Crazy Solo, Frog, Six-Bid Solo

Introduction

The American games described on this page derive from the game Tappen, which appeared in Southern Germany, Western Austria and Switzerland around the beginning of the 19th century. Frog (whose name comes from the German Frage (question)) and Six-Bid Solo are described in many card game books. Like their ancestors they are 3-player using a 36-card deck. Other descendants are still played in a few places in Austria, Switzerland and Germany - for example the Austrian game Dobbm is described elsewhere on this site. Crazy Solo, a game for up to 12 players based on the same principles, is played in northwestern Oregon. Information on this game was kindly provided by Warren Juenemann.

These are all point-trick games: the object is to win tricks containing valuable cards. They are usually played with a 36-card deck, but in Crazy Solo sometimes fewer cards are used, depending on the number of players.

Rank and value of cards

In order to define which card wins a particular trick, we must first define a card ranking, given from highest to lowest:
ace, ten, king, queen, jack, 9, 8, 7, 6.

Also, the cards have a point value:

    Ace:11 points
    Ten:10 points
    King:4 points
    Queen:3 points
    Jack:2 points
    9, 8, 7, 6:      0 points

As you see, the total value of cards in the deck adds up to 120 points. The player (or team) that scores at least 61 points in a game wins. Games can end in a draw when both reach the same point total (60).

Crazy Solo for four or more players

Crazy Solo may be played with three through twelve players. The standard version of the game is for four or more players, and will serve as a basis for the three-player version to be described later.

The Deal

All the cards are distributed among the players, one card at a time, starting with the player to the left of the dealer.

  • Using a 36-card deck with four, six, nine or twelve players there are no leftover cards.
  • When there are five or seven players the six of spades is removed from the deck (35 cards).
  • When there are 8 players all of the sixes are removed (32 cards).
  • With 10 players, all of the sixes plus the seven of spades and seven of clubs are removed (30 cards).
  • For eleven players the sixes of spades, clubs and diamonds are removed (33 cards).

The deal starts with the player to the left of the dealer. That player is "on the lead." After all of the tricks of the hand are played the player to the left of that player is then on the lead.

A fast way to remove extra cards from the game when there are 5, 7, 8, 10 or 11 players is to have the dealer "spit" them. The first dealer will deal from a 36-card deck, but in the course of the deal, the dealer will place a number of cards equal to the number to be removed from the deck face down in the center of the table. The time at which each of the spit cards is to be dealt is determined by a player other than the dealer calling out "spit". "Spit" cannot be called until after each player has received at least one card. When enough cards have been spit to decrease the deck to the proper size no more cards can be spit. When the dealing is completed, players holding cards that need to be removed from the game place those cards face up and draw one of the spit cards (without showing anyone the card they drew). If there are unclaimed spit cards the dealer turns them face up to verify they are supposed to be removed. The face-up cards are then removed from the game.

Bidding

Each hand opens with a bidding round to determine who will be the solo player. Starting with the player "on the lead", everyone in turn, ending with the dealer, has just one opportunity to declare his bid. Each successive player must bid higher than the previous players or simply pass. One exception is that a player may "Solo in Hearts" after another who has bid the same. (This usually only happens when there's an odd number of players and the player who bid last wants to be the caller for payout reasons). The possible bids in rank order from lowest to highest are:

    Pass
    Solo
    Solo in Hearts
    Go Alone
    Go Alone in Hearts

Typically when someone is bidding a "Solo in Hearts" he will just say, "I solo over you." Likewise a "Go Alone in Hearts" bid is usually "I go alone over you."

The winning bidder then "calls" the trump, i.e. decides which suit will act as trump for the game. If the bid is "Solo in Hearts" or "Go Alone in Hearts", trump is automatically hearts. If the bid is "Solo" or "Solo in Hearts", the winning bidder also "calls" a card to be his partner. The called card is usually in the trump suit but is not required to be. He then announces the trump and called card (if not going alone) to the other players. (For example "Hearts and the Ace," "Diamonds are trump and I want the Ace of clubs," or "Alone in Spades").

The called card (if not going alone) serves to define which of the remaining players will team up with the first one: the remaining players form a team that is opposed to the caller/partner pair. The caller/partner team is called the "solo players" remaining players are called the "gang."

No one, except the partner, knows which one of the players will team up with the caller.

The caller may, if he wishes, call for a card he has in his own hand. In this case he plays alone and all the other players are in the gang, though they will not at first realise this. The caller will normally only attempt this when holding an exceptionally good hand.

If all players "pass," the cards are "thrown in" and re-dealt with the same player on the lead.

The Play

The player on the dealer’s left always makes the opening lead. Each player must follow suit if possible; anyone who cannot follow suit must play a trump card if he can. There is no requirement to beat the previous cards played. If a player has neither the led suit nor trump he may discard any card he chooses. The winner of the trick leads the next one.

The partner should avoid revealing his identity until the time comes to play the called card. The other players should try to deduce which player is playing with the caller, and adjust their strategy accordingly. If a high trump was called, usually the partner will play this called card when the caller leads out a small trump card, winning the gang players’ trump cards.

Scoring

At the end of the game, points gained by the caller and by the partner are counted together as the solo players’ points. The win (or loss) is based on winning a majority of the 120 available points. The payout is 2 points for each point over 60 if the trump is spades, clubs or diamonds and 3 points for each point over 60 if the trump is hearts. The payout is rounded to the nearest 5. If the payout rounds to 0 it is considered a tie.

The solo team receives pay from (or pays) each player of the gang. If there are an odd number of players in the gang team, the caller gets paid by (or pays) the extra one. (For example: If the solo players win 74 points with hearts as trump in a 7-player game the payout is (74-60)*3 or 42, which rounds to 40. Three of the gang players will each pay 40 to the caller; the remaining two gang players each pay 40 to the partner.)

Usually chips are used to handle the payout although the score can be kept on paper by adding or subtracting the payout for each player.

When chips are used, the values are usually 5, 20 and 30 points for different colors of chips. Players start with 150 points (six 5-point chips and six 20-point chips). If a player needs more chips, they come from a common "bank" and the amount he borrows is recorded. A low value coin is usually substituted for the 30-point chip making the "bank" unnecessary.

There is no defined target score or end to the game. Usually it is played until the players feel like quitting, or maybe for an amount of time agreed in advance. It is somtimes played for modest stakes, by assigning a small monetary value to the chips. At the end of the game players pay or receive according to the value of chips they have lost or won during the game.

Variations

One rule variation allows a gang player to call out that the gang is taking the trick to encourage others to dump point-cards onto the trick (usually when a gang player is holding the highest remaining trump card and will be playing it that trick). While allowing this seems unfair, often times a yet undiscovered partner bluffs and calls "gang", so players can never really be sure whom to trust. In the end it plays pretty even with this variation and the bluffing adds a fun element to the game.

Going Blind

This interesting variation is typically played only once in an evening of playing Crazy Solo.

The player who is on the lead can initiate the blind round by declaring "blind" but only if he hasn’t picked up his cards yet. The round is played if other players agree (they must also decide before looking at their hands). Usually they do agree, since there’s inevitably a blind round sometime during the evening anyway.

A blind round is played just like any other with the exception of the bidding. The player on the lead must "go under" (be the solo player) if he has at least one heart in his hand. He also must declare Hearts as trump. No other player gets to bid over him.

If the player to dealer's left does not have any hearts the hand reverts to a non-blind hand where everyone can bid (including the player who is "under"). If the hand reverts to a non-blind hand, the same dealer deals the next hand and the same player is on the lead and "under" again. If a player does not have a heart in his hand for three consecutive deals he is passed over - he deals the next hand and the player to his left is now "under".

The blind round ends when all players have been "under" or have been passed over.

Three player Crazy Solo

Three player Crazy Solo is identical to Crazy Solo for four or more players, except that the bids are restricted to "pass", "Go Alone" or "Go Alone in Hearts". There’s only one solo player and the other two are gang players. Normally it is played with 36 cards but if desired, the sixes, sevens and eights can be discarded leaving the players with 8 cards each.

Frog

In this three-player game, which according to the books is or was played in the southern USA and Mexico, the 36 cards are dealt as follows: a batch of 4 cards to each player, then 3 each, then 3 cards face down in the middle of the table to form a "widow", then 3 more to each player.

There are three possible bids. From lowest to highest, they are:

  • Frog - in which the player picks up the 3-card widow and then discards any three cards, whose points will count for him at the end. Hearts are trumps.
  • Chico - the widow is not looked at until the end, but counts for the lone player, who can choose any suit as trumps.
  • Grand - this is a heart solo - the same as Chico except that hearts are trumps.

The player to dealer's left leads, and the rules of play and card values are the same as in Crazy Solo.

In the scoring, there is no rounding to the nearest 5 points. In a Frog, the score (paid or received to or from the bidder by each of the two opponents) is the difference from 60. This is doubled in a Chico; in a Grand it is multiplied by 3.

Six-Bid Solo

In this three-player game with 36 cards, the deal is the same as in Frog, and the rules of play and card values are the same as in Frog and Crazy Solo. As the name suggests, there are six possible bids. There is no Frog bid in this game: in all cases the three widow cards are set aside unseen, but normally count for the bidder at the end of the play. From lowest to highest, the bids, their objectives and scores are as follows:

  • Solo. Bidder can choose any suit as trump. Score is twice the difference from 60.
  • Heart Solo. Hearts are trump. Score is three times the difference from 60.
  • Misere. The bidder undertakes to avoid taking any card points at all in tricks. There are no trumps and the widow does not count. Score: 30.
  • Guarantee Solo. The bidder chooses trump, and must take at least 74 card points (including the widow) if hearts are trump, or at least 80 points if he chooses a different suit as trump. Score: 40. That is, the lone player wins 40 points from each opponent if successful and pays 40 each if not, irrespective of the exact number of points taken. Score: 60.
  • Spread Misere. The same as misere, but the opening lead is made by the player to the bidder's left, after which the bidder lays all his cards face up on the table and plays them from there.
  • Call Solo. The bidder chooses trump and undertakes to win all 120 card points (including the widow). Before play begins the bidder names a card, and the holder of this card must give it to the bidder. The bidder gives back a card of his choice in exchange. If the called card is in the widow, it remains there and there is no exchange. Score: 150 points if hearts are trump; 100 points with any other suit as trump.

The bidding process is slightly unusual. The player to dealer's left bids first, followed by the second player. If both of these two players bid (rather than passing), they continue to bid alternately until one of them passes. Only then does the third player speak, and the bidding continues until all players but one have passed.

Other Web Sites

Rules for Six-Bid Solo and Frog can also be found on the Bicycle playing-cards (formerly USPCC) site.