Five Hundred

OBJECTIVE OF FIVE HUNDRED: Reach 500 points first.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-6 players

NUMBER OF CARDS: 43 card pack

RANK OF CARDS: A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4

RANK OF SUITS: NT (No Trumps) > Hearts > Diamonds > Clubs > Spades

TYPE OF GAME: Trick-Taking

AUDIENCE: Adult


INTRODUCTION TO FIVE HUNDRED

Despite Five Hundred being the official card game of Australia, it was actually developed in the United States and copyrighted there in 1904. The game’s name is a reference to its objective- be the first player or team to reach a score of 500 points. It is a variation of Euchre with these following changes:

  • Players are dealt 10 cards as opposed to 5,
  • trump is not turned up, rather it is chosen by the player willing to contract for the greatest number of tricks,
  • the pack size is adjusted to allow all cards to be dealt to players except three to the kitty, which can be used by the highest bidder.

Add more packs of cards to accommodate games with large groups of players. Below are the rules for the more popular Australian version of the game in addition to variations.

SET UP

Players & Cards

Most games have four players with teams of 2 sitting across from each other.

a 43 card pack is used that contains:

  • A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 in red suits, 
  • A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 in black suits, 
  • One Joker referred to as a bird. (Australian card decks depict a Kookaburra as opposed to a Jester)

In the trump suit the highest card is the joker, then the jack of the trump suit (the right bower or rb), then the other jack that is the same color (the left bower or lb). The ranking is therefore Joker, RB, LB, A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 or 4. Trump suits outrank the others.

The word bower is an Anglicization of the German word Bauer, which means farmer, peasant, or pawn. Bauer is often used to refer to jacks in German card games. 

The Deal

The deal, bidding, and play moves clockwise. The initial dealer is chosen randomly. Cards are shuffled, cut, and then 10 are passed to each player and 3 face-down in the middle of the table to create the kitty. The pattern of dealing is as follows: 3 cards to each player, 1 card to the kitty, 4 cards to each player, 1 card to the kitty, 3 cards to each player, 1 card to the kitty.

The Bidding

Bidding begins with the player to the left of the dealer and moves clockwise.

A trick refers to a round or unit of play on a hand within a trick-taking game. Tricks are evaluated to determine a winner or taker. 

The potential bids are:

  • The number of tricks (minimum of six) and the trumping suit, this bid indicates the total number of tricks them and their partner will take and the trumping suit for that hand.
  • A number, of at least six, of “No Trumps,” referred to as “No-ies.” This bid indicates a player and their partner will try to win with that number of tricks without a trumping suit. No Trumps means the Joker will be the only trump card.
  • Misere (Nullo, Nello, Nula), it is a contract to lose all tricks. Play alone, a partner drops out. The bid means the player is not attempting to win any tricks. Misère is French for extreme poverty.
  • Open Misere is similar to a misere but the contractor’s hand is displayed face-up after the first trick.
  • Blind Misere is the same bid as Misere but occurs before a player looks at their cards.
  • Bids can be made Sans Kitty, meaning they players will fulfill the contract of their bid without the kitty.

A player who does not bid can pass. If all players pass the cards are thrown in and the hand ends.

After a bid, each subsequent bid must be higher. A higher bid is either more tricks or an equal number of tricks in a higher suit. The suit rankings outlined above apply. The lowest bid is 6 Spades and the highest possible bid is 10 No Trumps.

Misere is higher than a bid of 7 and lower than a bid of 8. It can only be bid after someone has bid 7.

An Open Misere is a bid higher than the 10 of diamonds and lower than the 10 of hearts. One does not need to wait for any particular level of bid, it can even be the first bid.

If you pass you are not permitted to bid again. The bidding continues until all but one player has passed. The highest bid becomes a contract the bidder (or contractor) has to make.

GAMEPLAY

The contractor starts by picking up the three cards in the kitty, without showing them to other players, and discarding three cards in their hand in their place. Cards in the kitty may be included. If the bid was Misere or Open Misere the contractor’s partner does not participate in game play and places their cards face-down on the table.

The contractor initiates the first trick and other players follow suit if possible. A player without cards in the leading suit may play any card. The highest trump wins (takes) the trick. If there are not trumps played, the highest card of the leading suit wins. The winner of a trick leads in the next. After all 10 tricks are played the hand is scored.

If the contractor bid Open Misere after the first trick their hand must be exposed on the table. The rest of the hand is played in this fashion.

Play of Joker

The joker is the highest trump if there is a trump suit.

If the bid is No Trumps, Misere, Open Misere, or Blind Misere the joker can be used either:

  • The contractor who holds the joker nominates the suit it belongs to. This must be done before gameplay. Joker is then high card of that suit, OR
  • In the even the contractor does not hold the joker, or holds it and does not nominate a suit for it, it does not belong to a suit. It acts as the highest card as the pack and beats the trick it is played in. However, there are restrictions on when it may be played:
    • If the trick was led by another player you can only play the joker if you have no cards in that suit.
    • If the contract is any Misere you must play the joker if you have no cards of the leading suit. However, in No Trump this is not necessary, you may discard any card of any suit and play the joker in a later trick.
    • Lead with a joker and nominate the suit. The suit must have not been previously led in a trick.
    • If all four suits have been led the joker can only be played in the last trick.

If you are a contractor in Misere you may nominate the Joker as belonging to any suit. The Joker may then be played in a trick led by a suit not in hand. If you forget to nominate the suit the misere automatically fails, that is because the Joker wins the trick when you play it.

SCORING

Teams keep cumulative scores which are added to or subtracted from with each hand.

The scores for the various bids are as follows:

 

TRICKS          SPADES       CLUBS       DIAMONDS       HEARTS     NO TRUMPS       MISERE

SIX                      40                 60                   80                    100                 120

SEVEN               140               160                 180                    200                 220

MISERE                                                                                                                                   250

EIGHT                240               260                280                     300                 320

NINE                  340               360                380                     400                 420

TEN                    440               460                480

OPEN/BLIND MISERE                                                                                                             500

TEN                                                                                          500                 520

 

If the bid was a suit or no trump contract, the contractors win if they take at least the number of tricks the bid. Contractors score the corresponding number of points above. There are no additional points if they take more tricks than bid unless they win every trick, this is called a slam. If a contractor is able to make a slam they score 250 points if their bid was worth less than that. If the points corresponding to bid is worth more than 250 points there are no special points, they win their bid as normal.

If a contractor does not take enough tricks for their bid they score minus the point value of their contract. The other players score 10 extra points for every trick they win.

If the contract is a Misere and the contractor loses every trick they accumulate the points for that bid, if they win a trick they subtract the value of the bid from their points. Other players do not gain extra points.

END GAME

The game ends when a team scores 500 or more points or with a winning a contract. It can also win if a team scores negative 500 points and loses. This is called “going out backward.”

Reaching 500 points alone is not sufficient to win the game if the opponents are stilly playing their contract. If this happens hands are played until a team wins under the stipulations described above.

VARIATIONS

  • Misere bids are not permitted whatsoever.
  • Misere may be bid without a 7 bid.
  • The Joker may only be led in the last trick.
  • You may not raise your bid after everyone else has passed.
  • If you are at a score of 490 (or 480) you can not get points for winning a trick against a contractor.

 

REFERENCES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/500_(card_game)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick-taking_game

http://www.newtsgames.com/how-to-play-five-hundred.html

https://www.fgbradleys.com/rules/rules4/Five%20Hundred%20-%20rules.pdf

https://www.pagat.com/euchre/500.html

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16 thoughts on “Five Hundred”

    • Hi Thyra, in Nullo when a joker can be played depends on if the contractor declares the suit it belongs to. If the contractor did declare a suit then there is no restriction on when the joker can be played. If, however, the joker was not declared to a suit then it belongs to no suit and is always the highest-ranking card. In this case, the joker must be played to a trick if you are unable to follow suit. To lead a joker a player must declare it as a suit that has not previously led a trick. If this is not possible, then the joker must be played in the last trick, if not before.

    • Hi Sam, teams of two are always better gameplay-wise in my opinion, but both options are totally valid forms of play. I would suggest you give both a try and see which you like best! Happy Gaming!

  1. When we played this game, we removed the 2 and 3 and the joker was part of the kitty – 44 card and virtual joker. Whoever won the bid would pickup the kitty (4 cards) and discard 5.

    I learned this from my French-Canadian family in Sudbury, Ontario Canada. I’ve seen 5 generations of my family (and other families) play with these rules.

    Any insight?

    Pierre

    • Hi Pierre, the closest I could find was a variation called Canadian Five Hundred. it consists of a 46-card deck, with no 2s or 3s and two distinguishable jokers. The jokers are ranked as the highest trumps. It’s a game made for 4 players in partnerships of 2 and each player is dealt 10 cards each. The kitty consists of 6 cards and when won the player must also discard 6 cards from hand. The gameplay seems consistent with traditional gameplay. I hope this helps!

  2. When playing nullo, the player sitting out passes a low card to his partner who won the bid and then sits out. Does the partner get to see that card and fit it in with his hand before making his discards or does he discard first and then get a card from his partner?

    • Hi Char, the only time I can find that a player passes a card to their partner is for a bid variation called slam. It specifies that a slam hand can only be called for a 7-trick contract and not for anything over 7 or for a misère (nullo) bid. it does state however that the partner passes the card to the player and then the player discards to hand size. I hope this helps in some way. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

      • Thank you for taking the time to research but it is specifically nullo that I am questioning. Would you let me know if anything surfaces. I can’t stand to play unless it is by the rules.

        • Hello Char, I will see if I can locate anything for Nullo Pecifically and will message back under this thread if I can find anything.

  3. If a declarer fails to discard 3 cards ,then discovers at end of game bidding 7 loosing
    4 tricks. Is the game voided or does declarer go down .

    • There are no official rulings for misplays. I would void the round and start over but it should be up to your play group as a whole how you choose to deal with this issue. Happy Gaming.

  4. Hello,
    Question about what happens to the blind when a player bids nullo.
    I’ve heard that it’s passed back and forth somehow but I’ve always played that the bidder treats it like a regular blind-picks it up then discards five cards.

    • Hi Renee, I am not familiar with the variation you mentioned. In classic rummy 500, the blind (or kitty as it’s traditionally referred to in this game) is used the same for all bids.

  5. Hello Amber, thank you for your useful information. I’m an avid Australian player. I notice in your “variations” section you put “you may not raise your bid after everyone else has passed.” Does that mean upping your own bid when your the last bid standing is the default? I grew up with the rule that you could increase your own bid as long as it was before looking at kitty and i think it makes for a superior game. But i meet a lot of resistance to this method. Can you direct me to any definitive ruling on increasing your own bid once all other players have passed?

    • Hello Bergen, in my research I found an unnamed variation that states that a player may not increase their bid if they were the only player to participate in the bidding. However, if others participated in the bidding and passed then the contractor (the last player not to pass) may increase the bid. This adds additional variations that state if the bid changes the suit used in the bid then the other players have another chance to bid, but if the number of tricks in the only thing increased then the other players would remain out of the bidding. This is not a well-known variation, it would seem.

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