Card players are those participating in a card game. Various names are given to card players based on their role or position.
In games played in English-speaking countries, age refers to the order of priority in which players make the first lead, bid or bet, based on their position at the table. This changes constantly as the dealer rotates either clockwise or anticlockwise around the table. They are traditionally referred to as follows:
- Eldest hand or elder hand: the player who enjoys greatest priority and e.g. is the first to receive cards in the deal
- Youngest hand or younger hand: the player who has the lowest priority and who e.g. is the last to bid or play at the start of a game (often the dealer).
In games originating in Europe, the players' priority is indicated as follows:
- Forehand: the player who leads to the first trick. Same as eldest hand.
- Middlehand: the player between forehand and rearhand in a 3 or 4-person game. In Skat (and similar 3- or 4-hand games), the second player in turn to bid.
- Rearhand: in a 3-player game, the player with least priority, e.g. the last to bid or play, in practice the dealer. In a 4-player game, the player following middlehand and who is the third to bid or play.
Players may also be referred to by their roles as follows:
- Cutter: the player whose is entitled to cut the cards; usually the opposite side of the dealer to forehand (or eldest/elder hand).
- Declarer: the highest bidder, who declares and then strives to make good the stated contract.
- Defender: a player who plays against the declarer, usually with other defenders.
- Partner: a player who plays co-operatively in a team and who shares the winnings or losses. Partnerships may be fixed for the whole session or vary from deal to deal.
- Soloist: a player who plays a Solo game, i.e. plays alone, as the declarer, against 2 or more other defenders.
Choice of dealer
In most card games, the role of dealer rotates, either clockwise or anticlockwise. The first dealer may be decided in one of several ways:
- The youngest player is invited to deal first
- The first dealer is chosen by lot i.e. players draw cards from a shuffled pack and the player with the highest card deals first (e.g. Schafkopf, Poker)
- The first dealer is chosen by lot i.e. players draw cards from a shuffled pack and the player with the lowest card deals first (e.g. Whist)
In casinos, the dealer is always the house banker for obvious reasons.
The distribution of the cards is conducted by the dealer in accordance with the game rules. The dealer may deal the cards one at a time, or in groups or packets, as indicated by the rules. In some games, all cards are dealt, while in other versions, some cards are left undistributed and are placed – or stacked – in the centre of the table as a talon or widow. The cards distributed to a player are known as the player's "hand".
Normally the dealer shuffles the cards and then hands the pack to a player to cut it, who then lifts at least three cards from the pack. In games where the deal is clockwise, this player will be on the right of the dealer; however, if the deal is anti-clockwise, this player is on the left of the dealer. The dealer generally distributes cards to each player individually or in packets in the direction of play, beginning with eldest hand, also known as forehand. The cards are dealt face-down in front of the players, and the dealer places any left-over cards face-down in the centre of the table.
The duties of a dealer differ from game to game. Their job usually involves distributing cards for games such as poker, contract bridge, blackjack, roulette or skat but may also involve other duties, for example:
- Contract bridge: the dealer is an opener who opens the auction and makes the first call, after which the auction progresses clockwise.
- In poker, the dealer controls the action during a hand and manages the pot.
- In blackjack, a player plays against a dealer, or "house". If the hand of a player is closer to 21 than the dealer's, without going over, the player wins.
- In a three-player skat game, the dealer takes on the role of rearhand. The player sitting on the left of the dealer is called the 'forehand', and the player sitting to the dealer's right is called middlehand.
Casino dealers must have a comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the games for which they deal. They should know the rules of the different card games, understand the odds of winning in various situations, and they must be able to communicate this information correctly to all levels of players. It is also the responsibility of the dealer to watch the play carefully and check to make sure that no one is cheating.
- The Language of Cards at www.parlettgames.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2018
- Eldest hand at www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 4 August 2018
- Middlehand at www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 4 August 2018
- Hinterhand at duden.de; retrieved 7 July 2017.
- Dealer at www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 4 August 2018
- Dealer at dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 4 August 2018
- Mechanics of Card Games Pagat.com.