, they may then pick up their foot pile and play with it. If the player manages to run out of cards before discarding (i.e. through melding), they may simply pick up their foot at that time and continue their turn. If the player gets rid of their final card through discarding, they pick up the foot at the beginning of their next turn.

Depletion of the stock

In the uncommon event that the stock is depleted before someone goes out, the game simply continues without a stock; play continues with players drawing from the discard pile, melding if able, and discarding, until a player goes out as normal, or is unable or unwilling to draw from the discard pile, at which point the hand ends and is scored as outlined below.

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 ceases. This player is not entitled to discard.

Going out

In order to go out, a partnership must meet the following conditions: they must have completed two clean piles, two dirty piles, and one wild pile, both players must have played at least part of one turn with their foot piles, and the player wishing to go out must have received permission to go out from their partner.

Permission to go out is received by simply asking the partner “May I go out?” This is done to ensure that the partner does not hold an unduly high total value of cards, which will be charged against the partnership at the end of the hand. The answer given 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, and their answer is binding, often with disastrous results.

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. The following bonuses, if applicable, are also scored:

  • Wild piles: 1500 points each.
  • Clean piles: 500 points each.
  • Dirty piles: 300 points each.
  • Red threes: 100 points each.
  • Going out: 100 points.

After all of the above has been accounted for, all cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. The game ends after four hands have been played. The partnership with the highest score at that point is the winner.

Penalties

Throughout the game, various penalties can occur, as set out below:

  • 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.
  • Attempting to draw from the discard pile when unable to use the upcard: –50 points.

See also

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Sedma

A house number plaque with a 7 on it.Sedma (from the Czech for “seven”) is an unusual trick-taking game from the Czech Republic. It can be played by two to four players, with four playing in partnerships. Sedma’s main draw is its strange method for determining the winner of a trick—rather than the highest card, the last card played of the same rank as the starter—or a seven, which serves as a quasi-trump card—takes the trick.

Object of Sedma

The object of Sedma is to score the most points by collecting the most aces and tens.

Setup

Sedma is traditionally played with a 32-card north German pack (which is normally used to play Skat), consisting of aces, kings, ober knaves, unter knaves, and number cards from the 10 down to the 7 in the suits of bells, acorns, leaves, and hearts. To make an equivalent deck from American cards, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all of the 6s down to the 2s, leaving only 7s and above. For a three player game, remove two of the 8s as well.

In the four-player game, two partnerships play against one another. Once partnerships have been decided (through mutual agreement or some random determination method like a high-card draw), players should be seated so that partners are across from one another and so that each player is seated between two opponents.

Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The deck stub is placed in the middle of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left (i.e. the dealer’s opponent, in a two-player game) leads to the first trick by playing any card face up in the middle of the table. Play continues to the left, with each person playing any card they wish to the trick, with no obligation to follow suit or play any particular card. It is important for each player to place their card in such a way that the order of cards played and who played them remains identifiable. When all players have contributed, the player who led to the trick may either choose to continue it by playing another card of the same rank as the starter, continue it by playing a seven, or allow the trick to end. If they wish, they may even continue the trick for a third or fourth round (after which nobody will have any cards). When the trick ends, whoever most recently played either a seven or a card of the same rank as the starter wins the trick. The cards are collected by the player that wins them and placed face down in a won-cards pile (in the four-player game, one player from each partnership maintains their side’s win pile).

After each trick, each player draws one card in turn from the stock, starting with the winner of the trick and proceeding clockwise, until all players have four cards once again. The winner of the last trick then leads to the next one. When the stock is exhausted, game play continues without drawing until the players’ hands are depleted, at which point the hand ends.

At the end of the hand, the following scores are tallied:

  • Ten points for each ace or ten collected. (Ten points each for eight cards means a total of 80 points are available this way.)
  • Ten points for collecting the last trick.

Whichever side or player collected the most points is the winner. If one player or partnership collected all 90 points available , it is a double win, and if one player or partnership captured all 32 cards, it is a triple win. If the game is being played for money, the losers pay the winner the agreed-upon stake (doubled or tripled for double and triple wins accordingly).

Each hand may stand alone as its own game. If not being played for money, players may instead wish to score one, two, or three victory points for the winners and play to an agreed-upon win threshhold (e.g. ten victory points).

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Twenty-Eight

Continuing our series of posts about games named after numbers (in the tradition of 13, 21, 31, and 99), now we have Twenty-Eight. Twenty-Eight, named after the number of points available in the game, is a partnership game played with a stripped deck of only 32 cards.

Object of Twenty-Eight

The object of Twenty-Eight is to be the first partnership to score ten victory points by collecting jacks, nines, aces, and tens.

Setup

Twenty-Eight is played with a special 32-card deck. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 6s through 2s from the deck, leaving the 7s through 10s, the face cards, and the aces in each deck.

Twenty-Eight is a game for four players. The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.

Additionally, score is kept in Twenty-Eight, so you’ll need some way of keeping track of that. Most people will use pencil and paper, but there’s no reason you can’t do something like use the faces of a ten-sided die to keep score if you have one handy.

Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The remainder of the deck is set aside for the time being.

Card ranking

Not only does Twenty-Eight use a 32-card deck, but the cards in that deck rank differently than in most other games. Jacks and 9s are placed higher than their conventional place in the ranking, giving us a ranking of J, 9, A, K, Q, 10, 8, 7. Suits are all equally important at this stage in the game.

Game play

After the cards have been dealt, bidding for the right to fix the trump suit begins. The player to the dealer’s right bids first, bidding any amount from 14 to 28, signifying the trick score that their partnership will collect on that hand. This player does not have the right to pass, although all subsequent players do. The next bid is then placed by next player to the right, and so on until three players have passed in succession. If the currently-active bid is your partners, you must bid at least 20 to overcall their bid. The final bid forms the contract for that partnership, which become the declarers, while the other partnership becomes the defenders.

Once the right to choose trump has been decided, the player with that privilege takes one card of the desired trump suit and places it face down on the table in front of them (although it is still considered part of their hand), keeping the suit secret from the other three players. At least initially, the trump suit will not be known by the other three players, and therefore will have no effect in the game. Once this is done, the dealer will deal four more cards to each player, giving each player a total of eight cards.

The player to the dealer’s right leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit, if able; the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The player who selected trump may not lead a trick with the trump suit unless they have no other option, and they may not use the face-down trump card in a trick. Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile face down in front of one of the partners. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.

If a player is unable to follow suit, they call for the trump suit to be revealed, after which the face-down card is added to the bidder’s hand and can be played at any time. After this has occurred, any player who is unable to follow suit must play a trump if able; otherwise, they may play any card. A trump may only be played when a player cannot follow suit. When a trump has been played to a trick, the highest trump wins the trick, rather than the highest card of the suit led. If the trump suit was never revealed, the player who chose trump reveals the face-down card and plays it to the eighth trick.

After all eight tricks have been played, the declarers’ trick score is calculated from the cards captured in tricks:

  • Jacks: three points
  • 9s: two points
  • Aces and 10s: one point

The declarers then score victory points as follows, depending on their bid:

Bid Contract
fulfilled
Contract
broken
≤19 +1 –2
20–24 +2 –3
≥25 +3 –4

Game play continues until one partnership has reached a score of ten victory points. The partnership with the highest score at that point is the winner.

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Whist

Whist is an extremely old game, dating back to the 1600s. Deriving from an older game called Ruff and Honors, Whist received a boost in popularity from a 1742 publication called A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist, written by a gentleman named Edmond Hoyle. Despite the high price of one guinea for what amounted to little more than a pamphlet, the work sold out. Hoyle followed up on A Short Treatise on Whist with another publication of An Artificial Memory for Whist, which, along with other essays on games such as Piquet, Brag, Quadrille, Chess, and Backgammon, helped establish Hoyle as an authority on games, to the point that “according to Hoyle” became general English slang. A Short Treatise on Whist remained the canonical governing document of Whist until 1864.

As for Whist, it remained popular into the early twentieth century. It is the direct parent of Bridge Whist, which gave rise to Bridge and then Contract Bridge, the dominant social game of the twentieth century. Contract Bridge went on to influence countless other games, such as Spades. While Whist is nowhere near as popular as it was in the past, it still offers players the opportunity for strategic—some would say scientific—play, and serves as an excellent introduction to trick-taking games in general and Contract Bridge specifically.

Object of Whist

The object of Whist is to score points by taking the most tricks possible.

Setup

Whist uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We’re not saying that a dragon will set fire to your coffee table if you don’t use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, but, hey, that’s never happened to someone who did use them.

You will also need some manner of score-keeping apparatus, ranging from the humble pencil and paper to something more extravagant like bins filled with rubies, diamonds, and emeralds representing each trick won by a side. Actually, don’t use the latter as your score-keeping method. It’s super tacky and might make your friends suspect that you are part of some kind of illegal smuggling operation, tempting them to call the FBI tip hotline after the game if you win.

The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. The final card of the deck, the dealer’s thirteenth card, is exposed. This card’s suit becomes the trump suit for the hand. This final card remains face-up on the table until the dealer’s first play of the hand, at which point it is added to the remainder of their cards in their hand.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer leads first. Each player to the left then plays a card. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. Otherwise, they are free to play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.

Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.

After all thirteen tricks have been played, the hand is scored by counting the number of tricks scored by each partnership. Each trick in excess of six counts for one point.

Game play continues until a pre-defined number of points (such as 25) is reached.

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Euchre

Euchre, pronounced yoo-ker, is an game in the trick-taking family that was popular in the United States and Australia in the 1800s. It derives both its name and game play from a game called Juckerspiel, which was popular in Europe during the reign of Napoleon. Together with Bridge, Euchre was one of the forerunners of Five Hundred, and thus shares many similarities with that game. While versions of Euchre for as few as two and as many as seven players exist, the canonical version is for four players in partnerships. Thus, that is what we have included here.

Object of Euchre

For the side which names the trump suit, the object of Euchre is to score three out of the five tricks played in one hand. For the other side, the object is to prevent this from happening, thus euchring those who chose the trump suit.

Setup

The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another. The turn of play will alternate between partnerships when going clockwise.

Euchre requires the use of a special 32-card deck. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with only the 7s through aces in each of the four suits.

You will also need some way of keeping score. While pencil and paper works, some clever Euchre player at some point came up with a way to do so using some of the cards that were discarded. Each partnership retains a 3 and a 4 for scorekeeping purposes. To display a score of zero, both cards are face down. For a score of one, the 3 is turned up, with the 4 turned face-down upon it in such a way that only one of the 3’s pips are visible. To denote a score of two, the 4 is turned up with the 3 turned down and obscuring all but two of the 4’s pips. For a score of three or four, the 3 and the 4 respectively are turned face up with the other card tucked behind it.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table. Turn the top card is turned face-up and placed it top of the stub. The suit of this card, the upcard, will be the first proposed trump suit.

Card ranking

In the trump suit, Euchre ranks cards differently than most games. Since the ranking of cards depends on which suit is trump, some cards will have different rankings from hand to hand.

The rank of cards in the trump suit is as follows:

  1. Right bower. Jack of trumps.
  2. Left bower. The jack of the suit as the same color as trumps, despite not being of the trump suit, is considered a trump, and is ranked here. (For example, if clubs were trump, the J♣ would be the right bower, and the J♠ would be the left bower.)
  3. All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7.)

Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower).

Game play

Determining trumps

Starting from the player to the left of the dealer, the players either pass or agree to accept the suit of the upcard as the trump suit for the hand. The dealer’s partner signifies their agreement to the turned-up suit by declaring “I assist”. The players on the opposing partnership do so by declaring “I order it up.” Should the prior three players pass, the dealer, as the last player in the sequence, must either “take it up” (assent to the turned-up suit as trump) by discarding a card (see below) or “turn it down” (reject the turned-up trump) by placing the turned-up card partially under the deck stub, face up.

Should the dealer turn the turned-up trump down, a second round of trump-naming begins, with the dealer’s opponent to the left beginning again. This time, each player may either pass or name one of the other three suits as trump. (They cannot select the already-rejected suit.) Should all four players be so apathetic toward their hands that they pass, the hand is voided. The player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals a new hand.

If the upcard’s suit has been established as trumps, the dealer may discard a card, placing it face down on the bottom of the deck stub. In return, the turned-up card is considered part of the dealer’s hand, and may be played at any time just like any other card in their hand. The dealer may decline to do so, although since the turned-up card is by necessity one of only nine trump cards, it would be rare that adding the turned-up card to the dealer’s hand would not improve it.

Prior to beginning play, the player who decided the trump suit may declare “alone.” This means the player opts to play alone, without their partner, for this hand only. Doing so allows the player playing alone to score more points if they score all five tricks, which is called a march. Upon a player declaring “alone”, the player’s partner places their cards face-down on the table and takes no further part in the hand.

Play of the hand

The player to the left of the dealer leads first; if this player is sitting out, the dealer’s partner leads. Each player to the left then plays a card. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. Otherwise, they are free to play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.

Collected tricks are not added to the hand. Rather, they’re kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.

After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored as follows:

  • Partnership making trump wins 3 or 4 tricks (called winning the odd trick)—1 point.
  • Partnership making trump makes a march—2 points.
  • Lone hand wins the odd trick—1 point.
  • Lone hand makes a march—4 points.
  • Partnership or lone hand making trump is euchred—opponents score 2 points.

After the hand is scored, the player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals the next hand. Game play continues until one partnership reaches 5 points.

See also

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Five Hundred

Five Hundred (not to be confused with 500 Rummy) is a game for two to five players, though it is most frequently played as a four-player partnership game. It was copyrighted in 1904 by the United States Playing Card Company, makers of Bicycle cards. Since then, it has spread throughout the world, taking root in places such as Australia and New Zealand, and pockets of the United States, such as Ohio and Minnesota.

It is worth noting that the rules of Five Hundred vary greatly from locale to locale. Southern Cross, an Australian game company, has even adapted the game for six players by producing a 63-card deck that includes 11s, 12s, and a 13♥ and 13♦. (One has to imagine that, aside from being used for Five Hundred, such a deck has considerable use in pranks.) The following outlines one form of American partnership rules.

Object of Five Hundred

The object of the game is to be the first partnership to score five hundred points—thus the name Five Hundred—by accurately predicting the number of tricks you will take during a given hand.

Setup

The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.

Five Hundred for four players uses a 45-card deck formed by stripping the threes and twos from a standard 52-card deck and adding a joker. Just because the Bicycle folks dreamed up the game doesn’t mean you have to use their cards—Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards will do a better job of it. You will also need some form of scorekeeping device, such as a pencil and paper.

Deal ten cards to each player, plus an extra batch of five cards to the middle of the table, using the following procedure: a batch of three cards to each player, a batch of two to the middle, two more to the players, two to the middle, three to the players, then two to the players.

Card ranking

In the trump suit, Five Hundred ranks cards differently than most games, and since the ranking of cards depends on which suit is trump, some cards will have different rankings from hand to hand.

The rank of cards in the trump suit is as follows:

  1. Best bower. The joker.
  2. Right bower. Jack of trumps.
  3. Left bower. The jack of the suit as the same color as trumps, despite not being of the trump suit, is considered a trump, and is ranked here. (For example, if diamonds were trump, the J♦ would be the right bower, and the J♥ would be the left bower.)
  4. All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9, … 4.)

Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower). In hands with no trump, the joker stands alone as the only trump in play.

Game play

Bidding

Prior to the beginning of bidding, a player may declare “ace, no face”, meaning that they have exactly one ace but no face cards or joker. Upon making this declaration, the player’s partner may agree to have the hand redealt by the same dealer. The opposing partnership does not have any input into this decision. If the partnership declaring “ace, no face” decides to play on, they may not make a nullo bid (as described below).

Bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left, and continues to the left, with players either bidding or passing. A bid consists of both a number of tricks the partnership is aiming to win, and a trump suit, such as “seven spades”. Bids of six, called inkle (as in “inkle clubs”), are only available to the first two bidders; thereafter minimum bids start at seven.

Bids are ranked according to their score value, which is listed in the following table:

Proposed trump Inkle (6) 7 tricks 8 tricks 9 tricks 10 tricks
Spades 40 140 240 340 440
Clubs 60 160 260 360 460
Diamonds 80 180 280 380 480
Hearts 100 200 300 400 500
No trump 120 220 320 420 520

In addition to the above bids, there is a special bid of nullo, which counts for 250, and grand nullo or granola, which counts for 510. A bid of nullo is a bid of zero tricks with no trump, and the player’s partner sits out of the hand. A grand nullo can only be bid if the player’s partner has previously bid nullo, and is a zero bid for both players of the partnership. Players may also pass if they do not wish to bid. Nullo is outbid by any bid of eight or more; grand nullo cannot be outbid.

If all players pass without bidding, the game is played with no trumps and no contract, with the target being simply to capture as many tricks as possible. Otherwise, bidding continues for three rounds. The final bidder becomes the declarer, and their bid becomes the contract for that partnership, which is the target number of total tricks for both partners to capture. The opposing partnership becomes the defenders, and their goal for the hand is to prevent the declarer’s partnership from making their contract.

The middle

After bidding, but before the beginning of actual play, the five cards in the middle of the table are dealt with, depending on the outcome of the bidding:

  • Normal bid or nullo (i.e. not grand nullo): the declarer takes the cards in the middle into their hand, and discards five cards, face down, back into the middle.
  • Grand nullo: the player bidding grand nullo takes the middle into their hand and discards five cards. Their partner, the player bidding nullo, takes the five discards into their hand and discards five cards themselves.
  • All players passed without bidding: The middle is not exposed.

Play of the hand

After the middle’s fate has been resolved, game play begins. The declarer leads to the first trick, unless there is no declarer, in which case the player to the dealer’s left leads. Play continues to the left. All players must follow suit, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. If the joker is led, the leader declares a suit which the other three players must follow, although this suit cannot be one which the player has already demonstrated they would be unable to follow themselves. The trick is collected by the player who played the highest card of the suit led, or the highest trump if one was played.

Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.

The hand must be played out to the end, despite the fact that the outcome of the contract may have been decided. This is even true for nullo and grand nullo hands.

Scoring

When all ten tricks have been played, the declarer’s partnership counts the number of tricks collected and compares it to the contract. If they fulfilled the contract, they score the value of the contract, as shown in the above table. If the partnership broke contract by failing to collect the contracted number of tricks (or by collecting one or more tricks on a nullo bid), the value of the contract is charged against them. There is no penalty or bonus for exceeding the contract, although it does deprive the defenders of points.

Regardless of the outcome of the contract, the defenders score 10 points for each trick collected. In nullo and grand nullo hands, the defenders score 10 points for each collected by the declarer’s partnership. In a no-contract hand where all players passed without bidding, both partnerships score 10 points per trick.

The player to the left of the dealer deals the next hand.

End of game

Game play continues until one partnership exceeds a score of 500 by fulfilling a contract. If a partnership exceeds 500 by scoring tricks as defenders or on a no-contract hand, play continues.

If a partnership ever reaches a score of –500, they automatically lose and the game ends.

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Spades

Denexa Games Ace of Spades
Spades is a relatively new game, coming to life in the twentieth century, but one whose popularity has spread throughout the United States. Spades is a game for four, in partnerships of two. While game play (and the name) shows a passing resemblance to Hearts, it would be much more accurate to describe Spades as a stripped-down version of Contract Bridge than anything else. All of the elements are there—partnerships, bidding, and a trump suit—in a greatly simplified form. Most game books agree, categorizing Spades in their chapters on Bridge and Whist.

Object of Spades

The object of Spades is to score 500 points (although the threshold for winning can be lowered to 200 if a quicker game is desired) by accurately predicting the number of tricks you will take during a given hand.

Setup

The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.

Spades uses a standard deck of 52 cards. You could use something other than Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, but why would you want to? You’ll also need a scorekeeping apparatus of some type. Most people just use pencil and paper, but if you want to set up two of those big ten-key adding machines with the loud tape printout whenever you hit the plus key, we promise we won’t judge you. Those things are still kind of neat.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player.

Game play

The first item of business to take care of is the bidding. Unlike in Contract Bridge, this isn’t so much of an auction as it is a simple declaration of how many tricks the player intends to take. The minimum declaration is two. The two partners’ bids added together forms the contract for that partnership, which is the target number of total tricks for both partners to capture. The individual players do not need to fulfill their own bids. For example, if Alpha bids three and their partner Bravo bids four, it does not matter if Alpha captures six tricks and Bravo only one, since between the two of them they collected seven tricks. The contract is recorded on the score sheet for future reference (if you’re doing that adding machine thing that we promised not to judge you on, you can use the “#” key for that).

The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick, and may play any card they desire. Play continues to the left, with each player following suit if able. If not, they may play any card, particularly spades, which serve as a trump suit. (This is in contrast to All Fours, where a player may play a trump at any time and not just when they are out of the suit led.) The highest played card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a spade was played, in which case the highest spade wins. Aces are high.

Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.

When all thirteen tricks have been played, each partnership counts the number of tricks collected and compares it to the contract. If the partnership broke contract by failing to collect the contracted number of tricks, they score zero for that hand. Otherwise, they score ten points for each trick collected, and one point for each trick in excess of the contract, which are referred to as bags. The points for bags are not a bonus—they merely allow the scorekeeper to keep track of the number of bags accrued by each partnership; for every ten bags a partnership collects, 100 points is deducted from their score!

After scoring is completed, the cards are collected and the next player to the left of the previous dealer deals a new hand. Play continues until one partnership reaches the predetermined number of points, usually 500.

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Canasta

Canasta is a classic game for four players in partnerships. Originating in Uruguay in 1940, and further developed throughout the 1940s in Argentina, the game of Canasta became a fad in United States the early 1950s, challenging the popularity of the other popular partnership game of the 20th century, Contract Bridge. Since then, the game has evolved into a world-wide classic.

Canasta has the disadvantage of having a lot of intricacies to its rules, and rules that depend a lot on the scoring system, meaning that it can be somewhat overwhelming to novice players. Once it gets going, however, it is a quick and fun game.

Object of Canasta

The object of the game is to score 5,000 points before your opponent by forming melds of three or more cards of the same rank, and canastas, which are melds of seven or more cards of the same rank.

Setup

The players divide into two partnerships, sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise. Set aside an area of the table for each partnership’s melds, and a neutral area accessible to all players for the stock and the discard pile.

Canasta uses a 108-card deck, consisting of two standard decks of playing cards, plus Jokers, shuffled together. The backs of both decks of cards should be identical. If you’re using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, pat yourself on the back for your smart purchasing decisions. You will also need some form of scorekeeping apparatus. We recommend either a pencil and paper or a smartphone application, since abacuses that go up to 5,000 are kind of hard to find in this day and age.

Deal 11 cards to each player. Set the rest of the deck in the center of the table, forming the stock, and turn one card face-up next to it. This is the top card of the discard pile, otherwise known as the upcard. If the upcard is a joker, 2, or red 3, turn another card over from the stock to cover it (continue turning cards until the upcard is something other than one of these three ranks). If the discard pile started with one of these three cards, it is considered frozen (see below).

Game play

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.
  • Twos: Twos are also wild. 20 points.
  • Aces: 20 points.
  • K–8s: 10 points.
  • 7s–4s: 5 points.
  • 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

Before game play actually kicks off, any red 3s the players hold in their hand are placed in the partnership’s melding area and new cards are drawn to replace them. Likewise, any red 3s encountered throughout the game are laid down and new cards drawn to replace them. Red 3s found in the discard pile are not replaced, however.

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. The flow of the turn is to draw, meld if able and willing, and end the turn by discarding. A player may not deplete their hand of cards unless they meet specific requirements for going out, as described below.

When drawing, the player has the option to draw the top card of the stock, or to draw the upcard. To draw from the discards, the player must be able to immediately use the upcard in a meld (either by forming a new meld or extending an existing one with it); upon doing so, the player takes the entire discard pile into their hand! (This is a very good thing; the discard pile is often large and contains many things that are useful to the player.) Under some circumstances, however, the discard pile is frozen, which further restricts the ability of the player to take the discard pile—see below. A player also cannot take the discard pile when the upcard is a black 3.

After drawing, the player may meld, if able. A partnership’s first melds of the hand must meet a minimum value, depending on the partnership’s score at the beginning of that hand:

Score Minimum
Below 0 15
0–1499 50
1500–2999 90
3000–4999 120

Note that a partnership with a negative score really has no “minimum” requirement; a minimum of 15 exists only by virtue of no valid meld having a score below this.

A meld consists of three or more cards of the same rank (traditionally fanned out so that the indices of all of the cards in the meld are visible). At least two cards must be natural (i.e. not a wild card), and a meld can never contain more than three wild cards.

After a meld has been laid down, further melding by that partnership is not subject to the minimums. When a meld has been laid down, it can be extended by either player in the partnership, either by adding more natural cards to it or by adding wild cards. Players cannot move cards between melds, or establish two separate melds of the same rank. Players cannot contribute to their opponents’ melds.

A meld of seven or more cards is called a canasta, which, if you were wondering, is Spanish for “basket”. Canastas involving wild cards are called mixed canastas (canastas sucias or “dirty canastas” in Spanish), and canastas free of wild cards are called natural canastas (canastas limpias, or “clean canastas”). The distinction is important because natural canastas score higher. Traditionally, elevation to canasta status is denoted by squaring the meld up into a pile, with a red card on top for natural canastas and a black card on top for mixed canastas. (Should a wild card be added to a natural canasta, the top card of the canasta is switched out so that it again displays the correct color.)

After any melds are made, the player discards any card other than a red 3, and play continues with the player to the left.

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. This is signified by placing the offending card 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 other cards of the same rank (i.e. you cannot take a frozen discard pile to form a meld with two natural cards and a wild card).

Depletion of the stock

In the uncommon event that the stock is depleted before someone goes out, 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 outlined below.

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 ceases. This player is not entitled to discard.

Going out

In order to go out, a partnership must have formed at least one canasta. At this point, you may go out by divesting yourself of your remaining cards, either by forming new melds, adding to existing ones, or discarding.

It is permissible to consult your partner before going out by asking “May I go out?” This is done to ensure that the partner does not hold an unduly high total value of cards, which will be charged against the partnership at the end of the hand. The answer given 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, and their answer is binding, often with disastrous results.

A player also has the option of going out concealed. This is achieved when a player goes out without the partnership having previously melded anything, and scores a bonus.

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: 500 points each.
  • Mixed canastas: 300 points each.
  • Red threes: 100 points each, unless all four are held, in which case they are 200 points each (for a total of 800).
  • Going out normally: 100 points.
  • Going out concealed: 200 points.

After all of the above has been accounted for, if neither partnership has reached 5,000 points, all cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. If one or both partnerships has exceeded a score of 5,000, the partnership with the higher score at that point wins.

Penalties

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.

Canasta for two players

Although Canasta is canonically considered a partnership game, early accounts claim that it was conceived as a two-player game, and it works well in that form. Play with two players is the same as the partnership game, except that fifteen cards are initially dealt instead of eleven, players draw two cards instead of one (though they still discard only one card), and two canastas are required to go out instead of one.

See also

 

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Cash (a.k.a. Kemps, Kent)

Four aces.
Cash (also called Kemps or Kent) is an interesting social card game for four to eight players. Players form two-player partnerships, competing to make four of a kind, then successfully send and receive a secret signal without it getting intercepted by their opponents.

Object of Cash

The object of the game is for one player of the partnership to call out “Cash!” upon receiving a signal from their partner that they have obtained four of a kind. Alternately, notice that one of the opponents is attempting to signal their partner, and call out “Counter cash!” before their partner calls “Cash!”.

Setup

All players divide into pairs. The game is best with four players (two partnerships), but can be played with six (three partnerships) or eight (four partnerships). Players may mutually decide a method for determining partnerships, which may be as simple as merely selecting who they would like to be paired with, or by some random process. One such method for a four-player game is to remove two red and two black cards from the deck, shuffle them, and deal one to each player. The players receiving the red cards play against the two with the black cards. Seating arrangements must take care to allow all players to be clearly visible to one another, and partners should not sit directly next to one another.

Prior to the game, each partnership excuses themselves to a secluded place where they are unable to be seen or heard by any other player. They then agree upon a secret signal, which can be a hand signal, innocuous action such as taking a drink or tapping the table with your cards, or a verbal phrase. Signals that might be unintentionally sent, like scratching your head or rubbing your eye should be avoided!

The game requires one 52-card deck. Since players will be quickly grabbing for cards, a particularly sturdy deck, like—of course!—Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards—is recommended. Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Then deal four cards face down to the center of the table, forming the board, and place the deck stub in front of the player to the left of the dealer, forming the stock.

Game play

The dealer calls, “3…2…1…GO!”, then picks up the four board cards and turns them face-up. Each player may then grab whatever board cards they find useful, take them into their hand, and discard back down to four (returning the board to four cards). There are no turns! If two players grab a card at the same time, whoever touched the card first (or whose hand is on the bottom!) is entitled to it. Game play continues until this card-swapping stops because nobody wants any of the cards on the table. The player with the stock in front of them discards the board cards, then deals a new, face-down board, passes the stock to the left, and flips the cards over with a countdown, as before. (Passing the stock and the board-refreshing duties around the table ensures that the mental overhead of refreshing the board doesn’t burden any player greater than any other.)

Play continues, with players swapping cards out as they see fit, and refreshing the board as necessary. Whenever a player achieves four-of-a-kind, they send their secret signal to their partner. When the partner notices the signal, they call out “Cash!” (or “Kemps!” or “Kent!” or whatever the name of the game is). All players reveal their hands; if the player whose partner called “Cash!” does, in fact, have four-of-a-kind, that partnership wins. However, if there is no four-of-a-kind, they lose. If a player suspects at any time before “Cash!” is called that an opposing partnership is signaling, they can call “Counter cash!” The hands are revealed, and if a four-of-a-kind is present, the partnership that called “Counter cash!” wins (but, as with cash, if there is no four-of-a-kind, calling “Counter cash!” loses).

Some players play that the losing team receives a letter in the word “CASH” (or “KEMPS” or “KENT”, as appropriate), and that whichever partnership spells out the word first loses the match. Otherwise, play can continue indefinitely, with each hand standing alone as a separate game. Partnerships are given the opportunity to change their signal between hands, then all cards are shuffled and new hands and a board are dealt.

“Real deal”

A real deal is when the stock runs out without “Cash!” or “Counter cash!” being called. In this case, the hand is a draw. If the game is being scored where partnerships receive letters for losses, no letters are received for a real deal.

See also

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