OBJECTIVE OF CALIFORNIA JACK:  Be the first player to score 10 game points


NUMBER OF CARDS: Standard 52 card deck

RANK OF CARDS: 2 (low) – Ace (high), trump suit 2 (low) – Ace (high)

TYPE OF GAME: Trick taking

AUDIENCE: Kids to adults


California Jack is a trick taking game for two people. Rather than placing emphasis on the amount of tricks each player takes, this game calls for specific cards to be taken.  In fact, the scoring system is what makes California Jack such an interesting game for people who are new to it.

The complexity of the scoring system may also turn some players away.  A simpler way to keep score is included in the scoring section below.


Shuffle the cards thoroughly and deal six cards one at a time to each player.  The remainder of the deck is the draw pile.  Put it face up in the center of the playing space. 

The top card shown determines trump for the round.  For example, if the 5 of clubs is shown, clubs are trump for this round.  Clubs remain the trump suit until the next deal.  The trump suit becomes the highest valued cards for the round.  For example, the 2 of clubs is higher than the Ace of any other suit.

Once the cards are dealt and a trump suit is determined, play can begin.


The player opposite of the dealer goes first.  They may play any card from their hand.  The opposite player must follow suit if able.  If they cannot follow suit, they may play any card of their choice. 

The highest card in the suit that was led or the highest trump card takes the trick.

Whoever wins the trick takes the top card from the draw pile.  The opposite player then takes the next card.  This means that each player sees the card that they can win for taking the trick.  This gives players the choice to try and win that particular card or not. 

The player who took the trick also leads. 

Play like this continues until all of the cards – including all of the cards from the draw pile – have been played.  Once all of the cards are played, the round is over.


As stated in the introduction, scoring is the aspect of California Jack that makes the game unique and challenging.  Scoring can be broken into two categories: trick points and game points.  Just remember that game points are what make up the player’s running score.  Each round, players have the potential to earn up to four game points.  Let’s take a closer look at how points are earned.

Trick Points

Players earn trick points for capturing specific cards. Think of earning these points as a game within the game.  The player with the most trick points earns one game point.    

Jacks1 Points
Queens2 Points
Kings3 Points
Aces4 Points
Tens10 Points

Game Points

Players earn game points for capturing specific cards.

Trump Ace1 Point
Trump J1 Point
Trump 21 Point
Most Trick Points Earned  1 Point

Once game points have been awarded to each player, the next round may begin.  The first player to earn 10 or more game points wins.  In the event that the game ends in a tie, and both players have earned the same score of ten or more, play until the tie is broken.

Simplified Scoring

To make gameplay and scorekeeping a little easier, simply award a game point to the player who takes the most tricks.  Do this instead of adding up 10’s, J’s, Q’s, K’s and Aces.  With this rule change, player only need to focus on taking the most tricks while also capturing the trump suited Ace, Jack, and 2.

Mark Ball
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