OBJECTIVE OF PITCH: To be the player that scores the most points by winning tricks during hands.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 – 4, more can play, but it’s best to have even numbers of players.
NUMBER OF CARDS: 52
RANK OF CARDS: Ace, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
THE DEAL: Clockwise and starting on your left, deal three cards at a time to each player. Each player should have six cards.
TYPE OF GAME: Trick-taking
AUDIENCE: Teens and up, families.
PITCH – HOW TO BID:
Starting with the player who is on the left of the dealer, each player may bid once on the number of points they expect to win from that hand/round. The only bids that may be made are as follows: 1, 2, 3, 4, or Pass.
A player can indicate that they are bidding a 4 by placing a card from their hand in the middle of the circle or on the table, depending on where you’re playing. This is called “Pitching”. The highest bidder, the “Pitcher”, leads the game. The first card they play sets the suit for the round. If no one else bids, the dealer has to place a bid of 2, at the very least. If no one bids a 4, then the dealer can “steal the bid” by having the same bid as the highest player bid and making themselves the “Pitcher”.
HOW TO PLAY PITCH:
Once the bids have been made, it’s time to commence gameplay. Following the suit selected by the “Pitcher”, a player has two choices: Follow suit (which is called “playing a trump card” in this particular game) or, if the player cannot follow the suit the “Pitcher” has set, they may play any card in their hand.
The player that plays a card which is the highest card of the suit chosen wins the “trick” (the round) and leads the next round by selecting a suit of their own.
There are six rounds (or “tricks”) in total, hence the six cards that are dealt to players at the beginning of the game. Players should keep a count of how many rounds they win.
If you decide to read up on this game further, you will see a lot of mention of a “trump” card. The trump card is simply a card in the suit that is being played. For example, the “Jack of the trump suit” is the Jack card of the suit that was chosen at the start of the round.
HOW TO WIN:
The first player to reach 7 points (or the highest points possible) at the end of the game is the winner. The number of points that is possible to win varies, depending on how many rounds the players want to keep going for. Many play to 11 or 15, but longer games typically play to a maximum of 21 points.
At the end of each round, players’ cards are scored like this:
One point for achieving the highest or lowest suit card in play.
One point for playing the Jack of a round’s suit set. (If the Jack is not in play, this point cannot be awarded.)
One point for winning the “game score”. (If there is a tie for the “game score”, the game score point is not awarded.)
The game score is as follows:
Ten trick points for each number 10 card played.
Four trick points for an Ace.
Three trick points for a King.
Two trick points for a Queen.
One trick point for a Jack.
STRATEGIES FOR WINNING:
Only bid once you’ve seen the cards in your hand and considered how to play them. If you have weak cards, do not bid a high number. If you have an Ace, bid a 2 or a 3. If you have an Ace and a King of the same suit, bid a 4.
Try not to bid based on any Jack cards that you hold in your hand. You may not be playing the same suit.
Remember that 10s are worth a lot of points in the game.
OTHER NAMES: Setback, How Low Jack, All Fours.
If you’re looking for other Trick-Taking card games, you might try one of these:
Euchre – a simple game played with 24 cards, where your goal is to be the first player to reach the points goal by grabbing tricks during rounds.
Spades – a popular and classic card game where you estimate how many tricks you can take during a round based on the cards you’ve been given by the dealer.
Hearts – a game where your aim is to lose tricks rather than gain them.