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Kentucky Rook

This description is based on a contribution from John Hay, who says that this form of Rook is extremely popular in Eastern Kentucky, almost to the exclusion of other card games.

This game is for four players in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite. All the twos, threes and fours are removed from the deck, leaving 45 cards including the Rook card. Ones are high in each color, so that the card ranking is 1-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5. The Rook card counts as the highest card of whatever color is trumps, ranking above the one. The card values are:

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

So that a total of 180 points are available in each deal.

Ten cards are dealt to each person, one at a time, and five cards are placed face down in the middle of the table to form the nest - the dealer adds one card to the nest after each of the first five rounds of the deal.

The players then bid to decide who will have a chance to choose trumps. Each bid is a number; the minimum bid is 100, and higher bids must be multiples of 5. The player to the left of the dealer has the first chance to bid and the turn to speak passes clockwise around the table. At your turn, you can either bid or pass. Each bid must be higher than the last, and a player who has passed cannot bid again in that hand. The bidding continues as many times around the table as necessary until three players have passed. The fourth player is the high bidder, and the high bidder's team tries to take at least the number of points mentioned in the final bid. If on the first round of bidding the first three players pass, then the dealer is forced bid 100.

The bidder must then pick up the nest cards, without showing them to the other players, to make a hand of 15 cards, and then discard five of these cards face-down to form a new nest. The bidder is not allowed to put point cards into the nest. Picking up the nest can sometimes make the your hand worse: you may acquire several weak point cards which you have to retain, discarding in their place cards that you would have liked to keep. Having discarded, the bidder chooses trumps by naming a color.

The player to the left of the high bidder leads any card to the first trick. 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. 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 to the next.

At the end of the 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 take 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 score the total number of points taken by their team, whether the bid was successful or not.

The game ends when a team reaches 500 points or more. The team which then has the higher score is the winner.

Variations of Kentucky Rook

Some people play with the Rook as the lowest card of the trump color rather than the highest.

Some people allow the bidder to discard point cards. In that case any points in the nest belong to the team that wins the last trick.

The book supplied with decks of Rook cards gives "Official Rook Tournament Rules" for a game called Kentucky Discard, which differs from the above game as follows:

  • The ones are omitted from the deck, leaving 41 cards. Thus the highest card in each suit (except trumps) is the 14, and the total value of the cards in the deck is only 120 points.
  • Nine cards are dealt to each player, and five to the nest.
  • The dealer bids first, and the minimum bid is 70.
  • Count cards may be discarded, and score for the winners of the last trick.
  • The Rook card is the highest trump. It can be played to any trick, regardless of whether you could have followed suit to the led color. It must be played if a trump is led and you have no other trumps. If the Rook card is led, the other players must play trumps if they can.
  • When a team reaches 300 points, the team with the higher total wins.


*Information courtesy of John McLeod

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