Stubs & Spoils / Royal Porcio

The games on this page were invented and contributed by Mark Moran and are described in his book 52,000 Hands Later.

The games are for four players in fixed partnerships, and involve an original trick-taking mechanism in which two cards are extracted from each trick: the stub is used to indicate who won the trick, and the spoil is added to the hand of one player.

Royal Porcio begins with a rather elaborate auction. Before trying this, players are advised to familiarise themselves with the basic game mechanism by playing the simpler game Stubs & Spoils.

Stubs & Spoils

Players and Cards

Four players are needed, in two fixed partnerships.  Partners sit across from each other.  The game is played clockwise.

Use a standard 52 card pack.  At the beginning of each new deal, there are two modes in which the game can be played.  These two modes are black, in which the aim is to win tricks, and red, in which the aim is to lose tricks.  When play is black, the cards in each suit (all four suits, not just the black suits) rank from highest to lowest: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.  When play is red, the cards in each suit (again, all four suits, not just the red suits) rank from highest to lowest:  K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 A. Therefore the aces are always the best cards, in either mode of play.

Deal

Any player may shuffle so long as the dealer shuffles last.  After the cut, the dealer distributes all the cards one at a time so that each player receives 13.  Instead of taking it up himself, the dealer exposes his own last card (his own 13th) for all to see.  The dealer should announce the color and suit of this card to all players: the color determines the mode of play and its suit is the special suit (trump or trojan - see below).

The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Red,  Black, and Special Suits

The dealer's exposed card has a color (red or black) and a suit (diamonds, clubs, hearts, or spades).  If the color is red, then tricks are liabilities and the object is to lose tricks.  If the color is black, then tricks are assets the object is to win tricks, the more the better. 

When the dealer's exposed card is red, play is red and tricks are liabilities. The suit of the exposed card is called the trojan suit.  When a non-trojan card is led, the trojan suit will be lower-ranking than the suit led to the trick.

When the dealer's exposed card is black, play is black and tricks are assets. The suit of the exposed card is called the trump suit.  When a non-trump card is led, the trump suit will be higher-ranking than the suit led to the trick.

Gallery

Before the play, each player other than the dealer discards one card face down from his hand.  The four cards, consisting of the dealer's exposed card (the Color Card) and the three face down discards are collectively called the gallery.  Before play begins, these four cards are gathered together with the dealer's face up card on top and placed toward a corner of the table near the dealer, where they remain, untouched, for the duration of the hand.

The Play of Tricks

If the Color Card in the gallery is red, then until the hand ends all tricks follow the red rules.  If the Color Card in the gallery is black, then until it ends all tricks follow the black rules.  In Stubs & Spoils, the dealer leads to the first trick.

In each trick, each player in turn plays one card from hand. Any card may be led, and the other players must follow suit if possible. Players unable to follow suit may play any card in their hand. Two cards are taken from the trick according to the black or red rules below: the stub is placed face up in front of the winner of the trick and the spoil is added to one player's hand. The remaining two cards are discarded face down in a discard pile, which accumulates in a corner of the table diagonally opposite to the gallery. The cards in the discard pile are not used again until the next deal.

The rules as to who wins the trick and gets the stub, who takes the spoil and who leads to the next trick are different according to whether the mode of play is red or black, as described below.

Black Rules

The objective is to win tricks. The trump suit ranks above the suit that was led, and the other suits rank below the suit that was led. Therefore:

  • If any player plays a trump, the highest trump that was played wins the trick.
  • If no one plays a trump, the highest card of the suit that was led wins the trick.

The player who won the trick takes the card that won the trick and places it in front of himself as a stub. He also chooses one of the other three cards in the trick and adds it to his hand as a spoil. The other two cards from the trick are added to the face down discard pile and the winner of the trick leads any card to the next trick.

Red Rules

The objective is to avoid winning tricks. The trojan suit ranks below the suit that was led, and the other suits rank above the suit that was led, and among otherwise equal cards the first played is higher. Therefore:

  • If any player plays a card that belongs neither to the suit led, not to the trojan suit, then the highest such card (in red ranking with ace low) wins the trick. Between two equally high cards the first played wins.
  • If all cards in the trick belong to the suit led or the trojan suit, then the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.

Note that a card of the trojan suit can only win a trick if a trojan is led and all the cards in the trick are trojan.

The winner of the trick takes the lowest card from the trick and places it face up in front of himself as a stub. The stub card will be:

  • The lowest trojan, if any trojans were played.
  • The lowest card of the suit led, if no trojans were played to the trick.

The player to the right of the winner of the trick takes any other card from the trick, except for the card that he himself played to the trick, and adds it to his hand. He therefore has a choice between two or three cards that he may take. This card is the spoil. The other two cards of the trick are discarded.

Having taken the spoil, the player to the right of the winner of the trick leads to the next trick.

Ending the Hand

The players begin the play with 12 cards each, but because of the spoils they will usually have unequal numbers of cards during the play. The play ends as soon as any player has no cards after the spoil from the previous trick has been taken.

Score

The point score for the hand is the difference between the number of stubs taken by the two teams. If the play was black, this difference is scored by the partnership with more stubs; if the play was red, the difference is scored by the partnership with fewer stubs.

The first partnership to achieve a cumulative score of 21 or more points wins the game.

Note: Although the total number of tricks (and stubs) in a hand may be from 12 to 15 depending how the play progresses, the winning partnership cannot score more than 12. In order for a 13th trick to be possible, each player must have taken one spoil, so each team must have at least two stubs. So after 13 tricks the maximum score possible is 9 points, one team having 11 stubs and the other 2. Similarly after 14 tricks the maximum score is 6 points (10-4) and after 15 tricks the winners cannot have more than 3 points (9-6).

Royal Porcio

Note: New players are advised to begin by playing Stubs & Spoils. Royal Porcio uses a similar trick-play mechanism but also features an auction to decide the declarer, trump or trojan suit, red or black mode and target score.

Players and Cards

The same as in Stubs & Spoils. There are four players, in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other. A standard 52-card pack is used, in which Aces rank high or low, depending whether the play mode is black or red. Deal and play are clockwise.

Deal

The cards are dealt face down in batches of three, with one face up card to the gallery after each round of three cards each. So at the end of the deal each player has a hand of 12 cards and there is a gallery of four face-up cards in a corner of the table, next to the dealer.

Auction

Players bid for the right to choose the special suit (trump or trojan). Each bid consists of three elements:

  1. A color - red or black - which will be the mode of play if this is the final bid.
  2. A number from 1 to 12. This is the balance - the difference in stubs - that the bidding team has to achieve for the bid to succeed.
  3. A level - bronze, silver or gold - which has to do with the presence of the special suit in the gallery and the ability to score bonuses.

So possible bids would be "red 3 silver" or "black 4 bronze". A higher number always out ranks a lower number, if the numbers are the same red outranks black, and if the number and color are both equal, gold beats silver, which beats bronze.

The bidding begins with the dealer [editor's guess - not stated in MM's rules] and continues clockwise around the table. Each player must either pass or bid higher than the previous bidder. If all four players pass initially, the cards are thrown in without play or score and the next dealer deals [editor's guess - not stated in MM's rules].

The number in the first bid must be 1 - it is not legal to begin with a higher number, but subsequent bidders may bid any higher number (or the same number in a higher color or same color and higher level). If anyone bids, the auction continues until there are three consecutive passes. At this point the final and highest bidder becomes the captain (equivalent to the declarer in other games), and the mode of play is as named in the final bid.

Duones

During the bidding, cards in the gallery are turned face down one by one until only one color remains. This is achieved by means of duones. If all four gallery cards are the same color, there are no duones.

The duones work as follows. If there are cards of both colors exposed in the gallery, anyone who bids must play one card from hand face up in front of him. If the bid was black, the bidder plays the card to his left and the left-hand opponent of the bidder must respond. If the bid was red, the bidder plays the card to his right and the right-hand opponent of the bidder must respond. The responding player plays a card of the same suit as the bidder's card if possible, placing it face up in front of him. If the responding player has no card of the suit played by the bidder, he may play any card. (The other two players - the bidder's partner and the responder's partner - take no part in the duone.) The duone is blocked if

  • the bid was black, and the responder plays a higher card than the bidder in the same suit, using black ranking, or
  • the bid was red, and the responder plays a lower card than the bidder in the same suit, using red ranking.

If the duone is not blocked, the bidder must turn face down one card of the gallery, the card turned down being the opposite color to the bid. If the duone is blocked, the gallery is not touched.

Instead of playing a card that does not block the duone, the responder may simply say "yours", and allow the bidder to turn over a gallery card of the color opposite to the bid. Note, however, that in certain cases the responder is forced to block the duone. This happens when the responder has cards of the suit led all of which are superior to the card led (higher in case of a black bid, lower if the bid is red). In such a case the responder must play a card that blocks the duone and cannot give up by saying "yours".

Note that cards played in duones remain face up in front of the players during the auction. At the end of the auction they are returned to the hands of the players who played them.

When the gallery cards are all the same color, this color is established as the mode of play for the hand. Any gallery cards of this color that have been turned down are turned face up by the dealer, leaving only cards of the opposite color face down. There are no further duones, and all bids must be of the color of the cards in the gallery. From this point onwards there is no need to mention the color of the bid. It can simply be a number and a level: "3 gold", etc.

If the auction ends before the duones are complete - i.e. three passes follow the final bid but there are still cards of both colors face up in the gallery, special rules apply.

  1. The first time that this happens in a session, the cards are thrown in and there is a redeal by the same dealer.
  2. On the second and subsequent occasions when the auction ends before the duones are complete, the color of play is determined by the final bid, but there is no special suit (trump or trojan). The gallery cards are turned face down and are out of play (there is no card exchange) and the hand is scored as bronze level, irrespective of the bid.

Bronze, Silver and Gold Levels

When the auction is over (three passes followed the final bid), the highest bidder, known as the captain nominates the special suit (trump or trojan, according to the color of the gallery and final bid). The suit nominated does not need to be the same color as the bid (for example a red game with spades as the trojan suit is possible). However, the number of cards of the special suit in the gallery must be in accordance with the level of the bid as follows:

  • Bronze - no trump or trojan card in the gallery
  • Silver - exactly one trump or trojan card in the gallery
  • Gold - two or more trump or trojan cards in the gallery

It follows that if the gallery as dealt consists of one card of each suit, all bids must be silver. On the other hand, if there are two cards of one suit and two of another or all one suit, all bids must be gold or bronze. In all other cases all three levels are possible, and two of the level will fix the special suit. For example if the gallery isdiamondheartheartclub then a bronze bid requires spades to be the special suit and a gold bid requires hearts.

Players are allowed to look at gallery cards turned down as a result of duones to remind themselves which suits correspond to which levels. However, they are encouraged not to do this, but to remember the gallery cards if possible.

Exchange of Cards

The captain picks up the face down cards from the gallery - these should be exactly the gallery cards of the opposite color to the mode of play. The captain discards the same number of cards that he picked up and passes them across the table to his partner (who is known in this game as the hand). The hand picks up the captains discards, throws away an equal number of cards, and these are returned to the gallery face down. It is legal for discards to include some or all of the same cards that were picked up.

The Play

This is the same as in Stubs & Spoils, with two exceptions.

  1. Opening lead. The Hand (i.e. the partner of the highest bidder) leads to the first trick.
  2. Captain and Hand's First Void Privilege. The Captain's team can exercise this privilege once only during the play. If the Captain or Hand is forced to take a spoil card in a suit in which that player currently holds no other cards, the player may turn the spoil card back to front in his hand - with the face outward towards the other players and the back towards the owner. This indicates that this card, and any other cards of the same suit that the player may later acquire, are not considered to be part of the players hand. These cards cannot be played, and the player is considered to have no cards in that suit. Note that this option cannot be exercised by a player who had the possibility of taking instead some other suit in which he already held a card as spoil from the trick.

Scoring

The basic score depends on the difference between the stubs taken by the two partnerships, and how it relates to the bid. In a bronze level bid this is the only score. In silver and gold level bids there can be additional bonus scores based on combinations of cards in players' stubs or unplayed cards.

Basic Score

The number of the final bid is called the Initiative (I). The difference between the stubs taken by one team and the other is the Balance (B). More specifically, in a black game, the balance is the number of stubs the bidding team has in excess of their opponents. In a red game, the balance is the number of stubs the bidder's opponents have in excess of the bidding team. Note that if the bid goes badly wrong, B can be negative.

The bid succeeds if the balance is greater than or equal to the initiative (B ≥ I). In this case the number of points scored by bidding team is given by the following formula:

B × (25 – B) / 2 + I × (I – 1) / 2

If the bid fails (B < I) then the amount scored by the bidder's opponents is:

78 – I × B + I × (I – 1) / 2

Only one team receives a basic score - the bidder's team if the bid was successful or the opposing team if it was not.

Note that when a bid succeeds exactly (I = B), the bidding team's score simplifies to 12 × I.

Bonus Scores

If the level was bronze there are no bonus scores.

If the level was silver, then in a black game, any player who has four equal picture cards, one of each suit (for example all four queens), as four consecutive stubs wins a bonus of 13 points for his team. In a red game, any player who has four equal picture cards among the unplayed cards in his hand when the play ends scores 13 points for his team.

If the level was gold, the bonuses available in silver games apply. In addition, there are bonuses for certain sequences of consecutive cards in one suit. These sequences score if found in the stubs of one player in a black game or in the unplayed cards of one player in a red game. The scores are:

  • For a sequence including the king and queen of the suit: 3 times the number of cards in the sequence.
  • For a sequence including the eight and seven of the suit: 3 times the number of cards in the sequence.
  • For a sequence including the king, queen eight and seven of the suit: 5 times the number of cards in the sequence.

It is possible for either or both teams to score bonus points, independently of the result of the bid.

End of the Game

The game ends until one partnership wins by having a score of at least 250, and being at least 50 points ahead of their opponents.