Boonaken

This page is based on games with Co van Bennekom and friends in Hazerswoude-Rijndijk and discussions with Sjaak Keyser at the Café Keyser in Leimuiden. My thanks to Gejus van Diggele for introducing me to these players.

Introduction

The Dutch game Boonaken, sometimes spelled Bonaken, Boonaaken, Boonhaaken, etc., belongs to the Jass family. It is related to Pandoeren, but is a faster, less complex and less serious game, usually played for rounds of drinks. It probably gets its name from the beginnings of the words for the top three trumps, which are the Jack, Nine and Ace - in Dutch: Boer, Nel, Aas. The game played at Hazerswoude-Rijndijk is described first, followed by some variations played in other places.

Players and Cards

The game is probably best for four or five players; and it is possible to play with as many as six or seven (see variations). The game is played to find a loser, who will pay for a round of drinks. During the game, the number of active players reduces as the winners drop out.

A 32 card pack is used, consisting of ace, king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7 in each of the four suits hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. This is a point trick game with trumps. The ranking of the cards from high to low and their point values are shown in the following table.

Trump suitNon-trump suits
CardValue
Jack (Boer)20 points
9 (Nel)14 points
Ace (Aas)11 points
King (Heer)3 points
Queen (Vrouw)2 points
1010 points
80 points
70 points
CardValue
Ace (Aas)11 points
King (Heer)3 points
Queen (Vrouw)2 points
Jack (Boer)1 point
1010 points
90 points
80 points
70 points

There are 141 points in the pack altogether. In contrast to other Jass games, in this game there are no extra points for winning the last trick.

Roem and Stuk

Certain combinations of cards in a player's hand are known as Roem, and have a point value. A sequence consists of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit, and for this purpose the cards are always considered to be in the order A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7, so Q-J-10-9 of trumps is a four card sequence, but J-9-A-K is not a sequence, even though these are the top four trumps. The combinations and their values are:

Sequence of three cards in a suit20 points
Sequence of four cards in a suit50 points
Sequence of five cards in a suit100 points
Sequence of six cards in a suit200 points
Four jacks200 points
Four queens100 points
Four kings100 points
Four aces100 points
King and queen of trumps (known as Stuk)   20 points

A single card cannot be used in more than one sequence, but the same card can be used simultaneously in a sequence, a four of a kind and Stuk. For example K-Q-J-10 of trumps is worth 70 points - 50 for the sequence and 20 for the stuk. Four aces with the king and queen of trumps are worth a total of 140.

Deal

The dealer shuffles and the player to the dealer's right cuts. Deal and play are clockwise, and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. The dealer deals six cards to each player, three at a time.

  • If there are five players, two cards are placed face up in the centre of the table, one after each round of three cards to each player has been dealt.
  • If there are four players, then after the first three cards to each player two cards are placed face down in the centre and after the second round of three cards each, two cards are placed face up in the centre. The four cards that are left over at the end of the deal are set aside until the end of the hand.
  • If there are two or three players, the deal is the same as with four players, but the number of cards set aside is of course greater: 10 cards with three players and 16 cards with two players.
The exact point in the deal at which the two or four centre cards are dealt is not critical, and different dealers use different methods, but the cards given to the players are always dealt three at a time.

The eventual winner of the bidding can use the centre cards to improve his or her hand, so when deciding what to bid, you can reckon on having the face-up centre cards in your hand, and you may also speculate on getting some further help from the face-down centre cards, which may sometimes be useful.

Bidding

The player to the left of the dealer bids first. There are four types of bid:

  • A number bid, which must be a multiple of 5, is an undertaking to win at least that many points in tricks plus roem, with a trump suit of your choice.
  • Misère is an undertaking to lose every trick, with no trumps. It ranks between the number bids 70 and 75.
  • Zwabber is an undertaking to win every trick, with no trumps. It ranks between the number bids 100 and 105.
  • Boonaak is an undertaking to win every trick, with a trump suit of your choice. It is the highest type of bid.

Players bid in clockwise rotation, each player passing or bidding higher than the previous bidder (with the exception of Misère). A player who has passed cannot re-enter the bidding. When all players but one have passed, the last remaining player is the declarer and the final bid is played.

If all players were to pass initially, there would be a redeal, but in practice this never happens, because if all players but one were to pass, the final player could easily bid and make a cheap number contract.

If the highest bid so far is Misère, it is possible for other players also to bid Misère. Once there have been two Misère bids, no higher bids are allowed, but all the players who have not yet passed decide in turn whether they will pass or also bid a Misère. All the players who bid Misère then simultaneously try to take no tricks.

When there has been only one Misère bid, it can be overcalled in the usual way by a number bid of 75 or more or a Zwabber or Boonaak. The higher bid cancels the Misère and no further Misères can be bid. Players who want to bid a number sometimes begin the bidding at 75 so as to prevent later players from shutting them out by bidding Misère.

A Boonaak bid can include a quantity of Roem. For example "Boonaak 50" is an undertaking that one will take all the tricks and will have at least 50 Roem. Boonaak with Roem outbids Boonaak without Roem, and can in turn be outbid by Boonaak with more Roem. The highest bid of all is Boonaak 220; to make this you would need A-K-Q-J-10-9 in one suit (200 for the sequence plus 20 for stuk).

Exchanging the centre cards

The declarer takes the two or four cards from the centre of the table and discards an equal number of cards face down in their place, possibly including some or all of the same cards. Points in discarded cards to not count towards fulfilling the declarer's bid, and discarded cards cannot be used in announced Roem.

If the contract is Misère, the first player who bid Misère takes the centre cards and discards the same number of cards face down. If more than one player bid Misère, the second Misère bidder picks up the cards discarded by the first and discards an equal number of cards, to be picked up by the third Misère bidder, and so on, until all Misère bidders have had an opportunity to exchange some cards.

Play

The declarer always leads to the first trick. If several Misères were bid, the first Misère bidder leads.

If the bid is a number or a Boonaak, the declarer chooses the trump suit. If the declarer leads to the first trick without saying anything, the suit of this first lead becomes trumps. It is usual to begin by leading a trump, but it is also possible for the declarer to announce the trump suit aloud and lead a different suit.

When a trump is led, the other players must follow suit with a trump, unless their only trump is the jack. A player who has no trumps or only the jack of trumps may play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump played.

When a non-trump is led, players who have a card of the suit led must either follow suit or play a trump. (It is legal to trump even if you could have followed suit.) Players who have no card of the suit led may play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if no trumps were played, by the highest card of the suit led.

The winner of each trick leads any card to the next trick.

If the bid is Misère or Zwabber, there is no trump suit. Players must follow suit; each trick is won by the highest card of the suit led; and as usual the winner of each trick leads to the next.

If the bid is a number, the declarer may announce Roem when leading to the first trick. Only the total value of the Roem is announced - for example 70 if you have K-Q-J-10 of trumps. Only cards in the declarer's hand count towards the declarer's Roem - discarded cards cannot be included.

It is illegal to announce an amount of Roem equal to or greater than your final number bid. For example, if you have bid 95 and find that after discarding you have Q-J-10-9-8 of trumps, you can only announce 50 Roem for a four-card sequence. If you had four aces, you would not be allowed to announce them if your bid was 100 or less.

If the bid is a number, and an opponent has Roem in hand worth at least as much as the Roem announced by the declarer, that opponent can also announce Roem. If the opponent's Roem is worth more than the declarer's, the declarer's Roem is cancelled and does not count towards fulfilling the bid. If an opponent's Roem is equal in value to the declarer's, both players must say how high their Roem is - i.e. what the highest card of it is. If the highest card of the opponent's Roem is equal or higher, the declarer's Roem is canceled. If the highest card of the declarer's Roem is higher, the declarer's Roem remains valid.

If the bid is a Boonaak with Roem, the declarer must have at least the amount of Roem claimed in the bid, otherwise the bid is lost. The declarer's Roem cannot be cancelled, even if an opponent has more Roem.

Roem may only be announced when playing one's card to the first trick. Any Roem not announced at this time does not count.

Opponents of the declarer are not allowed to announce Roem if the declarer has not announced Roem, or if their Roem is worth less than that announced by the declarer.

Scoring

If the bid was a number, then add up

  • the total value of the cards in the declarer's tricks, plus
  • the value of Roem announced by the declarer, provided that it was not cancelled.
If this is greater than or equal to the bid, the declarer has won. If not, the declarer has lost.

If the bid was Misère, then

  • anyone who bid Misère and managed to avoid taking any tricks wins, and
  • anyone who bid Misère and took one or more tricks loses.

If the bid was Zwabber or Boonaak and the declarer won every trick, the declarer wins. Otherwise the declarer loses.

The score sheet has a column for each player. A win is recorded by a plus sign (+) in that player's column. A loss is recorded by a minus sign (-). Only the declarer gets a "+" or "-"; nothing is written in the other players' columns. When several people bid Misère, each of them gets a "+" or "-", depending whether they won or lost.

The game is played to find a loser, who will buy a round of drinks. This is decided as follows.

  • Any player who has two pluses is a winner, and drops out of the game until the loser has been found. This player is said to be "out" (eruit). (If it was this player's turn to deal next, the deal passes another place to the left.)
  • Any player who has two minuses is the loser of the game, and must buy the drinks. This player is said to be "in" (erin). The two minus signs can be converted to a representation of a drinking glass: drink.
  • As long as no one has two minuses, the players who have not won by getting two pluses continue playing hands. If all the players except one have two pluses, the last remaining player is the loser and buys the drinks.

Note that pluses and minuses do not cancel each other. A player who has a plus and a minus is said to be in wip (a seesaw). The next time this player is declarer, he or she will either drop out by scoring a second plus or become the overall loser by scoring a second minus.

If a new game is to be played by the same group, the player to the right of loser of the previous game will deal the first hand, so that the previous loser will bid first.

Variations

Players and deal

Some play that each hand after the first is dealt by the player who was the declarer in the previous hand (by the first declarer if several played Misère).

When there are two, three or four players, some play that only one card is dealt face down to the centre, with two face up.

It is possible to start a game with 6 players, dealing only 5 cards each, and two face up to the centre, or even with 7 players, dealing just 4 cards each, with two cards face up and two face down in the centre. With seven players, some play that everyone is obliged to bid Misère on the first hand.

Bidding

Some play that the minimum number bid allowed is 25.

Some play that the Misère bid ranks between 100 and 105 and Zwabber between 125 and 130 when there are four or more players in the game.

Some players allow bids of Zwabber with Roem, ranking immediately above Zwabber without Roem.

Play

Some do not allow undertrumping, unless the player has nothing but trumps. That is, if a non-trump suit is led and has already been trumped, you not allowed to play a lower trump unless your hand consists entirely of trumps.

Some play that in Misère with a single declarer, the declarer must choose a trump suit when leading to the first trick. When there is more than one declarer, Misère is played without trumps as usual.

Scoring

Some award only 100 points rather than 200 for a six-card sequence.

Some play with point scoring rather than pluses and minuses. In one version, each player begins with 5 points, and the aim is to get to zero. A successful declarer deducts one point for a bid of less than 50, 2 points for a bid of at least 50 but less than 75, and 3 points for a bid of 75 or more. An unsuccessful declarer adds the relevant number of points. A player who reaches or passes zero has won and drops out of the game; a player who reaches or passes 11 is the loser; if no one gets to 11, the last player left in when everyone else has reached or passed zero is the loser.

Another version, briefly described to me by Eefje Limpt-Bogmans, is played as follows:

  • Only 5 cards are dealt to each player, with two [face up?] in the centre.
  • There are no Misère or Zwabber bids - only numbers, Boonhaak, Boonhaak with Roem and Open Boonhaak, which is highest.
  • The minimum number bid is 25. If you have bid a number you cannot increase your bid to a Boonhaak of any sort.
  • Everyone starts with 5 points; a player who has less than 1 is out (i.e. drops out of the game and cannot lose); a player who has 10 or more points [or the last player left in if no one reaches 10] is the loser.
  • Bids 25-45 score 1 point; 50-70 score 2 points; 75-95 score 3 points; 100-120 score 5 points; 125 or more score 6 points; Boonhaak scores 5 points; Open Boonhaak scores 10 points (i.e. results in winning or losing the game).
  • In Boonhaak and Open Boonhaak, the declarer is not allowed to take the centre cards. [Open Boonhaak is presumably a bid in which declarer must win all five tricks with exposed cards.]

Other Boonaken Web Sites

The Netherlands Open Bonaken Championship is held annually at the Café Keizer in Leimuiden.