Card Games: Trick Taking Games


This is the largest group of outplay games. Normally, each player is dealt an equal number of cards. A trick consists of each player in turn playing one card face up to the table (a few games have multiple tricks where several cards may be played at once). Playing the first card to a trick is called leading. There is some rule to determine which card wins the trick (for example the highest card of the suit led). The cards played to the trick are captured and generally placed face down in front of the winner of the trick. Usually the winner of a trick leads to the next.

Plain Trick Games

In these games the value of a trick does not depend on what cards it contains. The object will typically be to win some number of tricks, or as many tricks as possible. Occasionally the object is to win a specific trick (for example the last one). There are also some plain trick games where the aim is to lose tricks.

  • Whist group: normally a 52 card pack is used, cards rank from ace down to 2 and most or all of the cards are dealt. There is generally a trump suit, but no bidding. The aim is generally to win as many tricks as possible.
  • Games without trumps: the aim is to win tricks, a trick being won by the highest card played of the suit led, but there is no trump suit.
  • Put group: in these games suit is irrelevant - the trick is won by the highest card played. The threes are usually the highest cards, followed by 2, ace, king, etc.
  • Last trick group: the result of the game depends entirely on the last trick: the objective can be to win it, to avoid winning it, or to play the lowest card to it.
  • Trump group: games with a trump suit in which a small number of cards (often 5) is dealt to each player.
    • Spoil five group: a subgroup of the trump group, particularly associated with Ireland, in which the highest trumps are the 5, the jack and the ace of hearts.
    • Euchre group: another offshoot of the trump group, in which the jack of the trump suit and the other jack of the same colour are high trumps. The group includes games with bidding, and in some a greater number of cards is dealt.
    • Rams group: in these games players have the opportunity to drop out after seeing their hands, but anyone who stays in and fails to make their quota of tricks suffers a penalty.
    • Karnöffel group: in this ancient group of games, there are one or more "chosen" suits, in which most of the cards act somewhat like trumps, but not quite. The sevens of the chosen suits play a special role: they are almost unbeatable if led to a trick, but powerless otherwise.
  • L'Hombre group: the first games with bidding. Usually the top three trumps are special - typically the black aces are permanent highest and third highest trumps, and the two or seven of trumps is second. There is usually a "talon" of undealt cards, which the bidder may use in various ways, depending on the bid.
  • Boston group: an offshoot the whist group, in which the players, usually four, are divided into alliances, 1 against 3 or 2 against 2, which vary according to the outcome of the auction. Usually the highest bidder has the right to choose trumps, and tries to win at least as many tricks as were mentioned in the winning bid. Many of these games also include other types of bid, such as undertaking to lose every trick or win only one.
  • Auction Whist Group: an offshoot of the whist group in which the players are formed into fixed partnerships. There is an auction to decide on the contract to be played, which typically coomits the team to win a certain number of tricks and allows them to choose the trump suit.
  • Preference group: three-player games with 10-card hands dealt from a 32-card pack. In the basic contract the bidder's objective is to win at least six tricks, while the opponents, if they choose to defend, must win at least two each.
  • Exact bidding group: in these games the aim is to predict the exact number of tricks you are going to win; there are penalties for winning too many or too few.
  • Multi-trick group: in these games, which are mostly Oriental, it is possible to lead several cards to a trick at once, if they form a legal combination. Everyone must follow with an equal number of cards, and the winner wins that number of tricks.

Point Trick Games

Point trick games are so called because the cards have point values, and the result is determined not by the number of tricks taken, but by the total point value of cards taken. There are positive point trick games, in which the object is to take at least a certain number of points in tricks (or more than the other players), negative point trick games in which you try to avoid taking points, and a small number of games with other objectives such as getting as near as possible to a predicted total.

Some of the games included here are mixed games which are chiefly point trick games, but other mechanisms are also used. For example there are many point trick games with bidding in which a few of the possible bids have plain trick objectives such as losing all the tricks. Also many point trick games have other sources of points as well - for instance there may be points for combinations of cards held in hand.

I have grouped the point trick games mainly according to the ranking and point values of the cards (and combinations); this is also a good indicator of which games are historically related. It looks as though the oldest point-trick games may have had a "triangular" system of values, in which the top few cards of each suit had a value, each being worth 1 more than the one below it. The first few groups below have this type of system. Then there are some in which a few cards such as the ten and the ace are given much higher values, but the vestiges of the triangular system remain, and finally groups that use other systems.

  • Tarot games: the pack contains a special series of cards that are permanent trumps. The counting cards are the highest and lowest trumps and the picture cards in the suits.
  • Manille group: the highest card in each suit is the nine (in Spain) or the ten (in Belgium and France), worth 5 points. This is followed by the ace (4), king (3), queen or knight (2) and jack (1).
  • Couillon group: the highest four cards in each suit are the ace (4 points), king (3), queen (2) and jack (1). Other cards have no value.
  • Trappola group: an almost obsolete group of games which originated in 16th century Venice and was played with a special 36 card pack. The highest cards in each suit are the ace (6), king (5), knight (4) and jack (3). There is a special bonus for winning a trick (especially the last) with the lowest card of a suit (originally the two).
  • All Fours group: so called because there were originally four points for highest trump, lowest trump, jack of trumps and game. The card values (used in deciding who wins the game point) ace ace=4, king=3, queen=2, jack=1, ten=10. Later games of this group introduce bidding and extra points.
  • Ace-ten games: The ace and ten of each suit are valuable cards - often with values ace=11 and ten=10. Typically, the king, queen and jack are worth 4, 3 and 2 respectively. Often the ten is the second highest card of the suit, above the king. In Mediterranean countries, the ten is usually replaced by the three. There are several subgroups:
    • Schafkopf group: ace-ten games in which some or all of the queens and jacks are permanent high trumps. Among jacks or queens, the order of suits from high to is always clubs (acorns), spades (leaves), hearts, diamonds (bells).
    • Marriage group: ace-ten games in which there is a bonus for declaring a holding of king and queen of a suit, often worth 40 in trumps and 20 in other suits. Some of these games have additional scoring combinations, such as sequences or fours of a kind.
      • Jass group: an important subgroup of the marriage group in which the jack (20 points) and nine (14 points) are promoted to be the highest trumps, above the ace.
    • Sedma group: an unusual group of games in which each trick is won by the last card played that is equal in rank to the card led; the most valuable cards are aces and tens.
  • Tressette group: the cards of each suit rank from high to low: 3, 2, ace, king, queen, jack, 7, 6, 5, 4. Aces are worth one point and threes, twos and pictures are worth one third of a point each. Other cards have no value.
  • King-ten-five group: in a standard 52 card pack, ranking with aces high, kings and tens are worth 10 points each and fives are worth 5, for a total of 100 in the pack. Many games with this valuation are found in China, but it is also known in other places. In some non-Chinese games it is the ace rather than the king that is worth 10 points.
  • Picture group: a group of games, probably of Japanese origin and found especially in Japan and Korea, in which the ace, king, queen, jack and (usually) ten are worth 1 point each, so that there are 20 points in the pack.
  • Reverse games: the objective is to avoid winning tricks containing high value cards.
  • Miscellaneous point-trick games: collection of point-trick games which do not fit well into any of the above groups.

Quasi Trick-taking Games

There are several games in which the mechanism is similar to trick-taking games, in that the players play cards in turn to a "trick", but differ in that the play to the trick may not go all the way around the table, or may go round more than once. Also players may acquire extra cards during the game. All these factors can cause the hand sizes to become unequal. Therefore these are often shedding or accumulation games, in which the main objective is to accumulate or get rid of cards, rather than to win or lose tricks. These games are grouped according to the mechanism.

  • Inflation games. Players play cards in turn, often with the requirement to follow suit. In certain circumstances, for example if unable to follow suit, a player may be required to draw a card from the stock of undealt cards or pick up one or more of the cards played to the trick. Also the winner of each trick may be required to draw a card.
  • Climbing games. This is a large group of games, mostly originating in the Far East. Players play cards in turn, often in groups rather than one at a time, with the requirement that each play must beat the previous play. Players who are unable to play pass their turn. A "trick" can continue for several circuits of the table, until no one beats the final card(s) played. Whoever made this highest play wins the "trick" and leads to the next.
  • Beating games. Another large group of games: members of this group are especially prevalent in Russia and Scandinavia. Players must either beat the previous play or pick up the cards they did not beat, adding them to their hand. The last player holding cards is the loser.