Hoyle's Games Modernized/Five Hundred
This is a game largely played in the United States and in Canada, but not so well known in this country as it deserves to be, though one variety of it has been played in London clubs. It is primarily and specifically a game for three players; and this is one of its greatest merits, for good three-handed games are rare.
"Five Hundred" has been characterised as a "patchwork" or "mosaic" game; but such expressions do not do it justice, as tending to create the impression that it is a thing of shreds picked up here and there, and indifferently joined together. It does, indeed, borrow its elements from sundry older games: Euchre, Loo, Nap, and Auction Bridge: but by combining these elements into a new and harmonious whole, it achieves a sum total that produces the effect of novelty without taxing our brains to assimilate unfamiliar and bizarre ideas.
It appears to many people to contain all the merits of Auction Bridge without the patent defects of the latter—the interminable length of the rubber, the undefined limits of loss, and the supersession of skill by "bluff."
In the following description, the typical form of the game is assumed, in which three players take part, each being opposed to both the others. The pack used is the piquet pack of thirty-two cards (cards below the seven being omitted) plus the Joker—thirty-three cards in all.
Those who are not Euchre-players must begin by familiarising themselves with the functions of the Joker, and with the peculiar rank and attributes of the Right and Left Bower.
When there are trumps, the Joker is the master trump; then follows the knave of trumps (the "Right Bower"); then the other knave of the same colour (the "Left Bower"); after which come the ace, king, queen, ten, nine, eight, seven of trumps, in descending order. The trump suit thus consists of ten cards; the plain suit of the same colour consists of seven only; the other two plain suits consist of eight each. The knaves of the latter two suits take their ordinary Whist and Bridge rank, between the queen and the 10.
When there are no trumps, all the cards, except the Joker, rank as in Whist or Bridge. The Joker remains the master card of the pack; if it is led, the leader names the suit which he elects it to represent, and the other players must follow suit accordingly.
In cutting for deal, the Joker is the lowest card, and an ace the next higher. After which come the 7, &c., upwards to the king.
After shuffling and cutting, the dealer distributes three rounds of three cards each to the three players, followed by one round of one card each. The remaining three cards are laid face downwards on the table, and constitute the "widow."
The bidding then begins. The eldest hand has the first right to declare how many tricks (not fewer than six) he will contract to win. At the same time, he must either name a trump suit or declare No-trumps. The eldest hand is not bound to bid, but may pass. Each successive player, in the usual Bridge order, may either overbid, or may also pass. A player who has once "passed" cannot subsequently bid. With this exception, the bidding and overbidding continue, until every one is content. If no player bids, the cards are played No-trumps, and in this case the "widow" remains unappropriated, the eldest hand has the first lead, and each player scores 10 points for each trick that he may make.
When the bidding, if any, is completed, the player who bid the highest,—thenceforward known as "the bidder,"—has the first lead.
The bidder, before playing, takes the "widow" into his own hand, and then discards any three cards out of the thirteen. These rejected cards are to be laid face downwards on the table, and may not be inspected by any one. There are penalties for discarding too many or too few cards, and for illegally looking at the discard.
The value of any bid depends, as in Auction Bridge, partly on the number of tricks contracted for, and partly on the declaration as to trumps. The best and most modern schedule (known as the "Avondale") is as follows:—
The scale is uniform, and easy to remember. The numbers increase downwards by 20 at a time, and horizontally by 100 at a time. It will be noticed that no two bids are numerically equal.
There are certain restrictions on the power of the Joker in the case of No-trumps. The leader of it cannot nominate it to be of a suit in which he has previously renounced; and if he plays it (not being the leader) to the lead of a suit in which he has previously renounced, it has no winning value.
When there are trumps, the Joker and both Bowers form part of the trump suit in the order of precedence already explained.
If the bidder fulfils his contract, or makes any greater number of tricks fewer than ten, he scores the number of points set out in the above table, but no more. If he wins all the ten tricks, he scores a minimum of 250; but if his bid be worth more than 250, he scores nothing extra. Should he fail in his contract, the value of his bid is set down in his minus column, and has to be deducted from his past or future plus score. In every case, each opponent of the bidder scores 10 points for every trick that he wins.
The winner of the game is he who first scores 500 points (hence the title of the game). If two players score more than 500 each in the same deal, one of them being the bidder, the latter is the winner. If neither is the bidder, he who first makes the trick that brings his score over 500 is the winner.
Each player keeps his score in three columns, one for plus points (headed "Won"), one for minus points (headed "Lost"), and the third for the net total.
The American rule is as follows:—
"Upon the revoke being claimed and proved, the hands shall be immediately abandoned. If it is an adversary of the bidder who has revoked, the bidder scores the full amount of his bid, while the side in error scores nothing."
Professor Hoffmann's rule is as follows:—
"If the bidder be the offender, he shall be set back the amount of his bid [i.e. the amount shall be scored in his minus column], each of the opponents scoring as usual for any trick or tricks he may have made, including any which, but for the revoke, would have fallen to him.
"If one of the opponents be the offender, the cards of the trick in which the revoke occurred, and of any subsequent trick, shall be taken back by their respective holders, and the hand played anew from that point. The bidder and the opponent not in fault shall each score according to the result of the play, but the offender can score nothing for that hand, and shall further be set back 100 points."
If a player finds that he holds the Joker, two knaves of the same colour, and any two other cards of the same suit as one of the knaves, he has four tricks certain, by declaring the three-suit trumps, unless all the other five trumps be in the same hand. Should he hold two more tricks in the side suits, he will be quite justified in bidding six.
The chances of getting another trump, by taking in the "widow," are an important element in arriving at sound decisions. The odds evidently vary with the number of trumps already held by the player. The following figures should be carefully borne in mind:
If a player holds four trumps, it is 8 to 5 on his finding one more at least in the "widow."
If he holds five trumps, the odds are only 7 to 6 in favour.
If he has six, he must not reckon on getting another, the odds being 6 to 5 against.
Book on Five Hundred.
- Hoffmann, Professor.—Five Hundred: the popular American Card Game. Goodall & Son, Ld.