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.