Shut the Box
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Shut the Box, also called Canoga, Klackers, Zoltan Box, Batten Down the Hatches, or High Rollers, is a game of dice for one or more players, commonly played in a group of two to four for stakes. Traditionally, a counting box is used with tiles numbered 1 to 9 where each can be covered with a hinged or sliding mechanism, though the game can be played with only a pair of dice, pen, and paper. Variations exist where the box has up to 10 or 12 tiles.
Rules of the game
At the start of the game all levers or tiles are "open" (cleared, up), showing the numerals 1 to 9.
During the game, each player plays in turn. A player begins his or her turn by throwing or rolling the die or dice into the box. If 7, 8 or 9 is still open, the player must roll both dice. Otherwise, the player may choose to roll one die or both dice.
After throwing, the player adds up the dots (pips) on the dice and then "shuts" (closes, covers) any combination of open numbers that equals the total number of dots showing on the dice. For example, if the total number of dots is 8, the player may choose any of the following sets of numbers (as long as all of the numbers in the set are available to be covered):
- 7, 1
- 6, 2
- 5, 3
- 5, 2, 1
- 4, 3, 1
The player then rolls the dice again, aiming to shut more numbers. The player continues throwing the dice and shutting numbers until reaching a point at which, given the results produced by the dice, the player cannot shut any more numbers. At that point, the player scores the sum of the numbers that are still uncovered. For example, if the numbers 2, 3, and 5 are still open when the player throws a one, the player's score is 10 (2 + 3 + 5 = 10). Play then passes to the next player.
After every player has taken a turn, the player with the lowest score wins.
If a player succeeds in closing all of the numbers, he or she is said to have "Shut the Box" -- the player wins immediately and the game is over.
Traditional pub play
In English pubs, Shut the Box is traditionally played as a gambling game. Each player deposits an agreed amount of money into a pool at the beginning of the game, and the winner of the game collects the money in pool at the end of the game.
Trevor Baker became West Sussex Shut The Box champion in 1991. In a tournament held at The Elsted Inn in the village of Elsted, West Sussex, Baker beat a strong field of 14 competitors including the renowned Wadey brothers. A master of avoiding "shnake eyes", Baker won the final round with the classic "Shaxson" finish of 9 & 3 , throwing a double six.
Shut the box is a traditional game, and there are many local and traditional variations in the rules. In addition, due to the game's growing popularity, many variations of the game have developed in recent years.
The two most popular variants are:
- "Golf" - A player's score is the sum of the numbers remaining uncovered at the end of his turn. The player with the lowest score wins.
- "Missionary" - A player's score is the total number (count) of the tiles remaining uncovered at the end of his turn. For example, a player scores 3 if at the end of his turn 3 tiles remain open. The player with the lowest score wins.
The following are examples of known variations in play, setup, and scoring:
- "2 to go" - Standard game, numbers 1 to 9 up, on the first roll, the number 2 has to be dropped. If you roll 4 on your first roll, you lose.
- "3 down extreme" - numbers 1, 2 and 3 are pre dropped, leaving numbers 4 to 9 up.
- "3 to go" - The same as 2 to go but the number 3 must be dropped.
- "Lucky number 7" - The only number up is 7, and the first person to roll a 7 wins.
- "Unlucky number 7" - A standard game, when a 7 is rolled, the game stops.
- "Against all odds" - All odd numbers are up and evens down.
- "Even Stevens" - All even numbers are up and odds down.
- "Full house" - 12 numbers are up.
- "The 300" - 2 boxes and 4 dice are used, with the second box representing numbers 13 - 24. (24+23+22...2+1 = 300)
- "Thai style" - Always roll two dice, but only cover one tile matching one of the dice or their sum. For example, if the dice show a 2 and a 3 you may cover one of 2, 3, or 5.
- "Digital" - A player's score at the end of the turn is the number obtained by reading the up digits as a decimal number from left to right. For example, if 1, 2, and 5 are left up the score is 125. This is also known as "Say what you see", a reference to Roy Walker's catchphrase from the TV gameshow Catchphrase.
It is also possible to play extended versions in which each game is a "round" of a longer game. Examples of such versions include:
- "Tournament" - Rounds are played with the "Golf" scoring method until a player reaches or exceeds a grand total of 100 points, at which time the player with the lowest point total is declared to be the winner.
- At the end of each round, each player's score for the round is added to his total score. When a player's score reaches 45, he must drop out of the game. The last player remaining wins the game.
The origin is not known but there exist references from at least as long ago as the 12th century to the game being played in Normandy (northern France) or the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey). Others also mention fur trappers from the Hudson's Bay Company. The game grew popular among sailors and fishermen.
Evidence of the game exists in England from the middle of the 20th century, but it is possible that it did not originate there. Timothy Finn writes in Pub Games of England that it came from the Channel Islands in 1958 with a Mr. 'Chalky' Towbridge. It is said that versions have also been played in Barotseland (Zambia, central Africa). The game is also popular in the beer bars of Thailand using special rules.
Shut the Box is also the basis of the popular TV quiz show High Rollers, which ran from 1974–76 and 1978-80 on NBC with Alex Trebek as the host. The show resurfaced from 1987 to 1988, this time hosted by Wink Martindale.