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How To Play The Game Rook
Rook is a trick-taking game which uses a special deck of cards made specifically for the game. The term "rook" can also be used to describe a wide variety of other games played with these special cards.
History of the Game
Rook cards were originally created by Parker Brothers in 1906. The company did so in response to a widespread movement where religious leaders (particularly of the fundamentalist protestant religions such as the Mennonites) denounced playing cards as evil and called them the "devil's tool."
While these people were forbidden from playing with a standard deck of cards, Rook cards fell outside of the category (since they weren't used for games like Poker and Blackjack) and were allowable. This closely mirrors the Kvitlech cards, which were created for Central European Jews who were forbidden from playing with regular cards.
Through the decades, Rook cards have sometimes been referred to as "Christian cards."
Rook is particularly popular in Eastern Kentucky, the Mennonite communities of Southern Ontario, Pennsylvania, Manitoba, Ohio, and assorted other parts of North America.
Rules of the Game
There are 57 cards in a Rook deck. Four suits are colored black, red, green, and yellow. Cards are numbered in each suit from 1 to 14. The 14th card is the highest, while the 1 card is the lowest. The 57th card is called the Rook card, and features an illustration of the bird named the rook.
Numerous games can be played with the Rook cards, and most tend to be point-trick games which feature trumps and bidding. The 14 and 10 of each suit are generally referred to as "counting cards" and are worth 10 points each. The 5 card is usually worth 5 points. The Rook card is usually used as an extra trump and is worth 20 points when played. In some variations, the 1 is valued above the 14 and is worth 15 points. Only these certain cards have a point value. The other cards are worth zero.
In the most standard version of the game, four players are organized into teams, with partners sitting across from one another. Players must keep their cards secret from all other players, even their partner. A team can win the game by being the first to score 300 points by taking tricks. If both teams score over 300 in a round, the team with the higher score will win.
The dealer begins by removing the 1, 2, 3, and 4 cards from the deck and adding the Rook card. This leaves a total of 41 cards. The dealer then shuffles the cards and cuts them. He deals the cards, one at a time to all four players. After each player has received their first card, the dealer places one card face-down in the center of the table. The dealer passes out another card to each player and then places another card in the center of the table. This center pile is known as the nest. When 5 cards have been placed in the nest, the rest of the cards are dealt out normally to the players.
Once the deal is complete, players bid in increments of 5 points for the right to name the "Trumps" suit. The bidding begins to the left of the dealer and passes clockwise. The minimum bid is 70 points and the maximum is 120 points (which is what a team would score if they captured all the counters in a game). If a player chooses not to increase the bid, then he passes to the next player. A player who passes is prohibited from making another bid that round. The highest bidder adds the nest cards to his or her hand, then places any five cards from their hand to the side. At this point, the high bidder names the trump suit.
After the winning bidder has declared the trump suit, the player to the dealer's left plays a card of any suit face-up on the center of the table. Play moves clockwise around the table, with each player placing one card face-up on their turn. All cards played must be of the same suit as the first card played. After each player has placed a card on the table, the person who played the highest ranking card of the suit is said to have "captured the trick." A captured trick is placed face-down in front of the player who took it.
If the player cannot play a card of the lead suit, he may either play the Rook card, a card of the trump suit, or any other card from his hand. A trump card will, as the name implies, override any card played of the leading suit.
The Rook card, however, is the highest trump card in the game and will take any other card. The Rook card may be played at any time, even if you are able to follow suit, but it is the only card which may be played in such a fashion. If someone leads with a Rook card, then all other players must play a trump card if they have one. You may also play the Rook card if a trump card is led and you don't have one in your hand.
If a player fails to follow suit when he or she could have, the mistake may be remedied before the next trick is taken. If the mistake stands and the round ends, the team who made the error loses a number of points equal to the bid, regardless of who made the bid. In addition, the opposing team scores points for all the counters they had captured before the error was discovered. For this reason, it is very important that players pay close attention to the cards in their hand.
The player who takes the trick plays the first card on the next hand. The player who takes the last trick in a round will capture the nest and scores points for any counters contained within.
When all tricks have been captured, each team adds up the counters which they have taken. If the bidding team has failed to capture a number of points equal to their bid, then they lose points equal to the bid and receive no points for any captured counters. The opposing team, however, will still receive points for any counters which they captured in the round. The first team to reach a score of 300 wins the game.
Rook can also be played with a standard deck of cards. To do so, remove the 2, 3, and 4 cards and add the joker to substitute as the Rook card. The ace will count as the 1 card.
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