All Fours

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All Fours
Allfourssetup.jpg
Setup to a three player game
Origin England
Alternative name(s) High-Low-Jack, Old Sledge, Seven Up
Type Trick-taking
Players 2 or more
Skill(s) required Memory, Attention
Cards 52 cards
Deck Anglo-American
Play Clockwise or counter clockwise (Trinidad and Tobago)
Card rank (highest to lowest) A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Playing time 15 minutes approximately
Random chance Moderate
Related games
Auction Pitch, Pedro, Phat

All Fours, also known as High-Low-Jack or Seven Up, is an English tavern trick-taking card game that was popular as a gambling game until the end of the 19th century. It is the eponymous and earliest recorded game in a family that flourished most in 19th century North America, notable other members being Auction Pitch, Pedro and Cinch, which competed against Poker and Euchre. Nowadays the original game is especially popular in the Caribbean, but a simpler variant has also survived in parts of England.[1][2]

Each player is dealt six cards. In trick play, players are allowed to trump instead of following suit. The title refers to the possibility of winning four game points by being dealt both the highest and the lowest trump in play, capturing the Jack of trumps and winning the greatest number of card-points.[3]

Pitch[edit]

Card-point value
Rank A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Value 4 3 2 1 10 0
Scoring points
Name Description Points Receiver
High highest trump out 1 original owner =
eventual owner
Low lowest trump out 1 original owner
Jack Jack of trumps 1 eventual owner
Game most card-points in tricks 1 eventual owner

Two or more players play individually or in equal-sized teams, seated alternatingly. Default play rotation is clockwise in most areas. Players cut for first deal. Cards rank as in Whist and have certain numerical card-point values as shown in the table. In each deal up to 4 scoring points are distributed among the parties. The game is won by the party that first reaches the previously specified target score over several deals.

The dealer shuffles and the pone (player sitting before the dealer in game rotation) cuts. The dealer hands out 6 cards to each player in batches of 3. Trump is determined by the suit of the first card played in trick-play. Eldest hand leads to the first trick, and the winner of each trick leads to the next. Standard trick-play rules are in effect with the exception that a player who can follow suit to a plain suit lead is nevertheless allowed to play a trump.

At the end of the deal scoring points are awarded as described in the table. The Jack point is not awarded if no player held the Jack of trumps. The Game point is only awarded if one party has won more card-points in tricks than any other. The scoring points accrue strictly in the order given in the table, preventing ties in case more than one team reaches the target score at the end of the deal.

The pub game played nowadays in northern England under the name All Fours is a four-player partnership version of Pitch, played for 11 points. Side payments are made for winning all four points in a single hand. In some areas the point for Low is awarded to the eventual owner.

Choosing the trump suit by leading to the first trick is known as pitching. That trump is determined by pitching rather than by turning up a card from the stock is the key difference between Pitch and classical All Fours/Seven Up.

All Fours / Seven Up[edit]

Although All Fours is basically a two-player game, it is also good for three or four and can be played by even more. Four can play individually or in two fixed partnerships, sitting crosswise. The rules have been formulated so as to cover all cases. Between Charles Cotton's 1674 rules and the rules in early 20th century English and American rule books there was little variation, and a very similar form is still popular in the Caribbean. Except for the way in which the trump suit is determined the game is identical to Pitch. Seven Up is All Fours played to a target score of 7 points.

After dealing the dealer turns the next card on the stock face up to determine the trump suit. Instead of immediately leading to the first trick, eldest hand has the option of begging, to which the dealer responds either by granting each opposing party 1 point, or by running the cards.[4] To run the cards, the dealer deals three more cards to each player and turns up a new card for trumps. Should the new card be of the same suit as the previous one, the dealer again deals three cards to each player and turns up a new card. This is repeated as often as necessary.[5] If the cards were run, the respective number of tricks is played.[6] If the dealer turns up a Jack that determines trumps, the dealer is immediately awarded 1 point for Jack.[7] In a game with two parties, a maximum of 6 points can accrue in one deal if the dealer turns up a Jack and runs the cards.

Caribbean All Fours[edit]

All Fours is the national card game of Trinidad and Tobago, where it is typically played as a four-player partnership game with the following variations to the standard rules. The game rotation is counter-clockwise. The game is played for 14 points.[2]

Instead of scoring 1 point for turning up the Jack, the dealer scores 1 point for turning up the Ace, 2 points for the Six (Trinidad) or Two (Tobago) and 3 points for the Jack. If running the cards, the dealer scores each time such a card is turned up, even if it does not make trumps. If the Jack was captured in a trick won by the party that did not originally hold it, the party scores 3 points for Hang Jack instead of 1 point for Jack.[2]

All Fives[edit]

In this scoring variant of Blind All Fours, in addition to the usual features the winner of a trick immediately scores the card-points of any trumps it contains. Moreover, winning a trick that contains the Five of trumps immediately scores 5 points. The game is played for 61 points, ideally scored on a cribbage board. For determining the winner of the Game point, The Five of trumps is also worth 5 points. All other trumps and non-trumps have their usual card-values.[8]

California Jack[edit]

This trick-and-draw variant was also known as French Fours, French Loo or Spanish All Fours. Trumps is determined randomly before the deal. Each player receives only 3 cards. The remaining pack is used face up for drawing after each trick. Placing it face up ensures that revokes can be noticed. The point for Low goes to the player who wins the lowest trump in a trick. If the stock is kept face down as usual this variant is known as Shasta Sam.

Auction Pitch[edit]

Around the middle of the 19th century among American players an innovation spread, allowing the eldest hand to "sell the trump", i.e. auction the privilege to pitch. This early form of Auction Pitch is now known as Commercial Pitch.

In Commercial Pitch the players in turn get a chance to bid 1–4 points for the privilege of pitching, or pass. Each bid must be higher than the previous one. Eldest hand immediately scores the amount of the bid. A highest bidder who does not win at least as many points as bid is set back the amount of the bid. Eldest hand may refuse to sell the right to pitch to the highest bidder, in which case eldest hand must win at least as many points or is set back.

In modern Auction Pitch the right to pitch is bought from the bank rather than from eldest hand. Starting with eldest hand each player bids for the privilege of pitching or passes exactly once. The highest bidder determines trumps by leading to the first trick. After the last trick all parties score their points as in All Fours. However, if the pitcher's party has not won as many points as bid, then the pitchers party does not score at all and is instead set back by the amount of the bid.

History[edit]

All Fours is among the oldest extant card games in England. Its first known description was in Charles Cotton's Compleat Gamester of 1674, where the game was reported as popular in Kent. It is probably of Dutch ancestry, and David Parlett suggests that it played a role with the association of the name Jack with the card rank that was originally known only as the knave.

In the 19th century, the game was taken to America and became popular among the African Americans on slave plantations. Also called Seven up,[1] it gave rise to other variants such as Pitch and Auction Pitch, which probably developed in the New England States,[9] Pedro, and California Jack, also known as High-Low-Jack. Modern descendants include Don and Phat, developed in Britain and Ireland. The game is still played in north-west England and Wales, and it has become the national game of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.[2]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Parlett 1990.
  2. ^ a b c d McLeod.
  3. ^ Parlett 1992.
  4. ^ To avoid a flow of information, only the dealer and eldest hand may look at their cards until eldest hand has decided whether to beg or not.
  5. ^ If the stock is used up before this process is finished, the deal is abandoned and the same dealer deals again. The dealer can keep any point already scored for turning up a Jack (see below).
  6. ^ It is also common to discard down to six cards in this case, but this often comes with complex rules about what may or may not be discarded.
  7. ^ This can happen twice if dealer turns up a Jack initially, eldest hand begs, and dealer turns up another Jack. However, if dealer initially turns up a non-Jack, and then turns up the Jack of the same suit while running the cards (so that the process has to be repeated), the dealer does not score for the Jack.
  8. ^ Dick (1868), Modern Pocket Hoyle.
  9. ^ Dictionary of American Regional English, vol. 2, p. 1002, Frederic G. Cassidy ISBN 0-674-20512-X

References[edit]

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