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Jamón

Contributed by Joel Cross

Editor's note. There used to be Wikipedia pages about this game in English and French, asserting that it is Spanish in origin and containing some unlikely sounding claims about its history and various World Championship events. These have now been removed as a suspected hoax, and we can find no direct evidence that this game is really Spanish. Probably Jamón was invented fairly recently, perhaps in Canada where many of the players seem to be.

The game can be played either with English cards or with a 48-card Spanish pack. The entire pack is dealt out to the players. Each player is also dealt out a certain number of 'Jamón counters' (typically 5). These counters can be anything, but traditionally they are said to have been made of ham (although not usually these days, for obvious reasons!).

All the cards are dealt and the play proceeds clockwise with the player to the left of the dealer starting. The aim is to be the first to get rid of all the cards from one's hand.

The first player may play as many cards of the same value as he wants face up, to start a play pile the centre of the table. He must also say what he has put down, in English or Spanish. Then play continues clockwise, with each player in turn playing a card or cards of the same value, one more or one less than the player before him. When reaching the king (or 12 with Spanish cards), the next card in value is the Ace (or 1) and vice versa, so the values essentially 'wrap around'.

A player who cannot or does not wish to play any cards calls 'Jamón' to the player on their left. When calling 'Jamón', the player must give one of their jamón counters to the player to whom they are calling jamón, and the other player must fan out his cards and allow the first player to pick a card from his hand. If the first player cannot or does not wish to put down this new card, he has the option either of calling jamón again, this time to any player, or of picking up the pile of played cards. A player may call jamón as many times as he likes, until he has no more jamón counters remaining, in which case he must pick up the pile. A player's turn is never over until he has put down at least one card - this rule applies even when he has just picked up the pile.

A player's first 'jamón' must be to his left, and a player must jamón at least once before picking up the pile. The only exception to this rule is if the player has no remaining counters, in which case he must pick up the pile straight away. It is also worthwhile to note that if a given player has only one card remaining in his hand, calling 'jamón' to that player will cause him to win by default.

When the game is over, player's scores are reckoned. According to the Wikipedia page, the player who went out is given two jamón counters by each player who can. A player who has only one counter left gives that, and a player who has none gives none. The winner is the player with most counters (not necessarily the player who went out.

Joel Cross gives a different method of scoring: the player with no cards remaining receives 10 points. Every jamón counter is worth 2 points, and every card remaining in a player's hand is worth one negative point.


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Last updated 28th March 2011