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Rook Strategy: What to do with a Lone 14 in Your Hand

To take your game to the next level, the lonely 14 strategy is very important to being able to win those marginal holdings.

What is meant by lone 14?

A lone 14 is when you only have one card of a certain color and that one card is a 14. So for example, you have 5 black cards, 4 yellow, 3 red cards, and one green card, and your one green card is the 14 of green.

Bidding with a Lone 14

During the bidding stages, it is our suggestion to be slightly more aggressive than normal as your 14 should basically be considered an automatic loss.  Typically, players will lead the 1 of colors first, so your 14 will automatically get taken whether by you or your partner.

If you bid slightly more aggressively and are able to take the bid, you are likely to either add some cards in the color to help support your 14, or you will be able to leave the 14 in the kitty, so it is not susceptible to and easy loss.

Even if you are to get one card (say a 12 of green) in the kitty, it would still be highly recommended to place both of those cards in the kitty to create a void.  The void could ultimately help save again 25 points when your opponents play a 1 and a 10 together and you would have been forced to play your 12.

When you do not take the bid and have a Lone 14

If you do not take the bid and are sitting with a lone 14 in your hand.  There are a number of times when leading the 14 can be an important strategy to setting your opponent or helping your partner make their bid.  Leading the 14 even if the 1 has not been played signifies to your partner that you have no more in that color. There may be an opportunity for you to sneak in a trump if your partner is able to lead back at you in that color.  Especially if you are sitting with the rook in your hand and want to trump that in as soon as possible.

Taking an Extra Trick

If your partner happens to have the 1, it also allows them to let the 14 win when most other times, the 14 would not have taken a trick in that round.

Lone 14s are deceptively important in making or missing close bids.  When you are talking about 10 point swings and a good trick, the way you get by playing the singleton 14 will be of strong importance to making your team a winning team.

Rook Cards: Finding Better Quality Cards

You know you are an avid rook player when you find yourself having to go back to walmart month after month to buy another new deck of rook cards.  The poor decks that you keep buying are nice for about 2 days and then you can already start to feel the cards starting to stick.  But the game is so fun, that we keep going back to buy another deck to replace our current decks.

Well, what if there were a deck of quality rook cards that you could buy that would last much longer than the regular rook deck of cards.  Thanks to plastic rook cards, we have found this deck of cards.  The deck of 57 cards is exactly what we are looking for.  We have found that this deck of plastic cards worked perfect for solving our issue of having to keep on buying new rook cards over and over.  The deck is great quality and very affordable.

If you are an avid rook player and find that you are going through deck after deck of rook cards, we highly recommend trying a deck of 57 cards.

Update 2013: There is still no better place to find top quality rook cards than what we have found in the past. 

We Keep Playing Rook: How Come?

What is it about rook that allows us to play for hours day after day, after day.  I know some groups of rook players that have been playing together for more than 20 years.  Is there really that much going on in the rook game that keeps people coming back to play more and more?

There are a group of four of us that get together to play rook about 2 times a week, and we have been playing against each other with the same four and same partners for about 2 years now.  We actually keep a running tally of wins and losses – currently our opponents are up on us by 1 game with 20 games left to go in the race to 100.   The winning team buys the other a tasty Olive Garden meal.

What is it about rook that keeps us wanting to play more?   Is it the Olive Garden?  For me, rook satisfies two very important things in my life.

1: Camaraderie – Getting together with friends is an extremely important part of my life.  If I wasn’t able to get together and spend time with my friends, I would be extremely devastated!  I cherish all my friends and rook is just one simple way to get a group together and have some good old fashioned fun together.

2: Competitive gaming – Growing up in a family that always played cards or some sort of games together has placed a fire inside me that only seems to be put out with strategically playing some sort of card game.  The rook card game can be an extremely competitive game, and for me this is just what the doctor ordered to keep me from wanting to challenge everyone to a duel!

What is your reason for playing rook?  Why do you keep coming back to it week after week?

Bidding Your Opponent Up in Set Partner Rook

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!

Is the Rook Game similar to the Bridge Card Game?

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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 KittyThe 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.

Best Places to Play Rook: On a Camping Trip

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?

Are There Professional Rook Players?

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?

  1. They spend a significant amount of time playing or promoting their card playing.
  2. They make a significant portion of their income from card playing.
  3. 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!

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 http://boat.soft112.com with gameplay instructions and screenshots.