200

Thanks to the many people who have made this page possible by contributing information about various versions of this game.

Introduction

Two Hundred is a point-trick game in which players try to win tricks containing aces, tens and fives. It is popular in the province of New Brunswick, on the Atlantic coast of Canada. It is said to be a French Acadian game. In French it sometimes known as Deux Cents (200) and sometimes as Dix or Bidder 10 (Tens). Versions played in Quebec are also known as Le Rough or Le Ruff and around the eastern townships La Bloutte or La Fouine. There are some players in neighbouring Maine, USA, for example in Fort Kent, where the game is called La Bloute, and I have received two reports from as far away as Alberta where it is called Tens or Barouche. The only book descriptions of versions of this game that I have been able to find are in Culbertson's Hoyle (1950) under the name 'Chinese Bridge (four-hand)', and in French under the name 'Le Ruff' in Richard Raymond's Règles des Jeux de Cartes st des Patiences (2nd ed 2006) credited to Marie-Anna Bois of Quebec.

The age and origins of 200 are uncertain, but it is likely to have originated in Canada. It is best known in New Brunswick, where several correspondents say that it has been played for at least 3 or 4 generations, so clearly it was already known there in the 1930's or earlier. It is closely related to Rook, a game with special cards played in the Midwest USA and Canada. It seems likely either that Rook, which was first published by Parker Brothers in 1906, was based on 200, or that the games had a common ancestor. 200 also has some similarity to a group of Chinese games known as Sheng Ji of which 100 is a typical example. However, it is hard to establish a convincing historical connection with the Chinese games, and the resemblance may be coincidental.

There are many variations. I will first describe what seems to be the standard form for four players in partnerships using 36 cards and playing to a target score of 200 (after which the game is named). Less serious players very often use 40 cards and play with a 4-card kitty. In the northern part of New Brunswick, the target score is often raised to 300 or 500 for a longer game. There are also versions for 2, 5 and 6 players.

Players and Cards

200 is generally agreed to be best for four players in partnerships - North and South play against East and West. In the variations section, versions for six, five and two players are described.

For the 4-player game without a kitty, a 36-card pack is created by removing all the 2's, 3's, 4's, 6's from a standard 52-card pack without jokers. The cards in each suit rank from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-5.

When playing with a kitty, or with more than 4 players, more additional cards may be used - see variations.

In all forms of the game, the cards have point values as follows:

  • each ace: 10 points
  • each ten: 10 points
  • each five: 5 points
  • other cards: 0 points

so that there are 100 card points in the deck altogether.

The dealing, bidding and play are all clockwise.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random. For example, a player can shuffle the deck and deal single cards face up to the players starting with the player on the left. The first player who receives a jack is the first dealer. After each hand, the turn to deal passes to the left. Before each deal, the cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by the opponent to dealer's right. The dealer then deals 9 cards face down to each player, in batches of three, starting with the player to dealer's left.

Bidding

Players now bid for the right to choose which suit will be trumps, each bid representing the number of points the bidder's partnership contracts to take in tricks if not outbid.

The player to the left of the dealer speaks first, and the bidding continues clockwise. The minimum bid is 50, all bids must be multiples of 5, and each bid must be higher than the last. A player who does not wish to bid can pass, but having passed cannot bid again in that auction.

If all four players pass, the hands are thrown in without score and the next dealer deals. If there is a bid, the bidding continues for as many circuits as necessary until three players have passed, or until somone bids 100, the highest possible bid.

The final (and highest) bidder becomes the contractor, and announces which suit will be trump for that hand.

Note: it is not necessary for the first bidder to begin at the minimum 50 - the initial bid can be as high as you like.

Play

Having announced the trump suit, the contractor leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if able to. A player who has no card of the suit led is free to play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or, if it contains no trumps, by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

The objective is to win tricks that contain card points (Aces, 10's and 5's). Tricks without points have no value.

If the contractor fails to announce a trump suit before leading to the first trick, the suit of the first card played by the contractor automatically becomes trump.

Playing a trump when you have no card of the non-trump suit that was led is known as "cutting", no doubt from the French "couper", which means to trump in a card game, but also literally "to cut". There is no obligation to try to win the trick or to cut when you are unable to follow suit - it is legal to discard from another suit. Indeed if you expect your partner to win the trick you will probably want to discard a ten or five that might otherwise have been lost to the opponents.

Completed tricks are stored face down in front of a member of the team that won them and may not be looked at again by anyone until the end of the play.

Scoring

Scores are kept on paper. Each team begins with a score of zero.

When all the cards have been played, each team counts the value of the point cards in their tricks. If the contractor's team has at least as many card points as the final bid, the total value of the cards in their tricks is added to their cumulative score. If the number of card points they took is less than the bid, the amount of the bid is subtracted from their cumulative score.

The opposing team add whatever card points they took in tricks to their cumulative score, with one exception: if the contractor's opponents currently have a cumulative score of 100 or more, then they can score for points in their tricks only if at least one member of their team bid during the auction. If they both passed at their first opportunity to speak, they score nothing for the points in their tricks.

Example: Scores are NS:120, EW:100. NS bid 75.

  • If NS take 85 card points, their new score is 205 and they win the game.
  • If NS take 75 card points, their new score is 195. If East or West bid they score their 25 points for a cumulative score of 125; if they both just passed their score stays at 100.
  • If NS take 70 card points they lose the 75 they bid and their score is now 45. EW can score their 30 points provided that one of them bid for a total of 130; if both just passed their score stays at 100.

A team's cumulative score can be negative. On the score sheet this is usually shown by drawing a box around the number - for example minus 95 is written as  95 . The team is said to be "in the box", or sometimes "in the hole" (shown by a circle rather than a box around the score). Failing in a contract is sometimes known as being "boxed".

The first team to achieve a score of 200 points or more wins the game. If both teams reach 200 or more on the same deal then the bidding team wins.

The game also ends if one team reaches a negative score of 200 or worse while the other team's score is positive or zero. In that case the team with minus 200 or worse loses the game.

Variations

Many of these variations are extremely widespread, although some experts dislike those that increase the luck element of the game. Most informal games are played with a kitty and with the 100 for 200 bid. Allowing the dealer to keep the bid is also very common.

200 with a Kitty

Probably most non-tournament games of 200 are played with a kitty. The kitty is a face down packet of four cards that can be used by the contractor to improve his or her hand. This introduces an element of uncertainty and tends to lead to higher bids.

In this variant, a 40-card pack is used, including the sixes. Cards in each suit rank from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5. Nine cards are dealt to each player and four face card down to a central "kitty". The usual method of dealing is: a batch of three cards to each player; two to the kitty; three to each player; two to the kitty; three to each player.

After the usual bidding process, the high bidder takes the four kitty cards without showing them and discards four cards face down in exchange before naming trumps. The cards discarded can include some or all of the cards obtained from the kitty. No one is allowed to look at these discarded cards until the end of the play - even the contractor cannot look at them after the first card has been led. The play the proceeds as usual, and any points in the discarded cards count for the contractor's opponents at the end of the play. Scoring is as usual.

There are several variations concerning the contractor's four-card discard and how it is counted.

  1. The most usual rule, as given above, is that any cards can be discarded, no one can look at the discard, and that any points in it count to the contractor's opponents.
  2. Some play that any trumps that are discarded must be shown to the other players after trumps are announced and before the play begins.
  3. Some play that any points in the discard count for the side that wins the last trick.
  4. A few players award the points in the discard to the side that wins the first trick, but the discard still cannot be looked at until the end of the play.
  5. Some players do not allow any point cards (aces, tens or fives) to be discarded. This could rarely lead to an impossible situation if the contractor had 10 or more of the 12 point cards among the 13 cards held after picking up the kitty.
  6. Some players do not allow trumps or point cards to be discarded. There is a greater chance of this leading to an impossible situation, since there are now 19 cards that cannot be discarded, and it is quite conceivable that the contractor could hold 10 of these.
  7. Some players require the contractor to inform the other players if there are any point cards in the discard.
  8. Some count the discarded points for the contractor. This changes the tactics, allowing the contractor to save tens and fives simply by discarding them. Naturally this leads to higher bids.

100 for 200

This bid, known as "cent pour deux cents" in French, or sometimes as "two for one", is allowed in most informal games. It is the highest bid, and commits the contractor's team to win all 100 points in tricks. They score 200 points if successful, thus winning the game unless they were in the hole (box) when they bid it. If a bid of 100 for 200 fails, the contractor's team loses just 100 points (and as usual the opponents score the points they make provided that either they have bid or their score is below 100).

100 to win the game

Some play that if the bidders take 100 points in their tricks, they win the whole game, irrespective of the bid or the previous scores. This is known as a bloutte, and gives its name to this version of the game. If a team takes 100 card points while losing one zero-point trick, this is known as a chienne (bitch), and winning 100 points while losing two empty tricks is a double chienne. The result is the same, but a chienne or double chienne is considered more embarassing for the losers.

Keeping

In this widespread variation, the dealer is allowed to equal the highest bid so far, rather than bidding higher. The dealer would say "I keep the bid". Example: North deals, East passes, South bids 60, West bids 75, North "keeps" 75, East cannot bid, having already passed, South passes. If West passes now, North is the contractor and the bid is 75. Alternatively West might bid 80, and North would then have the option of "keeping" 80 or passing, and so on.

When keeping is allowed, a bid of 100 (or 100 for 200) by a player other than the dealer does not automatically end the auction. The dealer still has the right to keep the 100 bid.

One correspondent describes an unusual variation of this where any player can keep (not just the dealer), but you cannot keep a bid that has already been kept. So the bidding might start: East "50", South "keep 50", West "55", North "keep 55", East "60", South "65", West "pass", North "pass", East "keep 65" and so on. West cannot keep 50 in the first round of bidding since 50 has already been kept by South; similarly East cannot keep 55.

Dealer must bid after three passes

Many people do not allow all four players to pass. If the first three players pass the dealer is forced to become the contractor and bid 50. This rule is commonly found in 200 with a kitty, where after three passes, with the help of the kitty the dealer has good chances of success.

Single Round Bidding

In some groups each player only gets one chance to bid, the dealer speaking last. Those who play this variation usually allow the dealer to keep.

With single round bidding, some play that when the first three players pass, the declarer simply becomes the contractor, with the right to use the kitty if any and name trump, without bidding. In this case the contractor's team cannot lose points, though the opponents might score more than them. If the first two players pass, then in this variation the third player should bid if at all possible, to stop the dealer getting the contract for nothing.

Denis Landry reports that in some parts of Québec (near the Eastern Townships), the game is played under the name "Bloutte" (spelling uncertain) with single round bidding and a target score of 100 to win the game.

Target score of 300 or 500

In the northern part of New Brunswick, it is normal to play to a target score of 300 or 500 points to win the game, rather than 200.

In this case, the threshhold beyond which you are "required to bid" in order to score points against the contractor is set at 100 points below the target. The idea is that it should not be possible to win a game on a hand where your team did not bid in the auction.

  • When the target is 300 points, you can score points without having bid only if your score at the start of the hand is 195 or less.
  • When the target is 500 points, you can score points without having bid only if your score at the start of the hand is 395 or less.

Some players require a team to have bid at least 60 to qualify for points when they are at or above the "required to bid" threshhold. A bid of just 50 or 55 does not qualify.

The amount you have to be "in the hole" (or box) to lose (provided that the other team is not also in the hole) is normally set equal to the target. For example with a target of 500, if one team goes 500 points 'in the hole', the other team wins, if their score is 0 or higher.

Some play that you need 500 to win the game, but you lose if you are 300 in the hole. No doubt there are many other local variations on these target numbers.

Other scoring variations

Some play that if both teams reach the target score on the same deal, the team with the higher score wins - not the bidding team. It's unclear what happens in this version if the scores are equal - for example 210:210. Perhaps another deal is played to decide the winners.

Some play that the game can only be won by winning a bid. So if a hand results in the contractor's opponents reaching 200 or more while the contractor's team is still below 200 after adding the score for their successful bid, the game is not over - further hands must be played. The game ends only when a contractor's bid is successful AND after scoring the contractor's team have a cumulative score of 200 or more.

Some play that if a team wins while the other team is in the hole (below zero), this is considered a skunk - equivalent to winning two games. Others use the term skunk for the case where the losers neither won nor lost any points, so the game is won in two deals, 200 to zero.

In place of the rule that a team that is within 100 of the target if a target score cannot score points unless they bid, some play the following version. A team that is within 50 (or other agreed amount) of the target score cannot score unless they actually win the bidding and play the contract or defeat (box) the contractor. This makes it impossible for both teams to reach or pass the target in the same deal.

Number of cards

Some play with hands of 10 cards each - so all the cards down to 5 are used for the game without a kitty, and if playing with a kitty the 4's are included as well. Denis Landry reports that the 10-card game (without a kitty) is more usual in South-East New Brunswick. In North-East New Brunswick, 200 is usually played with 9-card hands.

Another rarely played version is with 12-card hands and a kitty, using a full 52-card deck for four players.

Minimum bid

When playing variations that are favourable to the contractor, such as 200 with a kitty, some set the minimum bid higher, for example at 65 or higher.

On the other hand, the game 'Le Ruff' as described in Richard Raymond's book, there is no minimum bid, though it is said that bids below 35 are unusual. If the first three players pass, the dealer simply becomes the contractor and chooses trumps, with no minimum points requirement.

No Trump Contract

Some allow the bidder to announce a no trump (sans atout) game in which there is no trump suit. No trump games score double: the bidding team score twice the number of points they took if they are successful and lose twice the amount bid if they fail. Their opponents score twice the value of the cards in the tricks that they take.

Compulsory trump lead

Some play that the first card led by the contractor determines the trump suit, and thus do not allow a non-trump to be led to the first trick.

Deal variations and Misdeal

Some prefer to deal the cards one or two at a time. Some deal cards in a single batch, nine at a time.

When playing with a kitty, some deal the four kitty cards singly at any points during the deal.

As in many other card games, some like to play with a rule that a player who has been dealt no aces or face cards (i.e. no card above a 10) can call a "misdeal". The cards are thrown in, shuffled and cut again and the same dealer deals again.

Le Rough

This variant from Quebec is played with a kitty but using only 36 cards: each player is dealt eight cards (4 at a time) and there is a four card kitty (mise), dealt in two cards at a time or all at once at any time during the deal. The minimum bid is 70 and the dealer is allowed to keep (garder) the bid. The bidder takes the kitty and may discard any four cards, which count for the bidder's team. The bidder's first lead determines the trump suit unless the bidder announces "sans atout" in which case the hand is played without trumps.

The target score is 350 points. If the bidder's team does not have a negative score, the bidder may, before taking the kitty, announce that the bidder's team will win all 100 card points. In this case, if they succeed they win the whole game, but if they lose the other team wins.

Some play that if the first three players pass, the dealer must also pass. This puts pressure in the dealer's partner to bid at least 70, so that the dealer will not be forced to pass with a good hand.

Six-player game

Six players can play as two teams of three, sitting alternately, or as three teams of two, with partners facing each other. Using the normal 36-card pack each player is dealt 6 cards; if playing with a kitty 40 cards are used. Alternatively, a 6-player game with kitty can be played with the full 52-card pack, dealing 8 cards to each player. The "misdeal" rule is not be used with six players, since cards without aces or face cards are more frequent.

The bidding, play and scoring work the same way as in the four-player game.

In the game between three pairs, if a team loses by reaching the lower threshhold (minus 200 points in the 200-point game) while at least one other team has a zero or positive score, the losing team drops out while the other two teams keep their scores and continue playing a four-player game to determine the winners.

200 with a Pot

This variation of the six-player game is played between three teams of two, using 40 cards, with 6 cards dealt to each player and a kitty of 4 cards.

  • At the start of the game, everyone pays the agreed ante (say one dollar) into a pot.
  • If the contracting team does not succeed their bid, each member of that team puts 50 cents (or whatever is decided) into the pot.
  • If a bid suceeds, nobody pays, with one exception: if a team takes all 100 points in tricks (even if the bid is lower than 100), then everyone else puts in the cost of a lost bid (50 cents or whatever was decided).
  • If a hand is thrown in, all players passing, then each member of the dealer's team pays the cost of a lost bid (50 cents or whatever was decided).

The team that wins the game (500 points) divides the pot between them.

Five-player Game

I have been told that a five-player game exists using 40 cards (down to the 5). Each player is dealt 8 cards and there is no kitty. One player is a "silent partner" and plays as the partner of the winner of the bidding, the other four players bidding against each other.

I do not know how the silent partner is chosen. The description I have says that this player has no team or score, and does not shuffle, deal or bid, which would suggest that the same player is dummy for the whole game. It would be fairer to rotate the partner with the deal - for example the player to dealer's right could be the silent partner (dummy).

For a more interesting five-player game I would suggest the following format. All players take part in the bidding, and the winning bidder calls a card whose holder will be the contractor's partner for that hand only. The partner does not announce who he or she is - this will become clear when the called card appears in the course of play. Each player's score is kept individually, the holder of the called card scoring the same as the contractor, and the other three players all scoring the points taken by their temporary team. This five-player format is successfully used in several other games, but I have not yet heard of it being used for 200.

Cutthroat 200

It is possible to play 200 without partners. The contractor plays alone against all the other players. Presumably each individual player scores the points taken in tricks, except that a contractor with insufficient points loses the amount of the bid. If playing this without a kitty, the minimum bid should perhaps be lowered.

Two Players

Using a 36-card pack, each player has a 9-card hand, and a "silent partner" whose cards are dealt in three stacks of three: two cards face down with a face-up card on top.

The game proceeds like the four-player game. The silent partners cannot bid, and when it is a silent partner's turn to play, the live partner plays one of the silent partner's face-up cards and turns the next card of the stack face up when the trick is complete. Like the live players, the silent partners must follow suit if possible, taking account only of the visible cards.

Tactics

Bidding

A good hand for bidding is one with aces or other high cards, preferably in sequence, and with an unbalanced distribution including one or two long suits. Point cards other than aces are a liability.

When the non-dealer's team is within 100 of the target, the first player will normally start with a low bid even with weak cards to make sure they can score their tricks if the dealer's team wins the bidding. Since a bid of 50 might be made purely for this tactical reason, the first player will probably start with at least 55 if holding genuine values, to let partner know that the bid was based on some strength.

If the dealer's team is within 100 of the target, the first player will often open with a high bid, to try to shut out the dealer's team or tempt them to bid too high.

Kitty

When playing with a kitty, the kitty may improve the contractor's hand, but may sometimes make it worse. Best are aces or other high cards, or cards of your long suit. Worst are point cards, especially in your short suits - these can ruin an otherwise good hand.

When discarding, the contractor will try to throw cards in weak, short suits, if possible getting rid of one or two suits entirely, so that the opponents' aces in those suits can be cut.

Play

As in any trick-taking game, players should try to keep track of the cards that have been played, especially trumps, high cards and point cards. The winning bidder usually makes the last few tricks (he usually ends up with a trump or two). Knowing the exact trump position can greatly simplify your play. If you're with this player and know how many trumps he has, you know how and when you can save your points. This is even more important if he's not in your team. If you know how many trumps your oppenent has, you'll know if and when you should gamble your point cards.

The person who won the bid likely has the most trump cards. Therefore, the contractor's team will usually start by trying to draw all the opponents' trump cards by repeatedly leading trumps. There are a few exceptions. For example if your partner won the bid and you can trump a suit, you may want to keep back your trump cards rather than leading them and hope to cut (trumpo) an opponent's ace. Later in the hand the contractor's partner should try to win tricks that will enable the contractor to dispose safely of endangered point cards in non-trump suits.

As in any partnership game, you should help your partner. For example when partner is winning the trick, you can throw a count card that might otherwise have been lost, but usually not an ace, since it might win a trick later. If your partner won the bid and you know he can cut (trump) a given suit, by all means lead that suit. He will be able to get rid of his unwanted cards (or cut if there are points in the trick).

If your team didn't win the bid, play your non-trump aces as soon as possible. Many players are tempted to keep their aces instead of playing them on a trick with no other points. This is a big gamble that should only be taken under exceptionnal circumstances. The reverse is true if your team won the bid and all of your opponents' trump cards have been played - now you can keep aces to capture other point cards. However, you should be careful, especially if your partner won the bid. Everyone will know you have that ace and your partner may not have another card of that suit to lead to it, in which case you risk that the suit will never be led again and you will have to throw your ace on an opponent's trick at the end.

If the opposing team won the contract, play suits that havn't been played yet. You want your partner to play his aces and minimise the risk of being cut. Also, if there are aces left in play and your partner is the only player who hasn't led to a trick, there's a good chance that he's got that ace. Therefore is a good idea to lead a point card of that suit, especially if you have several point cards - you're not going to save them all, so you might as well try it.

If your team won the bid, you usually want to stay clear of leading a suit that hasn't been played yet (unless you have the ace, of course). Instead, try to make it so that either you or your partner can cut suits that havn't been played (because the ace of that suit is probably in your opponent's hand). If you must lead a suit that hasn't been played yet, play a suit in which you have a protected 10. This way, your opponents can't score so many points in that trick.

If you only have K-5 (or even K-10) of a given suit, you should almost always lead the 5 (or 10). You were probably going to lose it anyway, and this way, you will probably win the second trick in that suit.

Other 200 web pages

On Facebook, Amélie Aubut has published the rules of Le Dix in Acadian French.

The Ange Hereux site has rules in French for Le Rough.

Here is a version of La Barouche described in English by Stella Johnson and Francis Fisher.


This page is mainly based on information contributed by: Tony Bleyer, Martin Bourgeois, Andre Caissie, Claude Foley, Ann Fulton, John Furlong, Paul Gareau, Serge Guilbert, Denis Landry, Clarence Lavertu, Chris Leblanc, Dax Oliver and Cleo Saulnier.