Casino

This page is partly based on contributions from Kim Scarborough, Janet Levy, Scott Grengs and Rachel Hooley. Jonathan Dushoff contributed the versions from Swaziland and Lesotho and Faizal Asmal the South African version. The historical introduction draws on an article by Franco Pratesi: Casino from Nowhere to Vaguely Everywhere (The Playing-Card Vol XXIV No 1 July/Aug 1995 pages 6-11)

Introduction

Casino is the only fishing game to have become popular in English speaking countries. Although it is traditionally supposed to have originated in Italy, there is no direct evidence of it having been played there, at least under that name, though many other Italian fishing games are known. Casino first appears in the card game literature at the end of the eighteenth century in London, and shortly afterwards in Germany. In the late nineteenth century it became fashionable in America and a number of new variations were developed. There is a dispute about the correct spelling of the name - the earliest sources use the spelling Casino, but a tradition has grown up among later writers to spell it with a double 's': Cassino.

The standard Anglo-American version of Casino is described first, followed by some interesting versions from southern Africa (Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa) in which captured cards remain in play and can be reused in builds.

The Players, the Cards and the Objective

The game works best with from 2 to 4 players, though in theory more could take part. It has the distinction of being one of the few games which will deal out evenly to two, three, or four players. Four players can play in partnerships, two against two, with partners sitting opposite each other.

A regular 52 card deck is used. Each numeral card (ace-ten) is counted as its numerical value (ace = 1, two = 2, etc). The aim is to capture cards from a layout on the table, by playing a card from hand which matches in number a table card or the sum of several table cards. Picked up cards are accumulated in a pile to be counted at the end of the round.

The Deal

The dealer deals four cards to each player and four cards face up in the centre (these centre cards are laid out separately so that all are visible). Traditionally, the deal is in twos: two cards to each other player, two to the table, then two to the dealer, then repeat. However, some players prefer to deal the cards singly. The remainder of the deck is temporarily put aside. After everyone has played their four cards, another hand of four cards is dealt to each player from the remaining cards, but no more cards are dealt to the table after the first deal. After these cards have been played there is another deal, and this continues until all 52 cards have been dealt (this takes 6 deals for 2 players, 4 deals for three players, 3 deals for 4 players). The dealer must announce "last" when dealing the last cards. After the last cards have been played and the hand scored, the deal passes to the left for the next round.

The Play

Starting with the player to the left of the dealer and continuing clockwise, each player in turn must play one card out from hand face up on the table. This card may or may not capture one or more cards from the table.

  • In case of a capture, when the other players have had an opportunity to see the capturing card, the player picks up this card and the captured cards and stores them all face down in a pile.
  • If there is no capture the played card remains face up on the table.
Irrespective of whether a capture was made or not, the turn passes to the next player.

In detail, the possible types of play are as follows:

1. Capturing with a face card
If the card played is a face card (king, queen or jack) which matches the rank of a face card on the table, the face card on the table may be captured. This is the only possible capture with a face card. If the table contains more than one matching card only one may be captured.

Example:The clubQ and spadeQ are on the table, and the diamondQ is played. The player may capture one of the queens from the table but not both.

2. Capturing with a numeral card
A numeral card (Ace, 2, ..., 10) can capture any numeral cards on the table which are of the same rank as the card played, and any sets of numeral cards which add up to the rank of the card played, with the following restrictions:
  • cards which are part of a build (see below) can only be captured by a card of the rank announced for that build;
  • when sets are captured, each captured card can only be counted as belonging to one such set.

Example If an eight is played it could capture one, two or three eights from the table. It could also capture a five and a three, or a four and two twos. If the following cards are on the table: A 2 3 5 6 8, then an eight could capture 8 6 2 5 3 or 8 5 2 A, but not all six cards.

3. Building
A numeral card may be played and combined with other cards on the table, placing them together to form a build. A build can be made out of any collection of numeral cards which can be captured by a single numeral card according to rule 2 above. The player making the build must announce the capturing number (saying, for example, "building 5"), and must hold a numeral card which can later make the capture. There are two types of build: single builds and multiple builds.
  • A single build consists of two or more cards whose capture values add up to the capture value of the build - for example a 5-build made of a 2 and a 3, or a 10-build made of A-4-5.
  • A multiple build consists of two or more cards or sets of cards, each of which equates to the capture value of the build - for example a 5-build made of a 2 and a 3 plus a 4 and an ace, or a 5-build made of A-4 and 5, or a 9-build made of two nines, or a 9-build made of 6-3 plus 5-4 plus 9.
When you make a build, it must include the card you just played - you cannot create a build consisting entirely of cards that were already on the table. Cards which have been made into a build can subsequently only be captured as a unit, never separately.

Examples

  • If there is a 5 on the table, a player holding a 3 and an 8 may put the 3 on the 5 and announce "building 8"; this single build can now only be captured by an 8.
  • If there is an ace and a two on the table, a player holding two threes and a six could play one of the threes and either:
    1. capture the two and the ace;
    2. combine the played three with the ace and the two and make a single build, announcing "building 6";
    3. combine the played three with the ace and the two and make a multiple build, announcing "building 3";
    It would not be legal to play the three on the ace, building four, or on the two, building five, as the player does not hold a four or a five.
4. Capturing a build
A build can be captured by playing a numeral card of the rank which was announced when the build was made. It is thus possible to "steal" a build created by another player, if you have the right numeral card.
If on your turn, the table contains a build which you created or added to yourself, and no other player has added to it since your last turn, you are not allowed simply to trail a card (as in rule 6) on your next turn. You must either make a capture of some kind, create another build, or add to a build (i.e. follow rule 3, 4 or 5). It is always possible to capture in this situation - if nothing else, you must hold the capturing card for the build you just made, otherwise your build was illegal.
If there is a build on the table, and you were the last player to add a card to this build, you are not allowed to play so as to leave yourself with no card equal to the value of this build.
While capturing a build, you can also capture any loose cards on the table that add up to the same number. For example you have made a build of 9 and there is a 5 on the table. If the player before you plays a 4, you can capture the 4 and the 5 at the same time that you take in your build.
It is not possible to capture a build with a card of any other rank than that announced for the build. For example the table contains a 4 and a 3 combined into a build of 7, plus a separate 2. You cannot play a 9 to take the build of 7 plus the 2 - the build can only be captured with a 7.
5. Adding to a build
There are two ways of adding to a build:
  1. You may add a card from your hand to a single build, increasing the capturing number, provided that you also hold a card which will capture the new build. At the same time you may incorporate additional cards from the table into the build, if they are equal to the new capturing number. In this case the build will become multiple. You can never use a card from the table to change the value of a single build.

    Example A The table contains a build consisting of two threes, announced as a build of six. If you hold a two and an eight, you can add the two to the build announcing "building 8". The next player, holding an ace and a nine, could then add the ace and say "building 9".

    The capturing number of a multiple build can never be changed. If the original build of two threes in the above example had been announced as building three (rather than building six), it would not be possible for a player holding a two and a five to add the two to the build, making five, not for a player holding a two and an eight to add the two making eight.

    Example B The table contains an ace, a two and a four; the ace and the four have been combined by a previous player into a build of five. You hold a three, an eight and a ten. You can play your three onto the single five-build and announce "building eight", but you are not allowed to incorporate the two from the table into this build to make it a build of ten.

    Example C The table contains a three and a four, built into a seven, and a separate nine. You hold a two and a nine. You can play your two, combining it with the seven-build to make nine, and at the same time incorporate the nine on the table into the build, converting it to a multiple build and saying "building nine".

  2. You may add to any build, single or multiple, by playing a card from your hand which, either alone or combined with other cards on the table which are not yet in builds, matches the existing capture number of the build, provided that you hold a card which can capture the combined build.

    Example The table contains a 9-build consisting of a 5 and a 4, and there is also a 3 on the table. You hold a six and two nines. You can play your 6, combining it with the 3 and the existing build to make a new multiple build of 9. Then on your next turn (provided that no one else captured) you could add one of the nines from your hand to the build. Finally, on the following turn, you could capture the whole build with your second nine.

Note that when making or adding to a build, you must contribute a card to it from your hand. You cannot just combine various cards which are already on the table to form a build. Note also that once a build contains more than one card or sets of cards which add to the capturing number, it is a multiple build and the capturing number can no longer be changed.

Example. There is a multiple 8-build of 3-5-8 on the table, and there is also a loose 6 on the table. In your hand you have 2, 8, 8, 10. You may add one of your 8s to the build, making 3-5-8-8, or to add your 2 together with the 6 on the table, making 3-5-8-2-6, still with capture value 8. You cannot use your 2 to change the capture value to 10.

6. Trailing
If you simply play a card without building or capturing, the card is placed face up on the table alongside any other layout cards and remains there to be captured or built on in future. It is then the next player's turn. Playing a card without building or capturing is sometimes called trailing. You are allowed to trail a card even if that card could have made a capture.
Example Suppose that in a four player partnership game your partner has two tens and you have one. Your partner plays a 10 and the next player does not take it. On your turn, if you suspect that your partner has a second 10, you can play your 10 and not capture, leaving both tens on the table for your partner.
The only case in which trailing is not allowed is when there is a build on the table which you were the last player to add to.

When all the cards have been played in the final deal, the last player who made a capture also wins any cards which are left on the table (these cards are sometimes known as the residue). That is why it is important that the dealer should announce "last" when dealing the last cards.

Hint on tactics: it is often good for the dealer to hold back a face card to play last if possible; this will capture a matching face card on the table and thereby also win any other table cards that remain.

Scoring

Each player (or team) counts their score based on the pile of cards they have won. There are eleven possible points in each hand:

  • whoever has the Most Cards gets three points;
  • whoever has Most Spades is one point;
  • each Ace is worth one point (capturing an ace with another ace is called "cash" by some players)
  • the ten of diamonds, called Big Casino or the Good Ten, is worth two points;
  • the two of spades, called Little Casino or the Good Two, is worth one point.

If there is a tie for most cards or most spades, no one gets those points.

Whoever first reaches a total of 21 or more points, over however many rounds it takes, wins the game. If two people reach the target on the same round, whoever has the higher score wins. If there is a tie, another round is played.

Variations

Building Rules

Building is the most intricate part of the game, and there are several variations in exactly what is allowed when creating or capturing builds, and many of the card game books are ambiguous on this point. Some people play by more permissive rules, for example:

  • Some players allow a player to trail a card and simultaneously make a build by combining other cards on the table, not including the card played.
  • Some players allow a player who has a build on the table simply to trail a card on subsequent turns, leaving the build in place.
  • Some players allow cards from the table to be used to help increase the value of a single build, provided that a card from your hand is also used to increase the value. In this variation, in Example B under rule 5 above, it would be legal when playing your 3 on the 5-build to incorporate the 2 from the table as well, making a single build of 10. On the other hand, if there was a 6-build and a 3 on the table and you had two nines in your hand, it would not be legal to combine one of your nines with the six-build and the three to make a multiple build of nines, because when changing the value of a build, the card you play from your hand has to contribute to the change of value.
  • Some players treat a single build exactly like a single card of the same value, for the purpose of capturing it or extending the build. For example, if there is a build of 6 (5+A) on the table and a loose 4, a player who holds a 10 can capture the 6-build and the 4, and a player who holds two 10's can combine one 10 from hand with the 6-build and the 4 to make a multiple 10-build.

Sweeps

Many people play that a Sweep is worth one point. A sweep occurs when a player takes all the cards from the table, leaving it empty and forcing the next player to trail. Some players call this a clear. When making a sweep, the capturing card is stored face-up in the pile of won cards, so that the number of sweeps can be checked when scoring. It is possible to make a sweep with the last card of the final deal if it captures all the cards on the table, but if it does not, taking the remaining cards from the table because you made the last capture does not count as a sweep.

Scoring

Other targets for winning the game are possible:

  • Some play to 11 points. In a two player game (or a 4-player game with partners), in each round the player with more points scores the difference between the points made by the two players or sides.
  • Some play to 50 points.

Some people, instead of scoring three points for cards, award two points to the player with most cards and one point to the player who made the last capture during the game.

Some play that when deciding the overall winner, if both players reach the target score in the same round, the points are counted in order: cards, spades, big casino, little casino, aces (in the order spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds), sweeps (in order of occurrence).

Some players, when approaching the target score, count the points as they are earned - each sweep as it happens, aces, big and little casino as they are captured, and spades or cards as soon as one player has captured 7 or 27 of them respectively. In this case the play would end as soon as a player correctly claims to have won by reaching the target score (even if the opponent has in fact scored more but failed to claim it). Some score sweeps as they happen, but the remaining points in a specific order, with an agreed order of suits for the aces.

Royal Casino

As described in English and American books, Royal Casino differs from the standard game only in the use of the picture cards and aces. Jacks have a capture value of 11, Queens 12, Kings 13 and Aces 1 or 14 at the discretion of the player. Picture cards and aces can capture and be captured, and can be incorporated into builds in the same way as other cards. For example, a Queen can capture a Five and a Seven, or an Ace can capture a King and an Ace, counting the capturing Ace as 14 and the captured Ace as 1.

Kasino in Finland

The game of Kasino which popular in Finland is similar to Royal Casino, but normally played without building: so the only possibilities are to capture or to trail (play a card that does not capture anything, leaving it on the table. It is commonly played by 2 people, but 3 or 4 can also play. A 52-card pack is used and as usual the deal is 4 cards each and 4 to the table, 2 at a time, with a further deal of 4 each when the hands are exhausted.

  • Kings have a capture value of 13, Queens 12, Jacks 11, 2-10 face value.
  • An Ace has a capture value of 1 on the table, but 14 when played from hand. Therefore an Ace cannot capture a single Ace.
  • The spade2 (Small Kasino) has a capture value of 2 on the table, but 15 when played.
  • The diamond10 (Big Kasino) has a capture value of 10 on the table but 16 when played.

The scoring is somewhat different from standard Casino, in that cards are worth less and spades are worth more:

  • majority of cards: 1 point (not scored if there is a tie)
  • majority of spades: 2 points (shared if there is a two-way tie in a 3- or 4-player game)
  • each Ace: 1 point
  • spade2 (Small Kasino): 1 point
  • diamond10 (Big Kasino): 2 points

That makes 10 points in each hand (if there are no ties). In addition there is an extra point for each sweep, known in Finnish as a mökki (hut), and recorded by turning one card face up in the player's captured card pile. If all players (or teams) have a sweep, they cancel (each player/team loses one sweep). This can make a difference when nearing the end of a game.

The first player to 16 points wins. For this purpose sweeps are counted as they occur, so the game can finish in the middle of a hand. The other points cannot be claimed until all the cards have been played. The scores are then totalled and if any player has 16 or more the player with the highest score wins. In case of a tie, Aces, Small and Big Casino are counted first, then if there is still a tie, Spades are counted, and finally cards.

Cristian Seres' Kasino page has rules, variations and some advice on Finnish Kasino.

Kasino in Sweden

A version of Royal Casino is also popular in Sweden. According to Dan Glimne's description in his Kortspelshandboken, this is a little different from the Finnish game. Aces have a capture value of 1 or 14 at the choice of the player, Kings are 13, Queens 12, Jacks 11 and 2-10 are always face value, with no special capture value for the spade2 or diamond10.

As in Finland there can be 2, 3 or 4 players. The scoring is the same except that there is an extra point (sistan) for the player who makes the last capture and thereby takes the remaining cards from the table. Thus the total in the absence of ties and sweeps is 11. A sweep is called a tabbe and scores an extra point. The winner is the first player to reach 16 points or more, which can happen during the play.

Swazi Casino

This interesting version of Casino, which is popular in Swaziland, was contributed by Jonathan Dushoff. The building process is different from that of Anglo-American Casino. Captured cards are kept face up, and the top card from your pile of captures can be taken by your opponents to add to their builds.

Players, Cards and Deal

Swazi Casino is played by 2, 3 or 4 people using a standard 52 card pack. The version for 3 or 4 players is described first. When there are four players, the players sitting opposite each other are partners. The usual direction of play is anticlockwise.

For the purpose of capturing, pip cards from 2 to 10 have their face values, jacks count as 11, queens 12, kings 13 and aces 1 or 14.

The dealer shuffles the cards and the player to the dealer's right (who will be the first to play) cuts four cards out of the middle of the deck, and puts them face up in the centre of the playing area to form the initial layout, and returns the deck to the dealer (who plays last). The dealer then deals out all of the cards to the players, one at a time. The first dealer is chosen at random; subsequently the deal passes to the right after each hand.

Some people have rules disallowing certain cuts. The game is rather uninteresting if there are too many scoring cards in the layout at the start. Also, when there are four players, the pair that plays first has a big disadvantage at the end, which is balanced by their having the first chance to capture at the beginning, but the benefit of making the first move is reduced if too many big cards are cut. There are many variations, but it is suggested that if the initial layout contains either

  • cards with a scoring value of three or more points (e.g. diamond10 and an ace), or
  • three or more picture cards,

then the four cards should be put back in the pack, which is reshuffled and the cut repeated.

The play

All captured cards are kept face up in a single pile in front of the player who captured them. In the four-player version, partners share a pile. New captures are added to the top of the pile. When you capture several cards at once, you may sort the captured cards however you like. The capturing card, however, must go on top of your pile. You do not show the other players in what order you have arranged the captured cards in your pile. When playing with partnerships, you may sort the cards you capture, or if your partner is looking after your team's capture pile you may hand the cards to your partner to sort instead.

In the centre of the playing area is the layout of face up cards which are available for capture by the players. At the start of the game there are four single cards in the layout. As the game progresses, these can be captured, or further single cards can be played there. It is also possible for cards in the layout to be combined into builds - piles of cards with a specific total value which are treated as a single unit until they are captured. There are two types of build:

  • a single build is a pile of cards whose value is the sum of the values of the cards in it - for example a single build of 13 could consist of a 6, a 5 and a 2.
  • an augmented build consists of two or more single cards or sets of cards, each of which adds up to the same value - for example an augmented build of 12 could consist of two queens, or Q + 7+5, or 6+6 + 8+3+A, or Q + Q + 10+2 + 3+3+6, etc.

Each build has an owner, who is responsible for eventually capturing it, unless it is first changed in value or captured by another player. Single cards in the layout belong to no one in particular.

The turn to play rotates. Your turn can consist several actions, in any order. At some point during your turn you must play exactly one card from your hand. The possible actions during a turn are:

  1. to play a card from your hand to capture one or more single cards and/or a build from the layout;
  2. to form a new build of your own;
  3. to change the value of a build using a card from your hand;
  4. to create or add to an augmented build;
  5. to discard a single card from your hand to the layout.

Actions 1, 3 and 5 involve playing a card from your hand, so only one of these actions can be performed during a turn. Actions 2 and 4 can involve playing a card from your hand, or can be performed using only cards that are already in play. As long as no card from your hand is involved, you can perform as many of actions 2 and 4 as you wish in any order, before or after playing from your hand.

Each type of action will now be described in detail:

1. The capture or "chow"
A capture can only be made by playing a card from your hand.
  • If you play a card from your hand that matches a single card in the layout, that single card is captured.
  • If the card you play matches the sum of several single cards in the layout, you capture that set of cards.
  • If the card you play matches the value of a build, you capture that build (no matter who owns it).
If you play a card that matches several separate cards, sets or builds you can capture them all.
Note that you cannot capture cards directly from the top of an opponent's capture pile (though you may be able to do so indirectly by first using them to augment a build - see below). Also, you can only capture a build by matching its value - you cannot add the value of another build or card to create a match. Example: in the layout is a build of 8 (5+3), a build of 6 (4+2) and a single 6. If you play an ace (14) it does not capture anything. If you play a 6 it captures the single 6 and the 6-build.
If you play a capturing card as an action of type 1 or 5 (capture or discard), but fail to take all the cards you are entitled to capture, any opponent can insist (if they wish) that you capture all the cards that it is legal for you to take. (They might do this if they thought you would get an advantage by leaving some of the cards that you should have captured in the layout). Alternatively, if the opponents think that you have made a mistake by not capturing all the cards that you could, they may let your play stand.
Note that it is legal to play a card that could have captured, but to use it in a build instead (action 2, 3 or 4). This is called drifting. If you use your played card legally for an action of type 2, 3 or 4, the opponents have no right to make you capture instead.
2. Creating a single build
A single build can be formed from single cards already in the layout, with or without adding a card from your hand. The player who forms the build becomes its owner. You are only allowed to form a build if you have a card in your hand which can later capture that build.
Examples:
  • there is a 5, a 3 and a 2 in the layout and you have a 10 in your hand; you can combine the 5, 3 and 2 into a build of 10.
  • there is a 4 and a 5 in the layout and you have a 5 and an ace in your hand; you can play your 5, combining it to the 4 and 5 to make a build of 14.
You are not allowed to use cards from any capture pile when creating a single build.
3. Changing the value of a single build
You can change the value of a single build only if all of the following conditions hold:
  • the build is currently owned by an opponent;
  • you change the value by adding a single card from your hand
  • you have a card in your hand that matches the new value of the build
By changing the value you take over ownership of the single build.
Example: if your opponent has made a single build of 9 and you hold a 2 and a jack, you can add your 2 to the build and make it 11. You would not be allowed to do this if the 9-build had been formed by yourself or your partner.
Note that it is not possible to change the value of a build and capture it in the same turn, as that would involve playing two cards from your hand.
It is not possible to change the value of an augmented build
4. Augmenting a card or build
You can augment a build that is owned by yourself or your partner by adding further single cards or sets of cards of the same value. When augmenting a build you can use single cards from the layout, one card from your hand, and the top card of the opponents' capture pile(s). It is possible to form a build and then augment it in the same turn.
If there is a single card in the layout which you can match with a card from your hand, you can make this card into an augmented build by adding further cards to it, from the layout, from your hand or from the top of the opponents' capture pile(s). You thereby become the owner of that build.
You can augment a build owned by your opponent only if you also capture that build in the same turn. Since you can only capture with a card from your hand, and you can only play one card from your hand during your turn, any augmentation of an opponent's build has to be done using cards from the layout or from the top of your opponents' capture pile(s).
You are not allowed to use a card from the top of your own (or partner's) capture pile to augment a build.
The value of an augmented build can never be changed. Such a build can only be further augmented and then eventually captured by a card of that value.
Only the card on top of your opponents' capture pile at any time is available to augment a build. After it has been taken the card underneath it becomes available for use. Example: There are a 9 and a 2 in the layout. You have a 9 in your hand, the top card of an opponent's capture pile is a 5 and the next card underneath that is a 2. You are not allowed to take the 5 and 2 from the opponent's pile with the 2 on the table to augment the build. However, if the layout had instead contained a 9, a 7 and a 4, it would be legal to add the 4 with the opponent's captured 5 to make an augmented build of nines, and then use the now exposed 2 with the 7 from the layout to augment the build again.
If there are any cards in play (in the layout or on top of a capture pile) that can legally be added to a build owned by you or your partner, any opponent can insist that you add such cards to your build(s) before you end your turn.
5. Discarding a card
You are always free, for the play from your hand, to play a card that does not capture anything, simply leaving it as a single card in the layout. There is no obligation (as in standard Anglo-American Casino) to make a capture when you own a build.
You may not, however, abandon a build that you own by using up all of the cards that you could have captured it with for other purposes.

It is never possible to break up builds, nor to combine two builds to form a build of higher value.

Note that the top card of an opponent's capture pile can only be used to augment a card or build. So before you can make use of the card, you must already have a "base" in the layout which it can help to augment. A base is

  • a build that belongs to you or your partner, or
  • a single card in the layout which does not match the value of any existing build, and which either
    • you could capture by matching it from your hand, or
    • you can prove your partner can capture it, because your partner previously made a build of that value which was changed or taken by someone else and has not subsequently played a card of that value.

There cannot be two builds of the same capture value on the table at the same time. That means that if your opponent has (for example) a build of 13, you are not allowed to make a 13-build of your own alongside it. You can make a second build of a value which your side already owns, but your must then combine them into a single augmented build. Example: you own a 13-build and an opponent has created a single build of 9 (6+3). If you have a 4 in your hand, you can play it to increase the 9-build to 13, but you must then amalgamate this with your existing 13-build to make an augmented 13-build.

A single ace in the layout or in a player's hand or in a capture pile can be deemed to have a value of 1 or 14 according to the player who wants to use it in a build or capture. Once an ace is incorporated in a build, its value is fixed until the build is captured. If you put two aces together to make an augmented build you must choose and announce whether its value is 1 or 14.

Special rules for partnership play

If your partner owns a build whose value is then changed by an opponent, or which is captured by someone other than your partner (including yourself), then you know that your partner holds a card of the rank needed to capture that build. As long as your partner does not play a card of this rank, you are allowed to create a new single or augmented build of this rank, which will be owned by your partner. This is the only circumstance in which you can build for your partner, no matter how completely obvious it is that your partner has the card in question from other cues.

If your partner plays a card that captures a build belonging to you or your partner, and you have a card of that rank in your hand, you may ask your partner not to capture the build. Your partner may ignore your request and capture the build anyway, or may instead use the played card to augment the build, in which case you take over ownership of the build.

The end of the play and the scoring

When all the cards have been played, whoever made the last capture takes whatever cards are left in the layout.

Each player or team then scores for the cards in their capture pile as follows:

Player (or team) with most cards2 points (if tied the tieing players get one point each)
Player (team) with most spades2 points (if tied the tieing players get one point each)
Two of spades ("spy two")1 point
Ten of diamonds ("big ten")2 points
Aces1 point each

Thus a total of 11 points are scored for each deal.

Note that there is no extra score for sweeps (capturing all cards from the layout)

Swazi Casino: Two-player version

In the standard two-player version, after the cut twelve cards are dealt out to each player, and when these have been played another twelve each are dealt. While playing your first twelve cards, there are two extra restrictions:

  • It is illegal to discard a card without capturing while you own a build.
  • you are not allowed to have more than one build at the end of your turn (you may, however, make a second build for the purposes of stealing cards from your opponent, as long as you chow one of the two builds at the end of the turn).

After the first twelve cards have been played, the layout is left intact and the remaining cards are dealt. When playing your second twelve cards, the rules of play are as in three or four-player casino, without the above restrictions.

An alternate two-player version is sometimes called "crazy casino". In this version, each player is dealt eight cards, and the remainder form a face-down drawing pile from which you pick up a card after each play, to keep eight cards in your hand, until all of the cards are gone. In this version, the first of the two restrictions above - that you may not discard while you are building - applies until there are no cards left in the drawing pile. The rule against more than one build is sometimes also enforced, but Jonathan Dushoff suggests that this version of the game is better without it.

Notes on tactics

The tactics of this game centre around the builds - especially builds of high value. Suppose for example that early in the game you find that you (or your team) have a monopoly of aces. Then you can make a build of 14 that the other team cannot touch, and at every opportunity you augment it with more sets of cards adding up to 14. Right at the end you capture a huge pile of cards with your last ace.

Sometimes there will be rival piles - for example one player (or team) building 14's and another building 12's. Build piles with a high capture value are most powerful, because they are easy to augment. If you have a smaller value build pile - say nines - then it will be safe for your opponents to play a 10 or higher, because these cards cannot be incorporated in your build. If your opponent has a pile of 13's or 14's, all your cards are potentially at risk. If your opponent has a 13-build and you capture with (say) a 10, your opponent may play a 3 from hand and then take your 10 together with the 3 to augment the build.

A large part of the tactics of the game is correct timing of when to capture. Although the ultimate objective is to capture cards, capturing early can put you at a disadvantage, especially in the three-player game, because your capture pile then becomes available to your opponents to augment their builds. Because large value piles are so powerful, it is particularly important not to release your queens, kings and aces too early if this may give your opponent a monopoly. To exploit this, if you and another player have (say) a king each, you might start a 13-build early in the game to tempt your opponent to capture it, leaving you with a 13 monopoly.

Drifting can be used as a way of signalling to your partner. Drifting is only safe when you know that your opponents have no more of the card in question, or when you know that you and your partner combined will still have two left. Therefore a drift by the player who owns the pile signals that he or she has two more of the card in question; a drift by the other partner signals one more of the card in question (unless the card played is appearing for the third time, in which case the build is safe anyway). Players may drift reciprocally, so that both can be assured that the build is safe. For example, my partner builds kings, and I have two. I might drift a king. If she also has two, then she knows that our build is safe, and should then drift back at an early opportunity so that I will know, too.

Sotho Casino

Sotho casino differs from Swazi casino in that the picture cards lose their numerical value, and an ace can only be one. Cards taken to the capture pile may not be sorted, but are left in whatever order they accumulated on the build pile, with the capturing card on top. Partners keep separate piles, and you may steal your partner's top card to help augment a build. Picture cards are placed in the capture pile beneath all the numeral cards but above other picture cards. You may give your partner picture cards you captures to store in your partner's pile (it seems unlikely that this would be very useful, but they do it).

South African Casino

Faizal Asmal provided a short description of a version of Casino that is popular in South Africa. This resembles the Swazi and Sotho versions in that cards can be taken from an opponent's capture pile, but the detailed rules are somewhat different. The South African game can be played by two, three of four players. It is played with a 40 card pack, obtained by removing all the pictures from a standard 52 card pack.

The first dealer is chosen at random. In subsequent hands the previous loser is the first person to be dealt cards, and also starts the game. If there are two players, 10 cards are dealt to each player and there is a second deal of 10 cards when these have all been played. For the three player game, 13 cards are dealt to each player and one is placed face up on the table. For the four player game, 10 cards are dealt to each player.

Note that with two or four players there are no face up cards on the table at the start, so the first player cannot capture but must simply play a card. In South Africa, playing a card without capturing is called drifting.

All captured cards are kept face up in a single pile in front of the player who captured them. New captures are added to the top of the pile. When you capture several cards at once, they must be placed on your pile in numerical order, with the lowest card on top. The top card of each player's capture pile is available to be captured by other players along with the face up cards on the table.

If you have a build on the table you are not allowed simply to drift; you must either add to your build or capture something.

A player who already has a build on the table may steal the top card of a player's capture pile to incorporate into the build, provided that the building player simultaneously adds a card to the build from hand. Example: Player A has a seven and two eights in hand; on the table is a build of 8's and a lone seven; the top card of player B's capture pile is an ace. Player A has various options:

  1. play his seven, steal player B's ace and add both to his build of eights;
  2. add one of his eights to his build;
  3. play one of his eights, capturing his build, the loose seven on the table, and the ace from player B's pile.

When there are two players, after both players have played their first ten cards there is another deal of ten cards each. In this second phase the rules are slightly different: players are always allowed to drift, even if they have a build on the table.

When all the cards have been played, whoever made the last capture takes whatever cards are left in the centre of the table.

The scores are as follows:

  • Player with most cards: 2 points (if tied the tying players get one point each)
  • For having at least five spades: 1 point
  • Two of spades: 1 point
  • Ten of diamonds: 2 points
  • Aces: 1 point each

Software

With Mari J Michaelis's SpiteNET: Cassino computer program you can play against the computer or against a live opponent over the Internet.

You can download a freeware Casino program from Thanos Card Games.

Games4All has published a free Cassino app for the Android platform.

Carl Scafidi has published a free Casino app for iPhone or iPad.

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