Card game pages by David Parlett

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THE LANGUAGE OF CARDS


A glossary of card-playing terms

Some modern, some traditional, some proposed

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age
Order of priority in making the first lead, bid, or bet, as reckoned around the table starting from player immediately next to the dealer, who is known as eldest and enjoys greatest priority. Also edge.
alliance
A temporary partnership, lasting only for the current deal (as in 'prop and cop' at Solo Whist).
ante
In gambling games, an obligatory stake made before play begins - usually by every player, sometimes only by the dealer.
auction
A period of bidding to establish the conditions of the game, such as who is undertaking to win, how many tricks constitute a win, which suit is trump, etc.
bettel
An undertaking to win no tricks (also misère).
bid
An offer to achieve a stated objective (such as a minimum number of tricks) in exchange for choosing the conditions of play (such as a trump suit). If the offer is not overcalled by a higher bid, it becomes a contract.
blank
(1) In card-point games, a non-counter, or card worth nothing. (2) A hand without courts, consisting only of numerals.
blaze
A non-standard Poker hand, consisting solely of court cards.
card points
The point values of cards in point-trick games (as opposed to nominal face values).
carte blanche
A hand devoid of face cards (same as blank).
carte rouge
A hand in which every card counts towards a scoring combination (Piquet).
chicane
A hand which, as dealt, contains no trumps.
chip
A gaming counter, especially in Poker.
combination
A set of cards matching one another by rank or suit and recognised by the rules of the game as a scoring feature.
complex tricks
See point-trick games.
contract
See bid.
counter
(1) An object representing a pay-off coin or a score. (2) In point-trick games, a card with a point-value.
court (cards)
King, Queen, Jack, etc., as opposed to numerals. Also called face-cards, and (originally) coat cards.
cut
To place the bottom half of the pack on top of the former top half in order to prevent the bottom card from being known.
cut-throat
All against all; without partnerships.
dead hand
See widow.
deadwood
(Rummy) Penalty cards remaining in opponents' hands when one player has gone out.
deal
(1) To distribute cards to the players at start of play. (2) The play ensuing between one deal and the next.
declare
(1) To announce the contract or conditions of play (number of tricks intended, trump suit, etc.). (2) To show and score for a valid combination of cards in one's hand.
declarer
The highest bidder, who declares and then seeks to make good the stated contract.
deuce
The Two of any given suit.
discard
(1) To lay aside an unwanted card or cards from hand. (2) To throw a worthless or unwanted card to a trick.
doubleton
Two cards of the same suit in the same hand, no others of that suit being held.
draw
To take, or be dealt, one or more cards from a stock or waste-pile.
drinking game
One producing not a winner but a loser, whose penalty is to buy the next round.
dummy
A full hand of cards dealt face up to the table (or, in Bridge, dealt to one of the players, who eventually spreads them face up on the table) from which the declarer plays as well as from his or her own hand.
elder, -est
The player to the left of the dealer in left-handed games, or to the right in right-handed, who is obliged or privileged to make the opening bet, bid, or lead. (Also called age, forehand, pone, etc.)
entrump
To appoint a suit as the trump. (Non-standard; my coinage.)
exchange
(1) To discard one or more cards from hand and then draw or receive the same number from stock. (2) To add a specified number of cards to hand and then discard a like number. (3) To exchange one or more cards with a neighbour, sight unseen.
face card
King, Queen, or Jack (also court cards). To face a card is to turn it face up.
finesse
To play a possible winning card instead of a certain winning card, in the hope of making an extra trick.
fish
(1) In Fishing games, to capture a card or cards by matching their face values. (2) A gaming counter, originally so shaped.
flip
To turn a card face up.
flush
A hand of cards all of the same suit.
follow
(1) To play second, third, etc. to a trick. (2) Follow suit: to play a card of the same suit as that led.
forehand
(German Vorhand) Same as eldest.
frog
The lowest bid in certain American games of German origin; from German Frage, 'request'.
gambling game
Technically, one in which cards are not played with but merely bet on.
game
(1) A series of deals or session of play. (2) The contract, or conditions of the game; e.g. 'Solo in hearts'. (3) The target score; e.g. 'Game is 100 points.'
go out
To play the last card from one's hand.
grand
A bid equivalent to no trump in some games, a slam in others.
hand
(1) The cards dealt to an individual player. (2) The period of play of such a hand (same as deal).
hard score
Pay-off effected with coins, chips, or counters.
head
To play a higher card than any so far played to the trick.
hit
To deal or give a player a card, or force it upon him. (In Blackjack, 'Hit me' is a request for another card.)
honours
Cards attracting bonus-scores or side-payments, usually to whoever holds and declares them, occasionally to whoever captures them in play.
kitty
(1) The pool or pot being played for. (2) A dead hand or widow.
lead
To play the first card; or, the first card played.
line, above/below
(Bridge) Scores made for tricks contracted and won are recorded below a line drawn half-way down the sheet, and count towards winning the game; overtricks, honours, and other premiums are scored above it and mainly determine the size of the win.
marriage
(I) King and Queen of the same suit. (2) in Patience, any two cards in suit and sequence.
matadors
Top trumps, sometimes with special privileges.
meld
(1) A combination of matching cards attracting scores or privileges, or winning the game. (2) To declare such a combination.
middlehand
In three-hand games, the next player round from Forehand.
misère
A contract or undertaking to lose every trick.
miss
A dead hand (in Loo).
negative game
One in which the object is either (1) to avoid taking tricks or penalty cards, or (2) to avoid being the loser, there being no outright winner.
null
(1) in point-trick games, a card carrying no point-value; also blank. (2) An undertaking to lose every trick (as misère).
numerals
Number cards, as opposed to courts. Also called pip cards, spot cards, spotters, etc.
ouvert(e)
A contract played with one's hand of cards spread face up on the table for all to see.
overcall
To bid higher than the previous bidder. Suit overcall = bid to entrump a higher-ranking suit; majority overcall = to take a higher number of tricks; value overcall = to play a game off higher value or to capture a greater total of card-points.
overtrick
A trick taken in excess of the number bid or contracted.
pair
Two cards of the same rank.
partie
A whole game, as opposed to a single deal, especially at Piquet.
partition game
One in which the main aim is to partition your hand into scoring combinations.
partnership
Two or more players who play co-operatively and win or lose the same amount. A partnership may be either fixed in advance and last for the whole session, as at Whist and Bridge, or vary from deal to deal, as at Quadrille or Solo, in which case it is better referred to as an alliance. Also side or team.
pass
In trick-games, to make no further bid; in vying games, to pass the privilege of betting first but without dropping out of play.
pip
A suitmark printed an a card, or the number represented - for example, the Deuce shows two pips. (Originally 'peep').
plain suit
A suit other than trumps.
plain-trick games
Games in which win or loss is determined by the number of tricks taken, regardless of their content (as opposed to point-trick games).
point
(1) The smallest unit of value, score or reckoning. In various games distinctions may be drawn between card-points, which are scoring values attached to certain cards; score-points, which are points credited to a player's account; and game points, which might loosely be described as 'bundles' of score-points and may be affected by other bonuses. (2) The total face value of all cards held of any one suit (Piquet).
point-trick games
Trick-games in which win or loss is determined not by the number of tricks taken but by the total value of counters contained in them (as opposed to plain-trick games).
pool
See pot
pot (or pool)
A sum of money or equivalent, to which everyone contributes initially or throughout play, and which is eventually awarded (in whole or part) to the winner.
prial (pair royal)
Three cards of the same rank; a triplet.
rank
(1) the denomination of a card as opposed to its suit (2) The relative trick-taking power of a card, e.g. 'Ace ranks above King').
rearhand
In three-hand games, the player with least priority, or youngest. (This will be the dealer if there are only three at the table.)
renege
To fail to fellow suit to the card led, but legally, exercising a privilege granted by the rules of the game.
renounce
Strictly, to play a card of any different suit from that led, hence the same as renege if done legally, or revoke if not. Loosely, to play a non-trump when unable to follow suit, thereby renouncing all hope of winning the trick.
revoke
To fail to follow suit to the card led, though able and required to thereby incurring a penalty.
riffle
A method of shuffling. The pack is divided into two halves which are placed corner to corner, lifted, and allowed to fall rapidly together so that they interleave.
round
A period or phase of play in which everyone has had the same number of opportunities to deal, bid, play to a trick, etc.
round game
One playable by an indefinite number of players, typically from three to seven.
rubber
A match consisting (typically) of three games, and therefore won by the first side to win two.
ruff
(1) To play a trump to a plain-suit lead. (2) Old term for a flush.
run
A sequence of cards in numerical order (in Brag and Crib, same as a straight in Poker or a sequence in Piquet.
sans prendre
A bid to play with the hand as dealt, without benefit of exchanging, thereby increasing the difficulty and scoring value of the game.
sequence
A scoring combination consisting of three or more cards in numerical sequence or ranking order.
set
A group of three or more cards of the same rank (Piquet, Bézique, etc).
shedding game
One in which the aim is to play out all your cards.
shuffle
To randomise the order of cards in the pack. See also riffle.
singleton
A card which is the only one of its suit in a given hand.
skat
German term for two undealt cards forming a talon or widow.
slam
Grand slam: winning every trick. Small slam: Winning every trick bar one.
soft score
Score kept in writing or on a scoring device, as opposed to cash or counters (hard score).
solo
(1) A contract played with the hand as dealt, without exchanging any cards. (2) A contract played alone against the combined efforts of all the other players.
soloist
One who plays a solo.
spread
A hand of cards spread face up; same as ouvert.
squeeze
In trick-taking games, a situation in which a player is forced to weaken himself in either of two suits but has no way of deciding which to play from.
stock
Cards which are not dealt initially but may be drawn from or dealt out later in the play.
stops
Cards which terminate a sequence, in games of the Stops family (Newmarket, Pope Joan, etc.); or those which are not dealt initially and whose absence from play prevents the completion of sequences.
straddle
An obligatory stake made, before any cards are dealt, by the second player around, the first having put up an ante.
straight
in Poker, a five-card sequence.
suit
A series of cards distinguished by the presence of a common graphic symbol throughout; or, the symbol (suitmark) itself.
talon
The undealt portion of the pack; same as stock. (French, meaning (1) heel, (2) the residue of a loaf when one or more slices have been cut from it.)
team
Two or more playing as one; a partnership.
tourné(e)
A bid or contract to turn the top card of the stock and entrump whatever suit it belongs to.
trey
The Three of any suit.
trick
A round of cards consisting of one played by each player.
trump
(From triumph): (1) A superior suit, any card of which will beat any card of a plain suit. (2) To play a trump to a plain-suit lead; to ruff.
turn-up
A card turned up at start of play to determine the trump suit.
undertrick
A trick less than the number bid or contracted.
upcard
A card lying face up on the table, or the faced top card of the waste-pile at Rummy, Patience, etc.
void
Having no card of a given suit.
vole
The winning of every trick; same as slam.
vulnerable
(Bridge) Describes a side which, having won one game towards the rubber, is subject to increased scores or penalties.
waste-pile
A pile of discards, usually face up, as at Rummy, Patience, etc.
widow
A hand of cards dealt face down to the table at start of play and not belonging to any particular player. One or more players may subsequently exchange one or more cards with it.
wild card
One that may be used to represent any other card, sometimes with certain restrictions. Typically the Joker in Rummy games, Deuces in Poker.
younger, -est
The player last in turn to bid or play at the start of a game (usually, in practice, the dealer).
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