I was recently asked if it was smart to bid up your opponent in a 4 player, set partner, rook game when your partner has passed and you clearly do not have a good enough hand to bid on. Notice, if your partner has already passed and you are the last one from your team in the bidding, you do not want to let your opponents off cheaply. Do not just pass to their early bids without giving a fight. It does not make any sense to give your opponents and easy chance at scoring some decent points without at least having to work for it, or having the possibility of getting set.
Personally, we have a standard bid we will typically go to with almost any hand. In our game of 200 pts per round including the 2s 3s and 4s, this bid is typically 145. Although this has fluctuated from night to night. Some nights the average bid is 155. Some nights it is 135. But most of the time, we are right around 145 on a base bid with marginal hands.
One thing to always keep in mind is your opponents could possibly be baiting you into bidding with powerhouse hands. On a number of occasions, to gain the advantage of a set, one of your opponents may puposefully pass early in the bidding wars to indicate they have a weak hand when in fact they have a strong hand and are likely to set you and your partner.
This all being said, bidding when you do not have a great hand is usually best when your opponents are about to win the game and you need to stop them from going out. You may sacrifice getting set for the opportunity that next round you will get dealt a monster hand that you could possibly shoot the moon with!
I have been asked a number of times if the rook game is similar to the game bridge. And if they are similar, how so? Well, the truth is, I grew up playing bridge and didn’t even touch rook cards until later on in life. But when I was first tought about the rook card game, I immediately stated, oh, this is very similar to playing bridge. Here’s why:
Similarities Between Rook and Bridge
- Set Partners – There are a number of games that involve set partner. But rook and bridge are both primarily a two person team.
- Bidding to control trump – As with bridge, there is a lot of power when taking a bid. You have the power to decide what color to go as trump. Even though you are not at the advantage of knowing what color your partner was bidding, you do have the option to choose the best color based on what you see in your hand.
- Value in Voids – As with bridge, there is power in not having any of a certain color. If this color is not trump, you are quickly at liberty to jump in and trump a powerful point hand causing some real headaches to your opponents.
- Many of One Suit/Color = Good – As expected, a lot of one color/suit, even if they are low can mean a lot for winning a hand. By simply having more trump cards than your opponents, you are guarunteeing a significant amount of power in the round.
- A powerful hand often consists of high cards – Even though there is no need to add up the total amount of high cards for point value reference in rook, merely having a lot of high cards is always good. Played correctly, you can often be in conrol of a round to either make a bid, or set your opponent.
- Works well for Tournaments – Due to the team nature of both bridge and rook, making a night for playing out a tournament is a blast. So call your friends and break out the music, cause these tournaments can last all night.
- Stopping a team from making their bids – Both rook and bridge encourage teams to be defensive. So even when they have not taken a bid, they are paying attention to the entire hand to do their best to stop the opponent from doing what they are trying to do.
Differences Between Rook and Bridge
While there are many similarities between rook and bridge, there are some important differences which call for very different strategies.
- Points, not tricks – Bridge is one of the ultimate in strategic team games. Every card is important because you never know when you are throwing away a winner. Yes, there are times in rook where each card laid is important, but when there are no point cards on the board, your strategy as the final player to act is not to try and take the trick, rather your strategy is likely to get rid of a worthless card. Remembering that acting last on any trick is a strong advantage in rook can sometimes help to make close bids.
- The Kitty – The kitty is why I sometimes love, and sometimes hate rook. In bridge, you can see your entire hand. There is never a possibility that you will improve or ruin your hand by picking up an unknown set of 5 cards and adding them to your hand. This is what makes getting the kitty more of a gamble rather than a skillful understanding of what is going on during the bidding phases. The kitty makes the game exciting as a hand that players will expect to win can turn into a dud, while a hand that a player expects to lose can turn into a monster. The only downfall to the kitty is that it takes away from some of the strategic play and can often lead to a significant amount of luck.
- 52 cards compared to 57 cards – Typcial bridge games are played with a regular deck of cards. The rook game does vary depending on who you play with. Some people take out the 2s, 3s, and 4s, making a 45 card deck while the normal rook deck is composed of 57 cards. Do remember this when you are playing the hands because it means there are a lot more trumps to take into account.
- Bidding with Colors – In bridge, there is some significant knowledge you gain from your partner’s bid. You can often tell how powerful their hand is but in addtion, you know what suit they are most powerful in. This is very important to gauge how similar your partner’s hand is to yours.
- The Bird – Having the bird as an automatic trump and worth added value to a round is ultimately why rook keeps so popular. The bird is constantly on everyone’s mind. Has it been played? Does the person who bid on the round have it in his hand? Does my partner have it? Will we be able to set our partner by just this one bird card? Playing with the extra rook card is a special game. If you are a bridge player and have not yet given rook a try, you must just for the possibility of setting your opponents on a sneaky rook steal.
While nothing beats the comfort of playing in your own home, around a card table set up with perfect lighting, smooth countertops, and endless fresh reverse osmosis water, playing rook with a group of friends on a camping trip can make for some of the best times possible. Sitting next to a campfire, s’mores in your hand, and sitting around a picnic table with your favorite card game.
The rook game is easy for camping because there are a number of games that can be played anywhere from 2 to 8 players. Its also semi-competitive in nature so you can play it for fun, or challenge yourself to some real strategic plays. Being that anyone with a little bit of understanding of card games can pick the concept up really quickly, it makes for including the entire group in a camping trip extremely easy.
So next time you are planning a camping trip out somewhere, make sure you remember to pack your deck of rook cards and let the games begin!
We Want to Hear from You
What are some of your favorite places to play rook?
Clearely, if the question “Are there professional rook players” interests you, you are a true fan of rook. To get the answer, I must compare the question to a similar field. What makes a professional card player?
- They spend a significant amount of time playing or promoting their card playing.
- They make a significant portion of their income from card playing.
- They likely do not have a side job, and purely use card playing as the main source of income.
These comments lead me to find out, how exactly might someone who loves to play rook, and may even be very good at it, be a professional rook player? Well, quite simply, there is currently not a way to make this happen. OK, yes I have heard of some decent size rook tournamants where the winning teams gain some nice lawn chairs or even tickets to a football game, but not quite the payoff that someone might get from say a major poker event.
The truth is, the rook card game just was not meant for making money. And the crowd that follows it is not that much into the idea of making money off playing cards as well. You have to realize that some people refer to rook as missionary poker becuase the missionaries that played it did not believe in playing with regular decks of cards.
In all likelyhood, there would need to be some major deal with ESPN or something like that to get enough of a following for rook to actually think about ever becoming a professional rook player. Until that day, we will just have to enjoy tailgaiting at our football game with our new lawn chairs!