With thanks to Ralph Scotoni for teaching me this game.
Lupfen is a game for 3 to 5 players (best for four), that is played by high-school students in Liechtenstein. It is played with 20 cards of the Swiss German pack: in each of the four suits acorns, roses, shields and bells there are just five cards, ranking from high to low:
- Ace (As or Sau),
- King (König),
- Over (Ober),
Deal and play are counter-clockwise.
Ante and deal
Before beginning the players should agree the size of the ante and the minimum and maximum bet.
Before each deal, every player must pay the amount of the ante into the pool. The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's left cuts, and the dealer deals out the cards one at the time, until each player has three cards and leaves the remaining cards in a face down stack. The players look at their cards.
The Lupf, and dropping out
Now the dealer asks the player to his right "Lupfsch?", which means "Do you lift?" If this player answer "yes", he becomes the "Lupfer" (lifter). He must turn the top card of the stack of undealt cards face up. The suit of this card is trumps. The Lupfer then decides the price of the hand, which can be any amount from the agreed mninimum bet up to the agreed maximum, and places this amount in the pool.
If the player to dealer's right does not want to be the Lupfer, the dealer asks the other players the same question, in counter-clockwise order around the table, until someone says "yes". If all the other players say "no", the dealer has the opportunity to be the Lupfer. If the dealer also turns down this opportunity, the cards are thrown in, the turn to deal passes to the right, and everyone adds a new ante to the pool.
After the Lupfer has turned up a trump and announced the price to play, each of the other players in turn, starting to the Lupfer's right, must announce whether they will play or drop out. Those who play must pay the price of the hand to the pool. Those who drop out place their cards face down and take no further part until the next deal. The Lupfer himself, having already paid to play, is of course not allowed to drop out. If all the players other than the Lupfer pass, the Lupfer simply collects all the money in the pool, without needing to play the cards.
Three tricks are played. The Lupfer leads to the first trick. The other active players must follow suit if they can. Those who cannot follow suit may play any card. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless someone plays a trump, in which case the highest trump wins. The winner of the trick leads to the next trick.
At the end of the play, each player who has won a trick collects one third of the pool for each trick that they won. If the amount in the pool is not divisible by three, the Lupfer collects any remaining money.
Any active player, including the Lupfer, who does not take any tricks at all must pay into the pool an amount equal to what was in it at the start of play.
A player who has three Unders (which according to the card ranks would be the worst possible hand) automatically wins all three tricks, irrespective of the trump suit and the cards held by the other players.
A player who has two Unders and an Ober and pays to play can exchange these three cards for the bottom three cards of the undealt deck at any time before playing to the first trick. It is possible for two players to have this hand, and in this case both can exchange, unless there are five players in the game, in which case there are only 5 undealt cards, and only one player can exchange for the bottom three of these.