Monthly Archives: September 2010

Playing Rook As Low

Over the years, there are two major adjustments people have made when playing rook which cause for completely different strategies in play.  One is taking out the 2s, 3s, and 4s to make each round shorter. The other is playing with the rook as the highest trump, the lowest trump, and in some cases, in between the 10 and 11 trump.  All of these variations have a fairly large following, however, in my experience, I have found that playing with the rook as the lowest trump can often create more strategic playing. 

When playing with the rook as low, having the bird in your posetion when bidding is not quite as important as when the rook is high.  If your opponent has it when the rook is high, you are basically guaranteed a 20 pt loss at some point in the session.  Not to mention that many people play that you can play the rook at any point in the game, whether you are out of the color that was lead or not. 

When the rook is low, you often do not have to have it in your posetion, but you can force it to be played by simply leading trump until the person holding the bird is forced to play it.  Even if you only have a 2 of trump left, it is still enough to take that bird and get it in your posession.

Your bidding strategy will be semi-effected by whether or not your have the rook card in your posession at the start of the game.  For the most part, you can bid fairly aggressively without the bird and simply hope that it is either in the kitty, in your partner’s hand, or can be forced out by one of your top trump cards.  However, since the rook can many times get taken by the opponent, bids are often around 150 out of a 200 max by the shear fact that so many possible losses are out there.  Making a 150 bid is often possible even with the worst of hands, given the right amount of luck from the kitty and support from your partner. 

If you have not played with the rook as low before, I highly recommend giving it a try.  It does create for different bidding and strategic play, but that is part of the fun of the rook game.

Thanks to Rook, I’m Married!

Jeremy & Cathy MarriedFor all you single guys and girls out there, looking for “the one” to walk into your life, you probably would not have guessed that playing rook would be ultimate in strategies for meeting that special someone.  Well, guess what, neither did my wife and I, but thanks to a mean little bird game called rook, I am happy to say I met the love of my life!

2 years ago, I received a call from a friend of mine to go with him to a friend’s house to play rook.  As I stepped foot into the apartment with my friend, I saw to sweet females smiling and welcoming me in to there home.  I grew up mostly playing bridge and other regular card games, so although I knew most of the concepts of rook, I hadn’t really played it all that much.  But walking into that apartment, I suspected that these females were probably not all that serious about card playing anyway and it was just going to be a fun time.  Man was I wrong!

These sweet smiley girls surprised the heck out of me because they knew the game of rook so well!  They were counting cards and payed attention to all the details of the game.  I am a very serious card player, but I had no idea that I would ever meet females that were as serious as I was.  I know it sounds sexist, but I never met females that ever took card playing seriously.  It wasn’t too long after that I was introduced to a number of female rook players, all very skilled and took the game very seriously.  I have since found out, to my surprise, that there are in fact a number of women that play cards and play them very well, there is just a secret society of them.  Of course I did suspect that before, but I never suspected it from this one particular girl.

Her name was Cathy.  She is probably the sweetest and nicest woman you will ever meet (ok, I’m a bit biased).  When I got there, she was as warm and welcoming as can be.  Of course I thought she was probably trying to hit on me since I am so darn attractive, but I soon saw that she treated everyone just as sweet.  It is just part of her nature.  But card playing typically does not bode well for nice people.  You have to be a bit ruthless in the way you play in order to win.  So it was a complete surprise when this sweet girl I just met, wooped me and my partner’s butt all across the room.  I admit I was still a rookie at rook, but I did not expect to get beat that badly.

My ego was hit hard…but my eyes quickly opened to the possibility that I may have met the one woman on earth that not only is the sweetest of girls that I was looking for in a mate, but also shared my enjoyment of card playing.  Yes, it didn’t take long before I devoted many hours to learning rook and winning Cathy over.  In a few months, it was no longer my friend and I partnering it up, but now Cathy and I were taking other teams on together.  We soon became a powerful rook partnership and were ready to take on anyone.  Spearheaded by our joint love of rook, Cathy and I quickly found many other commonalities and passions we shared which lead us to our happy marriage a few months ago.   Thanks Rook for looking out for me!  🙂

This story goes out to all those that are looking for meeting that special someone.  Rook is a great card game with great matchmaking potential.  I am living proof that this card game can bring to similar hearts together.

Note: Results may vary…finding a match by playing rook is not guaranteed.  Fall in love with a rook player at your own risk.  I do not take any responsibility for broken hearts.  🙂

Playing Rook on Your PC

Growing up, Rook was the game we played the most in my house.  I had three older brothers (8, 10, and 12 years older), and when they would come home for the holidays, we would always play Rook.  Rook was also played by my cousins.  One summer, my cousin, Danny, and my brother, J.B., were bragging how they had taught their friends how to play Rook and beat them very badly.  So, my dad, Ray, and I challenged them to beat us.  Over that summer, my Dad and I beat J.B. and Danny 17 times in a row until they finally beat us.  That is one of my fondest childhood memories.

When I grew up and started programming, I would always build games to learn a new programming language or technology.  When I formed OTS Software, I decided that I would create some games as a side project to the custom software development I was doing.  Boat was one of those of games.  I didn’t want to worry about trademark or copyright issues, so I didn’t scan a deck of Rook cards and call my game Rook.  Instead, I used the widely known acronym that Rook players often tell their partners, Bid Over Any Time or BOAT.  I also decided to use a regular deck of cards substituting the Ace for 14, King for 13, etc., and I developed a custom BOAT card as a replacement for the Rook card.

Programming Boat was one of the more enjoyable programming experiences I have ever had.  It is always fun to program a game and especially fun when you are challenged to make the Artificial Intelligence (AI) as real as possible.  I decided to dedicate the game to that summer of Rook games playing with my dad against my brother and cousin.  That is why when you play Boat, your partner is Ray and you are playing against J.B. and Danny.

I worked very hard to make the AI realistic and the game a challenge.  When I completed the game, I gave it to my dad, brother, and cousin and asked them to try it out.  With only a few minor modifications/bugs found, I released Boat for everyone to play.  Boat has been played by people from all over the world thousands and thousands of times, and I have never had to fix any bugs or change the AI.  I still play Boat frequently and even knowing how the AI thinks, I still only win about 67% of the games.

Jody Chaffin is the founder of OTS Software and creator of Boat.  If you love Rook and would like a challenging PC version, Boat is the game for you.  It is a freeware game, and it can be found at with gameplay instructions and screenshots.

Aggressive Bidding Scenario

Rook Hand - High BidHere’s a real game scenario.  We were playing set partner rook the other day as we usually do and my partner and I found ourselves relatively close in score with our competition at 240 pts to 210 pts in the middle of a heated rook game to 500.   During this next had, the bidding was more intense than normal.  Myself and an aggressive bidder to the left of me were pushing the action further and further.  Finally, the bid got to 170 and I needed to bid 175 in order to likely take the kitty and have a chance to win the hand.

Looking at my hand, I was holding:
Greend – 3, 5, 10
Red – 5, 6, 9, 10, 1
Yellow – 5
Black – 10, 11, 14
Rook – Yes

I indeed had a powerhouse hand in set partner rook.  The problem is, my partner had passed early, and my competition had both bid aggressively throughout the entire bidding stage.  That being said, I likely was not going expect any help from my partner.  Also, there was a good possibility that the kitty was not going to have a lot of strength since my opponents were bidding so strong, they likely had many of the good cards out there.

Given the above situation, I chose to take the cautious route and pass the bid to my opponent at 170 knowing I actually did not have a good chance at setting them.  AS it turns out, my opponent chose yellow and proceeded to play the 1 and 14 of trump right away pulling my only yellow.  With my partner having an extremely weak hand this round, we only ended up taking a measly 5 pts and our opponents easily took a strong lead in the overall game.

Looking back on it, I think my decision was correct, however, if by chance the 1 of black or the 14 of red were in the kitty, I might have a decent shot at making my bid.  That is the risk you take when bidding aggressively or not.

The Joy of Setting

OKay, so setting is not the kindest of things to enjoy, but there is a very satisfying feeling when your opponent calls trump as black, and you look down at your hand to see 5 black including the 1 and 13, and you know this is going to be a tough day for your partners.

In our home rook game, you can clearly find 2 distinct personalities around the card table.  There are the conservative bidders that rarely get set, and when they bid, you know they have the goods.  On the other end, you have the risky rook bidders.  These are the ones that see 5 cards to a suit and say,  hey, the kitty (nest) may have 5 more of my color – including the 1 – why not bid and who knows, I may dominate this hand.  The next thing you know they are calling trump with an 11 high five card suit only to feel the wrath of getting set by 100 pts.

It does make for an enjoyable game though.  Even the tightest of bidders get set every now and then.  Usually not by a big margin, but setting – even in a small way – can still bring a smile to your face.

Table Talk

Table talk is a term used to refer to partners giving clues about their hands through comments they say across the card table. For the most part, these are passing comments that are not necessarily meant to give away their hand, but by deduction, a partner can gain information. This might be something like asking if a certain card has been played, or commenting that you did not play a certain color last time it was played. Basically, it is a form of cheating that for the most part is not intentional.

Using the Kitty or Nest

One of the major uncertainties with playing rook is dealing with the kitty.  These 5 cards can sometimes make or break your hand.   There is no real way to know whether or not the kitty is going to help or hurt your hand when bidding, this is what makes rook so fun.  There is some significant risk in taking the kitty, especially when you are overbidding your hand.  However, no matter if the kitty is good to you or completely destroys your power hand, there are some strategies to consider when looking to use the kitty.

So once you have one the bid and picked up your kitty, there are a few specific things you are trying to do:

  • Empty out as many colors in your hand as possible.  If you do not have the top cards in a color, it is best not to have any of that color at all so that you have the flexibility to trump the color if an opponent plays point cards in it.  If you cannot only have just trump color in your hand (highly unlikely) then you are basically trying to get a strong two color hand by using the 5 cards from the kitty, your trump suit being the strongest and then your “off suit” being as strong as possible.
  • Placing point cards in the kitty.  It can often be a valuable strategy to place some of the point cards in your hand in the kitty when you are fairly certain you are going to take the last trick and do not have certain ways of protecting the point cards.  For example, 5s are often good to put in the kitty unless you have a lot of that suit.   If you keep a 5 in your hand, you are basically hoping that your partner will be able to take it in some form or another.
    Keeping singleton 14s can also be dangerous and are better served to put in the kitty and keep something else.  Even though a 14 is a top card, if a 1 is played by an opponent, you are giving away 10 or more points instantly.  10s are tricky as well.  It is my opinion that unless you have a lot of the color where your 10 or sometimes 14 are, you are better served putting them in the kitty and keeping something like a 9 or 11 instead.  They are still fairly strong, but if you loose them, you are not giving away extra points.
  • If you have a 1 of an off-suit color, it is often advised to use the strength of the 1 and keep some other cards around it.   For example, if you have a 1 and an 8 of black, it might not be bad to keep both the one and 8 if there are other risky cards to get rid of.   Rather than putting the low 8 in the kitty, you can gamble that your opponent will lead a black with no points and you can sluff your 8 without giving away points.  You also have the option to play the 1 if too many points have been played.
  • If you do not have do not have a clear choice for trump, for example maybe 5 of 3 different suits, it is often best to consider both high cards as well as point cards when choosing the trump color.

Bidding Strategies

  • It is wise to remember that the more information you have from your partner, the more you can expect help or not having any help at all.   For example, if you are the first person to bid, you can often give your partner a bit of information about the strength of your hand by your very first bid.  If you simply always state 100, no information is shared (sometimes this too is smart so that your opponents do not have any information as well).  If you sometimes start off and bid 125, you are indicating to your partner that you have a very strong hand do not necessarily need any help or information from them to continue bidding.  If you simply pass right off the bat without even stating 100 as the first bid, you have indicated to your partner that your hand is extremely week.
  • Bidding high early has advantages and disadvantages.  On the positive side, by bidding high right away, you are limiting the amount of information your opponents are able to share with each other.  For example, if you bid 150 right off the bat, you opponents need to have a strong hand even to bid.  And if they do, they typically will have no information from their partner on how strong the partner’s hand is.  On the other hand, when you bid strong right off the bat, you have limited your partner’s ability to possibly be a leader in the hand.  If they have a strong trump color but are missing strength elsewhere, they may be tempted to pass rather than go for a higher bid as the 150 bid has demonstrated such power and strength.  What may happen is the partner with a strong trump color may end up being a bad supporting hand, all because they weren’t able to bid.
  • Cheating takes away from the game.  Yes, there are many ways you can cheat in rook with your partner.  Everything from creating signals of card strength or color to even the amount of cards you have in a suit.  However, our goal here is not to create cheaters.  In fact, we are so against cheating that any sort of accidental information that is given away, we will often call a person out on it (calling it table talk).   This may be something like, “Oh man, my hand is bad!”

In the Western Kentucky style of rook, we suggest the following:

With our set of rules, bidding starts at 70 and ends when all players but one have passed. 180 is the maximum bid (I’ve never seen that happen). The highest bid I’ve witnessed was about 140 or 145.

Most bids end around 110-125. Only newbies will allow opponents to take the bid for less than 100. For heck sakes, 90 is half the total points so if you can’t make half the total points with the help of the kitty and trump color of your choice, you are very unskilled and/or unlucky indeed. Only once in the hundreds of games played have I been set with a bid of 90. That was really wacky.

You should contend for the winning bid if you have high cards (1s and/or 14s) and a reasonably good trump suit. 13s are good to have in hand but are only a factor when the suit is distributed evenly e.g. 3-3-4-4 which happens less often than not.

A good trump suit has 5 cards headed by 2 of the top 3 cards i.e. (1,14 or 1,13 or 14,13). You don’t have to have such good high cards if you’ve got 6 or more of that suit. The longer your suit, the fewer high cards you need. Conversely a trump suit with the top 4 cards can work but is quite marginal. I would choose a 14,13,9,8,7,5 trump suit over a 1,14,13,12. Of course, a really excellent trump suit would be longer and stronger than any of the aforementioned. If you can get two suited with a really long trump suit (8 or more) you will be in great shape.

Which brings me to the next criteria for a good bidding hand – always look for what suit(s) you can void yourself in (get rid of all cards in a color during the lay-down). You will always try to ambush the 1s and other point cards held by the opponents. This becomes possible when you have few cards in a particular suit and no point cards in that suit. The “gotcha” is, you will often pick up points in the kitty that ruin your ambushing plans. There is nothing you can do about that. However, if you have two or more suits that are potential ambushing suits, you increase your odds of overcoming those obstacles. Therefore hands which have multiple color “voiding” potential are stronger than those which do not. In this sense, 10s and 5s are more often a curse than a blessing if you have designs of taking the bid. On the other hand 10s and 5s are usually nice to have if you are the bid taker’s partner.

It would be really nice to know exactly what your partner has before deciding to take the bid. But you can’t know that… exactly. But you can gather some clues by the way you partner and your opponents are bidding.

Bidding is the only way you can legally communicate with your partner what kind of cards you hold. Hand signals, sounds, verbal cues such as, “My favorite ice cream is lemon and cherry” or “A bird in the hand is worth ones in the bush” for purposes of communicating your hand to your partner are forms of cheating.

However, opening the bidding with a 70 in contrast to opening with 100 to tell your partner the relative strength of your hand is not cheating – it’s just part of the game.
If you are the first to bid, if you have any two of the following, bid 70:

  • Good Trump suit
  • 1
  • Rook
  • Two 14s
  • Void in one color

If you have three of the items in the list, bid 75. Four of these items, bid 80 and so on. Bidding 70 tells your partner that you have enough points to be a force in the game. An opening bid higher than 70 tells your partner that you are thinking about seriously taking the bid.

This same list applies to the second bidder if the first person passes. If the first player bids 70 then the second person can bid with the same list except he would start at 75. A bid of 80 after the first person opens with 70 (jump bid) would express a stronger hand.

When the first and second players both pass the opening, the bidding convention changes. If your partner has passed, you keep bidding until your opponent bids at least 100. Only with the very most sucky hand would let the opponents have it for less than 100.

You could also let them have it for less if you are close to making 500 match points and the opponents aren’t close enough to steal the match from you. Don’t risk going set when you are close to winning the match!

Bidding over your partner shows a strong hand. You should always bid over your partner if you have a strong hand and the opponents haven’t passed and the bid is 100 or less. Bidding over your partner when she already bid over 100 means you have a very strong hand and a very strong trump suit – At least 7 cards with 3 of the top 5 cards headed by the 1.

Pulling Trump

It is highly recommended that if you are the bid taker, you should attempt to pull all trump from your opponents and ensure you get the bird in the process. Pulling trump can be done simply by leading high trump early in the round. The strategy behind pulling trump is that you as the bid taker want to be the only one with trump when the last trick is played. That way you are more likely able to get the last trick. In addition, you have more flexibility with using your trumps throughout without being worried that an opponent will over-trump you. Finally, you can be sure that your high cards are not trumped by opponents by forcing them to play their trumps early in the round.

Playing Rook Online

Rook is currently available to be played online in one main place. Here at rook game, we do not actually participate in this online community for one main reason. This online rook game does not play the style of rook we like. The main difference is they play with rook being the highest trump. Also, they play without 1s, 2s, and 3s making for a very different game.

Rook online has gone through some different phases in their lifetime. For a while they were a pay to play gaming community, but lost so many participants that they had to switch back to playing for free. I am not sure of how they make money or stay alive, but for those that are just looking for some quick games of rook online, then they are worth checking out.

For us, we are all about playing cards in person. There is nothing better than getting together with a group of friends and just laughing and playing, even if the games get competitive. If you are looking for some rook players in you area, I suggest making a request to your facebook friends. You never know which one of your friends are looking for players to play with as well.