Trex (card game)
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Trex, pronounced Tricks or Trix, and also known as Ticks, is a four-player Middle Eastern card game mainly played in the Levant region (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine). Similar to the European game of Barbu, Trex takes on a cycle style in which there are four cycles with each cycle consisting of five games. Each cycle is called a "kingdom" in reference to the fact that in each cycle one player (the King) determines which contract to play in each of the five games.
Players, cards and deal
Trex is played by four people using a standard international 52-card pack without jokers. The cards in each suit rank from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. Deal and play are counter-clockwise.
To begin the session, the cards are shuffled, cut (by player to left of dealer) and dealt out to the four players, one at a time, so that each player has 13 cards. It does not matter who deals first, but the player who is dealt the 7 of hearts in this first deal is said to "own the kingdom." This player chooses which contract to be played each hand, and is also the dealer for the next four deals. During his or her "kingdom" a player may choose to play any contract based on his or her cards. There is no rule for playing the contracts in a set order, and there are 120 possible combinations of contract orders.
After the first dealer has played all five contracts, the kingdom passes to the player to his right, and so on. In some variations the game passes to the right first two times, then to the person opposite of the second player then to the remaining player. Each of these players, during their kingdoms, must deal five times, choosing a different contract each time, without repetition. After the four kingdoms are complete, 20 deals have been played, every player has chosen every contract once: the game is over.
The five contracts
Four of the five contracts are trick-taking games in which the aim is to avoid taking tricks, or particular cards. The dealer always leads to the first trick, and the winner of each trick leads to the next. Players must follow suit if they can, and the highest card of the suit led collects the trick.
King of hearts or "roi de coeurs"
The player who takes the trick containing the king of hearts is reduced 75 points in standard setting. When the contract is announced, the player who has the king of hearts has the option of revealing it to the other players and in doing so doubling its value. Hence, this process is called "doubling". If the player doubling the card fails, and collects it, he or she is reduced 75 points. Oppositely, If another player collects it when it is "doubled" he or she is reduced 150 points (double the standard value) and the player who originally had it gets 75 points.
One common strategy followed in the pursuit of forcing the card's holder to collect it him or herself is for players to purposely lead hearts when possible.
If this contract is chosen and a player holds either the king of hearts alone, the ace of hearts alone, or the king of hearts and the Ace of hearts, he or she may request that the hand be re-dealt. This is because such a player would most probably collect the card, which would be unfair for him or her! The player making the appeal should show all his or her cards to the other players. If this happens the replayed contract does not have to be King of Hearts.
Each card of the diamond suit taken in a trick takes 10 points off the running total of the collecting player. In some variations the collected diamonds are kept face up in front of the players taking them so that everyone can see which diamonds have been taken, and/or played, although this is not the standard method of play. Normally they are not shown.
Girls or "femmes"
Each queen taken in a trick costs the collecting player 25 points. Queens are stored face up in front of the winner of the trick in which they were played. Queens can also be doubled, causing the player who collects a doubled queen to be reduced 50 points and the one giving it to gain 25 points. If a doubled queen is collected it has a card placed over its half. Among some Trex players this is called "a blanket to keep her warm". If a normal queen is collected it has a card placed under its half. This is called "a pillow for her head".
Each trick taken costs the collecting player 15 points.
Trex or trix
Despite its name, this is the only contract that is not a trick-taking game in the normal Western sense of the term. It is similar to Fan Tan or Card Dominoes. Players try to get rid of their cards as soon as they can by playing them to a layout, which begins with the jacks, and continues upwards in each suit to the ace and downwards to the two. The dealer begins and play continues counter-clockwise. At your turn you[who?] must play one card if you can. Legal plays are: any jack, or any card that is one rank higher or lower than a card that has already been played. If you are unable to play, you pass. The first player who runs out of cards scores plus 200 points. The others continue playing and the second scores plus 150 points, the third plus 100 points and the last gets plus 50 points.
If Trex is announced, any player who holds four twos or three twos and the three of the fourth suit can require the cards to be thrown in. The cards are shuffled and redealt, and the dealer can choose any contract that he has not already played (including Trex).
The game is repeated if a suit is closed without all jacks on the table
After 20 deals, when all four players have completed their kingdoms by choosing all five contracts, the game is over. The final scores indicate the result - the players with positive scores win by that amount, and the players with negative scores lose similarly.
The total points available in the five contracts are -75, -130, -100, -195, +500, so the total scores at the end of each kingdom and at the end of the whole game are always zero.
"King of hearts" is generally best bid on hands with many hearts, since your other suits are then shorter than average and you will probably be able to discard the king. Although "King of Hearts" scores only 75, it is really a big hand, because the 75 all goes to one player, while the 195 points for "Slapping" (for example) are usually distributed between the players. In the "Trex" contract twos and other low cards are a liability, as are aces to a lesser extent. A "block" of cards like 7-6-5 of a suit can be powerful in a suit in which the 4 3 and 2 are not held.
The following are some common Trex variations:
- Some play that in the first three contracts, a player who is unable to follow suit must discard a penalty card (king of hearts in contract 1, diamond in contract 2, queen in contract 3) if they have one.
- Some players interchange the scores for diamonds (each diamond costs 10 points) and slapping (each trick costs 15 points).
- Some players reverse all the scores, giving positive points for the first four contracts and negative points for Trex. The object is then to have as low a score as possible at the end. Clearly this makes no difference to the way the game is played.
- Some play the contracts in a different order. For example: trix, girls, king of hearts, diamonds, collection.
- Trex is sometimes played as a partnership game, partners sitting opposite each other. The game is played the same way - each player gets a turn to choose contracts. There are two differences: (1) in the contract "Trex", after each player has had their first turn, all players must put any 2's that they hold face up on the table, so that everyone knows who has them and (2) scores are kept in terms of teams not individuals.
- It can be agreed in advance that when (King of Hearts) or (Girls) is announced, any player who holds a penalty card can place it face up on the table before the first lead. In this case the player who takes the card in a trick loses twice as much (-150 for the king of hearts, -50 for a queen) and the player who held the card scores +75 for the king of hearts or +25 for a queen.
- Trex Complex is a recent variant in which a dealer can play two or more of the first four contracts at the same time. In this case all the penalty cards and tricks from the contracts being played are scored in that deal. The number of deals is reduced accordingly - for example if a dealer starts by playing Diamonds, Girls and Collection together, then he has only two more deals, which must be King of Hearts and Trex (in either order). This variation is not recommended since it increases the luck factor - a player who is fortunate to deal himself a hand full of low cards can get a huge score by playing contracts 1-4 all at once.
- In Palestine and Jordan Trix complex refers only to the game when all four contracts are played at once while Trix is separate. When combining contracts according to desire of the king of the game, the game is called Trix Combination.