Trick-taking game

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A trick-taking game is a card game in which play centers on a series of finite rounds or units of play, called tricks. The object of such games then may be closely tied to the number of tricks taken, as in plain-trick games like Whist, Contract Bridge, Napoleon, Rowboat, and Spoil Five, or on the value of the cards contained in taken tricks, as in point-trick games like All Fours, Manille and Briscola.[1]


Basic structure

Certain actions in trick-taking games with three or more players always proceed in the same direction. In North and West Europe and Russia, the rotation is typically clockwise, i.e. play proceeds to the left; in South and East Europe and Asia it is typically counterclockwise, so that play proceeds to the right. When games move from one region to another, they tend to initially preserve their original sense of rotation. For two-player games the rotation does not matter.

In each deal one player is the dealer. This function moves from deal to deal in the direction of play. The dealer shuffles the deck and hands out the same (prescribed) number of cards to each player. The cards apportioned to each player are collectively known as that player's hand and are only known to the player. Any remaining undealt cards form the stock, which may or may not play a role in the game. In many games all cards are dealt and the stock is empty. The player sitting after the dealer is known as the eldest hand.

The eldest hand leads to the first trick, i.e. places a card face up in the middle between the players. The other players follow in the direction of play. When every player has played a card to the trick, the winner of the trick takes the cards, places them face down on a pile, and leads to the next trick.

The player who leads to a trick is usually allowed to play an arbitrary card from their hand. The following players must follow suit if they can, i.e. they must play a card of the same suit if possible. A player who cannot follow suit will have to discard a card, i.e. play a card of a different suit. A trick is won by the player who has played the highest-ranked card of the suit led, i.e. of the suit of the first card in the trick.

When all cards have been played, the winner of the deal is determined, e.g. by counting the tricks won by each player (in plain-trick games) or by counting the card points in the cards won by each player (in point-trick games).

In the above description some fine points have been omitted for simplicity. After shuffling and before dealing, the dealer passes the deck to the previous player for cutting, i.e. the previous player divides the deck into two parts and places the lower part on top of the upper part. The player who sits after the dealer receives the first batch of cards. Players do not take up their hands before the dealer has finished and everybody has received the full number of cards. Further details, such as how many cards each player receives and the size of the batches in which they are distributed, or what to do when the dealer makes a mistake, differ from game to game.

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