This page is based on a contribution from Robert Reid.
This curious old game, also called 'Seven Cards', is known only from a description in a seventeenth-century collection of games by Francis Willughby and has no obviously close affinities with any other card game. It could perhaps be a declaration game of the Piquet / Imperial type which has shed the usual trick-play process. One can also see similarities to Primero and its relatives, although Ging lacks the vying element.
Ging is quite enjoyable when played for small stakes or just for the counters. Success depends entirely on the cards you are dealt, but a certain level of concentration is still required in counting and declaring the points and remaining vigilant for the periodic appearance of the sweep combinations.
A 28 card pack is used, created by removing the aces and all cards below seven from a standard 52-card pack leaving K-Q-J-10-9-8-7 of each suit.
Four. In the description below, 'eldest hand' denotes the player immediately to the left of the dealer, i.e. moving clockwise from the dealer. In distinguishing the relative positions of any two players the 'elder' is the one closer to eldest hand and the 'younger' is the one further away, counting around the table from eldest hand in a clockwise direction. It follows that the dealer is always 'youngest hand'.
Before play commences each of the four players places two counters on a square tray (a table mat will do) in the middle of the table: one counter at the centre and another at a corner which is not already occupied by another counter. This produces a layout with one counter at each of the four corners of the tray and four counters in the middle. The four counters in the middle are known collectively as 'the pee'.
Players cut for first deal and seven cards are dealt to each player in a clockwise direction. Thereafter the turn to deal rotates clockwise.
Players win counters from the layout as follows:
I. 'Most of a suit'
The player with 'most of a suit' - the most points in a single suit - takes one corner counter from the layout and the player with the second most takes another corner counter. In calculating the points, court cards are reckoned at ten each and the rest by number. In the case of equal counts for most or second most, elder hands always take precedence over younger. Thus if three players hold an equal highest count of 30, the two elder players win most and second most, and the youngest wins nothing.
If a single player holds both most and second most he takes three corner counters rather than just two from the layout. This also applies, of course, if his two highest suits are of equal point value.
After the winning players, or player, have removed their counters from the layout the other players must replace them. Thus, if two players have won, the other two players replace a counter each, and if one player has won, the other three players replace a counter each.
Only corner counters are taken and replaced for 'most of a suit' wins: 'the pee' remains untouched.
There are five combinations which sweep the layout: the winner takes all the counters - the four at the corners plus 'the pee'. The board then has to be dressed anew as at the beginning of the game - each player contributing one corner counter and one counter to 'the pee'. This means that a sweep-winner's real winnings are six, not eight counters, since he, too, has to contribute two to the new layout. Whenever one of these five combinations is declared it overrides 'most of a suit' which is therefore omitted (or abandoned) for that deal.
1. 'Seven cards': a flush - all seven cards in the hand are of the same suit.
2. 'Four sevens': a hand containing four sevens. No other four-of-a-kind counts.
3. 'Ging': a suit count of 37 points. For this to be valid all the cards held in the suit must total exactly 37 and the method of calculation is the same as for 'most of a suit'.
4. 'Gentlemen': a hand consisting entirely of face cards. (It would be more accurate to term it 'Ladies and Gentlemen'.)
5. 'Bare shoulders': a hand without face cards, a 'carte blanche'.
Only one of these combinations can be valid in any given deal. 'Seven cards' and 'four sevens' are mutually exclusive but otherwise it is possible for more than one combination to turn up in a single deal. If this occurs they rank in descending order as listed above, from 'seven cards' and 'four sevens' which take precedence over all other combinations, down to 'bare shoulders' which is outranked by any other combination. So, for example, if, on a particular deal, one player holds 'gentlemen' and another 'ging', 'ging' will take precedence and its holder will sweep the layout. It is also possible for the same combination to occur more than once in the same deal; in such a case the elder hand takes precedence. ('Four sevens' and 'gentlemen' can only occur once in a deal.) Likewise, it is very rare, but possible, for a single hand to contain two combinations - 'four sevens' + 'ging' or 'four sevens' + 'bare shoulders' - in which case only 'four sevens', as the higher combination, counts.
The order of precedence also reflects the relative rarity of the combinations, with one important exception: 'ging' is by far the most commonly met with, although ranking midway in the hierarchy. The others occur very infrequently and players need to be careful not to overlook them when they are routinely counting up for 'most of a suit'.
The mechanics of declaring scores are not detailed by Willughby. There is no need to declare in turn - any player who has a good hand can announce it, and when everyone is satified, the player with the best combination, or if there is none, the player(s) with the two best suits claim their counters.
- A (eldest): 9; J 9; 10 7; K J
- B: 10 8; K 10; K 9; 10
- C: K J 7; 7; Q J 8; --
- D: Q; Q 8; --; Q 9 8 7
D wins most (34 in clubs) and C second most (28 in diamonds). They each take a corner counter from the layout, and A and B each put a counter in their place.
- A (eldest): K 10 8; 10 9; --; K 10
- B: Q 9; J; J 9; Q 8
- C: 7; 7; K Q 10; J 7
- D: J; K Q 8; 8 7; 9
C wins most (30 in diamonds) and A second most (28 in spades). Note, however, that if D had been eldest hand he would have won second most (28 in diamonds), taking precedence over A.
A declaration of any of the five sweep combinations outranks all 'most of suit' declarations. If a player declares 'ging' he should table his whole hand to show that he is not holding back cards that would take him over 37.
Ending the game
Willughby offers no suggestions on how to conclude the game. One method is for the players to start with an equal number of counters and for the game to end as soon as one player has lost his last one. The layout is then divided up equally between the four players, so that, in effect, they get back the two counters they put in at the start of the game. A game should also end immediately after a sweep, if one of the players has only one counter left and therefore can't fully contribute to a new layout. Another method is to play over a set number of deals, dividing up the pool at the end of the last one.
'Losing' the deal, i.e. dodging your turn to deal, was clearly a temptation in a game where the dealer, as youngest hand, is at a disadvantage in relation to the other players. The penalty was for the guilty player, once detected, to take up the next deal and to replace each consecutive player as dealer until his next 'natural' turn to deal came round again.
Francis Willughby's Book of Games: A Seventeenth Century Treatise on Sports, Games, and Pastimes, edited by David Cram, Jeffrey L. Forgeng and Dorothy Johnston, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Aldershot, 2003, pp. 156-7.