The rules are available in RTF format over in the files section, but they're just plain text. Since it would be nice to be able to access it from a browser, I've cut and pasted the rules here:
A Trick-Taking Card Game For Two Players Or Two Partnerships
By Michael Schoessow
Pond is a trick-taking game with some differences that make it more cut-throat than many others. Firstly, each player has a secret set of ranks (called his profit ranks), and cards he takes having these ranks are worth extra points. Secondly, each player also has a poison suit that is known to both players, and cards taken in this suit count against a player’s score. Thirdly, each trick is preceded by the construction of an array of cards called the pond, which the winner of the trick also wins, and lastly, the game not only has traditional trumps but also anti-trump cards that can be used to force the other player to take a trick. Because of the poison cards, players will want to avoid capturing tricks that include a lot of poison or when the pond is badly poisoned. Also, unlike most trick-taking games, in this one it is often a disadvantage to lead. The game is played over four rounds.
These rules assume that the reader has a basic understanding of what a trick-taking card game is. The rules are first described for a 2-player game. The rules for partnership play then appear at the end of the regular rules, as a 4-player variant.
A standard 52-card deck, along with paper and pencil for scoring will be required. The dealer shuffles the cards before placing the deck face down within reach of both players. The dealer then picks a card and places it face-up next to himself. If it is not a spade it defines the dealer’s poison suit. If the card is a spade, the dealer continues picking cards until the first non-spade card is seen, and places it face up on the pile of picked cards. This card identifies the player’s poison suit. The other player now goes through this same procedure to identify his own poison suit. This procedure is called picking your poison. Note that players may have identical or different poison suits but that spades may never be a poison suit.
These cards are not used further in the game but the face up cards remind the players of their own and the other player’s poison suit.
The dealer now picks up the deck and deals each player sixteen cards, eleven of which may be looked at immediately, and five that remain hidden for now.
The players examine their eleven cards and decide on their secret profit ranks. There are three groups to choose from and each player must choose just one group. These are, A,2,3,4 or 4,5,6,7 or 8,9,10. No other combinations are allowed. Choice of profit ranks is established by removing a card from one’s hand and placing it face down off to the side. For example, to choose the A,2,3,4 group a player removes an ace, 2, or 3 from his hand and places it face down off to the side. Similarly, to choose the 4,5,6,7 group a player removes a 5, 6, or 7, and to choose the 8,9,10 group a player removes an 8, 9, or 10. Note that 4’s may not be used to indicate group choice because of the ambiguity. In the very rare situation where a player is dealt only 4’s and face cards, a mis-deal has occurred, and the cards are re-shuffled and dealt anew. Players may look at their face-down cards at any time.
When the round is scored, cards that belong to a player’s profit rank group are worth 15 points each while cards taken in his poison suit cost him 25 points each. When a card’s rank identifies it as belonging to a player’s profit ranks while its suit identifies it as also belonging to the player’s poison suit, the card counts as a poison card, not a profit card. Card conflicts between profit and poison are always resolved in favor of poison.
After the players have both chosen their profit ranks by removing one card each from their hands, they pick up and add their additional five cards to the remaining ten in their hands, forming fifteen-card hands to begin the round.
The trump and anti-trump cards are always the same; the A,K,Q,J,10,9,8 of spades are trump, and the 2,3,4,5,6,7 of spades are anti-trump.
Following the deal of the cards and the establishment of each player’s profit ranks and poison suit, the regular game play starts.
Prior to each trick the pond is built. The pond cards will have no effect on who wins the trick, but they may have a strong effect on who wants to win the trick and who wants to avoid winning it.
The dealer starts the pond by placing a card from his hand face up on the table, near the center. The other player must then add a face up card of his own. This pair of face-up cards constitutes the bait. The dealer now has the option of placing a second card, this one face down. If he does this, then the other player must likewise add a face down card. The face down cards constitute the trap. Thus the pond can consist of either two cards or four, but with a 4-card pond two of the cards are hidden. The reason for calling the hidden cards the trap is that they frequently will include poison cards.
The dealer then leads to the first trick by playing a card face up to the center of the table, next to the pond. The other player adds his own face up card to complete the trick. Any card may be played and there is no requirement to follow suit. Tricks are won by the highest rank card, regardless of suit, as follows. Aces rank highest, followed by K,Q,J,10,9, and down to 2. Any trump out-ranks any non-trump, and any trump or non-trump out-ranks any anti-trump. A higher ranked trump beats a lower one and the same for anti-trumps. In the case of a tie between the two cards of the trick (both cards non-trump and the having the same rank), the player who lead to the trick decides whether he will take the trick or give it to the other player. Note: the pond cards have no bearing on who wins the trick; only the two cards of the trick itself determine this.
The winner of the trick takes all the cards from both the trick and the pond and places them face down at his side for scoring at the end of the round. Note: players may look at their won face down cards any time they wish.
The winner of the trick starts the building of the next pond and then after the pond is finished leads to the trick following it. When, at the end of any trick, the players each have fewer than four cards in their hands, the round is over and scoring takes place.
SCORING A ROUND
At the conclusion of a round both players reveal what their profit ranks were by turning over the cards that they had removed and set aside prior to beginning the round. Then they determine their point scores and record them on paper. Card point values per card are as follows.
Cards in a player’s poison suit -25
Cards in a player’s profit ranks (except cards in his poison suit) 15
Face cards (except cards in a player’s poison suit) 10
Number cards that are not in a player’s profit ranks nor poison suit 5
Aces that are not part of a player’s profit ranks nor of his poison suit 1
Cards left in a player’s hand 0
Players sum the point values of their individual cards to get their score for the round. Note that the easiest and most efficient proceedure is for players to first organize, and then score, card types in the order listed above.
WINNING THE GAME
Four rounds are played, with the cards all being gathered and re-shuffled between rounds, and with the deal alternating, so each player deals two rounds, total. At the end of the fourth round the player with the higher grand total points score wins.
VARIATION FOR PLAYING WITH FOUR PLAYERS AS PARTNERS
The same rules apply as for two players with the following exceptions:
Two standard 52-card decks are combined into one deck of 104 cards.
The players play the game as two partnerships of 2 players each. Partners sit opposite each other.
After the dealer establishes his poison suit in the normal fashion, the next player clockwise establishes his poison suit. The remaining two players take on the same poison suits that their partners have. The next two cards from the deck with the appropriate suits are removed and placed face up by these players to indicate this. The deck is re-shuffled slightly and cards are dealt to the players, 11 and 5, as in the 2-player game.
Each player chooses a secret set of profit ranks based upon their eleven initial cards, placing a card face-down just as in the 2-player game. Following the establishment of profit ranks, partners momentarily exchange their face-down cards so that each player knows what their partner’s profit ranks are. The face-down cards are then passed back to their owners.
Order of play is clockwise, and at the beginning of a round starts with the dealer.
The deal rotates one player clockwise each round so each player is dealer for one round.
Ponds now consist of either four cards (one bait card from each player) or eight cards (one bait card and one trap card from each player). Tricks consist of one card from each player.
During scoring, each player adds up his own score, then partners pool their scores to establish a total for each partnership. One partnership is then scored against the other based upon these total scores, with the highest scoring partnership winning.
Pond Copyright October 2002 by Michael J. Schoessow