The Penguin Book of Card Games: Everything You Need to Know to Play Over 250 Games (5 page)

BOOK: The Penguin Book of Card Games: Everything You Need to Know to Play Over 250 Games
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quotation above).


Taking their name from the German for ‘peewits’, possibly because

of their twit ering, kibitzers are onlookers who tend to of er

unwanted advice (dictionary definition). Kibitzers by law should sit

down, keep quiet, not fidget, and refrain from distractingor

encouraging the players.

What shal we play?

Nothing, apart from rumour, travels as fast as a good game of cards.

Rudolf van Leyden, Ganjifa

Regular card-players are always on the look-out for games they

haven’t played before, especial y younger players, who have more

flexible minds and move in more varied social circles. The

advantage of a new game is that everyone starts of on the same

footing. So long as you are al having to learn new strategies as you

go along, there wil be less of a foregone conclusion about the

eventual winner.

In choosing something new to try, the two most important

selection factors are (1) how many of you are playing and (2) what

type of game most suits your mood and personality. As to number,

most games are designed for specific numbers of players and don’t

work wel when adapted for others. As to personality, it is

obviously self-defeating to play a fixed partnership game if you are

al rugged individualists, or a brainless gambling game if you have

an average IQ of 150, or a highly complicated bidding game like

Bridge if none of you is acquainted with simple trick-taking games

like Whist. The fol owing recommendations are therefore made

primarily by reference to number, and secondarily by distinction

between trick-taking and non-trick games.

Two players

The simplest of the classic trick-takers is probably Ecarte. Piquet is

more demanding, and spoilt by some old-fashioned complications;

nevertheless, the fact that it has been a favourite with serious card-

players for many centuries should give some indication of how

deep it goes. At least one of the games Bezique, Pinochle and

Klaberjass (Clob), which are substantial y similar, should be in

every player’s repertoire. Sixty-Six (Schnapsen) is similar, but

quicker and easier, and packs an extraordinary amount of depth

and variety into a game played with so few cards. For something

and variety into a game played with so few cards. For something

out of the ordinary, try Bohemian Schneider, Sedma or Durak.

The greatest non-trick two-hander is unquestionably Cribbage,

though Gin Rummy maintains a huge fol owing. Canasta, though

best known as a four-handed partnership game, works surprisingly

wel for two. Cassino is popular in America, but if you haven’t

played a game of this type before it may be bet er to start with a

simpler relative such as Scopa. Spite and Malice (Cat and Mouse) is

a popular competitive Patience game. For something out of the

ordinary, Gops is short and sweet, Zetema long and savoury, and

Truc (or Put) a good game of bluf .

Of my own games, Abstrac and Dracula at ract the most fan mail.

You may prefer Galapagos as an alternative to Piquet; but my

favourite is Garbo.

Three players

Don’t believe anyone who claims there is no such thing as a good

three-handed card game. There are at least as many as good two-

handers. That misapprehension is peculiar to English-speaking

countries, where most national games are played with the 52-card

pack, which divides itself natural y and best into four hands of

thirteen. Many other nations use a 32-card pack, which equal y

natural y divides itself into three 10-card hands and a talon of two.

Games based on this pat ern include Preference, Skat and Ulti,

though it must be admit ed that they are al highly complex and not

easily learnt from books – a proviso that applies equal y to such

other excel ent games as Ombre and Vira. Simpler three-handed

trick games include Ninety-Nine and Terziglio. Tysiacha and

Skitgubbe are of intermediate complexity. Many Tarot games are

designed for three.

Non-trick games are less wel served. Here, however – and this

applies as wel to trick-takers – three is often the minimum number

suitable for a wide variety of games listed below under the heading

‘indefinite numbers’.

Four players (partnership)

When it comes to four sit ing crosswise in fixed partnerships, you

are spoilt for choice. The classic western trick-takers are Whist

(simple), Bridge (complex), Euchre, Pinochle, Cinch and Five

Hundred. To these might be added Spades and Bid Whist, which

have recently achieved enormous popularity in America, the

Canadian game of Kaiser, and Don, an increasingly popular British

pub game. To extend this repertoire, try national games such as

Manil e, Doppelkopf, Roque, Sedma, Gaigel, Belote, Durak or

Klaverjas. For a real chal enge, you might experiment with

Karnof el, Wat en, Aluet e, or a partnership Tarot game. Quinto and

Calypso are two ‘invented’ games wel worth exploring, together

with my own game of Tantony.

The classic non-trick partnership game is Canasta, but there is

much to be said for Scopone, and Partnership Cribbage has its

devotees. If you have ever wondered whether Poker can be played

as a partnership game, Mus is a must. Concerto, of my invention, is

also based on Poker hands, but is not a gambling game.

Many two-handed games wil be found to have partnership

equivalents, and vice versa, for obvious mathematical reasons.

Four players (solo)

Four can play in several dif erent arrangements. They may play a

three-handed game such as Skat, with each in turn sit ing out the

hand to which they deal. (This is, in fact, the most usual way of

playing three-handers.) Or they may play one of the games listed

below under the heading ‘indefinite numbers’.

Of games designed specifical y for four, some are cut-throat

(completely non-partnership), while others are either solo games

(the highest bidder plays alone against the other three), or al iance

games (an ad hoc partnership may be formed between any two

players), or a mixture of the two.

players), or a mixture of the two.

Classic trick games include Hearts and Solo Whist. Classic but

defunct are Reversis and Quadril e, their respective ancestors. If you

like Hearts, you may want to try some of its more recent

elaborations such as Barbu and Tetka. If you like Solo Whist, try

Auction or Nomination Whist. Four of my own games with unusual

features are Col usion, Mismatch, Seconds and Bugami.

Many Rummy games are suitable for four, the most popular

being some form of Contract Rummy, which is played under a vast

and confusing array of aliases. Players interested in the history of

Poker should try its specifical y four-handed ancestor, Bouil ot e. A

game of Chinese origin that has recently become widespread in the

West, and which works best for four, is usual y known as Arsehole

(or its equivalent, such as Trouduc in French), but in America,

whether from prudery or irony, is often bowdlerized to President.

Five players

Very few games are specifical y designed for five, but many listed

below as ‘indefinite’ often play best that way. Five is said to be the

best number for the Irish game of Spoil Five, though Twenty-Five,

its modern equivalent, is largely played by four. My contribution to

the genre is cal ed Squint.

Six players

The old French games of Sixte and Sizet e are interesting curiosities,

andsosimpleastobeworth making more complicated.

Mycontribution is cal ed Sex (Latin for six, of course).

Indefinite numbers

Games for no specific number of players used to be cal ed ‘round’

games. Nearly al are suitable for four to six players, some also for

three, and some foruptoten. Among the trick-takinggames

three, and some foruptoten. Among the trick-takinggames

maybementioned Oh Hel !, Knockout Whist, Nap, Loo, Catch-the-

Ten, and the relatives listed alongside them.

To these may be added nearly al the adding-up games (Fifty-

One, Hundred, Jubilee, etc.), stops games (Newmarket, Michigan,

etc.), Rummy games (notably Manipulation Rummy), vying games

(Poker, Brag etc.) and banking games (Pontoon or Blackjack). Crazy

Eights and its relatives need no introduction, nor does Spit, but

perhaps a word might be put in for Cucumber.

You must remember this…

Play to the left unless otherwise stated

In English-speaking countries the rotation of play is normal y to the

left, or clockwise around the table (as viewed from above). In many

other countries it is the reverse, with play passing to the right. If

you are going to play a game authentical y, and especial y with the

appropriate cards, you might as wel play it the right way round (or

the left way round, as the case may be). Note, therefore, that if no

indication is given, play goes to the left; but if it normal y goes to

the right in the game’s country of origin, there wil be a note to that

ef ect.

Eldest hand

This denotes the player to the left of the dealer in left-handed

games, or to the right in right-handed games. Each player beyond

eldest gets progressively younger, so youngest is normal y the dealer

or, if the dealer does not take part, the player on the other side of

the dealer from eldest. In games of German origin, Eldest is cal ed

the dealer from eldest. In games of German origin, Eldest is cal ed

Forehand and, if three play, the others are respectively Middlehand

and Rearhand. Eldest or Forehand is usual y the player who makes

the first bid or the first play and who has priority in case of equal

bids or results. Other technical terms are explained in an appendix.


T = Ten. I normal y denote the 10 of a suit by the single character

T, partly because it is more convenient to represent a card by a

single character, especial y in a list, and partly because there are

many games in which the Ten has special significance.

4p = four players, 4pp = four in partnerships; 52c = 52 cards.

† = trump e.g. †A reads ‘Ace of trumps’. And ⋆ = Joker

He or she

I employ gender-inclusive language wherever practicable and

endorse the use of ‘they’ as a common-gender singular, but have too

much respect for my readers’ intel igence to submit to the sort of

institutionalized il iteracy that passes for political correctness.

Besides, there isn’t room.

Don’t forget…

Play to the left (clockwise) unless otherwise stated.

Eldest or Forehand means the player to the left of the dealer

in left-handed games, to the right in right-handed games.

T = Ten, p = players, pp = in fixed partnerships, c = cards,

† = trump, ⋆ = Joker.

1 Bridge-Whist family

Fifty-two cards are divided equal y among four players sit ing

crosswise in partnerships, the last card is turned for trump, and

each side strives to win a majority of the 13 tricks played.

Nothing could be simpler. The game is Whist – lesson one in the

education of a card-player – and everything else in this opening

section is based upon it.

Contract Bridge comes first in this col ection because it is the

most prestigious and most widely played card game in the world.

Yet, in both complexity and historicity, it fol ows on from Whist,

being its direct descendant and enjoying the high status that Whist

had long occupied before.

Contract Bridge

Satirical comments from films and shows of the early 1930s well reflect the

impact made by the then newly-developed game of Contract Bridge on the

American psyche:

Robert Greig (as butler) – Announce the schedule for the guests tomorrow, your


C. Aubrey Smith (as lord) – Bridge, at three. And dinner, at eight. After dinner –

Bridge. Rather an amusing day, Flamand, eh?

Greig – Quite exciting, your grace.

Smith – And what are the guests doing now, Flamand?

Greig – Playing Bridge, your grace.

Smith (delighted) – Aaah!

(Cut to shot of apparent corpses propped up at numerous card tables.)

(Love Me Tonight, 1932)

Basical y, Bridge is an extension of partnership Whist, with the

fol owing additional features:

An auction Instead of randomizing trumps by turning a card,

players bid for the right to choose trumps in exchange for

contracting to win a certain minimum of tricks. This feature is

prefigured in various forms of Bid Whist.

A no-trump bid, absent from ancestral Whist. (The name of the

game may derive from biritch, pronounced b’reech, said to be an

obsolete Russian word for this bid.)

The dummy One member of the side responsible for choosing

trumps becomes the declarer and plays from both hands. For this

purpose declarer’s partner lays his hand of cards face up on the

table for al to see. This feature, the dummy, is prefigured in

various forms of Dummy Whist.

The scoring line Scores are recorded above and below a horizontal

line dividing the score column in half. Only points scored below the

line contribute directly towards winning the game, and these are

BOOK: The Penguin Book of Card Games: Everything You Need to Know to Play Over 250 Games
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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