This page is based on a contribution from Matt Shapiro.
We do not know the origin of this game, which has been played for several years at least by card game circles in Cleveland, Ohio.
After the deal there are several rounds of exchanging and discarding. There is then a 'hunt' phase in which cards are played and scored. The objective is to score as many points as possible by the end of the game.
Players and Cards
Dingo is a game for four players using a standard deck of 52 cards.
- The diamonds in the pack are called the 'rabbits'. The Ace of diamonds in the main pack is called the 'Ace rabbit'.
- The hearts are called 'dingoes' and have special importance in this game.
- The spades and clubs are collectively termed 'wolves'.
There are three classes of cards:
- low cards (2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9) score ±1 point
- high cards (10-Jack-Queen-King) score ±2 points
- Aces other than the rabbit score ±3 points
- the Ace rabbit scores +10 points or -3 points
Red cards - dingoes and rabbits - can be worth positive or negative points depending on the cards that are played. This is explained further in the section on the hunt. Black cards - wolves - always score positive for someone if they are played.
Deal and play are clockwise.
The first dealer is randomly chosen. The turn to deal passes to the left after each game.
The dealer separates the diamonds from the deck, except for the Ace of diamonds which is included in the main pack. Thus the main pack consists of 40 cards, 13 from each of hearts, spades, and clubs, plus the Ace of diamonds.
The remaining diamonds, 2 through King, are ordered from low to high (2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-Jack-Queen-King) and placed face up in the center of the table with the 2 on top.
The main pack of 40 cards is shuffled and the cards are dealt out one at a time, clockwise, until each player holds ten cards. Players pick up these cards and look at them.
Discard and Exchange
The game begins when each player has ten cards in their hand and there are 12 rabbits in the center of the table. For the purpose of explaining the discard and exchange process we will call the dealer South, and the other players in clockwise order West, North and East.
- First Discard
- Beginning with the dealer (South) each player in clockwise order discards one card face up to a new pile (separate from the rabbit pile) in the center of the table. Aces may never be discarded but players are free to discard any other card of their choice. The discards are stacked so that everyone can see the latest discard but none of the earlier discards.
- First Exchange - Left
- The dealer (South) passes any card of his choice face down to the player on his left (West). After looking at the card he has received, West passes a card of his choice face down to the left (North). North similarly passes a card to East and East passes a card back to South.
- Second Discard
- Everyone discards a card face up on the discard pile. The process is the same as for the First Discard.
- Second Exchange - Across
- Now beginning with the dealer, each player in clockwise order passes one card to the player sitting opposite. First South passes a card to North, then West to East, then North to South, then East to West.
- Third Discard
- As before everyone in turn discards a card face up to the discard pile.
- Third Exchange - Right
- Each player in clockwise order passes a card to the right (South to East, West to South, North to West, East to North). This time East will be the only player who sees the card he is given before deciding what card to pass on.
- Fourth Discard
- For the fourth time everyone discards a card, following the same procedure as before. After this each player will have a hand of six cards, and the hunt can begin.
The rabbits are hunted one at a time in ascending order, starting with the 2. During the hunt phase each player accumulates cards in two face up piles: a scoring pile, which is upright, and a separate penalty pile, which is turned sideways. At the end of the game the player's score will be the total value of all cards in the scoring pile minus the total value of all cards in the penalty pile.
To begin each hunt from 2 up to King, the dealer calls out the rank of the top card of the rabbit pile. Any player with the dingo (heart) of that rank is obliged to play it face up. If the dingo is played, the other three players in turn then each have the option to play one (or both) wolves of that rank. There are four possible results.
- No one has the dingo. The rabbit card is discarded, and wolves cannot be played. No one scores.
- The dingo is played but no one plays a wolf. The rabbit card is discarded and the dingo is placed in the player's penalty pile.
- The dingo and one wolf are played. The dingo is placed in the player's scoring pile. The wolf player catches the rabbit: the wolf card and the rabbit card are added to the wolf player's scoring pile.
- The dingo and both wolves are played. The first wolf and the dingo are added to the dingo player's scoring pile. The player of the second wolf catches the rabbit and the second wolf and the rabbit are added to this player's scoring pile.
Note A. Although the holder of the dingo of the called rank is obliged to play it, no one is ever obliged to play a wolf.
Note B. If the dingo player also has one or both wolves of the same rank, he is not allowed to play them. Only the other three players can play wolves.
Note C. If a player other than the dingo player holds both wolves of a rank it is legal to play both of them but it is never sensible to do so, since the first wolf will then be scored by the dingo player.
After the King hunt, the dealer calls the Ace hunt, which has different rules. Since Aces cannot be discarded all Aces including the rabbit must be in the hands of the players.
The holder of the Ace dingo must play it. No other cards may be played along with the Ace dingo.
Then beginning to the left of the dingo player each of the four players in clockwise order have a turn in which they may play one or both wolves. The dingo player's turn ends the game.
The holder of the Ace rabbit may play it in their turn only if both Ace wolves have already been played. A player who holds both wolves and the rabbit can thus play all three cards (the rabbit last). A player who holds the Ace rabbit with one Ace wolf can play the wolf and the rabbit if the other wolf has already been played.
- If any Ace wolves are played, each Ace played in the hunt is added to the player's scoring pile.
- If no Ace wolves are played, the dingo dies and is added to the player's penalty pile.
- At the end of the Ace hunt, if the Ace rabbit has not yet been played, the dealer calls out for it. The holder must show it and add it to his or her penalty pile.
- East plays the Ace dingo, South plays a wolf, West passes, North holds both the rabbit and the remaining wolf and plays both, scoring 13 points (three for the wolf, 10 for the rabbit). East and South score 3 points each.
- West plays the Ace dingo, North holds the rabbit and a wolf but can only play the wolf, East passes, South plays the remaining wolf. West and South score 3 points, North scores zero (wolf minus rabbit).
- East holds the Ace dingo, a wolf and the rabbit and plays the dingo. South and West pass. North holds the other wolf. If she plays it, East will play the wolf and rabbit for 16 while North scores 3. If North chooses not to play the wolf, she will not score anything and East will only be able to play the wolf, scoring 3 points (6 for the dingo and wolf less 3 for the dead rabbit).
- A player who holds all four Aces will play the dingo first, and then the wolves followed by the rabbit after the others have passed, for a total of 19 points.
At the end of the game, players show the cards remaining in their hands to the other players. Any player seen with a red card in their hand (a dingo or the Ace rabbit) is said to be 'caught red-handed' and is disqualified from winning. After this is verified players all discard their hands and count the value of the cards in their scoring piles and subtract the value of any cards in their penalty piles. Low cards count 1, high cards 2 and Aces 3, except for the Ace rabbit which counts 10 if the scoring pile but only -3 in the penalty pile.
The player with the highest score wins. If there is a tie the player with the higher ranked rabbit wins the game (a dead Ace rabbit does not count, but a live one does).
A match can be played until one player wins a certain number of games (say 5), or for the arithmetically ambitious a running score may be kept and the first player to cross some threshold (say, 100) may win.