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Subject: One of my family's favorite games for good reason rss

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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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1. Introduction

In my family growing up, even more than we played board games, we played cards. My mother did not like to play either and of the four children, we came in pairs very similar in age with a big gap in the middle. So, first with Dad and my two eldest sisters and then with Dad, my youngest sister and me, over the years the family played a lot of three-handed card games. At first, the game played far more often than anything else was Hearts but sometime when I was a younger teenager someone brought home a thick paperback copy of The Complete Hoyle's Book of Games. Both my youngest sister and I searched through that book to look for something interesting to play which we did not already know. As I recall, I stumbled across 500 first and showed it to my Dad and my sister. We gave it a try, and the game instantly replaced Hearts (a fine game) as the favorite. Over the years, including after I left home, I have played this game hundreds if not thousands of times. The game never loses interest for me.

For me, card games are something I tend to play when I need to relax and want something that requires some mental activity but not too much. That being said, I do prefer the more complex, more strategic card games; I just find card games in and of themselves to be lighter games generally. 500 fits that bill pretty well. This is a traditional card game, and as a trick-taking game is as my wife pointed out to me of the Whist family of card games. Tactical play comes into the game both in the trick-taking card play itself and in the bidding, which is why the game more reminds me of Bridge.

While the statement that cards are distributed randomly is true (assuming one has shuffled properly) because all cards are dealt out at the beginning of the hand, one knows what cards are out there (namely all those cards one does not have) and exactly which cards one has at one's disposal for the hand. The bid consists of estimating what one can do with one's hand, but one must be careful because to the bid must be made exactly-- either taking more or less loses the hand. So, one needs to correctly gauge all the possibilities of one's hand both defensively and offensively. Letting another player take a bid that one knows the player is unlikely to make is as much part of the bidding strategy as taking the best with the highest scoring bid one can do. This is not to mention coaxing other players into making foolish bids.

Yet the game is less complicated than Bridge so that one is more likely to be able to get players, since people completely new to the game can start playing it well reasonably quickly.

2. Rules

The object of the game is to be the first player to score at least 500 points, hence the name of the game. The game consists of several hands.

The game uses a standard deck of 52 cards plus two distinguishable jokers. One joker is designated the "big joker" and the other the "little joker". (Some play with some cards removed from the standard deck.)

At the start of each hand, all 54 cards are dealt out evenly among the three players (18 cards each). Before playing out the hand, players bid in rounds until two of the three players pass. Each bid must be higher scoring than any previous bids. Once a player passes the bid, that player may not bid in later rounds of bidding for that hand.

The bidding consists of naming the suit to be trump if any, and the number of tricks the player will take if the named suit is made trump or if there is no trump suit. While some play that a player taking the bid may take extra tricks without penalty (apart from not scoring additionally for them) the stricter method makes for more strategic play; namely, in order to make the bid a play must take exactly the number of tricks bid, neither more nor less. The two players who do not take the bid combine during any given hand to cause the player who did take the bid not to successfully make his bid, in which case the value of the bid is scored in negative rather than positive points by that player. The other two players than the player who took the bid in the given hand score 10 points for each trick taken.

The minimum bid is 6 tricks with spades as trump (i.e., 6 spades) which scores 40 points if successfully (and so -40 if unsuccessful). Each additional trick in the same suit bid increases the value of the bid by 100 points. Therefore a bid of 7 spades is worth 140 points. The order of the suits in increasing value is spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts and then no trumps. For a given number of tricks, the bid scores 20 points more for each successively more valuable suit, including no trumps. A bid of 6 clubs is worth 60 points and so a bid of 6 diamonds worth 80 points, a bid of 6 hearts 100 points and finally a bid of 6 no trumps is worth 120 points. While this does mean that a player can in principle win a game in a single hand, actually doing so is in my experience fairly rare, especially given the existence of negative scoring for failed bids.

The big joker and little joker always act as trumps, even when no trump is bid, the big joker out-trumping the little joker. If a given suit is bid, that suit acts as trumps for that hand. For non-trump suits, the ace is high and all other cards are the normal value, but the jack of the same color as the trump suit (called the off-jack) also becomes trump. In the trump suit, the highest card is the big joker, next the little joker but then the jack, followed by the off-jack and then the ace. Lesser cards then follow the normal value.

The player taking the bid in a given hand plays first. Players must follow suit if possible. The highest value of trumps or else of the suit led takes the trick, i.e., one card played in succession by each player. Then the player winning the trick plays the first card of the next trick and so on until all cards have been played. At the end of the hands scoring occurs. To re-cap: If a player makes his exact bid, he receives the associated number of points, but if he took either more or less tricks than were bid he loses that many points. Negative scores are allowed. Players who did not take the bid in a given hand score ten points for each trick taken.

3. Gameplay

As one can imagine, this game is reasonably quick and fun-filled so that one can easily play multiple games in succession. Scores will go up and down rather dramatically. Doing this review reminded me of the time that my father who usually kept a firmly impassive poker-face at all times involuntarily let his eyes bug out when he saw his cards; he then immediately bid, "All of them, no trump," and went on to make his bid-- no surprise that he won that game. Such events are rare, but they do happen.

The game is about using one's cards to best advantage, like all card games but is much more demanding. I have seen players break 500 points in the negatives (which incidentally does not end the game).

So, I recommend: play this game. It's as close to a brain-burner as a card game gets.
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Bill Gallagher
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I've always played this as a four player partnership game, with only one joker and a deck of 43 cards (take out the twos, threes, and black fours). Each player gets 10 cards, with three cards dealt into a 'widow'. The winner of the bid views the widow, using cards from it to improve his/her hand.

Also, I've always played that overtricks don't hurt (meaning seven clubs making eight still scores 160).

I've seen a special six-handed deck (which adds four 11s, four 12s, and two red 13s). These rank immediately above the 10 (and below the jack or queen).

I'll have to read up on the three-handed 'cutthroat' rules, as well as the requirement that the bid be made exactly (which reminds me of Oh Hell).
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Miguel
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I've played a ton of this in my youth as well, but my games resembled Bill's more than yours (except we only took out the 2s and 3s). A 6 card kitty goes tot he middle and the player that bids highest gets to take whatever he/she wants from it (discarding down to 10 cards as required). We also allowed taking more tricks than necessary.

Regarding the name of the game, are you sure that it's called 500 because you play to that goal? We used to play to 1000 ourselves, and always wondered where the name came from. We actually theorized that it derived from the french pronunciation of the lowest possible bid "5 no (trump)", which in french is phonetically identical to 500.

I've recently downloaded the Ipod version of Mü & More. If you loved 500, give this a try... it's fantastic.
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Marc Boulet
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In our French Canadian family, it is called 500 because you do play to 500. "No trump" is called "pas d'atout".

I love hearing all the variations of this wonderful game. In ours, we take out the two and threes and one joker, leaving five cards in the kitty. There is also one additional possible bid, called "misere" (or misery), in which you must lose every trick in order to win. Your partner doesn't play at all. It fits in between a bid of 8 spades and 8 clubs. It's usually fairly easy to win, as long as you have a long run or truly terrible cards.

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Miguel
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We are also french canadian, but we refer to no trump as "sans atout", typically abbreviated to "sans" (example, 5 sans, which is phonetically identical to 500).

You mention "la misere"... that's an option some of my family used to include, but I never played with myself. It was possible to go alone, however, which was worth bonus points.
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sunday silence
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You know the bidding system is really eff'd up because e.g 7 spades is 140 and 7 no trump is worth 220. I would suspect that the original makers of the game (around 1910??) went with this to reflect the bidding in bridge trying to capitalize on a simpler version of bridge (or beefed up version of euchre).

I think it would be better to have the same value for a bid of 7 regardless of suit type. If you still want to have the bidding system where 7 hearts overcalls 7 diamonds you can keep that, but you just dont score more pts for that bid.

I still like the game alot and was great family game growing up
 
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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I find the bidding system works well. It is intended to make bidding in some suits more valuable than others and works quite well for that.
 
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Doug Crowson
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agent easy wrote:

Regarding the name of the game, are you sure that it's called 500 because you play to that goal? We used to play to 1000 ourselves, and always wondered where the name came from. We actually theorized that it derived from the french pronunciation of the lowest possible bid "5 no (trump)", which in french is phonetically identical to 500.


Yes,it's called 500 because you play to 500. I looked it up in my "Hoyle" card game book, and it says the same thing. I've never heard of playing to 1000. It must be a regional thing.

We also play partnership with discarding 2's & 3's and a 5 card blind.

Sometimes we play a team wins if the other team winds up going 500 "in the hole" ( a score of negative 500).
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Miguel
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How do you get negatives? When we play, whatever is bid determines the score either team gets.
 
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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agent easy wrote:
How do you get negatives? When we play, whatever is bid determines the score either team gets.

The normal way as stated in the review is that the person who takes the bid just goes down by that amount if he doesn't mak it. Hence negative scores are possible.
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Slick Mick
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okay I don't want to be inflammatory, but can I just say here "have you people ever read the rules"?? I know there are variations on rules, and I guess keeping black 4s in to make a 5 card kitty *might* fall under that category, though this is first I've heard of that one in 30 years of playing the game.

What Moshe describes is *not* 500. It's "like" 500, as far as euchre, spades, up and down the river, whist and bridge etc are.

To me, variations on 500s are whether misere is allowed and whether the opposition score 10 points per trick.

But it's always played to 500. (I can't believe that was doubted??)
It is always 10 card per hand, plus 3 in kitty.
Deck consists of 1 joker, and whichever cards needed to make 10 x number of players + 3. (ie in 4 handed, red 4s and up.)
You always score the value of the bid, either + or -.
You win if you reach 500 (by bidding, not with the 10 points per trick)
You lose if you reach -500.

I have a great passion for 500. Let me know if anybody is interested in discussing further.
Once we get the rules sorted, I need to teach how to communicate to your partner in bidding (I posted somewhere else at bgg on this), then how to play properly. (No you don't with-hold cards to surprise later!)
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Moshe Callen
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Slick Mick wrote:
okay I don't want to be inflammatory, but can I just say here "have you people ever read the rules"?? I know there are variations on rules, and I guess keeping black 4s in to make a 5 card kitty *might* fall under that category, though this is first I've heard of that one in 30 years of playing the game.

What Moshe describes is *not* 500. It's "like" 500, as far as euchre, spades, up and down the river, whist and bridge etc are.

Dependson which rules set you use. Mine says that's the way to play.
 
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Craig Duncan
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If you like 500, you should consider giving Israeli Whist a try. It's become my favorite four person regular deck card game (Israeli Whist itself can be thought of as an Oh Hell! variant; that's another game to try if you haven't already.)

Israeli Whist has the "exact bid" target as the original poster describes in his play of 500 (that is, the bidder must take exactly the number of tricks that he/she bids), but everyone -- even those who don't win the auction for bid -- has an exact target number of tricks to make. And since the rules make it impossible for everyone to make his or her target, somebody misses his or her target each hand, which creates some fun expense.
 
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Duane Stewart
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Sharc wrote:
In our French Canadian family, it is called 500 because you do play to 500. "No trump" is called "pas d'atout".

I love hearing all the variations of this wonderful game. In ours, we take out the two and threes and one joker, leaving five cards in the kitty. There is also one additional possible bid, called "misere" (or misery), in which you must lose every trick in order to win. Your partner doesn't play at all. It fits in between a bid of 8 spades and 8 clubs. It's usually fairly easy to win, as long as you have a long run or truly terrible cards.



In my family we call the "misere" bid "nullo." If nullo is the high bid, then the bidder's partner is allowed to give the bidder one card from his hand before sitting out. We also play with "double nullo," which ranks above everything but 10 no trump. In a double nullo hand both players on bidding team must play, and neither may take a trick.

My grandparents used to play this game every weekend with family members, and my grandfather and his brother we masters of the nullo and double nullo bids. Occasionally I will still play with my grandmother, and if I try to go nullo she crushes me.

We also use a small variation on bidding. The first player after the bidder may, rather than bidding, "inkle" a suit. "Inkle hearts" tells your partner that you are inclined to bid hearts, but don't have enough to win six yourself. (Of course, that also tells the other team that if they win a non-heart bid they should toss any hearts they have to the widow, our family term for the five cards in the kitty.) The ability to inkle may be there to counteract the advantage that the dealer has of being last to bid, since we only allow one round of bidding.
 
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Clem Fandango
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Going out on a limb here... 500 is the most often played card game in New Zealand. Or it used to be.

Great game.

Two observations misere is scored at 250 unless it's open misere played for 500.
The contract score for 10 no Trumps is 520
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Tim Gilberg
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whac3 wrote:
Slick Mick wrote:

What Moshe describes is *not* 500. It's "like" 500, as far as euchre, spades, up and down the river, whist and bridge etc are.

Dependson which rules set you use. Mine says that's the way to play.


The thing is that I've never seen any sort of rules set or variation close to these rules. I don't have a Hoyle's around, but I don't recall the rules being so unfamiliar in there, either.

There are differing rules sets. Pagat's page on 500 makes that clear: http://www.pagat.com/euchre/500.html. 3 card kittys. 5 card middles. Yes to misere. No to nullo. Small changes.

But common to all rules sets seems to be 10 cards per player and the lack of an exact bid rule. Those two changes are huge--I really can't recognize the game you are describing as 500. It seems to be some sort of hybrid of 500 and Whist.

I'd really be interested in seeing your old Hoyle's book for a source for these rules.
 
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Tim Koppang
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Gilby wrote:
I'd really be interested in seeing your old Hoyle's book for a source for these rules.

I agree! I have read a lot of different rules and variations for the game, but I've never seen this variation. It seems more like a combination of Oh Hell and 500. Very interesting.
 
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Moshe Callen
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tckoppang wrote:
Gilby wrote:
I'd really be interested in seeing your old Hoyle's book for a source for these rules.

I agree! I have read a lot of different rules and variations for the game, but I've never seen this variation. It seems more like a combination of Oh Hell and 500. Very interesting.

It was my father's copy when I was a boy and we still lived on the boat; I doubt it exists anymore. Salt water in the air is hard on such things.
 
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Tim Koppang
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No worries -- obviously. At the very least, I'm glad you posted your review. I checked my Foster's Hoyle, published in 1909. The version of 500 that you learned is different than the "traditional" version of the game. You added exact bidding and extra cards (making exact bidding even more challenging). Otherwise, the game you describe sounds just like 500. It sounds like an interesting and challenging variation. I guess I'd just be interested to see when and where your variation was published. The family of exact bidding games is actually quite small.
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