Sunday, March 04, 2012

9-5-2 -- What a great 3 handed card game!

It is fun to play cards, especially when the game involves both luck and skill like the trick-taking games in the Bridge/Whist family.  

What do you do when there are only three people around?  Inviting the cat to play is not always satisfying...
They get bored so easily, don't they?

We are big fans of the game 9-5-2, also known as Sergeant Major.  And through the magic of the Internet, we have access to a couple of versions of the basic rules, along with some optional rules that come up as people experience the ups and downs of the game and want to introduce something to make the game even more enjoyable.

A quick overview: 9-5-2 is a game for 3 people, played with a normal deck of 52 cards.  Each player starts with 16 cards, and there is a kitty of 4 cards set aside during the deal.  The dealer has a target to take at least 9 tricks; the player to dealer's left must take at least 5, and the third player must take at least 2. 

If you surpass your target, you are rewarded on the next hand with the privilege of passing low cards from your hand to the players who failed to make their targets, and they must return to you the highest card they have in that suit.  This exchange means the rich tend to get richer as the game goes on, and the misery of losing is compounded by having to endure the humiliation caused by smirking opponents passing you their 2s and 3s so that you can bless them with your precious aces and kings.

We add two local rules to even things out.  On the very first hand of the game, we play 9-4-3 instead of 9-5-2.  In the first hand, having to get 5 is too hard, and having to get 2 is too easy.  So it's 9-4-3 for the first hand then 9-5-2 after that.

Our second rule is contrary genius.  Let's say that you are the dealer this hand, and you were down 4 tricks going into your deal.  You are going to get 4 pretty low cards and give away 4 pretty high cards.  The rule have the option of calling "Low No Trump" where the lowest card of the suit led wins the trick.  A person can do pretty well with a hand that is total crap by normal standards.  The "Low No" rule does not show up in the rules I linked to above.

The result?  Better mental health, better relationships at the table.  What a great game.


JR said...

Looks like a fun game!
Now, if only we could get our cat to play that third hand.

Halfwise said...

Although cats are famously nocturnal, they do seem to lack the stamina to play 9-5-2 all night. Whereas humans seem to have little trouble rising to the challenge.

Cats ARE better at catching small rodents than most humans, so if your cat is not playing cards, I hope it is at least earning its keep in other ways.

Ours is frankly quite useless, unless what you need is a very early (and somewhat random) wake-up call. But she manages to be cute and chatty which partially offsets her minimal contribution in practical matters.