Jack in the Box

Contributed by Mal T Jones

Jack in the Box is a card game for up to four players; a standard 52 card pack with two Jokers is required ; each player is dealt five cards. For this game a King is valued as 13, Queen as 12 and Knave/Jack as 11 and Ace as 1 or 14. The aim is achieve the highest score by matching the value of cards in hand to cards that are on display at the table and ultimately to complete the Box by having two Jacks in the centre.

  1. Creating the Box: (see illustration 1). Separate the Jokers (two of different colours e.g. one red and one black) from the pack and deal them to the table side by side. Shuffle the pack and deal four cards around the Jokers, one on each side to form the Box; the Box must not have two or more cards of the same value nor should it contain Jacks. Place Jacks and duplicate cards dealt to the Box on to the discard pile. For every King or Queen dealt to the Box including discards three points are awarded to the dealer.

Playing the game:  Standard Rules.

  1. A player may use one or more of their cards in a turn of play. Any cards used in play should be shown to opponents indicating how they are used, then placed on to the discard pile.
  2. A player must always have five cards in hand to start a turn of play. Once a turn of play has been recorded their playing hand should be replenished from the pack.
  3. A player may choose to exchange one or more cards in hand rather than score.  A player may not exchange cards and also score.
  4. When a player uses all of the cards in hand to score they have an extra turn of play.

Matching Cards:  Several matches may be possible during a turn of play i.e. one or more of the four cards in the Box. Also a single card in the Box may be used for scoring more than once.

  1. Matches can be made by using cards of similar rank e.g. there is a 6 in the Box, the player shows a 6 from their hand and discards. Queen for a Queen, 10 for a 10 etc.
  2. By using two cards whose sum or difference is equal to the value of the card being matched e.g. a 4 plus 2 equals 6; or 7 minus 1 equals 6. For a King (13) in the Box, e.g. an 8 card plus 5 or Ace minus an Ace.

Scoring:

  • One point is awarded for matching a chosen card in the Box with a single card from the playing hand e.g. 7 for 7, 4 for 4 etc.
  • Double points are awarded for scoring against all of the cards in the Box by using four single cards.
  • One point is awarded for using two cards and where the suit of neither card matches the chosen card in the Box.
  • Two points where two cards are used and where one of the cards matches the suit of the chosen card in the Box; e.g. 4 of hearts is in the Box; the player shows a 9 of hearts with a 5 of another suit.
  • Four points where both cards match the suit of the card in the Box.
  • Four points for using a Jack and another card with neither card in suit.
  • Eight points for using a Jack which is not in suit but where the other card is in suit. 
  • Eight points for using a Jack which is in correct suit but where the other card is not. 
  • Twelve points for using a Jack and another card with the correct suit.
  • Sixteen points awarded for a Jack in the Box: Where a player’s hand contains one Jack and they are able is able to use the other four cards in a turn to score they may if they wish place the Jack into the Box. The jack is placed on to a similar coloured Joker e.g. red on red. The sixteen points is awarded in addition to the natural score for the turn. The extra turn rule applies since this play uses all cards in hand.
  1. When Jack in the Box is made four new cards are dealt to the Box on top of the existing cards before the player has their extra turn.
  2. The player may also choose before taking their extra turn to change two cards in the Box. See Creating a new Box rule. The King and Queen bonus also applies so they may gain additional points by doing so.

Creating new Boxes: Players may change one or two cards of the Box when they choose to exchange all five cards in hand at once; rather than score. It is not compulsory to create a new Box when doing this. (The cards in the Box are not removed; the new cards are placed on top of existing ones).

  1. A player is allowed to change up to two cards in the box during a turn of play and at the start of their turn. Only one change of the Box is allowed per round of play i.e. one turn by each payer. The player indicates to the dealer which one or two cards are to be changed.
  2. The player who changes the Box may not continue their turn as the exchanging cards rule 4 does not permit this.
  3. The box may not be changed again until everyone else has played and the person who changed it has had another turn. This ensures that a different person has the opportunity to change the Box. 
  4. For every King or Queen dealt to the Box including discards three points are awarded to the player who has chosen to change the Box.

Game Endings:

The game ends

  • when the stock of cards is depleted e.g. a player does not have five cards and can no longer play, or
  • when a player having used four cards to score is able to cover the second Joker with a suitably coloured Jack. (The final Box should contain one red and one black Jack only).
jack in the box layout 

(Illustration 1)

Dealer was South at bottom of picture. The first card to be dealt to the east was a Jack (discarded) then a 6, north was dealt a 3 and 7 at west; south was dealt a 7 (discarded) then the King with the dealer receiving three game points. Notice the discards and pack or stock of cards.

Team games: partners sit opposite each other and can use their partner’s cards if beneficial by opening a score with a Jack, King or Queen singularly or in combination with another card from their own hand. The partner displays their own hand face up on the table. Cards can be selected from either hand to score. Where all ten cards are successfully used the extra turn rule applies. If a J, K. or, Q. is not used to open scoring the second hand is not used. Partners can call “time out” to discuss tactics during a game.

Jack in the Box   Quick reference scoring Chart

One point is awarded for matching a chosen card in the Box with a single card from the playing hand e.g. 7 for 7, 4 for 4 etc.

Double points are awarded for scoring against all of the cards in the Box by using four single cards.

One point is awarded for using two cards and where the suit of neither card matches the chosen card in the Box.

Two points where two cards are used and where one of the cards matches the suit of the chosen card in the Box; e.g. 4 of hearts is in the Box; the player shows a 9 of hearts with a 5 of another suit.

Four points where both cards match the suit of the card in the Box.

Four points for using a Jack and another card with neither card in suite.

Eight points for using a Jack which is not in suit but where the other card is in suit. 

Eight points for using a Jack which is in correct suit but where the other card is not.

Twelve points for using a Jack and another card with the correct suit.

Sixteen points for Jack in the Box: all other cards used for scoring and the Jack placed in the Box.

Three points each for a King or Queen dealt to the Box including discards; to the player who creates a new the box.

Game Variation 1: Create a Box around each Joker. A Box will be considered closed (not in use) if a Jack in the Box is achieved in one of them. Both Boxes can be used for scoring in a turn. Both boxes can be recreated at the same time or just one as preferred.  

Game Variation 2: Use two packs of cards to create two standard Boxes; allow fours cards to be changed in a Box.

Game Variation 3: Use two packs of cards and create four Boxes around individual Jokers; allow fours cards to be changed in a Box.

Tactics and Team Games: Generally it is best to score regularly no matter how small the score; it also replenishes a playing hand at the same time. Scores per turn are likely to be lower to middle single figure sums with occasional bigger scores from Jacks. Generally it is better to have a balance of cards in hand; discard duplicates unless they are useful low numbered cards. The use of Jacks will often dictate who wins a game.  

For team games; partnerships can make higher scores as more cards are available although it may prove more difficult to use all ten cards to gain an extra turn. 

Jack in the Box © 2010 Mal T Jones