Kierki

This page draws on information from Zefciu, Marek Wylon, Lucia Wilford, Dave George, Alexey Lobashev and Zbyszek Zdanowicz.

Introduction

Kierki is a very popular Polish compendium game, similar to King. "Kierki" is actually a diminutive of the word for heart, but this game is quite different from the Anglo-American game of Hearts, which is sometimes known in Poland is "Windows Hearts" because it is known only through the version that was shipped with a well-known computer operating system.

Four players participate in the basic version of Keirki, and there is a variant for three players with the scoring changed a bit to keep the balance. A Kierki match consists of two parts: the "game" (rozgrywka) and the "re-game" (odgrywka). In the first part the aim is to avoid winning certain cards or tricks which score negative points. In the second part, players try to win tricks to score positive points. In a properly planned match the sums of positive and negative points are equal, so the sum of all players' points in the end will be zero.

Players and Cards

The standard game is for four players, each playing for themselves. The standard 52-card French suited pack is used. The cards in each suit rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.

The game is played clockwise. The first dealer is chosen at random and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. The dealer deals all the cards out one at a time, so that each player has 13 cards.

Rozgrywka - Negative Games

The first seven deals are played without trumps. The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can, otherwise they may throw any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led and the winner leads to the next trick. The objective and scoring of each deal is different, as follows.

  1. Bez lew (no tricks). Players try to avoid taking tricks. Each trick taken scores -20 points.
  2. Bez kierów (no hearts). Players try to avoid taking hearts. Every heart in a player's tricks scores -20 points. You are forbidden to lead a heart to a trick unless you have nothing but hearts in your hand. There are no restrictions on discarding hearts if you have no card of the suit led.
  3. Bez pań (no ladies). Every queen in a player's tricks scores -60 points.
  4. Bez panów (no gentlemen). Every jack and every king in a player's tricks scores -30 points.
  5. Bez króla kier (no king of hearts). The king of hearts is the sole penalty card. The player who wins the trick that contains the king of hearts scores -150 points. As in deal 2 (Bez kierów), you are forbidden to lead a heart to a trick unless you have nothing but hearts in your hand. The king of hearts can be discarded on any trick to which you cannot follow suit.
  6. Bez siódmej i ostatniej lewy (no seventh and last trick) The winners of 7th trick and the last trick each score -75 points.
  7. Rozbójnik (bandit), also known as wariat (crazy). In this deal all the penalties from the first six previous deals are scored. So for example winning a trick on which the king of hearts is discarded costs you at least 20+20+30+150=220 points (for a trick, a heart, a genteleman and the king of hearts). As in deals 2 and 5, you must not lead hearts unless you have no alternative.

The total number of penalty points in the first six deals is 1300 (that is 20*13 + 20*13 + 60*4 + 30*8 + 150 + 75*2). The are another 1300 points to lose in deal 7, making 2600 altogether.

Odgrywka - Positive Games

Now comes the time to win your points back. This part normally consists of four trump deals, followed by a deal called loteryjka (little lottery).

Rozgrywka atutowa (trump games). The dealer looks at his first five cards he is dealt and announces a trump suit, after which the deal is completed. The dealer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. If unable to follow suit you may play any card. There is no obligation to beat the cards already played to the trick nor to trump if unable to follow suit. A trick is won by the highest trump in it, or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps were played. The winner leads to the next trick. Each trick won scores +25 points.

Loteryjka (little lottery). This is a game of Fan Tan. The object is to get rid of your cards as soon as possible by playing them to a 13x4 layout in which the cards of each suit are arranged in the order A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K. The possible plays are:

  • The seven of a suit that has not yet been played.
  • The next higher or lower card of a suit that has already been played.

The dealer begins, and play continues clockwise. At your turn you must add one card to the layout if you are able to. If you have no playable card you pass. Therefore the dealer must begin with a 7 if he or she has one. After the first 7 has been played, the next player must either add the 6 or 8 of that suit beside it or begin a new suit by playing another 7 below it. Once the 8 of a suit has been played the 9 becomes playable, and so on. The first player to run out of cards scores +800 points. The others continue playing and the second to run out of cards scores +500 points.

The total score for the four trump games is 1300 (25*13*4), and there is another 1300 for the Loteryjka. These 2600 positive points balance the 2600 negative points from the first seven deals, so at the end of the whole game (12 deals), the sum of the four players' scores should be zero.

If you wish to play for money, the final positive and negative scores of the players can be converted to gains and losses at a rate agreed in advance.

Three-player game

When three people play, the 2 of clubs is removed leaving 51 cards, and 17 cards are dealt to each player. The scores and rules in some of the deals need to be adjusted.

  • In deal 1: Bez lew (no tricks), each trick is worth -15 points.
  • In deal 5, the king of cards is worth -140 points.
  • In deal 6, the two penalty tricks are worth -70 points each.
  • There are three trump deals, and the dealer is allowed to look as six cards (rather than five) before choosing the trump suit.
  • In Loteryjka the winner scores +790 points and the second player scores +485 points.

This results in a total of 2550 (2*1275) penalty points in the negative games. There will be three trump deals each with 17 tricks for a total of 51*25 = 1275 points, and the value of the Loteryjka is also 1275 (790+485) to balance the scores.

Variations

There are many variations in the exact sequences of games that are played and the scores. The scores should always be chosen so that the totals for the negative and positive games cancel, so that the players' scores balance at the end.

Some play that in deal 5, "no king of hearts", the king must be discarded in the first trick to which its holder cannot follow suit. You cannot wait and try to give it to a player of your choice.

There are several variants of deal 6.

  • -150 for the last trick only
  • -75 each for the last two tricks
  • -75 each for the 3rd and 7th tricks
  • -75 each for the 3rd and 8th tricks
  • -50 each for the first, fourth(?) and last tricks
(With three players the deal 6 scores of -150 and -75 are reduced to -140 or -70, and if there are three penalty tricks their scores would need to be something like -45, -45 and -50 to add up to 140.)

The last negative deal rozbójnik is also sometimes known as "grą z rozbójnikiem", "wariatem" or "lokomotywą". This deal can be omitted altogether: this can be balanced by omitting Loteryjka from the positive games. This reduces the element of luck by removing two games which can cause large unpredictable swings in scores.

For the positive games, some play 4 deals with trumps and one deal with no trumps, counting 20 per trick to make a total of 1300 points in a four-player game.

Some play that in the trump games it is the player to dealer's left who chooses trumps and leads to the first trick.

Some play that in the games "no hearts" and "no king of hearts", it is illegal to lead hearts unless you have nothing else.

In Loteryjka, some play, that the dealer can choose the rank of the starting card, which need not necessarily be 7. All suits must be started with a card of this rank and built up to ace and down to two. It is sometimes be skilful for the dealer to choose a rank that he does not hold, and begin by passing.

Some play four Loteryjka deals rather than one in a four-player game. The winner scores 200 points and the second-placed player 125 points for each. In a three-player game, three Lotreryjka deals can be played with the winner scoring 250 and the second player 175.

Some play a version of the trump games in which just 12 cards are dealt to each player and the last four cards are placed face up on the table. The dealer has the right to take these four cards into hand, give one card face down to each of the other players and choose trumps. However, before he does this, the other players in turn, beginning to dealer's left, can offer dealer a number of points to be allowed to take over the dealer's role of picking up the extra cards, distributing an unwanted card to each opponent and choosing trumps. The dealer can, if he wishes, say how many points he would be prepared to accept. If more than one other player wants to buy the dealer's right, there is an auction between them. At the end of this the dealer can accept the highest offer, or decline it and take the four cards himself. If an offer was accepted, the hand is scored in the usual way (25 points per trick), but the number of points offered is subtracted from the score of the player who made the offer and added to the dealer's score. Example: North deals and accepts an offer of 125 points from West. North takes 2 tricks, East 1, South 4, West 6. North score 175 (50+125), East scores 25, South 100, West 25 (150-125). The player who offers points can have a negative score for the hand, if he does not take enough tricks to pay for his offer.

There are many alternative scoring schemes. Here are some examples:

DealVariation 1Variation 2Variation 3Variation 4
No tricks-2-n-3-10
No hearts-2-4-3-20
No girls-5-13..-80
No boys-3-6-4-40
No heart king-16-52-20-320
No 7th and last-9..-13-160
Trumps+10..+3+50
Lottery..100/50/0/-50..300/200/100/0

In variation 1, which I played in Warsaw in 1981, the game consisted just of 4 deals of bandit (all negative scores together, total 130) followed by 4 positive deals of trumps (or no trumps). In bandit, the 9 point penalties were for the last two tricks, not the 7th and last. All scores were doubled if one player took no tricks, trebled if two players took no tricks, but if one player took all the tricks, that player scored nothing while the others scored -130 each. In trumps the scores were multiplied by 2, 3 or 4 if 1, 2 or 3 players took no trick. The player to dealer's left (forehand) chose a trump suit (or no trump) based on his whole hand and led to the first trick. Before forehand announced his choice, any other player could bid to take over the right to choose trumps in exchange for a number of tricks transferred to forehand. If more than one player wanted to do this they would bid against each other in rotation, and forehand could then choose whether to accept or reject the highest bid. Players had to trump when unable to follow suit and to beat cards already played to the trick when possible. For each hand where someone took no tricks, extra hands of the opposite type had to be played to balance the scores. In these extra games, the player who took no tricks before (or all the tricks in a bandit) would be forehand for the balancing positive game(s).

In variation 2, reported by Lucia Wilford under the name "Polish Hearts", there can be 3-5 players, and the number of points per trick in the first deal equals the number of players. With three players the club2 is removed and with five players the club2 and diamond2. The first five deals are worth 254-256 points depending on the number of players. Then a game of bandit is played, also worth 254-256 points. Finally there are three hands of lottery (here called "parliament") contributing 100 points each, so the scores do not sum to zero in this variation.

Variation 3 is reported by Dave George to have been played in RAF Transport Command during the 1960s. The negative part has five deals, without "no ladies" and without bandit, for a total of -156. In the fourth deal the 52-point penalty in this version is for the queen of spades, not the king of hearts. The negative games are balanced by four positive games - there is no lottery. If the positive games each of the four players is dealt 12 cards, and the player to dealer's left adds the remaining "box" of four cards, and discards any three cards, which are passed face down to the other players before announcing trumps.

Variation 4, reported by Zbyszek Zdanowicz under the name "robber" (Rozbój) can be played by 3-5 players. The order of deals 3 and 4 are reversed ("no boys" before "no girls") and the order of 5 and 6 is also reversed ("no 7th and last" before "no heart king"). Deal 7 is "robber", combining all the scores for deals 1-6. The scores for lottery, here called "the race", are 200/100/0 if there are three players, and 400/300/200/100/0 if there are 5 players. The scores do not add up to zero in this variation.

Kierki software and online games

On line Kierki is available at