Home Page > Invented Games > Chamberlain


Contributed by Jonathan Ling (lingjd@lipscomb.edu)

Chamberlain is a three or four person, trick taking, contract game. Each player plays alone, although the losing players may team up on the winning player for a hand.

The Equipment:

All that is needed for this game is a standard deck of cards with the 10, 9, and 8 removed from each suit.

The Players:

Three or four people can play this game. If four are playing, the 10, 9, and 8 should not be removed from the deck.

The Rank:

The cards are ranked two ways. If playing "High" the rank structure, in descending order is:


If playing "low":


After a contract on the bid is made, the declarer decides whether to set the rank for that hand high or low.

The Deal:

Three person: Each person gets 13 cards. The cards are dealt out 3-3-3-4 around the table. The remaining talon is placed facedown on the table in the center and the top card is turned over.

Four person: Each person gets 13 cards. The cards are dealt out 3-3-3-3 so that there are four cards left in the stock. These are dealt out one to each player except for the last one. This means that the dealer only has 12 cards at this point. That last card is turned face up in the middle of the table.

The Bid:

The trump suit is the suit of the card that is face-up on the table. The person to the left of the dealer looks to see if he wants the rank high or low, and looks at how many tricks he can take. He then announces how many tricks he thinks he can take, but NOT UP OR DOWN! The winner of the bidding process chooses that. The next person around then looks to see if they can beat the bid by going at least one higher. If they cannot, they pass, and the bid moves on to the next player. The bidding continues until all the players pass back around to the person who made the last bid. This person is now the declarer and gets to choose if the hand is played up or down. In four person Chamberlain, the dealer will now pick up the card on the table and add it to his hand.

The Play:

Play proceeds clockwise, starting with the person left of the dealer. This person will lead the first card. The other around the table will follow suit. If someone has no card of the suit led, they may play any card. The person who plays the highest card of the suit led, or who plays the highest trump, wins the book. This person then leads the next card. Play continues until all cards are exhausted.

The Score:

The only person who can score in a hand is the person who won the bid. This person had to win at least as many books as he bid. If a person bids "5" then he must take at least 5 books during the hand. The drawback is if a person collects a book containing a Jack. For each Jack collected, points are lost in this order:

  1. Clubs = 4
  2. Diamonds = 3
  3. Hearts = 2
  4. Spades = 1

These numbers are subtracted from the number of books taken in a hand. After the Declarer has counted his books and subtracted his penalties, that number is compared with his bid. If it is equal or higher, that player gets as many points as he bid. If it is under, he loses that many points. It is possible to have a negative score. If any of the other players have any Jacks, they lose the allocated points from their score as well. Tricks taken by any player other than the Declarer do not count towards any score. If a player decided to "Shoot the Moon" i.e. get all 13 tricks, and pulls it off, then that player will win the game at that point. If he fails, all other players will gain 5 points, minus penalties and the Declarer will lose 5 points and penalties. If any player reneges, then that player loses 5 points. This can be used at any time during the hand. The winner is the first person to 20 points.

Home Page > Invented Games > Chamberlain
Last updated: 15th September 1999