- Standard deck of 52 cards with two distinguishable jokers – one considered “high” and one considered “low”.
- Four (4) people
- Something to keep score (paper and pen)
The short version is take the rules for 7-Point Cut-Throat Pitch and add a “phantom” player.
The phantom is dealt cards like a regular player but [obviously] doesn’t bid nor play. After the four human players bid and play out the hand by the standard cut-throat rules and scoring begins, the phantom hand is turned over for all to see. The phantom is considered to have captured all six cards in the phantom’s hand and is assigned to a team depending on whether or not it holds the high trump or low trump (or both). The phantom’s points are added to its teams points.
Note that it is usually embarrassing to have the phantom beat you.
Pick a person at random to deal. Dealership proceeds clockwise after each hand.
Lightly shuffle the cards and deal three (3) at a time to each player until each player has six (6) cards – don’t forget to deal the phantom his cards.
“Teams” are formed on a hand-by-hand basis. The player dealt the high of trump is partnered with the person dealt the low of trump; all other players are on the other team. Until you’ve seen the ace and deuce of trump, you won’t know who is teamed with whom until the last card is played and the phantom hand turned up for all to see. If the same person has both the high and low of trump, they are a team unto themselves.
Bidding starts with the person left of dealer and proceeds clockwise until everyone has had one chance to bid or pass – everyone except the phantom who just quietly sits there.
When it is a person’s turn to bid, they must either pass or bid higher than the previous high bid. The minimum bid allowed is two (2). The person is basically bidding how many points they believe their team can take if they get to choose the trump suit.
The amount bid is recorded for scoring at the end of the hand.
Whoever has the high bid leads first and they must lead trump to the first trick. If the trump suit is not obvious by the card lead, the person announces the trump suit (see trump suit ranking below – effectively if a jack or joker is led then the trump suit must be announced).
Play proceeds clockwise until all players (except the phantom) have played to the trick. At a person’s turn, if they have the suit led, they must follow suit or play trump. If they do not have the suit led, they are free to play any card left in their hand that they wish to play.
Whoever played the highest trump card takes the trick. If no trump cards were played on the trick then whoever played the highest card of the suit led takes the trick (it’s best to gather up the cards played to the trick and turn them face down in front of the player who took the trick for later scoring). Whoever takes the trick leads to the next trick (rinse, lather, repeat).
Trump Suit Ranking
The trump suit ranking is as follows: ace, king, queen, jack of suit, jack of color, high joker, low joker, ten, nine, eight, … two. Note that the jack of color is considered a trump card just below the jack of suit. The jack of suit is the jack of the trump suit. The jack of color is the jack of the same color as trump and is considered to be a member of the trump suit for the hand (and not a member of it’s “normal” suit).
For example, assume spades (black) is trump then the jack of clubs (also black) is considered trump and ranks just below the jack of spades. If someone leads clubs and the only club in a person’s hand is the jack of clubs, the person is free to play any card from their hand that they want (since the jack of clubs is considered a spade for the hand).
The hand is scored on a team basis, but the game is scored on an individual player basis. In other words, you calculate the hand score and then apply that score to each individual (since the next hand may bring a different team combination.)
After the last trick has been played to the hand, the phantom hand it turned face up for all to see. If the phantom has the high of trump, it is partnered with the person dealt the low of trump (and if it holds the low of trump partnered with the high of trump; if both, the phantom is a team unto itself).
The phantom’s hand is mixed in with the cards from the rest of its team and the hand is scored. One point is awarded for each of the following:
- high of trump (awarded to whoever captured the card)
- low of trump (awarded to whoever it was dealt to)
- jack of suit (awarded to whoever captured the card)
- jack of color (awarded to whoever captured the card)
- high joker (awarded to whoever captured the card)
- low joker (awarded to whoever captured the card)
- game (discussed below)
If the team that bid the highest does not score their bid or more then they go down (lose) the same number of points as they bid. In other words, everyone on that team loses that number of points.
Note that the only two points that are guaranteed to be out are high trump and low trump (since the full deck isn’t used, there is a chance that no jacks or jokers are out and the two teams may tie on the game point).
Scoring the “Game Point”
The winner of the game point is determined by adding up the value of the cards that each team captures. For each ace capture, add 4; king, 3; queen, 2; jack 1; ten, 10; and zero for all other cards. Which ever team has the most captured value, they win the game point. In the event of a tie then no game point is awarded for the hand.
Play proceeds until a person scores 21 or more points. If more than one person scores 21 or more and one of them is bidder from the hand just completed, the bidder wins – even if the other player has more points. Failing that, whoever scored the highest wins. If there was a tie for highest and the bidder is not 21 or higher, play continues until someone is the clear winner (which could be anyone).