Official Rules

Four players are organized into two teams of two players each, sitting opposite each other. Players must keep their hands secret from all other players, including their teammates. The object of the game is to be the first team to reach 300 points by capturing cards with a point value in tricks. If both teams have over 300 points at the end of a round, the team with the higher point total wins.

Only certain cards have a point value. These are known as counters. Each 5 is worth 5 points, each 10 and 14 is worth 10 points, and the Rook Bird card is worth 20 points.

The Deal

The 1s, the 2s, the 3s, and the 4s should be removed from the deck, and the Rook Bird card should be added, for a total of 41 cards. The dealer shuffles and cuts the deck, then deals all of the cards, one at a time. After every player has received his or her first card, the dealer places one card in the center of the table. This is repeated until there are five cards (the nest) in the middle of the table. The remaining cards are dealt normally.

Bidding

After the deal, players bid in increments of 5 points for the privilege of naming the trump suit. Bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer and passes clockwise. The minimum bid is 70 points, and the maximum is 120 points (the number of points a team would make if they captured all the counters in the game). If a player chooses not to increase the bid, he may pass to the next player. A player that has passed may not make another bid for the round. The high bidder adds the five cards of the nest to his or her hand, then lays any five cards to the side. The high bidder then names the trump suit.

Play

After the trump suit has been named, the player to the left of the dealer places any card of any suit face-up on the center of the table. Play proceeds clockwise, with each player playing one card face-up in turn. After each player has played, the player that played the highest card of the suit of the leading card takes all of the cards played, or "takes the trick".

A player must either follow suit (play a card of the leading suit) or play the Rook Bird card. If a player has no cards of the leading suit, he or she may play any other card, including the Rook Bird card or a card of the trump suit. The highest card of the leading suit takes the trick, unless a trump card is played, in which case the highest trump card takes the trick.

If a player reneges, or fails to follow suit when he or she could have, the error may be corrected before the next trick is taken. If it is not discovered until later, the round ends, and the team that made the error loses a number of points equal to the bid, regardless of which team made the bid. The opponents score all the counters they captured before the error was discovered.

The person who takes the trick leads in the next trick. When a trick is taken, it is placed face-down in front of the player who took it. Tricks taken may not be reviewed by any player until the end of the round. The player that takes the last trick in a round captures the nest and scores any counters in it.

The Rook Bird card

The Rook Bird card is the highest trump card in the game. It takes any trick in which it is played.

You may play the Rook Bird card at any time, even if you are able to follow suit. It is the only card that may be played this way. If the Rook Bird card is led, all other players must play a trump card, if they have one. If the trump suit is led, and you have no other trump card, you must play the Rook Bird card.

Scoring

When all possible tricks have been taken, each team adds the counters it captured. If the bidding team failed to make the number of points bid, the team loses a number of points equal to the amount of the bid, and does not make any points for counters captured in the round. The opposing team receives points for any counters they captured.

The first team to reach 300 points is the winner.

Print the official rules here

Kentucky West(ish) Rules

This game is for four players in partnerships, partners sitting opposite and kitty corner.

Order of cards

  • Ones are high in each color, so the card ranking is 1-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.
  • The Rook card is the lowest card of whatever color is called as trump, ranking as a zero in that suit.
    (The Rook will beat any card that is not trump, but will lose to any other trump card.)

The card scoring values are:

  • Each 1. . . . . . . . .15 points
  • Each 14. . . . . . . 10 points
  • Each 10. . . . . . . 10 points
  • Each 5. . . . . . . . .5 points
  • The Rook. . . . . . 20 points

There are a total of 180 points available in each deal.

Dealing

  • Cards are dealt to each person, one at a time, with five cards dealt face down in the middle of the table as a kitty.
  • Misdeal: If a player is dealt a hand with no point cards, he can call a misdeal and get a new hand dealt.

Bidding

  • Person to the left of the dealer starts the bidding, and bidding goes clockwise around the table.
    At your turn, you can either bid or pass. If you pass, you cannot bid again in that hand.
    Bidding continues until three players have passed.
  • The lowest possible starting bid is 70 and bidding goes up in increments of at least 5.
  • There are 180 points total available. A bid of 110 – 120 is very achievable. A bid of 135-145 is do-able, but difficult.
  • If a team takes ALL the points in a hand, they are awarded 20 extra points, for a total of 200 points.

The Kitty and Choosing Trump

  • The winning bidder picks up the kitty cards, without showing them to the other players, and discards five cards of their choice face-down.
  • The bidder cannot put point cards into the kitty.
  • Exception: if the choice is between putting point cards and trump in the kitty, the bidder can put points in the kitty, but must inform the other players that points are in the kitty.
  • The winner of the last hand gets the points from the kitty.

Picking up the kitty can make the your hand better or worse:

  • You may be able to swap out cards to eliminate a color suit in your hand
  • You may acquire weak point cards which you have to keep

After discarding 5 cards, the bidder chooses trumps by naming a color.

Play

  • The player to the left of the high bidder leads any card to the first trick.
  • Trump cannot be led until someone has played a trump card on a trick where they cannot match color.
  • The other players in turn must play a card of the same color if they can.
  • If they have no card of the led color, they may play any card.
  • The Rook card counts as a card of the trump color. (But this card will be beat by any other trump card.)
  • When everyone has played a card, the trick is won by the player of the highest trump, or, if no trump was played, by the highest card of the color that was led.
  • The winner of a trick leads next.

End of Round and Scoring

  • At the end of play, each team counts the total value of the cards they have won in tricks.
  • If the tricks won by bidder’s team contain at least as many points as the bid, that team score the amount of card points they took. If the bidder’s team takes fewer card points than the bid, they score nothing for the cards they won; instead they subtract the amount of the bid from their previous score.
  • The non-bidding team always scores the total number of points taken by their team.

Winning the Game

  • The game ends when a team reaches 500 points or more. The team with the highest score wins.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

jason roberts January 6, 2011 at 3:18 am

Can your partner call trumps?

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admin January 6, 2011 at 6:17 am

No, not in the typical rook game rules.

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James Abens January 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm

My family has always played the following way:

All cards are used
Rook is low trump and must follow suit
No points can be discarded in the kitty
5′s worth 5, 10′s worth 10, 14′s worth 10, Rook worth 20, Tricks worth 30
High bidder leads first

Have you ever heard of this variabtion? Is there a name to it?

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admin January 19, 2011 at 12:50 am

Are 1′s still worth 15? I have heard of playing with tricks as 2 pts each in 2 player rook, but never counted in 4 player. Sounds a little closer to bridge. Might be fun!

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Matt Dillon April 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

James, I play the same way. With older decks, I believe that was the only set of rules. With newer decks, there are several variations of the game. However, I think the way you and I play is still considered the gold standard.

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Janet Backie October 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I need the instructions for a 16 person Rook round-robin tournament, please.

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admin October 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Hi Janet,
I have heard your request and created a guide to running a 16 person rook tournament now.

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Mike Folkerts January 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm

We have just begun playing with another couple. Usually none of us have good hands so the last person to bid has to bid 70. We take out the 1-4 cards as the rules state. What are we doing wrong? Once I bid 85 and lost even though I had enough trump cards and the 5,10 and 14. I led trump a lot…still did not make my bid.

we would appreciate some hints for beginners

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admin January 31, 2012 at 12:38 am

It doesn’t sound like you are doing anything wrong. There are different versions of rook, some that include the 1 – 4 and also have the last trick worth 20 pts.

Point structure:

Each 1. . . . . . . . .15 points
Each 14. . . . . . . 10 points
Each 10. . . . . . . 10 points
Each 5. . . . . . . . .5 points
The Rook. . . . . . 20 points

This would make a total of 200 pts including the last trick.

In your case it sounds like you only have 120 pts possible in each round. Therefore, if you do not have the rook in control, it would mean that it would be difficult to make a high bid. My best recommendation is to make sure you have a decent amount of high cards in each color so that you do not lose a lot of 14s and 10s from other colors besides your trump. Also, make sure that you are able to take the rook card.

Do you play rook as the highest trump or lowest?

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Rick Zirkle February 11, 2012 at 3:26 am

Highest

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Monica February 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm

my grandmother loved playing Rook. now that she is passed away i have her Rook cards. i am trying to learn the game and it seems fun. this is a great family game night game.

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Soren February 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm

My family in Minnesota plays with the following rules.

Take out the 2s, 3s, and 4s because they slow down the game. 1s are high. Rook is the lowest trump and must follow suit.
1s-15
14s-10
10s-10
5s-5
20 for the last trick.
200 points per hand.

5 card kitty for four person.

Misdeal if: No points in a hand or no card ten or higher.

Kitty: Can have a max of 15 points. You must say whether the kitty has points or not, but don’t have to say how many.

Any suggestions or changes?

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admin February 28, 2012 at 12:36 am

This is actually the exact version we play when our friend’s from Florida come to visit. Even with all the side rules about announcing points in the kitty, misdeals and points for last trick. Personally, I have always preferred playing with the 2s, 3s, and 4s included simply because I find it slightly more strategic and less about luck. When you take the 2s, 3s, and 4s out, the 5 card kitty becomes an even larger swing to the power of your hand. You are able to exchange 5 out of your 10 cards instead of only 5 out of 13.

I still enjoy playing both version with and without all the cards.

If you ever have an odd number of players (say 3, 5, or 7) you may want to try the game 8 up. It is similar to rook, but plays every person for themselves. Playing all 16 phases of the game is fairly long, but you do not have to play all phases if you do not wish.

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tom March 5, 2012 at 11:56 pm

In North Carolina and East Tennessee, I have always seen it played with the Rook card as the high trump and the red 2 as the second highest trump card (no matter what color gets called trump). The red 2 is referred to as the “Baby Rook” and takes any trick other than the “Big Bird.” The other twos and the threes and fours are removed from the deck and the ones are the highest card of each suit. Nothing is said about how many points are in the kitty and a misdeal is being dealt with no points in your hand.

Rook card-20 points
“Baby Rook”-20 point
1s-15
14s-10
10s-10
5s-5
No additional points per hand
No additional points for the last trick
Last hand takes the kitty

After reading some of the other rules that people play out there in other areas, it makes the rules that I am used to seem rather cut-throat and these that I am reading about sound pretty tame.

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Darlene March 25, 2012 at 3:51 am

I use to play where 1-4′s was removed except the red 4 & it was highest in points then the rook was next. Has anyone ever played by those rules? If so can someone please refresh my memory on how the points was done. I believe the rook was 25 & the Red 4 was 50. I can’t romember the other cards points was.

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MamawW June 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm

This is the debate at the Senior Center. I had read that you could not look back at cards taken once the next card is in play. Would like an answer please.

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admin June 4, 2012 at 7:25 pm

This rule is different from house to house. Our house rule is that as soon as a card is in play, you can look back on to only the one previous round of four cards. As soon as all four cards have been played, you can no longer look back to that round.

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Carol September 4, 2012 at 5:58 am

We played this game so much as kids and I just bought a deck of Rook cards and notice the rules are different than the way we used to play. We played that the 1′s were worth 15, we did not discard the 2′s, 3′s and 4′s. The Rook was the lowest of the trump cards. We did not do anything special for the last trick played. My sister and I frequently played with a dummy and usually we would bid around 100 points and with a good hand generally we were able to make them. We did not discard point cards and no one got the discards at the end of the game, not that there was anything in there worth anything anyways. I think I will keep playing this way.

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Debbie March 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I can not find in the rules when your bid is “shoot the moon”. This means doubling your bid to 240 and you must pull every hand.
Has anyone heard of this?

REPLY

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Daivd November 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm

i guess its pretty wide open for the rules..we play take out 1-4 except black 1..makes 42 cards..rook is highest (how could it not be look at it :)) black one second highest (little rook) 5s= 5 pts, 10s and 14s =10 pts both rooks worth 20 pts for a total of 140… no points can be put in kitty (nest) unless there is no choice and if done must be turned up for all to see.. last hand winner gets nest…..we tried to allow for pts to go into nest without needing to be put there but winner of kitty almost always just runs everyone out of trump and gets 120-140 pts everytime, thats no fun to me–got to have a way to mess up winner of kitty somehow?

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Debbie March 3, 2013 at 7:56 am

I can not find in the rules “shooting the moon”. This means doubling Your score to 240 and you must pull every hand.
Has anyone heard of this?

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admin March 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Shooting the moon is also different from household to household. In our game, we play that when you shoot the moon, you are bidding 200 pts (our total amount for the round). And if you succeed, you will gain double that (400). But if you fail, you lose 400 pts. So it is a very big risk. Some require that not only all the points must be taken, but all the tricks as well. In addition, some people require in order to shoot the moon that you as the bidder must win every hand and not even your partner can help. In our game, we play with the 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s so it is even less likely that a person can shoot the moon. So we allow the partner to help.

In the Call Partner game, shooting the moon happens much more frequently.

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Rondi Wellum April 9, 2013 at 2:07 am

Map grandparents from OK and TX taught us Rook. Everyone in my family plays. Here are our variations.
1-4 removed
rook is 10.5
5′s=5, 10′s and 14′s = 10, rook = 20
Bidding starts at 80
Kitty also called widow – top card shown
Widow can have points and don’t have to announce
Person taking last trick catches points in widow
90/95 pretty typical bid. Rarely does someone win bid less than 90.

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buck May 28, 2013 at 3:19 am

i have a question:is there such a thing called shooting the moon. where partners rake all the tricks and double their points?

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admin May 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

We play that you can shoot the moon if: 1) You bid for shooting the moon during the bidding phase. 2) You take all the tricks in the round between you and your partner.

You then get 400 pts for successfully shooting the moon. If you do not succeed, however, we play you then lose 400 pts.

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buck May 28, 2013 at 3:27 am

in partners——-do you have to have the rook to shoot the moon

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admin May 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Shooting the moon is different from household to household. The way we play is you do not have to have the rook (since the rook is low) in order to shoot the moon. However, you do have to take it and all the tricks of the round in order to shoot the moon.

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Marrs March 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Rook-30 pts. Top card. Little black 1 is 20 pts.,
14′s-10pts., 10′s-10pts., 5′s-5pts., top score 180. 500 wins the game. There are no 1′s, 2′s, 3′s, or 4′s in game ( except the little black 1). Which is second to win any after the big took bird. Yes you can sh joy the moon when bidding but you have to win every card, have a perfect hand to win & if you do you will win game.

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