Created by Jack Russell and Steven Ellis

Summary: Ambusch is a card game that combines elements of rummy and poker. Ten rounds (or games) of a version of rummy are played. Following each game the player who goes out is able to place their remaining card in their poker hand. The poker hands compiled at the end of ten rummy games are what determine the winner.

Players: 2 to 4 players or teams.

Equipment: One standard deck of playing cards.


The winner of a set is the player with the highest five-card poker hand after the completion of 10 games. Five cards are not needed to win the hand.
The winner of a game is the first player to lay down a winning trio or a blocking pair.
Winning Trio
A winning trio consists of either a three of a kind or a three card straight. A straight can have mixed suits, and ace can count as high, low or both: Q-K-A, A-2-3 and K-A-2 are all valid trios in this game.
Blocking Pair
A blocking pair is a set of two pairs in a four card hand, which can be laid down to end a game. No card is placed in the player's poker hand as a result of a blocking pair being laid down.

Game Rules:

Each player or team draws four cards from the deck. One additional card is drawn and placed face up on the discard pile. The player that goes first in each game (first turn should rotate clockwise amongst the players) has the option of drawing the top card in the discard pile, drawing an unknown card off the top of the deck or without drawing lay down a winning trio and place his fourth card face down into his poker hand. The card placed in the poker hand will not be returned to deck until the completion of the set. To complete a players' turn (if that playing has not won the game by laying down a winning trio or blocking pair) the players must return one card to the top of the discard pile, face up. This card may be the card drawn on that turn. If a winning trio is made on the draw it cannot be laid down until that player's following turn. A winning trio does not have to be laid down. A player has the option of continuing the game hoping to eventually draw a card more useful as a fourth card to be placed in one's poker hand. In addition to laying down winning trio a player might also opt to play a blocking pair. When a player plays a blocking pair no card is left to place into the poker hand. This is considered a defensive move, played to prevent your opponent from obtaining a card for their poker hand.

Set Play and Scoring:

After each game the players return their cards to the deck bag, with the exception of the cards in the poker hands. The cards in the poker hands are not available for game play. The set continues with new games after each winning trio or blocking pair is played until ten games are completed. After the completion of ten games the cards in each player's poker hands are shown and the player with the best five card poker hand is determined to be the set winner. A player can win a set without five cards. For instance, a player might be able to win a set with only two cards if those cards are a pair of aces. If a player has more than five cards, only five cards are used in the poker hand.

Two alternatives exist for the scoring. Players can choose to play in series of sets. The winner of the best 3 of 5 for example would be the winner of the match. Or a point system can be used to assign points to winning poker hands with a point total pre-determined to establish the winner. The winning hand will be awarded the following number of points:

Straight Flush50
Four of a kind40
Full House30
Three of a kind   15
Two Pairs10
High Pair7
High Card5

Players with the winning hand will also receive one point for each card in their hand. The player with the losing hand is awarded one point for each card in his poker hand.

Strategy Tips:

Two basic styles of play exist. One style is to obtain as many cards as possible, hoping to prevent their opponent from obtaining cards. Under this style players lay down a winning trio as soon as possible in any given game in order to obtain a card for their poker hand. The other basic style would be to hold out for cards forming the best hand possible. This strategy involves continuing to draw cards for use as your fourth card, while retaining a winning trio in your hand. As in most cases a combination of strategies is wisest, typically going for cards quickly in the early rounds and holding out for beneficial cards for poker hand in later rounds. If a player feels they have sufficient cards to win the set they may choose to use blocking pairs to prevent their opponent from obtaining cards.

A key skill in the game is Ambusch is bluffing. The art of the bluff used in Ambusch is to trick your opponent into laying down a winning trio before they wanted to even if you do not have a winning trio in your hand. This can be done by appearing to use a card from the stock or discard pile in your hand, when in fact, it does not give you a winning trio.

Last updated: 1st October 2004