3 to 7 players. Probably best with 4 players.
Some sources say 6 is the maximum number of players; some sources say you can play with 2 players.
Standard 52-card deck. Ace is high; 2 is low.
To score the most points by winning tricks.
Shuffle the deck and deal six cards to each player. Traditionally, the cards are dealt three at a time.
NOTE: With 4 players, only 24 of the 52 cards will be in play. That's important to remember when making bids.
Starting with the player to the left of the dealer and moving clockwise, each player has one chance to bid on the number of points they expect to win. The only legal bids are pass, 1, 2, 3 or 4.
A player may indicate a bid of 4 by immediately placing a card from his hand to the middle of the table, face up. (This is known as "pitching.")
The high bidder (known as the "pitcher") makes the first lead and the first card played sets the trump suit for the entire round of six tricks.
NOTE: If no other player bids, the dealer must bid at least 2. If other players have bid 1, 2 or 3, but no one has pitched (bid 4), the dealer may "steal the bid" by bidding the same as the current high bid.
If a player can follow suit, he may either do so or play a trump. (Said another way, a player may play a trump card even if he is able to follow suit.) If a player cannot follow suit, he may play any card in his hand.
Once each player has played a card, the trick ends. The winner of the trick is the player who played the highest trump, or, if no trump was played, the player who played the highest card of the lead suit.
The winner of the trick leads the next trick.
At the end of the round, the cards are scored as follows:
- 1 point for winning the highest trump in play;
- 1 point for winning the lowest trump in play;
- 1 point for winning the Jack of trumps; and
- 1 point for winning the "game score" (described below).
Notes on scoring:
- If the Jack of trumps is not in play, that point is not awarded.
- If there's a tie for the game score, that point is not awarded.
- If there's only one trump card in play, it scores 2 points as both the high trump and the low trump. If the only trump card in play is the Jack, it scores 3 points.
The game score is determined by seeing which player has a plurality of the following "trick points" (more than any other player, but not necessarily a majority):
- 10 trick points for each 10
- 4 trick points for each Ace
- 3 trick points for each King
- 2 trick points for each Queen
- 1 trick point for each Jack
If the pitcher wins at least as many points as he bid, he scores as many points as he won. If he fails to make his bid, his bid is subtracted from his score. NOTE: It's possible for a player to have a negative score.
Players who were not the pitcher win as many points as they earned.
Points won can be tracked on paper or by using Poker chips.
The player to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer for the next round.
The first player to reach at least 7 points at the end of a hand in which he was the pitcher wins the game. Some prefer to play to 11 or 15 or, for an even longer game, 21.
NOTE: The requirement that you can only win the game after a hand in which you are the pitcher means that it's possible for the winning player to have fewer points than a losing player.