Tag - strategy

Taking a Rook Hiatus: Why Some Players Think Rook Has No Strategy

Rook Strategy

It has been almost six months since we played our last competitive match of rook.  Wow, since I learned to play 5 years ago, I never thought it would occur.   There are simply so many people that play rook and consistently great fun each time we play.  However, sometimes all it takes is one or two people getting tired of the rook game to cause a real stir in the game’s consistency.

One of our good friends that we play a lot of games with (board games, card games, etc.) has decided that the rook game lacks in strategic playing.  This is a real surprise to me as I have found that there enough strategy involved in the game that I needed to write about it.  And so I did.  I also find myself discussing strategies with other players during and after games, just to get their opinion on different decisions made.

Let’s take a look at the non-strategic game of rook

So what might make the game of rook more about luck than strategy?  Well, there are a number of elements about rook that can really cause a person to simply not find a lot of skill involved in the game.

  • The 5 card kitty – It is definitely true that the rook game’s kitty is an extremely lucky portion of the game.  Every player at the table is gambling on whether or not those 5 cards are going to make or break your hand.  Bidders can sometimes simply bid higher and “hope” that the kitty is strong enough to make their hand worthy of the high bid.
  • Your partners hand matching yours – Even the most “skilled” of rook players cannot stop a team when their opponents hands match perfectly.   One player has the 1 of trump.  The partner has the 14 of trump.  And each of them have 6 trump cards in their hand.  Then the off suit colors match as well.   Yes, there simply are those times when you cannot stop opponents with matching hands.

What makes Rook about Skill?

If these matters above weight heavily on your rook game playing, you may be missing out on some finer points of the game which send it to a level of strategy.

  • Playing with weak hands – Anyone can win when they are dealt monster hands, but being able to correctly predict your bid and make a bid when you do not have a lot of power is what really can separate those that think the game is just luck, and those that see the finer points in the game.  With 200 points, there is a lot of room to make mistakes, but when you are bidding higher and higher for the scale of your hand, it takes making as few mistakes as possible to make sure that you are going to  retrieve every possible point card you can.   Strategy kicks in when you can maximize the amount of points you and your opponent are able to take each round and correctly bid (or allow opponent to win bidding) accordingly.
  • Knowing when to try and set your opponent – Because rook is a game of rounds, you do not need to have exactly the same aggression in each round.  Some rounds you may find that you can take some extra risks in your bidding, while other times you may have a strong hand but try to sink your opponent with the hand to get your team a better chance to win.  When you play an entire game to 500, you have a bit of room to strategies in each game.  Try to mix it up to throw your opponents off and play around with your bidding strategies.
  • Know your opponent – Just like any card game, you don’t really have to see a person’s cards to gain insight into what cards they have in their hand.  If you know what cards they have in their hand, would that change the card you play?  If you know your opponent only is holing the 14 of a color in their hand, you would certainly play the 1 right then if you had it.  There are many cases where you can make educated guesses as to what your opponenet might be holding based on their playing history.   Some people like to play all their power cards right at the beginning.  Others you can expect they may save their power cards to the very end.  You may even catch different player’s strategies on what they leave in the Kitty (point cards, voiding a color, or dropping all low cards).  All of these different tendencies can lead you to some great insight on what your opponents are holding throughout the game.

No the game of rook is not like playing chess.  The game of chess is highly involved and simply has a vast amount strategy due to the possibility of moves involved in every play.  However, we have found that the players that believe that there is no strategy in rook are the same players that look at games by simply a matter of numbers and percentages.  They see that there is a high percentage of cards in both the kitty and teammate and they then say that therefore there is too much luck involved to allow for skill to play a significant role in the game playing.  It is these same players that find themselves over bidding their hands and getting sunk on what should be an easy win.  It is also these same players that miss opportunities to play point cards to your teammate by not being aware of bidding strategies or player styles.

We instead see so much potential for strategic playing.  You can get to know your teammate really well and that will help your overall playing ability.  You can get to know our opponents and make better decisions accordingly. Rook strategies are all around and if you are not thinking strategically when playing, you simply are missing a large portion of the game.

Rook Strategy: Playing Against Different Opponents

It seems as though the rook game keeps growing and growing.  People I would never have expected to play the game I find out randomly play.  Not only do they play, but they play well!  The more and more people I find that play the game, the more I realize, I there are a number of different strategies and methods to go about tackling a win in the game of rook.  For this reason, we have come to the realization that getting away from playing only with your one or two typical opponents can help expand your game into new and great places.

We are like the typical rook playing couple.  We have two friends that we have played against over and over again. Not only do we play together a lot, but we keep a running tally of our total scores.  Last I recall we are somewhere around 83 – 84 wins each team.  While we love this, it is rare when we actually get together with other players or actually make a rook tournament to play with more than 8 players.

The last rook tournament we played was great!  I have expressed how I felt we got unlucky with the cards we were dealt, however, there is for sure a portion of our loss which was attributed to this being the first time we played against some of these opponents.

There were two aspects that I noticed threw our typical play off a bit.

  1. The Bidding: I found that bidding with different players is the hardest to handle the change with in a short period.  Some people start the bidding at their maximum bid, leaving no room or manipulating.  Some stop bidding really early  rather than risking losing.  Others can be very tricky and focus more on setting their opponent rather than taking the bid themselves.  So they may fake the strength of their hands by passing early.
  2. The way trumps are played.  With my close opponents, we are very used to controlling the trumps.  This usually means that we will play trumps until they are all gone.  On the rare occasion trumps may last in an opponents hand until the end.   It creates a very different style of play when trumps are not led hardly at all.  Instead, a significant amount of trumping and overtrumping occurs.  I don’t know if I recommend this strategy all that often, but I will say that it is extremely unpredictable.  Sometimes it works, some times it doesn’t.

All of this being said, it is great to see the different strategies take place.  They have brought to light a couple of different things.  One, I am glad to incorporate a variety of new strategies in my style of play.  Two, it allows you to be able to pick up on a person’s strategy at the table more quickly.   So if you realize a person is trying to set you, play accordingly.  As with anything you are trying to improve on, the more you play, the more experience you gain.  The more experience you gain, this will ultimately lead to a larger wealth of game history.   The trick is making sure you learn from your game history to lead your game play.

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.