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About Rook

In the days of my youth (mid '70s) in a small town in Georgia, we teens would play Rook. There are a number of variations of the game as listed in the official rule book from Parker Brothers on how to play Rook. The version we played wasn't any of them. So in the interest of posterity, here's the rules we went by on how to play Rook:

Rook is Parker Brothers four-suit numerical card game: "The Game of Games". A Rook deck contains four suits: Red, Green, Black and Yellow. There are numbered cards from 1 to 14 in each deck. This plus the Rook Picture card gives us a total of 57 cards in a Rook deck. In a four-person game we take out the 2s, 3s and 4s. This leaves us with 45 cards we actually play with.


Certain cards count points. The 5s count 5 points each, the 10s count 10 points each, the 14s count 10 points each, the 1s count 15 points each and the Rook counts 20. This makes for a total of 180 points in each hand.


Rook is generally played with four people. The players who sit opposite each other are partners and constitute a team. The two teams play each other in the game. A game is won when a team reaches a pre-determined number of points, generally 500. A game of 1000 makes for a long game.


The cards are delt face-down, 10 to a player. The remaining five cards are placed in the middle of the table with the top card face up. This is the "nest", "kitty" or "widow".


After the cards are delt, the person to the dealer's left starts the bidding. The minimum bid is 100. This bid represents the number of points that person feels that their team can capture if they have the priviledge of calling trumps. Bidding proceedes to the left. Bids must be a multiple of 5 (100, 120, 135, etc up to 180). A person can either bid higher than the previous high bid or drop out of the bidding on that hand by saying "pass". The highest bidder (after everyone else has passed) has the priviedge of calling what suit is trumps. The winner of the bid picks up the five cards in the middle of the table, discards five cards of his choice back into the "widow" and calls trumps.

Play Begins

The person who took the bid and called trumps plays a card face up in the middle of the table. Play then proceeds to the left until each player has played a card. These four cards constitue a "trick". The person who played the strongest card takes the trick and retires the cards onto their side. This is called "taking a trick." The person who took the trick gets to lead the first card for the next trick. Play proceeds through 10 tricks as each player plays all their cards.

Play Details

Whatever suit (red, black, green, or yellow) is led, i.e. is the first card played in a trick must be played by each player. If a player doesn't have a card of the suit that was led, he may play a card of any suit. In playing, the strength of the card is its numerical value, except for the "1". It is like an ace, the highest card in each suit. So from lowest to highest, the cards in a suit are 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,1. The trump suit is the highest suit. If red is trumps and black is led in a trick a player who is out of black may play a red card. If no other player plays a higher red, the person who played the red (trump) card takes the trick. The Rook card is the highest of the suit called as trumps and must be played as a trump card.


At the conclusion of the hand each team counts up the point cards they captured in their tricks. If the team that won the bid makes at least their bid, they keep all their points. If they failed to make as many points as they bid they "go set": that is whatever they bid is deducted from their score. The team that didn't win the bid keeps whatever points they made in any event. This is how to play Rook our style.


Whoever takes the last trick also gets the five cards the winner of the bid set aside as the "widow". It is also possible to call "no trumps": i.e. the highest card of whatever suit leds wins. This is how we play Rook. In this case the Rook can be played at any time and takes the trick. If a person who took the bid can't decide what to call trumps, he can let his partner call trumps. If the bidder discards the widow first, there is no increase in the bid. If he wants his partner to call trumps before the discard, the bid is increased by 5 points. Some people play that if the Rook comes up on top of the widow, all players must "bid blind" i.e. bid without looking at their hand. A special bid is "shoot the moon" this means the player bids 180 points. If the fail, they go set by 180 points, if the make it they get 500 points. In the bidding process, if nobody wants to take the bid, the dealer must take it for the minimum bid, usually 100 points. If a player is delt a hand with no point cards, he can call a mis-deal and get a new hand delt.

Historical Footnote

Why was Rook popular in the South? In the Bible Belt, some considered playing with a standard 52 card deck to be sinful, so they played Rook instead. Rook is somewhat of a "redneck bridge" in that the partners, bidding, trumps and play are somewhat reminiscent of bridge, but much simplified.


*Information courtesy of Brent Laminack

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