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Five Hundred

Game Type: Trick-Taking
Age: Teens, Adults
Players: 2-6
Deck: Standard, Jumbo Index 33-63 cards
In the early part of this century, Five Hundred was the favorite social game of the United States. It was finally eclipsed by Bridge but is still played worldwide by millions, particularly in Australia. It was devised and introduced in 1904 by the United States Playing Card Company, which held the copyright for 56 years but never charged anyone for its use. Five Hundred can be thought of as a combination of Euchre and Bridge.

Number of Players. Two to six people can play. The three-hand game is particularly interesting. Four people can play in two partnerships, or with three active players plus one player (the dealer) who sits out each game. Five people can play in two partnerships, three against two, or can cut to decide which three or four play the first game while the other sits out. Six people can play in two partnerships of three each.

The Pack. The size of the pack varies with the number of players. For two or three players, it is 33 cards - A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 in each suit, plus a joker. Four players use a 43-card pack: ace (high) to 5 (low) in each suit, plus the 4, 4 and the joker. Five players use 53 cards: the standard 52-card pack plus a joker. Six players use a special 62-card pack that includes spot cards numbered 11 and 12 in each suit, and 13 in each of two suits; 13 hearts and 13 diamonds. By agreement, the joker may or may not be included.

Rank of Cards. The joker is always the highest trump. Second best is the jack of trumps ("right bower"); third best is the jack of the other suit of the same color as the trump ("left bower"). The rank in trumps is: Joker (high), J (right bower), J (left bower), A, K, Q, 10, 9, down to the lowest card. In each plain suit, the rank is A (high), K, Q, J,10, 9, down to the lowest card.

The bidding denominations rank: No trump (high), hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades.
Drawing. Each player draws a card from a pack spread face down. The player with the lowest card deals first. In drawing for deal only, ace ranks low, below the deuce, and the joker is the lowest card of the pack.

Shuffle and Cut. Any player may shuffle. The dealer has the right to shuffle last. The pack is cut by the player on the dealer's right. The cut must leave at least four cards in each packet.

The Deal. Each player is dealt 10 cards, face down, clockwise, starting with the player on the dealer's left. In distributing the cards, the dealer gives each player three cards at a time, then deals a widow of three cards (two cards, if the joker is not used), then deals each player four cards at a time, followed by a final packet of three cards at a time.

Bidding. Each player in turn, beginning with the player on the dealer's left, has one opportunity to bid. A player may pass or bid. A bid must name a number of tricks, from six to 10, together with a denomination, which will establish the trump suit (such as, "Six Spades"). If there has been a previous bid, any subsequent bid must be higher. A player must bid more tricks, or the same number of tricks in a higher-ranking denomination. (Optional rule: If the Original or Inverted schedule is used, as shown in the table, a bid tops the preceding one if its scoring value is higher, or if it requires a greater number of tricks with the same scoring value.)

"Nullo" Bid. Some rules permit the bid Nullo, which is a contract to lose all the tricks at no trump. The nullo bid has a scoring value of 250. On the Avondale schedule it overcalls a bid of eight spades or lower and it is outbid by eight clubs or higher. If nullo becomes the contract in a partnership game, the contractor's partner or partners abandon their hands and the contractor plays alone against the others. If the contractor wins a trick, the penalty is to be set back the 250 points, and each opponent scores 10 for each trick the contractor takes.

Passing. If all players pass, the deal is abandoned without a score. Optional rule: A passed deal may be played as no trump, and each player plays for himself. The player to the left of the dealer leads first. Each trick won counts 10 points. Since there is no contract, there is no setting back.

The Play. The high bid becomes the contract. In three-hand play, the two other players combine in a temporary partnership against the contractor.

The contractor takes the widow into his hand, without showing it, then discards any three cards face down without showing them.

The contractor leads, and may lead any card at any time. The other players must follow suit if they can. If unable to follow suit, a player may play any card. A trick is won by the highest trump, or if a no-trump card is played, it is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads next. All of the contractor's opponents take in and keep the tricks they win.

The Joker. When there is a trump suit, the joker belongs to that suit, and it becomes the highest trump card. It must be played if necessary to follow suit, and it may be played only when a card of the trump suit can legally be played.

In a no-trump contract (or nullo, if played), the joker is a suit by itself but is also the highest card of any suit and wins any trick to which it is legally played. The holder of the joker may not play it if he can follow suit to the suit led. If not, the joker may be played and wins the trick.

If a player leads the joker in a no-trump (or nullo) contract, he must specify the suit that others must play to, but the joker wins the trick.

Scoring. If the contractor wins as many tricks as bid, he scores the number of points called for in the scoring table being used (see p. 175). There is no credit for extra tricks over the contract except that, if the contractor wins all 10 tricks, he scores a minimum of 250.

Select Scoring System. Three scoring schedules are popular for the game: the Original Schedule from 1904, the improved Avondale Schedule, and the optional Inverted Schedule. The Avondale schedule is recommended because it contains no two bids of the same numerical value, and it more nearly equalizes the value of the suits.

If the contractor fails to make the contract, the value of the bid is deducted from his score. It is possible for a player to have a negative score which is referred to as "in the hole" because of the common practice of drawing a ring around a minus score.

Whether the contract is made or defeated, each opponent of the contractor scores 10 for each trick he takes
Game. The player or side that reaches a total of 500 points first wins the game. A player or side that goes 500 in the hole loses. (If one player in a three-hand game becomes minus 500, he cannot win the game but continues to play until another player wins; if he happens to make 500-plus points first after scoring minus 500, no one wins the game.) If the contractor and an opponent reach 500 on the same deal, the contractor wins.

In a three-hand game, if the contractor does not reach 500, but both opponents do, the first opponent to reach 500 wins. If the contractor could not reach 500 by making the bid, the opponent who is first to reach 500 may claim the game as soon as his tricks score 500. At the time he makes the claim, the player must show his remaining cards. If he does not have the 500 points, the game continues with that player's remaining cards exposed.

Another option is to require 1,000 or 1,500 for game. The scoring is speeded up by awarding points for cards won in tricks: 1 point for each ace, 10 for each face card or ten, the pip value for each lower card, and zero for the joker. These points have no bearing on whether the contractor makes the bid, which depends solely on the number of tricks that player takes.