Tag Archives: trick taking game

Re-Deal: I Wish it Wasn’t So Hard to Get

The other day we were having a great session of rook.  The first time my original group of 4 people had played in over 2 years.  You know…life happens.   At any rate, it wasn’t the most competitive of sessions as we were too busy catching up on how everyone was doing.  What’s new in life, who got married, who had kids, who is having grand-kids…the norm.

So during the match we played, twice I was dealt some of the worst hands I could ever imagine.  Back to back, I was dealt 13 cards, none of which were over 12, and I only had one point card each time.  The first had I was dealt one 10 and the second hand I was dealt one 5.  Our requirements for a redeal in rook (since we play with the 2s 3s and 4s) is all cards must be 12 or under and you have no point cards.  People have different requirements for redeal.   Some do not even play with the redeal option at all.  It is so rare that we sort of like it.

The hands I was actually dealt though happened to be even worse than a redeal hand since I was forced to play them and I had no way of cluing my partner in that my hand was horrendous.  The only thing I could do was remove myself from the bidding early on, but the way the bidding went, it was not obvious how completely terrible I was sitting.

In fact, since my hand was so bad, it meant that everyone else’ hand was actually very good, including my partners.  So my partner bid strong thinking that if I could just help in a few places or the kitty filled in a hole or two, we would be fine.  Of course, I did not take a single trick.   And since I didn’t have but one point card each round, the opponents had a lot of point cards they could play on each other.

Needless to say, we did not win those rounds and got set pretty convincingly.  While we were just 100 points away from victory before these two games, we dropped all the back to being down more than 400 pts.  Luckily for us, our opposition was a bit rusty as well and we were able to set them back to -500 with some pretty ugly sets…including two rounds where trump was called by our opponents and I look down to see 6 of the trump cards ready for setting.

Since we had such a lead on them, we ended up winning the match for the night.  I just took a lot longer than it should have.  Yeah for another session of rook with the old crew!

Do you ever have those nights where the cards are just making really strange games?  A lot more setting than normal.  Some nights you can finish a round to 500 pts in an hour.  Some nights it takes almost 3 hours.  This night was one of those longer sessions.

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: Poor Trump Distribution

There are times when you make a bid and you know you do not have the strongest of hands, but you are hoping that your partner has some help for you.  Maybe some extra 1s or a bunch of your trump color.  With these possibilities in mind, you set out to win a round that you typically would expect to loose.

The next thing you know, you partner has already shown that they are out of trumps, and not only that, one of your other opponents has already shown they are out as well.  You count down the amount of trumps in your hand and you know the sad truth, one of your opponents has exactly the same amount of trumps as you.

Do not panic, just make sure you are paying extra attention to all the cards being played.   You are going to need to know if your are able to slough that off-trump 9 or keep it and hope that it is actually going to win a trick.

A few things are extremely important to help avoid the inevitable set:

  • Know that if you trump in, you may be giving your opponent the last trick of the game if they are able to get the lead and lead trump to pull all of the trump from your hand.
  • Try your best to keep your opponent that has trump from getting the lead without them having to use trump.
  • Focus on getting the last trick primarily as it not only takes the 20 pts automatically, but it also takes the points in the kitty and the points of the trick (usually there are some nice points in the last trick).
  • If you have a choice between securing the rook or securing the last trick, choose the last trick and let them take the bird.
  • Count, count, count the points that have been taken.  On rare occasions, the partner may not have a lot of points to give.  So even though the opponent has a lot of trump and takes a lot of tricks, they may not have taken a lot of points.
  • You are not going to lose by simply losing a lot of tricks.  You are going to lose if you do not try and minimize the losses.  Conceding well timed losses may be the key to staying on track and not getting set.

Final note: Getting set is not the end of the world.  It happens to the best of us.  If you get set, don’t give up on the round.   Who knows, the very next hand you may be shooting the moon!

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.

Is the Rook Game similar to the Bridge Card Game?


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.