Staekske Rape

This page is based on a contribution from Jonathan Madden, information from Robert Claessens and a game at Math Vanhingel's house in Maastricht in May 1999.

Introduction

Staekske Rape is a game of the Jass group played in Maastricht, in the south of the Netherlands. The name of the game means "pick up the stock", and describes the fact that in this game, unlike other Dutch Jass games such as Klaverjassen and Pandoeren, there is a stock of four cards which the declarer picks up. Staekske Rape has some affinity with Swiss Jass games in that the ten, despite its high value, retains its rank below the court cards, and that the rules of following suit are rather lenient, allowing players to trump at any time.

Players and cards

There are four players, but since there are no fixed partnerships it is possible for five people to play with the dealer sitting out of each hand. The direction of play is clockwise. A 32 card pack is used, consisting of ace, king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7 in each of the four suits clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds. International standard pattern cards could be used, but normally the game is played with cards of the French type, in which the indices on the ace, king, queen and jack are 1, R, D, V respectively, or the Dutch type, which have indices A, H, V, B. Care is needed not to be confused by the V which stands for valet (jack) in French but vrouw (lady, i.e. queen) in Dutch. In the rest of this description the English abbreviatons A, K, Q, J will be used.

In each hand there is a trump suit, which is chosen by the declarer (the winner of the bidding). The cards in the trump suit rank differently from those in the other three suits. Each card also has a point value. The rank of the cards in each suit, from high to low, and their point values are as follows:

trump suitvalue
other suitsvalue
jack20ace11
nine14king3
ace11queen2
king3jack1
queen2ten10
ten10nine0
eight0eight0
seven0seven0

There are thus 141 points in total for cards, and 5 extra card points are awarded to the winner of the last trick, which brings the total card points to 146.

Certain combinations of cards held by the declarer also have a value. The values of these combinations are in effect added to the card points taken by the declarer:

typecombinationvalue
mellesfour jacks200
four nines140
4 aces, 4 kings, 4 queens or 4 tens100
sequence of 5100
sequence of 450
sequence of 320
stoekking and queen of trumps20

A sequence is a set of consecutive cards in the same suit, the card order for this purpose being A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7 (even in trumps). There is no extra score for a sequence of more than five cards.

There is no score for having four eights or four sevens.

Sequences cannot overlap, but the same cards can count towards a sequence, a four and stoek. For example K-Q-J of trumps is worth 40 (20 for the sequence and 20 for stoek). If you have the other three kings as well the score is 140 including the 100 for four kings.

The Deal

To begin the game, any player takes the pack and deals single cards face up clockwise to the players until someone receives a jack. This player is the first dealer, and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

The dealer shuffles, and the player to dealer's right cuts. The cards are then dealt clockwise in packets of three to the four active players, then four cards face down in the centre of the table to form the stock, then a packet of four cards to each player, so that everyone has seven cards.

To end the session, any player may announce "on and off". This means that one more complete round of deals will be played. The next dealer is "on". After as many further deals have been played as there are players, the turn to deal comes back to the same player, who is now "off". The player who is off does not deal, and the session ends.

Bidding

The player to the dealer's left is called the "sitter". This player will be forced to play a minimum game (or suffer a penalty) if everyone else passes. The first to speak is the player to the sitter's left, who will be opposite the dealer if there are four at the table. Bids are numbers from 3 upwards. A bid of 3 is an undertaking (if the other players pass) to take at least 130 cards points, playing against the other three as a team, 4 represents at least 140, 5 is at least 150, and so on. It is possible to succeed in a bid of more than 5 with the help of combinations or with the help of a bonus for winning all the tricks (see scoring).

The player to the left of the sitter must bid 3 or pass. If this player passes, the next player in turn has the same options, and so on round the table. If someone bids, subsequent players, in clockwise order, can pass or bid the next higher number. Once you have passed you cannot bid again. The bidding continues around the table as many times as necessary until three players have passed. The player who did not pass is then the declarer and the final bid determines the number of card points the declarer needs in tricks plus the stock in order to succeed. The declarer is entitled to take the stock and choose what suit will be trumps.

If the bidding begins with three passes, the fourth player (who is the sitter) automatically becomes the declarer. The sitter has a choice of playing the equivalent of a bid of "1" - i.e. trying to take at least 110 card points - or of giving up without play for a penalty of 10 game points. The choice of whether to give up must be made before looking at the stock.

Some players knock the table to indicate a pass. Some say "I help" to indicate a bid of 3 - the implication is that the bidder is helping the sitter by relieving them of their obligation to be declarer.

A player may qualify a bid by "once" - for example "once 5". This is an undertaking not to bid higher - if another player bids 6, the one who bid "once 5" must pass.

On the first round of bidding, if no one else has yet bid, a player can bid 2 blind - i.e. without having looked at their cards. This somewhat reckless action is the only way that 2 (a contract to take at least 120 card points) can be bid. 3 cannot be bid over blind 2; if anyone wants to compete, the next bid has to be 4.

Throughout the auction, apart fom the exceptons given above, players may only pass or make the next bid in sequence: 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. It is not legal to jump bid, for example you cannot begin with 4 instead of 3, nor can you bid 5 directly over 3.

Picking up the stock

The declarer may take the stock without showing it to the other players and discard any four cards face down. The discards may include some or all of the same cards that were picked up from the stock. In order to score for a combination it has to remain intact in your hand; if you discard part or all of a combination it loses its value. Card points in the stock will count with declarer's tricks towards fulfilling the bid.

If you think your hand is stong enough, you can choose to play with your original cards, without looking at the stock. Any card points in the stock will still count for you at the end of the play. When you play without the stock, the amount of game points you win or lose on the hand is doubled.

Play

The declarer begins by announcing any scoring sequences or fours of a kind (melles), placing them face up on the table or specifying exactly what they are. You are not obliged to announce combinations that you hold, and it is sometimes better to keep a combination concealed to avoid giving away information about your hand. However, any sequences that (by accident or design) are not announced before the lead to the first trick lose their value and cannot be scored.

Stoek (the K-Q of trumps) is treated differently - it can be announced at any time up to the point when the declarer plays the queen of trumps. If other combinations announced which include the king and queen of trumps, the stoek is automatically scored and does not have to be claimed separately.

Note that combinations that the players other than the declarer may hold have no value and cannot be announced.

The declarer tells everyone what suit is trumps and leads to the first trick.

Players who have a card of the suit led may follow suit or trump (it is legal to trump even while you hold cards in the suit led). Players with no card of the suit led may play anything.

There is an exception to the rule about following suit: you are never forced to play the jack of trumps; if trumps were led and your only trump is the jack, you may play any card.

The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trump, by the highest card played of the suit that was led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

The player who at any stage holds the highest trump not yet played (for example the ace, after the jack and nine have gone) is allowed to announce this to the other players by knocking on the table. If you hold the two highest outstanding trumps, this can be announced by knocking twice.

Scoring

Only the declarer wins or loses game points. In principle one game point is equivalent to 10 card points, and the declarer's gain or loss is based on the difference between the number of points taken by the declarer and the number needed to fulfil the bid. Here are the details of the calculation:

  1. First calculate the points achieved by the declarer as follows.
    • Count the card points in the declarer's tricks plus the stock, remembering to add the 5 points for the last trick if the declarer won it, and round to the nearest 10, scores ending in 5 being rounded upwards (so that for example 134 counts as 130, but 135 counts as 140).
    • Alternatively, or as a check, add up the card points taken by the declarer's three opponents, and round this to the next 10 downwards only if the last digit is 1; if the last digit is 2 or higher the defenders' score is rounded upwards (so that for example 12 counts as 20, but 11 counts as 10). With this way of rounding the card point scores of the two teams always add up to 150.
    • Divide the declarer's rounded card point total by 10.
    • If the declarer took all seven tricks (15 points), add a ten point bonus, to give 25.
  2. Next calculate the points required to fulfil the bid as follows. Add 10 to the declarer's bid (so 3 becomes 13, 4 becomes 14, etc.). If the declarer announced any scoring combinations, divide the score for these by 10 and subtract the result from the required points.
    Example: the bid was 5 and the declarer shows the A-K-Q-J of trumps, worth 70 (50 for the sequence and 20 for the marriage). The number of points required by the declarer is 8 (5 + 10 - 7).
  3. Compare the points achieved (step 1) with the points required (step 2):
    • If they are equal there is no score.
    • If the points achieved are more than the points required, the declarer wins the difference as game points.
    • If the points achieved fall short of the points required, the declarer loses twice the difference plus an extra 10 game points.
  4. If the declarer chose not to look at the stock, the total amount won or lost is doubled.

There are a few exceptional cases:

  1. If the first three players pass and the sitter decides to give up without play, the sitter loses 10 game points.
  2. If the declarer announces four jacks the hand is not played, but the declarer is assumed to have taken 100 card points. Together with the 200 points for the four jacks, this makes 300, so assuming that the declarer has no other combinations, the hand is scored as though declarer achieved 30 points.
  3. In the rare case where the declarer takes no tricks at all, the declarer loses a fixed amount of 50 game points.

Some examples:

  • The declarer bids 4 and takes 127 card points, so required 14 and achieved 13. Having failed by 1, the declarer loses 12 game points (twice 1 plus 10).
  • The declarer bids 3 and takes 138 card points, so required 13 and achieved 14, and wins 1 game point.
  • The declarer bids 5, announces four nines, and takes 93 card points without taking the stock. Only one point is required (15 - 14), and 9 were achieved, so the declarer wins 16 game points.
  • The declarer bids 3 and takes all the tricks. 13 required and 25 achieved makes a gain of 12 game points.
  • The declarer bids 4, announces a sequence of 3 with stoek and takes 84 points. 10 points are required (14 - 2 - 2), but only 8 were achieved, so the declarer loses 14 game points (twice 2 plus 10).
  • The sitter plays after three passes and with the help of the stock gets four jacks. 30 achieved and 11 required gives a win of 19 game points.

One player acts as the scorer and records the cumulative scores of all the players on a score sheet looking something like this:

staekske rape score sheet: -16, -11, +3, +7

The columns from left to right contain the scores of the players in clockwise order around the table, with the scorer's score in the right-hand column. Positive cumulative scores are written above the line; negative cumulative scores below the line. Each time a player is declarer, their previous score is crossed out and their new total recorded.

A score of 100 or more game points (positive or negative) is known as an umbrella. The 100 points are represented as a curved line, with the excess points underneath it. For example 105 is written like this: umbrella

Staekske Rape is usually played for small stakes. At the end of the session, each player pays each opponent in proportion to the difference between their scores. For example, if the scoresheet at the end of the session was as illustrated above, with South scoring, then West must pay 5 game points to North, 19 to East and 23 to South; North must pay 14 to East and 18 to South; and East must pay 4 to South. At a typical stake of 5 cents per point, the result in Guilders is that West loses 2.35, North loses 1.35, East wins 1.45 and South wins 2.25.

Notes on tactics

To make it worth bidding 3 or more you either need a scoring combination or a realistic chance (with the help of the stock) of winning all the tricks. It is a losing policy to bid 3 just to have a chance of winning 1 or 2 game points - you will have to succeed rather often to counterbalance the 12 or 14 game points you lose when you fail.

If you are relying on a combination it should be complete in your hand. It is not reasonable to gamble on acquiring from the stock the exact card you need to complete a combination.

To bid on the basis that you might take all the tricks you normally need the J-9 of your intended trump suit, preferably accompanied by a couple winning cards in the other suits. Even if the stock does not give you ideal cards, you will often be able to succeed in a bid of 3 making 6 or even 5 tricks. Alternatively you need the jack with enough cards in your trump suit that you can reasonably hope to drop the 9 when you lead your jack.

When you are the sitter, the odds are quite different. If you give up you will lose 10 game points anyway, and unless your cards are hopeless it is normally better to play. If you scramble 105 card points you have already saved your 10 game points, while even if you only manage 90 or 100 card points you have only lost 2 or 4 more game points than you were going to lose anyway. Occasionally you may even pick up a lucky stock and turn the 10 point loss into a gain of 14 point win by taking all the tricks.

The declarer will normally begin by leading trumps, hoping to draw two or three opposing trumps for each trump led. Thereafter the declarer's objective is when possible to win all the tricks, and otherwise to minimise the number of card points in any tricks that must be lost to the opponents.

The opponents of the declarer will obviously strive to throw as many valuable cards as possible on the tricks won by their team. When possible they should also try to arrange that their tricks are won by the player to declarer's right, or the player opposite the bidder. If the bidder's left hand opponent has to lead, the bidder gets the advantage of playing last to the trick, and may have the luxury of choosing whether to dispose of a loser if the trick is cheap, or trump it if it is expensive.

The opponents should try to lead suits in which the declarer is void. The worst disaster for the opponents is to lead the ace of a suit of which the declarer holds the king. The declarer trumps the ace and the king becomes a winner.

Often the declarer threatens to win all the tricks by playing out six winners and hoping that the opponents will discard the card that would have beaten the declarer's seventh card. To avoid this, the opponents should watch each other's plays carefully. Each opponent's first discard should normally be in that player's weakest suit, signalling that one of the other partners should try to hold onto a winner in that suit.