Marjapussi

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Marjapussi
Bondtolva, Huutopussi
Origin Finland
Type Trick-taking
Players 4
Cards 36 (24-36 in variants)
Deck Anglo-American
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) A 10 K Q J 9 8 7 6
Related games
Bezique, Pinochle, Mariage

Marjapussi (Bag of Berries) is a traditional Finnish partnerships trick taking game. The speciality of Marjapussi is that the trump suit is determined in the middle of the play by declaring a marriage (a king and a queen of a same suit). To win a game, a partnership must get exactly twelve points. A very similar game evidently related to Sixty-six, but with a curious resonance of All-Fours is played in Sweden under the name Bondtolva, Farmer's Dozen.[1]

Later, Marjapussi evolved into Huutopussi (Auction Bag), which involves bidding. The exact winning condition was dropped, but the trump determining process remained. Actually, in Huutopussi the trump suit may even change in the middle of the play if players declare further marriages.

Rules of the four-handed partnership games[edit]

The details of rules in both Marjapussi and Huutopussi vary significantly, and the choice of the rulesets presented below is rather arbitrary. See Variants section about how the rules can vary.

Marjapussi is a trick taking game for four players in fixed partnerships. The partners sit opposite to each other. Marjapussi is played with a deck of 36 cards, remove the cards 2-5 from the standard deck. The order of cards is Ace (highest), ten, king, queen, jack, nine, eight, seven, six (lowest). That is, the order is otherwise normal except that a ten beats a king, a queen and a jack. All cards are dealt so that everyone gets 9 cards.

The play[edit]

A hand always starts as a no trump game, but a suit can be declared trumps during a hand. The player to the dealer's left leads first, and if he has an ace, he must lead to the first trick with an ace. Later, the winner of the trick starts the next with any card he wants to.

Players must follow suit if possible. If a player who is not starting a new trick cannot follow suit and trumps have been declared, the player must play a trump. If the player cannot follow suit or play trumps, the player can play any card. If possible within the previous restrictions, the player must always beat the high card in the trick. The trick is won by the highest trump, or if there are no trumps in the trick, by the highest card of the suit led.

When a player has won a trick, he may declare trumps with a king and a queen of a same suit. He has three options:

  • If the player has a king and a queen of the same suit in his hand, he may declare that suit to be trumps.
  • The player can ask his partner if he has in his hand "a whole", a king and a queen of a same suit. If yes, that suit becomes trumps. The asker does not nominate a suit when asking.
  • If the player has a king or a queen in his hand, he may ask his partner, if he has "a half" of that suit, that is the other one of king or queen of that suit in his hand. If yes, that suit becomes trumps. The asker specifies the suit, but not whether he asks for a king or a queen.

After each trick, the winner of the trick is entitled to exactly one of the actions mentioned above. If trumps have been declared, players can declare little ones, other marriages in a similar fashion, but they affect only scoring, and do not change trumps. Each suit can be declared only once during a hand.

Scoring[edit]

Counting pips in tricks
Rank A 10 K Q J 9 8 7 6
Pips 11 10 4 3 2 0 0 0 0
  • 2 points for declaring trumps.
  • 1 point for each little one
  • 1 point for winning the last trick
  • 1 point for the partnership that has more pips in the tricks they won (see table)

The points are counted after all cards have been played. The play is to 12 points. To win, the partnership must get exactly twelve points. If the partnership gets more, they go down to seven points. If the team got no tricks in a hand, the team goes to Porvoo, loses all their points from the previous hands.

Bondtolva[edit]

The Swedish game Bondtolva is similar to Marjapussi. Four-handed Bondtolva differs from Marjapussi as follows:

The game uses the 24 card deck with cards ranking from A-9 in all suits. After declaring a marriage, the player leads to the trick, if possible, with a card from the declared marriage.

The point for pips goes to the team having more aces and tens in the tricks. In case of a tie, counting where aces are worth 4 pips, kings worth 3 pips, queens worth 2 pips and jacks worth 1 pip is used as a tie-breaker. The play is to 12 points, and the requirement to get exactly 12 points is an optional rule. If the exact winning condition is used, the extra points are subtracted from 12 points.

Huutopussi[edit]

Huutopussi is an auction version of Marjapussi. It literally means auction bag. In colloquial Finnish, bidding in card games is called huutaminen, auctioning. The differences from Marjapussi are as follows:

The auction[edit]

Each hand starts with an auction where the players bid the number of points their partnership will get in the hand. The dealer starts bids by bidding at least 50. Later, players may either make a bid that is higher than the previous one or pass. A player who has passed is not allowed to bid again. The bids must be multiples of five. The auction ends when all the players except for one have passed.

If a player holds three sixes in his hand, in his first opportunity to bid, the player may demand a new deal.

The play[edit]

When everyone except for the highest bidder has passed, the auction ends and the highest bidder becomes the declarer. The partner of the declarer gives the declarer three cards from his hand, and the declarer adds the cards into his hand. Now, the declarer may raise his bid if he wants to. The declarer gives three cards to his partner so that everyone has nine cards. The declarer starts the first trick with any card he wants to.

A player is allowed to try to declare marriages only after he has won a trick started by himself. He is allowed to use the same choice of actions, that is, declare himself or ask the partner for either a whole or a half, as in Marjapussi. Furthermore, each declared marriage changes the trump suit so that trumps can change four times during a hand. If a new trump suit is declared, the old trump suit becomes an ordinary suit. Each suit can be declared trumps only once during a hand.

Scoring[edit]

Declaring trumps:

  • Spades 40 points
  • Clubs 60 points
  • Diamonds 80 points
  • Hearts 100 points

Ten points for each ace and each ten in the tricks and five points for each king, each queen, and each jack in the tricks. Winning the last trick gives an additional 20 points.

So, the theoretical maximum bid is 440 points (every marriage and all play points).

If the declarer partnership collected points at least the amount of the bid, they get the points they bid, otherwise, they lose the amount of points indicated by their bid. In any case, the points they got in play do not directly affect their score. The opponents get what they were able to collect.

If either side got no tricks, the original high bid (the bid before raising after exchanging cards) is subtracted from their score. Getting all the tricks is called läpiajo ("drive-through"), equalling grand slam in Bridge.

If the contract is over 160, it is possible for the declarer side to play läpiajo and still not make the contract. In such a case, the declarer side gets negative points for not making the contract and the opponents get negative points for not taking any tricks.

The team that first gets at least 500 points wins. If both teams break the 500 limit in the same hand, the team that has more points wins.

If a team has -500 points or less, they are not allowed to bid except that the dealer is allowed to make the initial bid of 50 points.

Two and three-handed variants[edit]

Two-handed Bondtolva[edit]

Two-handed Bondtolva is similar to the four-handed game, except for the following:

In the beginning, each player is dealt six cards, and the rest of the cards form the stock. As long as there are cards in the stock, each player takes a card from the stock after playing to a trick, so that there are six cards in both hands. As long as there are cards in the stock, the players do not need to follow suit, ruff or beat the high card.

After the stock has exhausted, the rest of the cards are played, and the players are required to follow suit, ruff and beat the high card like in the 4 handed game. The players are not allowed to declare marriages after the stock has exhausted.

Two-handed Marjapussi[edit]

This two-handed variant of Marjapussi is known as Avomarjapussi, Open Marjapussi. Each player is dealt four cards. Each player is also dealt a row of seven cards face down on the table and a row of seven cards face up on the top of the face down cards. To declare marriages and play cards to tricks, the players can use their own face up cards and their own hand cards. When a player plays a face up card in a trick and there is a card under it face down, the face down card is turned face up.

Other rules are like in the four-handed game, except that there are no partnerships, and consequently the rules on asking for a whole or a half do not apply.

Three-handed Huutopussi[edit]

There are no teams. Each player is dealt 11 cards, and the remaining three cards form a kitty. After bidding the kitty is exposed, and the declarer takes the kitty in his hand and discards three cards. The discarded cards count as the declarer's points, but he is not allowed to discard aces or tens.

Trumps can be declared after winning any trick, that is the trick does not need to be started by the winner of the trick, but since each player plays individually, the rules on asking for a whole or a half do not apply.

The points for each defender are counted individually. Also, the läpiajo penalty applies to every player who did not get any tricks.

Strategy of partnership Huutopussi[edit]

Bidding conventions[edit]

  • If a player makes a jumping bid above 80 in his first opportunity, he promises at least one ace. Sure winners are needed to declare the first trumps, and making any contract without an ace is usually hopeless.
  • On later rounds, or after the partner has promised an ace, jumping bids under 160 signals a good hand. Aces are the best cards, queens and kings the second best, and tens the third best. A marriage is better than two single queens/kings. An average hand contains one ace, two queens/kings and one ten. A player can raise ten points with a hand that contains three cards that are queens, kings, tens or aces. He can raise even more with a hand that is above average.
  • Jumping to exactly 160 only means the willingness to be the declarer. 160 is the score a player can get by taking all the pips and the last trick, without declaring any trumps.
  • The value of a lost trick is usually 25 points, and this is used in jumping bids above 160 to signify strong suits. Add 160 to the trump value of your strong suit and subtract 0, 25, 50, or 75, and the player ends up with a bid that promises a strong suit. A strong suit should have at least four or five cards, and it should contain at least three of the four top cards, including an ace or a marriage.
  • A raise of five does not mean anything more than unwillingness to pass, if the bid is below 160. Above 160, a raise of 5 means that being the declarer would not be a disaster.

General guidelines[edit]

  • After your partner has passed, there is no danger from your partner to raise your bid, and your overbids confuse only the opponents.
  • Bid boldly. It is not uncommon for 1/4 - 1/3 of the contracts to fail. Furthermore, the exchange of cards will usually allow the declarer to build a hand based on a strong suit with singletons/voids in other suits.
  • A usual contract is around 160 and 200 points. Bids over 250 points are rare, and bids over 340 points are virtually non-existent. A contract of 340 can be made if you declare hearts and diamonds as trumps and play läpiajo.
  • If the opponents are close to the 500 points winning limit, you can make an unrealistically high bid and try to get all the tricks to reduce the opponents' score.
  • The auction is simply a competition for the privilege of being a declarer. Since you can raise the bid after the card exchange, there is no need to try to find the exact contract during the auction.

Card exchange[edit]

Partner to the declarer[edit]

Giving cards to the declarer is considered to be the most difficult part of the game.

  • Give aces, ace-ten combinations, marriages, and kings and queens. If the declarer is going to play läpiajo, give aces and tens (even a single ten will do), otherwise aces, kings and queens.
  • Giving a complete marriage is often advantageous, and if you give a single queen or a single king, it signifies that you do not have the other half of that suit. Thus, if you have a marriage, either give both cards or keep both cards, but do not break the marriage.
  • You can give a ten if you simultaneously give other high cards of the same suit.
  • Giving single tens is better than giving jacks or lower.
  • If your partner has signified a suit when bidding, give that suit regardless of the rank of the cards.
  • If you have a strong suit yourself, you can ask for cards of that suit by giving one card of every other suit, one of which is a jack or lower.

Declarer back to the partner[edit]

  • When the declarer gives cards back to his partner, he can concentrate the good cards in his own hand and play virtually alone.
  • Alternatively, the declarer can give his partner high cards in some suit in the hope of making a long suit in the partner's hand. In this case the declarer should arrange an entry to the partner's hand by leaving one card of that suit or by giving the partner a side-suit ace. An entry is not needed if you manage to declare a marriage in the partner's strong suit.

Trick play[edit]

Declarer side[edit]

  • In trick play, the declarer side's advantage is huge due to the card exchange and the privilege to start the first trick. The declarer side should try to use this advantage to control the game.
  • When playing, the declarer should avoid giving an opportunity to the opponents to win a trick started by themselves, since it may allow them to change trumps to their advantage. If you have to give tricks to the defenders, give the tricks when you have controls in all suits. In particular, take care that the trump suit is advantageous to you when you give tricks to the opponents.
  • The declarer can also play high cards in the suits where the defenders might have a marriage in the hope that the defenders must play a king or a queen in order to follow suit.
  • Assume you are the partner of the declarer. If he gives you sure winners and lets you win a trick, play whatever sure winners you have and, if possible, make trumps in the suits of the winners. After that, ask for a whole. When you are the declarer and you give sure winners to your partner, assume the above-mentioned scenario to happen. This strategy is usually used so that the partner can take in his winners before the declarer starts playing his strong suit with a marriage.
  • The partner of the declarer often should discard tens to tricks that the declarer is going to win. First, this is because of the point value of tens. Second, the declarer might have kings below the tens, and this way he gets to know that they are winners.
  • If your partner has an ace of some suit, lead a king of that suit. If your left-hand opponent has the ten of that suit he is required to play it.

Defenders[edit]

  • The defenders should naturally try to change the trumps. That is, after winning a trick, lead a sure winner, and then try to find a marriage.
  • If the opponents end up with a contract without aces, use your aces to ensure that they do not win a trick started by themselves, so that they will not be able to declare trumps.

Variants[edit]

  • In Marjapussi, it is also possible to count the pips so that aces and tens are worth 1 pip each, and other cards are worth 0 pips. In this case, the 11,10,4,3,2 counting is used as a tie-breaker.
  • If the teams tie for pips, the unawarded point transfers to the next hand so that the team with more pips will get two points instead of one.
  • A shorter variant is to play to 10 points. If a team gets more than 10 points, they go down to 7 points, as usual.
  • It can be agreed that in Marjapussi the first trick of a game is started with the ace of clubs. (Whoever has the ace of clubs starts the first trick with it.) The player with the ace of clubs deals for the next hand, and after that the privilege to deal rotates.
  • For the first trick of any hand, an ace must be lead if possible. If not possible, a spade must be lead if possible.
  • After declaring a marriage, it can be required that the next trick must be started, if possible, with a card from the declared marriage.
  • In some rules of Marjapussi, the options for declaring marriages are ordered: Self-declaring comes first, asking for a whole comes second, and asking for a half comes last. In your first opportunity, you are allowed to choose freely which alternative you use, but you are not allowed to self-declare after you have asked either for a whole or a half, and you are not allowed to ask for a whole after you have asked for a half. The restrictions apply only per hand, and start of a new hand nullifies the restrictions. In some variants, a team that has not asked for a whole is not allowed to ask for a half.

Huutopussi[edit]

  • Huutopussi can be played with aces worth 11 points each, tens worth 10 points each, kings worth 4 points each, queens worth 3 points each and jacks worth 2 points each.
  • Some play Huutopussi so that a player can try to declare marriages after winning any trick. In this variant, it is possible to agree that the declarer side can exchange four cards instead of three.
  • If the declarer side plays läpiajo but they do not make the contract, the penalty to the opposing side does not apply. (Only the declarer side gets the penalty.)
  • The points for declaring trumps can be 100 for spades, 80 for hearts, 60 for diamonds and 40 for clubs.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Parlett, Oxford Dictionary of Card Games, pg. 25, Oxford University Press (1996) ISBN 0-19-869173-4

External links[edit]