Down and Back

Introduction

This page is based on the recollections of Steve Bradbury who encountered this card game in several places in Lancashire, England in the 1980's. Each player is dealt 7 cards and the aim is, by drawing and discarding, to collect a 4-card 'going down' hand and a 3-card 'coming back' hand. We do not know the original name of this game so I am temporarily calling it Down and Back after the names of the two hands. We would like to hear from anyone who can provide further information about this game, whether it is still played and where, and what it is called.

Players, Cards and Deal

The game can be played by from 2 to 5 players, the optimum number being 4. A standard English 52-card pack without jokers is used. Deal and play are clockwise.

The first dealer can be chosen by any convenient method, such as drawing cards. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. Before each deal, each player pays an equal ante into the pot. The size of this ante should be agreed before the start of the game.

The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts. The cards are dealt one at a time face down, seven cards to each player. The next card is dealt face up in the centre of the table to start the discard pile and the remaining cards are stacked face down next to the face up card, to form a drawing stock. The players look at their hands.

Objective and Hand Ranking

The objective is to collect seven cards that can be divided into a four-card hand and a three-card hand that will beat the corresponding hands of the other players. The cards rank from highest to lowest K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A. Aces are always low in this game. The ranking of hands from high to low is as follows.

Going Down Hands (4 cards)

  1. Quad. Four cards of the same rank. Four Kings is the highest quad and four Aces is the lowest.
  2. Prial. Three cards of the same rank plus a fourth card which must be either a card of the fourth suit or a picture card of any suit. So heart3-diamond3-club3-spade8 and club7-heart7-spade7-heartQ are valid prials but spadeJ-clubJ-diamondJ-club6 is not. If two players have prials the one with the higher three of a kind is better.
  3. 4 Card Bouncer. Four consecutive cards of the same suit. Since Aces are low, diamondA-diamond2-diamond3-diamond4 is a valid bouncer but spadeJ-spadeQ-spadeK-spadeA is not. If two players have bouncers the one with the higher top card is better. If two players have equal bouncers in different suits it is a tie - no suit is better than any other.
  4. 4 Card Run. Four consecutive cards, not all of the same suit. As with bouncers, A-2-3-4 is the lowest run and 10-J-Q-K is the highest.
  5. 4 Card Flush. Any four cards of one suit. If two players have flushes, the highest card is compared first, then the second card and so on. So for example heartQ-heartJ-heart3-heart2 beats spadeQ-spade10-spade8-spade7.
  6. Two Pair. Two pairs of equal cards - the suits do not matter. If two players have this, the higher pairs are compared first. For example K-K-Q-Q beats K-K-A-A, and 10-10-2-2 beats 9-9-8-8.
  7. Pair. Two equal cards plus two other cards. If neither of the two odd cards are pictures, they must be one card of each suit not present in the pair. If one odd card is a picture, the other odd card must be of a suit different from those in the pair. Any picture can be used as an odd card, irrespective of suit. Examples of valid pairs: club6-spade6-heart9-diamond2, diamond8-club8-clubQ-heart5, heart10-spade10-diamondJ-diamond5, heart9-spade9-spadeJ-spadeQ. The following would not be valid: clubJ-diamondJ-heart6-diamond2, heart9-spade9-diamond4-diamond3, heart7-club7-diamondK-clubA. If two players have pairs compare the the rank of pair first, if the pairs are equal the rank of the higher odd card, and if those are also equal the lower odd card.
  8. High Card. Any four cards that do not fall into any of the categories above. If two players have this hand, compare the highest card first, then if these are equal compare the second highest card and so on.

Coming Back Hand (3 cards)

  1. Prial. Three cards of the same rank. Three Kings is the highest prial and three Aces is the lowest.
  2. 3 Card Bouncer. Three consecutive cards of the same suit. Since Aces are low, clubA-club2-club3 is a valid bouncer but heartQ-heartK-heartA is not. If two players have bouncers the one with the higher top card is better.
  3. 3 Card Run. Three consecutive cards, not all of the same suit. As with bouncers, A-2-3 is the lowest run and J-Q-K is the highest.
  4. 3 Card Flush. Any three cards of one suit. If two players have flushes, the highest card is compared first, then the second card and so on.
  5. Pair. plus a third card which must be either a card of one of the other two suits or a picture card of any suit. So heartK-diamondK-club7 and spade8-diamond8-diamondJ are valid pairs but heartJ-clubJ-club3 is not. If two players have pairs, compare the pairs of equal cards first: if these are the same rank compare the third card.
  6. High Card. Any three cards that do not fall into any of the above categories. If two players have this compare the highest card first, then if these are equal compare the second highest card and if these are also equal the third card.

If there is a tie for the best hand - for example two players have a 7-6-5 run coming back and no one has anything better - the players involved in the tie must each cut a card from the shuffled deck to decide which of them is the winner of that hand.

The Play

The player to dealer's left begins. A turn consists of the player drawing the top card either from the face down stock pile or the face up discard pile, adding it to their hand, and then discarding one card face up on top of the discard pile. Any card can be discarded, including the card that the player has just picked up.

Players take turns clockwise around the table, and the play continues for six rounds. After the dealer's sixth turn the play ends and there is a showdown.

If a player draws the last card from the stock pile, then before the next player's turn the discard pile is shuffled and turned face down to form a new stock pile. The top card of the new stock pile is turned face up and placed alongside it to start a new discard pile.

Showdown

Each player divides their seven cards into a four card 'going down' hand and a three card 'coming back' hand. Starting to the left of the dealer each player in turn shows their going down hand and these are compared to find the highest hand. Then in the same order players show their coming back hands and these are compared.

If the same player has the best going down hand and the best coming back hand, that player collects the pot. If no one wins both hands, then the pot remains, and the players add another ante to the pot for the next deal.

Variants

The number of turns to draw and discard varied. Some played that seven circuits were allowed rather than six. In some games a player was allowed to reduce the number of exchanges by announcing that at the end of the current circuit (i.e. after the dealer's turn), the drawing and discarding would end and the showdown would take place.

Some did not allow a player to draw and discard the same card. In this case a player who was satisfied with his or her hand could say 'skip' instead of drawing, and the turn would pass on to the next player.