Spot - card game rules

Spot

Introduction

Spot is a 8-card rummy game played for small stakes in pubs and private houses in the west of Ireland. Its name refers to the fact that the payments at the end of each hand are based on the number of "spots" each player has on their remaining cards.

As usual in rummy games the aim is to get rid of all one's cards by laying them down ('dropping' them) in groups of 3 or more equal cards or sequences of 3 or more cards in a suit. An unusual feature of this game is that a player is not allowed to drop more than four cards in one turn.

This page is based on information from Enda Joyce.

Players and Cards

Spot is usually played by 4 people, though it is possible for more or fewer people to play using the same rules.

A standard international pack of 52 card without Jokers is used, the cards in each suit being K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A. Aces are always low in this game, ranking below the 2 not above the King.

Before beginning the players should agree on the stake. Traditionally (before the introduction of the Euro) this was a penny per spot with an ante of 5 pence. In the description the payments are expressed in 'units', each spot being worth one unit.

The deal and play are clockwise.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient random method. Thereafter the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

Before each deal each player places an agreed ante (normally 5 units) into the pot. The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right may cut. The dealer deals the cards one at a time until each player has a hand of 8 cards, and then deals a 9th card to the player to the left, who will begin the game.

The remainder of the cards are stacked face-down on the table as a stock from which cards are drawn during the game.

Play

The first player, to dealer's left, may 'drop' three or four cards (see below) and must then discard one card, placing it face up on the table next to the stock to begin the discard pile.

From then on each player's turn consists of

  1. drawing one card - either the unknown top card of the stock or the card that was discarded by the previous player, which is face up on top of the discard pile,
  2. optionally 'dropping' up to four cards - see below,
  3. discarding one card face up on top of the discard pile.

Dropping cards

Cards that are dropped are placed face up on the table. They must form either

  • a group of 3 or 4 equal ranked cards such as club7-diamond7-spade7 or heartK-clubK-diamondK-spadeK, or
  • a run of 3 or more consecutive cards of a suit, such as heartA-heart2-heart3 or club9-club10-clubJ-clubQ.

When a new group or run is dropped it is placed face-up on the table in front of the player who created it. Subsequently, players can add cards to an existing group or run that is already on the table, dropping the fourth card of the same rank of a group of three or dropping an adjacent card of the same suit to extend a run at either end.

No player is allowed to drop more than four cards in one turn. Some consequences are as follows.

  • A run can grow to any length as cards are added to it, but when initially dropped it can only consist of 3 or 4 cards. If you are lucky enough to have a run of 5 cards in your hand - say 4-5-6-7-8 of a suit, you cannot drop the whole of it in one turn. You could for example drop the 5-6-7 on one turn and then drop the 4 and 8 on the following turn.
  • It is not possible to drop more than one new group or run in a turn.
  • A player who drops a new group or run of 3 cards can in the same turn add one card to an existing group or run but not more.
  • A player who holds more than four cards at the start of their turn cannot 'go out' (see below) in that turn.

Note that Aces are always low. Q-K-A is not a valid run in this game and a if run ends in a King or an Ace no further cards can be added to that end.

End of the Play

The play ends when a player 'goes out' by dropping all their cards but one and discarding their final card. This ends the play and the hand is scored and paid for as described below.

A player who goes out must end their turn with a final discard. Therefore a player who begins their turn with two cards and draws a card that together with these makes a new group or run of three cards is not allowed to drop those three cards, because then they would be left with nothing to discard. The player must discard one of their three cards. Therefore a player whose hand is reduced to two cards can only go out by adding cards to existing groups or runs on the table.

If there are no cards left to draw from the stock and no one has gone out, the play ends and the hand is scored.

Scoring

At the end of the play each player counts the spot value of the cards remaining in their hands. For this purpose Aces count 1 spot, 2 to 10 face value, and all picture cards (Jack, Queen, King) count 10 spots each.

If a player went out, the player takes the pot and in addition is paid by each of the other players one unit for each spot in that player's hand.

If no one went out, the player with the lowest spot total in hand is the winner, and each other player the number spots in their hand to the winner. The pot remains and is added to by the antes for the next deal.

[In case of a tie for least spots when no one goes out, the players with the least spots are joint winners. Each of the other players pais according to the spots in their hands, and this money is shared between the winners.]

Example:

In the first hand of a 4-player game with a 5-unit ante no one goes out and the cards remaining in the players' hands at the end are:

  • Enda: J-10   Total 20
  • John: A-3   Total 4
  • Rex  2-9   Total 11
  • Finn Q-K   Total 20

As John has the lowest count, he wins. He does not collect the 20-unit pot but takes payment from the other players for their "spots": 20 units from Enda, 11 units from Rex and 20 units from Finn.

Everyone adds another 5-unit ante to the pot, and in the second hand Enda drops all 8 cards and goes out. The other players are holding cards as follows:

  • John: 5-5-6   Total 16
  • Rex: K   Total 10
  • Finn: 3-5   Total 8

Enda collects the 40 units from the pot plus 16 from John, 10 from Rex and 8 from Finn.

Tactics

When dropping cards, players must be mindful that the cards they drop may help another player by allowing them to add cards and potentially go out. For example, to drop 3-3-3 when the fourth 3 has not previously been discarded or used in a run is considered very poor play, as is dropping a run 7-8-9-10 with the J and 6 of that suit still in play.

Example. We are playing 2 handed and it's your turn. You have noticed that no kings have been yet discarded 

I have already dropped a run A-2-3-4 hearts, you have dropped 5-5-5-5 effectively killing my run (i.e. it cannot be filled in any more as you have used the 5 of hearts in your 5's)

You now pick the K of spades from the pack, you are holding 7-8-9 of diamonds and the A of clubs. Although the K is worth 10 spots and the A only 1 you suspect I may need the king. If you throw it and I pick it I might drop the 4 kings and be out, so you elect to hold onto it and throw the A instead.

Play now continues. There are only 2 cards left unturned I am holding K-K-K and the 6 of diamonds. I have previously noted you picking the 7 of diamonds that  I discarded and have seen the 7 of clubs and 7 of spades discarded so I believe you need the 7 to complete your run.

I pick the second last unturned card and it a J. As it's irrelevant my hand I can not go out at this point. Now I have two options: 

  1. I drop the K-K-K run and discard my jack leaving me with only a 6 of diamonds that you require but this leaves the pot open for you should you have the last K. If I play this way, the hand would play out as follows: you pick the last unturned card (the 2 of clubs), drop your run of diamonds fill my Kings and discard the 2 of clubs and you are out, winning the pot and 6 and units from me.
  2. I hold my 3 kings in my hand and discard the jack leaving me with 36 spots in my hand. You then pick the last unturned card (the 2 of clubs), drop the 7-8-9 of diamonds and discard the K as this is the last play of the hand, leaving you with just 2 spots and I pay you 36 units for K-K-K-6.

Option 2 is the much preferred option here if the pot is large: it must be guarded at all costs. Although it has cost me 36 units the pot is still in play. It's a case of pay the 36 units, chin up and on to the next hand!

Spot its a very social game and part of the sport of the game would in the case of the above example for you to me the king i needed to go out and the ribbing that would go along with it as you had blocked me from winning.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2022. Last updated: 1st March 2022

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