This game was taught to John McLeod by Albinas Borisevicius of Vilnius, Lithuania. John McLeod taught Anthony Smith, who has written the following description.
1. The Players
The Lithuanian game Avinas ("Rams" in English) is a trick-taking game for two pairs of players. Each player sits opposite his partner. It is especially popular around the town of Jurbarkas (on the river Niemen, between Kaunas and the western border). On holidays players left off playing only to go to Mass.
A match consists of several hands.
2. The Cards
A 32 card pack is used, ranking
in trumps: QC, 7, QS, QH, QD, JC, JS, JH, JD, A, 10, K, 9, 8
in other suits: A, 10, K, 9, 8, 7.
The cards are valued at A=11, 10=10, K=4, Q=3, J=2 in all suits, giving a total of 120 points in the pack.
Ace, King, Queen, Jack are Tuzas, Karalius, Dama, Valetas in Lithuanian and Clubs, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds are Kryziai, Vynai, Cirvai, Bugnai.
QC is called "s'pic" and QS is called "green". In some parts of Lithuania some players call Queens "uppers" and call Jacks "lowers" [which suggests that Avinas was once played with German suited cards].
3. The Deal
The dealer deals in fours, clockwise. He exposes the fourth and eighth card of each opponent. He also examines the fourth and eighth of his own and his partner's cards, but only exposes any that are sevens. The game takes different forms according to whether or not any sevens have been exposed.
4. The Tricks
How Declarer is determined depends on whether or not any seven was exposed during the deal, but Declarer always leads to the first trick.
The lead to the first trick must be a trump. The winner of the first trick must lead a trump to the second trick if he holds one. If he has none he leads a card face down or face up as he chooses. If it is face down he indicates to his partner by a facial expression whether it is a valuable card or not. The other players follow as if a trump had been led, and the highest trump played wins the trick. If the card led was face-down then when all four have played it is exposed.
Tricks are played as in Whist, that is, suit must be followed if possible and a player void in the suit led may trump or discard as he chooses. The winner of one trick leads to the next.
5. One or More Sevens is Turned
5.1 Determing the Trump Suit and the Declarer
It can be expected that in over 70% of the deals at least one seven will be turned. If just one of the exposed cards is a seven then its suit is trumps; if more than one is a seven then the suit of the seven which was dealt last is the trump suit. The player who was dealt the seven of trumps is Declarer and will lead to the first trick.
5.2 The Game
Normally all eight tricks are played out and Declarer and his partner have won if they took at least 61 points but lost if they took 60 or fewer.
However, before the lead to the first trick, Declarer or his partner may undertake to win all the tricks, by knocking on the table. This doubles the value of the game. Either defender may then knock on the table, which doubles the value of the game again. In these cases Declarer and his partner have lost as soon as the defenderstake a trick.
5.3 Scoring the Game
If Declarer and his partner win the basic game then the defenders are penalised with 1, 2, 3 or 4 Rams according as 1, 2, 3 or 4 sevens were exposed during the deal. If they lose then they are penalised with 2, 4, 6 or 8 Rams.
If Declarer or his partner knocked and succeeded in taking all eight tricks then their opponents are penalised with 2, 4, 6 or 8 Rams, but if they failed to take all the tricks they are penalised with 4, 8, 12 or 16 Rams according as 1, 2, 3 or 4 sevens were exposed during the deal.
If Declarer or his partner knocked and an opponent also knocked then the defenders are penalised with 4, 8, 12 or 16 Rams if Declarer and his partner take all the tricks but Declarer and his partner are penalised with 8, 16, 24 or 32 Rams if they fail to take all the tricks.
A penalty Ram is marked on the score sheet by cancelling a Ram of the opponents if possible, or by drawing a circle if the opponents have no uncancelled Rams. Thus at most one side has any Rams at any time.
6. No Seven is Exposed
6.1 Determining the trump Suit and the Declarer
In can be expected that in over 29% of deals no seven will be turned. In such a case the player at the dealer's left either passes or names the length (but not the suit) of a trump suit he can make. The other players in turn then either pass or state a longer length. If all pass then there is a new deal, by the next dealer. Otherwise the player stating the longest length becomes Declarer and leads to the first trick. If is found that Declarer held a shorter trump suit than he claimed then he and his partner are deemed to have lost the match.
Notice that it is lawful to state a length of possible trump suit while holding another longer suit.
6.2 The Game
Declarer does not name trumps but simply leads one. If the lead to the first trick is a Queen or a Jack, so that it is not clear what the trump suit is, the player on Declarer's left must ask what the trump suit is.
When no seven was turned it is not necessary to play all the tricks. Declarer or his partner can stop the game at any stage. If they have at least 61 points then they have won, and the defenders are penalised as in 6.3. If they have fewer than 61 then they have lost, even if they have more points than their opponents, and are penalised as in 6.3.
6.3 Scoring the Game
The result of the game will be marked on the score sheet with Pips called "writing" (see diagram).
If Declarer and his partner make at least 61 points and the defenders have 31 or more then 1 Pip is marked against the defenders.
If Declarer and his partner make at least 61 and the defenders have at least 2 but fewer than 31 then 2 Pips are marked against the defenders.
If Declarer and his partner make least 61 and the defenders have taken no points then 3 Pips are marked against the defenders.
If Declarer and his partner have less than 60 but at least 31 points then 2 Pips are marked against Declarer and his partner.
If Declarer and his partner have at least 2 but fewer than 31 points then 4 Pips are marked against Declarer and his partner.
If Declarer and his partner have taken no points then 6 Pips are marked against Declarer and his partner.
Keeping the opponents' score below 31 is called "taking the field", but there is no special name for preventing the opponents from taking any points.
Penalty Pips are not cancelled like Rams are.
7. Ending the Match
After each game the player on the left of the old dealer deals for a new game, until one side scores at least 12 penalty Pips. Play then ends. If the other side then have no Pips then the players who had the 12 Pips have been made "Cats" and are disgraced until the next game. Traditionally there is no more play that day, and new cards are used for the next game.
If both sides have penalty Pips then the Pips are ignored and the side which has more penalty Rams has lost. In the diagram, the match has just ended because E & W have 12 pips. E & W win because N & S have eight Rams.
If neither side has any Ram at this stage then the side with fewer penalty Pips wins.
The stakes can be an agreed flat rate for the match or can be an agreed figure per Ram on the final score sheet.
- Demonstration games played with Albinas Borisevicius at IPCS Munich, November 1991
- Rule-sheet sent by Albinas Borisevicius to John McLeod
- Answers of 14 May 1992 by Albinas Borisevicius to queries of 21 March 1992 by John McLeod
- Mr Borisevicius considers "Ram" the best English for the name of the game and "Hammel" the best German. Unfortunately "Hammel" means "wether", not "ram".
- It can be good tactics for both sides to wish to lose a "no seven" game! Suppose one side has no Rams and 11 pips while the other side has both one or more Rams and one or more pips. Then the players on 11 wish to lose so as to bring this to at least 12 and so end the match while their opponents have Rams; their opponents can avoid this only by themselves losing. (Mr Borisevicius confirms this.) Since Declarer's side in a "no seven" game can choose when to bring the game to a close, they can certainly arrange to lose; thus there will be no underbidding for the right to be Declarer!