Rules of Tricks

This game is © 1984 Ayman Khouri. All rights reserved.

Origin: Some Middle Eastern guys I knew in college, led by Ayman Khouri
Deck: Standard 52-card
Hand: 13 cards (the entire deck is dealt)
Players: Four, each playing for themselves
Aces: High
Trump: None
Unique Feature: The deal, the draw for first deal, the progression of the deal, and play of the hand all proceed counterclockwise.
Draw for first deal: One card dealt to each player; high card gets first deal. A tie forces a complete re-draw for deal.


Each player deals one set, which consists of five different hands. For each hand, the dealer inspects his cards and chooses which of five different games will be played with that hand. Points are scored (both positive and negative) according to the rules of each game; these points are totaled over the entire match of 20 hands (four sets of five hands each), and high score wins the match. After each dealer's set, the deal progresses counterclockwise to the next player for his set. NOTE: Dealer must choose each game with care, as each game can only be played once during that dealer's set. This somewhat offsets the dealer's advantage in being able to choose the game and force the other players to do the best they can with the hand they have. Obviously, it is necessary for the dealer to score as few points as possible during his set (unless he calls Jacks), which is the only time he has control of play.

The Games

In four of the games, negative points are scored by taking certain cards within a trick during the course of play (similar to the game "Hearts"). There is no trump; dealer has the first lead; lead passes to the player who wins the trick; players must follow suit if possible; point cards may be played or lead on any trick. The four games of this type are:

Diamonds: Any Diamonds taken in any trick are worth -10 points each.
Queens: Queens taken are worth -25 points each.
Tricks: Players get -15 points for each trick taken, regardless of the cards in the trick.
King of Hearts: Taking the King of Hearts within any trick gains a player -75 points! The entire play centers on not taking this one card, making this a very important game (and sometimes, the turning point of an entire match).

The Fifth Game

Jacks is the game that requires a little more explanation, as it resembles solitaire more than any traditional card game. There are four piles of cards to be built up during play (one for each suit). Play starts with the dealer, and proceeds counterclockwise around the table. In his turn, a player must either start a new pile or add one of his cards to one of the existing piles if he can. He must pass otherwise.

Each pile is begun by playing the Jack of the suit. Subsequent cards added to the pile must be played in numerical order, on either the top or the bottom of the pile. For example, play in a given suit might proceed as follows: A Jack would start. The next player might play the Queen of the same suit underneath the Jack. The next player might pass, because he has neither the King (to play under the pile) nor the 10 (to play on top of it), nor another Jack to begin a second pile. Then, the King, 10, 9, Ace, 8, etc., might be played, with higher cards going under, and lower cards on top of, the pile. (Of course, any player might at any time use his turn to play a Jack to start another pile, opening up another suit for play.) Play proceeds until all four piles are complete, i.e., when all players have exhausted their hands. At this point, all the cards will be on the table in four suit piles, in order, with the Aces on the bottom and the 2s on the top.

Points are scored based on the order in which players run out of cards: First out gets +200 points, second out gets +150, third out is worth +100, and the last player to have any cards left in his hand (almost always 2s) gets +50 points.

NOTE: This game has a provision to protect players who have lousy hands. If the dealer calls Jacks, and you have a "bad hand", you can (and should) order a redeal. If the dealer's last possible game to play is Jacks, and he has a "bad hand", he can (and should) as well. Of course, you don't have to order the redeal, but if you don't, you will almost definitely take the +50 (i.e., you will lose!). What is a "bad hand"? It's either (1) a hand with all four 2s, or (2) a hand with three 2s and two 3s, when the 3s are the same suit as two of the 2s. In other words, if you have the 2H, 3H, 2D, 3D, and another 2, you get a redeal. Two of your 3s just have to be of the same suits as two of your 2s.


Dealer Strategy:

Make your deal count! Don't take the King of Hearts if you call it, don't call Diamonds with lots of large ones in your hand (unless you are void in other suits and feel you can throw them off on other tricks). Try not to call Jacks if you have a 2, or many low cards at all. These are always the last to be played on the piles, and you may get stuck. Remember that on the last deal of your set, you are as much at the mercy of the cards as your opponents have been during your set.

Game Strategy:

All the standard card-playing rules apply: remember what suits opponents are void in, and keep track of cards already played. Do the best you can in not taking point cards when you aren't dealing, and gain the advantage when you are dealing.

Jacks Strategy:

You must play a card if you can, but you don't want to play cards that help your opponents if you can avoid it. Suppose you have the Q-10-9-8-4 of a suit, and the Jack is on the table. If you play the Queen, you will be opening up the opportunity for someone else to play their King and Ace. You have the 4, a very low card, and you very much want another player's 7, 6, and 5 down so you can play it. Play the 10 on the Jack to open up the downward path leading to your 4.

But suppose you have the Q-10. You do not want to open that downward path, because it will only help someone else get the chance to play their low cards. Play the Queen, and play cards in other suits, holding that 10 for dear life until you are forced to play it. Play a Jack to start a new suit whenever you have low cards in that suit; hold the Jacks as long as possible otherwise.

Scoring note:

At the end of each player's set, the total points accumulated by the players collectively must be zero. High score wins, though, regardless of the number of points each player ends up with, positive or negative. Remember to do everything counterclockwise; this is an Arabic game, and Arabic is read from right to left!