Contributed by Pete Caldwell who writes: "The rules are very simple but it's a very tough game to get a handle on."

Players: 4

Cards: 1 regular deck of 52 playing cards. Cards rank Ace high to Deuce low in each suit.

Object: To be the first player to reach 31 points. If more than 1 player reaches 31 after a hand, the player with the higher total wins. If 2 players are tied at such a point, continue playing until a single player has the highest total of 31 or more points. Players are rewarded or penalized for taking certain tricks each hand. Taking Queens in tricks also draws a penalty.

1st trick        0 points
2nd trick-1 point
3rd trick+3 points
4th trick+3 points
5th trick-3 points
6th trick0 points
7th trick+5 points
8th trick+5 points
9th trick-5 points
10th trick0 points
11th trick+7 points
12th trick+7 points
13th trick-7 points
Each Queen-1 point

The Deal: Shuffle the deck and deal 13 cards to each player in groups of 3-2-3-2-3.

The Play: The game is played out in hands. Each hand is played out in tricks. The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit, if able. There is no trump. The winner of a trick is the player with the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next. After each hand, the deal passes to the left.

Keeping Score: An extra deck is used to keep score for each hand. Select one Ace and three 3's, 5's, 7's and 10's (10's are for tricks with no points), black for positive points and red for negative points. Arrange the cards face up in order of the points awarded for each trick so players can see what each trick is worth. Give the top card to the winner of each trick as a score token. The total of players' scores should be ten after each hand. (Remember to deduct a point for each Queen taken.) Record the score for each player after each hand and restack the token cards.

Optional Rules:

Royal Cramps: Players bid for the right to name a trump suit. The minimum bid is 11. The player to the left of the dealer has the option to bid first. Bidding then proceeds clockwise until no one is willing to raise the last bid (auction style). Only points are bid. A suit is only declared after the winning bidder is determined. Players may bid and call no trump (to prevent someone else naming a suit). If nobody bids, play as regular. If a trump suit is declared, the Queen of trumps is worth -4 and other queens are worth zero. Bidders make their score or are penalized their bid. Other players score as usual. Winning bidders lead to the first trick and "trump rules" apply, i.e.

  1. you may not play trump if you have a card of the suit led; and
  2. the highest trump or, if no trump are played, the highest card of the suit led takes the trick.

If you use this option, players' scores won't add to 10 if the bidder is set.

A player can score a maximum of 30 points on any hand in the 4 player game, by winning all the tricks with positive scores, avoiding tricks with nagative scores and avoiding penalties for Queens.

5 to 8 Players: Use 1 regular deck plus the following from a second deck.

  • If 5 are playing, the Queen through Ace of each suit and 1 Joker;
  • 6: the 9 through Ace and 2 Jokers;
  • 7: the 6 through Ace and 3 Jokers; and
  • 8: a second full deck and no jokers.

Ideally the decks should have identical backs. If that is not possible, use some of the low cards required from the game from each of the decks, so that it's not obvious from the card backs if a player has a preponderance of high cards.

Jokers are not trump. Jokers may be played at any time. If a Joker is led, other players may play any card they wish. A Joker will only take a trick if it is led (and not trumped). If 2 cards of the same suit and rank are played on the same trick, the card first played is dominant. Because there are 4 more Queens, the score is adjusted for each trick to keep a total of ten for the hand by making the tricks worth, in order, 0, -3, 5, 5, -5, 0, 7, 7, -7, 0, 9, 9, -9. Queens are still worth -1 (or each trump Queen is worth -4). The maximum a player can score in a hand in a 5 to 8 player game is 42, the minimum bid is 15 for Royal Cramps and the winning score is 43.

Last updated: 29th June 2005