Laus

Introduction

This game from Germany is loosely related to Ramsch. Barry Rigal learnt it watching the under 25 German Bridge team at Cardiff in 1996. It provides some scope for interesting card play, including squeezes. Barry learned it as a four player game; later I received corrections and further information from Lutz Franke, who knows it only as a three-player game. Below I describe both versions.

Players and Cards

A 32 card pack is used, consisting of A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 in each of the four suits, but when playing the game the four jacks are regarded as forming a separate trump suit. So there are effectively five suits: jacks (trumps), clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds.

The ranking of the trumps from high to low is clubJ, spadeJ, heartJ, diamondJ.

In the four non-trump suits the cards rank from high to low A, 10, K, Q, 9, 8, 7.

Certain cards carry penalty points, and the object of the game is to avoid taking tricks containing those cards. First, all the cards carry their normal penalty point values as in Ramsch:

Jacks ... 2 points each
Aces ... 11 points each
Tens ... 10 points each
Kings ... 4 points each
Queens ... 3 points each

Taking queens in tricks has an additional effect. The club, spade and heart queens carry extra speacial penalties which swamp the normal card points above, but these can be neutralised by taking the diamond queen:

clubQ ... 300 points
spadeQ ... 200 points
heartQ ... 100 points
diamondQ ... cancels all special queen penalties for the player who wins it in a trick

So the diamond queen is a good card to win in a trick - it annuls the special penalties for the other queens, or if you have noine of these, it ensures that the players who took the queens will suffer the penalty. Note that all the queens, including diamonds, also carry their normal 3 points, which cannot be anulled. If one player takes all the queens, only the ordinary penalty points will remain - a total of 120 in the pack.

Nines, eights and sevens are neutral - the carry no penalty and have no special effect.

Deal and play

Deal and play are clockwise, and turn to deal passes to the left after each hand in the usual way. In the four player game, all the cards are dealt out in batches of 3-2-3, so that each player has a hand of eight cards. In the three-player game, the dealer deals 3 cards to each player, then 2 face down to the centre of the table to form the skat, then 4 each, then 3 each.

In the three-player game, the player to dealer's left is entitled to pick up the two skat cards and discard two; it is illegal to discard queens or jacks. The player to dealer's right can then pick up the first player's discards and discard two cards, and finally the dealer can do the same. Any of the three players can instead just pass on the skat without looking at the two cards. This doubles all scores for this deal.

The player to dealer's left leads. Players must follow suit if they can. A player who has no card of the suit led can play any card.

Jacks count as belonging to the trump suit, not as members of the suits printed on them. This means that if a jack is led the other players must follow with a jack if they can. Also, if (for example) the heart seven is led, you are not allowed to play the heart jack on it unless you have no other hearts. If the heart seven is led and you have no hearts except the jack you do not have to trump with the heart jack - you have no (real) hearts, so you can play any card. Another example: if the jack of spades is led you must play a jack if possible; if you have no jacks you may play any card - there is no requirement to play a spade.

A trick is won by the highest jack in it - or if no jacks are played, it is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

Obviously your main aim in the play is to avoid winning tricks with penalty cards, but at the same time if you see one player taking a lot of penalty cards you want to avoid giving them the diamondQ.

Scoring

At the end of the play, the players score according to the cards they have in the tricks they won. In the three-player game, the two discarded cards in the skat are given to the player who won the last trick.

Each of the players scores the normal penalty points for the cards they have taken, and in addition all players except the one who took the queen of diamonds score the special points for any queens they took.

In the three-player game, the penalties for all players are doubled for each time a player passed on the skat without looking at it.

In addition, if any player took no tricks the penalties for the other players are doubled. (In the four-player game, if two players take no tricks, the penalties for the other players are doubled twice - i.e. quadrupled.) However, if one player manages to win every trick, that player will score minus 120 - that is 120 good points. In the three-player game this is doubled for each player who passed on the skat without looking.

Further hands are played, keeping a cumulative score for each player. The first player to reach or exceed an agreed total such as 1500 is the loser, and has to buy the drinks.