Poke

Poke is a unique two-player game that combines the mechanics of a trick-taking game with that of poker. In the first part of the hand, players draw cards to make the strongest poker hand they can. In the second, they play those hands out in the style of a classic trick-taking game.

Poke was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, perhaps best known for his classic board game Acquire. The rules of Poke were first published in Esquire magazine in 1946, and it was later included in Sackson’s 1969 book A Gamut of Games.

Object of Poke

The object of Poke is to score points by forming good poker hands and collecting tricks.

Setup

To play Poke, you’ll need a typical 52-card deck of playing cards. It should come as no surprise that we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need a Contract Bridge-style scoresheet. If you don’t have a pre-printed Bridge scorepad handy, you can easily make a scoresheet by hand. Divide the page into two columns (one for each player, traditionally labeled “WE” and “THEY”) and then divide the columns into upper and lower halves by a horizontal line. Unlike regular poker, there is no betting, so you won’t need chips or money or anything like that. (Unless you just have to bet on it.)

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The draw

The non-dealer acts first. They examine their hand, hoping to have a hand that is strong both as poker hand and at trick-taking. With this in mind, they decide whether they wish to discard any cards. If they do, they may discard up to three cards, and are dealt replacements from the stock. However, drawing doubles the player; any tricks the dealer captures will count double at the end of the hand. If the player is still not satisfied with their hand, they may discard a second time, and doing so redoubles them, making their opponent’s tricks count quadruple. Should a player choose to simply stand pat, they incur no penalty and are not doubled or redoubled.

After the non-dealer finalizes their hand, the dealer has the chance to draw cards. Unlike the non-dealer, the dealer’s first draw is free; they are not penalized for choosing not to stand pat. The dealer also has the option to double and redouble themselves by drawing a second and third time.

Play of the hand

The non-dealer leads any card they wish to the first trick. The dealer responds by playing any card from their hand. Whoever played the higher card wins the trick. Unlike in most trick-taking games, suits are wholly irrelevant to trick play; there is not even a requirement to follow suit. In the event of a tie, the player who led to the trick wins it. After a trick has been played, leave it on the table, keeping it clear who played which card. When a player wins a trick, they lead to the next one.

If a player has a pair in their hand, they may lead both cards at once. This effectively leads to two tricks at the same time. Their opponent can only beat this type of lead by playing a higher pair; if they cannot, they may play any two cards and lose both tricks. Likewise, a player holding three or four of a kind may lead the whole set at once, and their opponent can only beat them if they have a higher-ranking set with the appropriate number of cards.

Scoring

After all five tricks have been played, each player counts up the number of tricks they have won. If a player’s opponent was not doubled or redoubled, each trick the player captured scores one point. If the opponent was doubled, each trick is worth two points; with a redoubled opponent, each trick is worth four points. These points are recorded below the horizontal line on the scoresheet.

Once the trick scores have been tallied, the players determine who had the better hand according to the usual rank of poker hands. Whichever player had the stronger hand scores an honor score as follows:

  • Royal flush: 1,000 points
  • Straight flush: 750 points
  • Four of a kind: 600 points
  • Full house: 500 points
  • Flush: 400 points
  • Straight: 300 points
  • Three of a kind: 200 points
  • Two pair: 100 points
  • One pair: 50 points

This honor score is recorded above the line. If a player takes in all five tricks on a hand, they score a 250-point bonus, also recorded above the line.

After the hand is scored, the non-dealer collects the cards, shuffles, and deals the next hand.

Game and rubber

Game play continues until one player reaches 20 or more points below the line, ending the first game. This player scores a 100-point bonus above the line for winning the first game. (If both players tie at 20 or more points below the line, it is ignored until further game play breaks the tie.) The scores below the line are then zeroed out, and another game is played.

When a player wins two games, a rubber is completed. The player ending the rubber scores the usual game bonus, plus a 500-point rubber bonus above the line if their opponent won a game, or a 750-point bonus if they didn’t. The scores above the line are then totaled, and whichever player has the higher score is the winner.

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Kabu

Kabu is a Japanese banking game for two to six players. Kabu is quite similar to the game of Baccarat, where players do their best to reach a score of nine, and scores above nine have their first digit dropped.

Traditional Kabu is played with a deck of Japanese hanafuda, or “flower cards”. This adaptation of the game for the Western deck was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, who published it in his 1981 book Card Games Around the World.

Object of Kabu

The object of Kabu is, through selective drawing of cards, to obtain a score of nine or as close as possible to it.

Setup

Japanese Kabu is normally played with hanafuda, a traditional Japanese deck featuring four cards each of twelve “suits”, one for each month, January to December. In Kabu, the November and December cards are set aside. Each card uses the numerical value of the month it represents (1 for January, 2 for February, etc.) in adding up the player’s score.

To play Kabu with the typical English-style deck, simply remove all of the face cards from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck: ace through 10 in each of the four suits. You’ll also need some chips for betting. Distribute the chips evenly to each player. (Sackson recommends a starting stack of ten credits, plus fifteen for each player in the game. This would yield 40 credits for the two-player game, 55 for the three player game, etc.)

Shuffle and deal two cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They look at their cards and add up their total value. Aces are worth one point, and all others their face value. If the score exceeds nine (the best possible score), the first (tens) digit is dropped to arrive at a score under nine. If the player is satisfied with their score, they may pass. Otherwise, they may request a card from the stock. Then, the next player has the opportunity to draw, and so on around the table. Players may draw a maximum of two cards (making a four-card hand altogether). Drawing continues until all players have either passed or drawn twice.

After the drawing portion of the hand is complete, each player reveals their hand and announces the total. Each player then pays each opponent with a higher score the difference between their hands’ values. For example, if Jim holds a seven-point hand and George holds a four-point hand, George would pay Jim three credits.

The cards are collected and shuffled, then the next hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player does not have enough chips to pay the amount owed to their opponents. That player does not actually pay any of their opponents. Instead, each player counts up the number of chips they hold. Whoever has the most chips wins the game.

 

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Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer is a simple game for two players. Much like Gops, the exact composition of each player’s hand is known to both players, and all of the strategy comes from simply playing the right cards at the right time! As in Mate, the only element of luck is the cards the player is initially dealt, and this is canceled out by the players switching hands after playing through them. As a result, the game is one of the rare examples of a card game that is entirely based around strategic play.

Divide and Conquer was invented by Claude Soucie, a Canadian-born game designer with several published board games under his belt. Soucie was a longtime friend of renowned game inventor and author Sid Sackson; the latter published Divide and Conquer in his 1981 compendium Card Games Around the World.

Object of Divide and Conquer

The object of Divide and Conquer is win the majority of the game’s ten matches. A player does not necessarily know what card their opponent will play next, so this more or less involves outwitting the other player.

Setup

Divide and Conquer uses a very small number of cards. Take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and extract one queen, and one each of all of the cards 2–10. (Suit doesn’t matter.) These ten cards are all you need to play the game.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player, exhausting the pack.

Game play

Before beginning play, each player should carefully examine their hand. It is important to realize that the five cards they don’t have are the ones their opponent does have. Furthermore, all of the plays are left face-up on the table. That means that at any given point in time, each player knows the exact cards their opponent holds.

Each player places one card from their hand face down on the table. When both have done so, the cards are both revealed, and compared to see which is the winner. In most cases, the higher card wins (cards rank in their usual order). However, if the pip value of the lower card divides evenly into the higher card, the low card wins. The queen has a value of twelve for the purposes of division. Also, if the low card has a pip value of exactly one below the high card, the low card wins.

Some examples:

  • 9-5. The 9 wins because it is higher.
  • Q-6. The 6 wins because 12 ÷ 6 = 2.
  • 10-9. The 9 wins because it is one lower than the 10.
  • 9-3. The 3 wins because 9 ÷ 3 = 3.

After the winner of the match is determined, both cards are placed in the middle of the table. The cards should be placed so that the two cards are clearly next to each other, with each card on the same side of the table as the person who played it. The losing card should be turned at right angles to signify its loss. The next match is then played the same way.

After the fifth match, both players will be out of cards. The cards are assembled back into their original hands, and the two hands are then swapped. The players then play five more matches, using the cards their opponent was originally dealt.

Whichever player wins a majority of the matches wins the game. If the players evenly split the matches, the game is a tie.

Variation

For a longer game, use a fourteen-card deck composed of 2–10 of one of the black suits and 2-4-5-6-8 in one of the red suits. The values of the red cards are equal to ten plus the pip value, so the red 2 has a value of twelve, the red 4 is fourteen, etc. Deal seven cards to each player. The best of fourteen matches wins.

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Card Stock Market

Card Stock Market layout
Card Stock Market is, true to its title, a stock-trading game played with cards. It can be played by two to six players.

Card Stock Market was invented by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, and was published in his book Card Games Around the World. Sackson is perhaps best known for previously publishing another stock-trading game, the classic board game Acquire.

Object of Card Stock Market

The object of Card Stock Market is to end the game with the most money by buying and selling stock.

Setup

Card Stock Market uses a 104-card deck formed by shuffling together two standard 52-card decksNaturally, we like using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Two jokers are also used in the game, but they are not shuffled into the deck until later on in the game.

You will need something to keep track of the money used in the game. Each player receives $200 as their opening balance. The best option is to use chips: give each player five white $1 chips, four red $5 chips, and seven green $25 chips. You should also have approximately 40 pieces of each denomination of chips on hand to serve as the bank. If chips aren’t available, play money (such as that used in Monopoly) can serve as an effective substitute.

Card Stock Market also requires an information strip that is used to organize the market and provide information to the players. An example of this information strip is shown above. You can create your own by hand, or download a copy of ours. The strip should be sized so that it is approximately 10 inches wide by 2½ inches high (25.4 × 6.4 cm).

Select one player to be dealer and banker. This player shuffles and begins turning over cards, one at a time. The first revealed number card of each suit is placed face-up under the appropriate space on the information strip. This continues until the banker has placed one card under each suit. The unused cards are returned to the deck, which is shuffled. Then, the banker deals eight cards to each player in batches of two. The deck stub becomes the draw pile (in most other games, we’d call it the stock, but that would get confusing in this game).

Game play

The player to the banker’s left goes first. A player’s turn consists of buying or selling stock and changing market values. Each of these options may be done up to twice, but the two actions of the same type must be done together (e.g. a player cannot buy stock, then change the market value, then sell stock). A player may skip either phase of their turn, or only perform one action of that type instead of two. Instead of taking their turn as normal, a player may simply discard up to four cards from their hand. At the end of each turn, the player draws back up to eight cards from the draw pile.

Buying and selling stock

A player may buy stock by placing a card face up on the table in front of them. The pip value of the card indicates the number of shares of stock being purchased. (For the purposes of buying stock, a face card is considered a 5.) This is multiplied by the pip value of the top card of that suit’s market pile to arrive at the total amount due to the bank. For example, if a player laid down the 7♦, and the 4♦ was showing on the market pile, the player would have to pay the bank $28 for the transaction. A player may not hold more than twelve shares of any suit’s stock.

A player may sell stock back to the bank as well. The value of the stock is calculated, as described above. Then, the banker pays the player the appropriate amount, and the sold stock certificate is placed on the discard pile.

If the bank does not have enough money to pay out a player who is selling stock, and no extra chips are available, every player deposits $100 into the bank. If a player has less than $100 when this happens, they pay all that they have on hand. They are then indebted to the bank for the rest and must pay when they can.

Changing the market value

A player also has the option to play a card to the appropriate market pile to change the value of that suit’s stock. The change must be within the limits posted on the information strip. For example, if the 9♠ is showing on the spade market pile, a player cannot play the 4♠ to it, since this would be a change of $5, greater than the $3 decrease limit for spades.

A player has two options for playing a face card to the market pile. A player may elect to have the face card increase the value of the stock. When used for this, a jack raises the price to $11, a queen to $12, and a king to $13.

A player can also use a face card to reduce the stock price to $0. Doing so bankrupts the company. All players must discard all of the stock they hold in that suit, receiving no money for their shares.

After a face card has been played to a market pile, regardless of whether it raised the price beyond $10 or lowered it to $0, it can be covered by any number card. It doesn’t matter if the change is within the allowed range or not.

Depleting the draw pile

When the draw pile is depleted, all of the cards in the market piles, except for the top card of each pile, are placed in the discard pile. Two jokers are then added to the discard pile. The banker then thoroughly shuffles the entire pile of cards (we recommend performing a wash before shuffling, since the deck will be separated by suit) and turns it face down to form a new draw pile.

Game play continues as usual until a player draws a joker from the draw pile. When this happens, they reveal it to the other players, and the game ends. Each player sells all of their stock to the bank for the current market values. The player who has the most money at the end of the game is the winner.

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