How to Play Rook!
Number of players: When learning how to play Rook, you will find that the most common version is played with four players playing in two partnerships. However, it is possible to play a three-player and even two-player version.
Recommended ages: 8 and up
Average playing time: Each hand takes between 5 and 10 minutes, with a full game lasting around an hour
The first thing that new players will notice is the difference between Rook playing cards and regular playing cards. Not only does the Rook deck have more cards than a regular deck, but the suits and numbering is slightly different. It is a great introduction to bidding games like Bridge, but does require knowledge of trick taking and card counting games like Whist.
How to Play Rook – The Basics
Learning how to play Rook is a fairly simple process, while learning how to become very good at rook takes a lot longer. The Rook card game uses a special pack with 57 cards, as opposed to the traditional 52. Instead of shapes, the suits are four colors, red, black, yellow, and green. Each suit has numbers 1 to 14, with one being higher than the 14. The 57th card has a rook on it, which acts is the highest trump card, even capable of taking the one.
The cards are dealt out equally between the four players with the four or five cards being left face down in the middle of the table to form the “kitty”. Some versions of the game leave out the rook card, which is when only four cards are placed in the kitty.
Once all cards are dealt, players examine their cards, arranging them according to suit to allow them to work out how many points they can think they can win in that round. Points are gained for owning certain cards in your tricks once all the cards have been played. The scoring cards are:
- The rook gets you 20 points
- The 1 is worth 15 points
- The 14 and 10 each suit are worth 10 points
- The 5 of any suit is worth 5 points
Teams also score a 20-point bonus for winning the last trick. Therefore, 200 points are available each round. The person to the left of the dealer starts the bid.
How to Play Rook – The Play
Bidding gives you control over what suit should be trump, but it can also land you in trouble. If you fail to make the number of points that you bid, then you go “set”. Going set means that the amount you bid is deducted from your own total game points, while your opponents score all of their points.
Players bid in multiples of five around the table, starting from 70, basing their bid on how many points they think they will win with their partner in that hand. A player may pass at any time, and the player who bids highest wins the bid.
Winning the bid allows that player to pick up the kitty, adding any cards from the kitty into his/her hand and discarding any undesirable cards into the kitty, which is then set aside. The winner of the bid then declares trump and starts the hand by playing the first card face up in the center of the table.
For the competing players, the answer to how to play Rook at this point, is to determine whether you and your team can take the trick or whether you need to get rid of a low-point card. After the first card is played, everyone must play a card attempting to follow suit. If player doesn’t have any cards in the suit in play, he may play a trump card and attempt to take that trick, or he may play a card from another suit.
If a player sees that his partner is going to take the trick, then that player should try to play point cards (1, 14, 10 and 5).
The highest card played in the suit wins, or if more than one trump is played, the highest card wins the trick. The rook trumps everything, so should be saved for a special hand. The player who wins the trick keeps the cards, and starts the next round.
How to Play Rook - Winning the Game
As you learn how to play Rook you will find many variants of the game, but most official Rook games play to 500 or 1,000 points. The first team to reach the designated number of points wins.
How to Play Rook - Strategies
When learning how to play Rook, you need to remember numerous factors, which contribute to playing a strategic game: bidding, naming trump, knowing what to discard in the kitty, keeping track of the cards played, and how to strategically lose a trick to ensure you win the hand, as well as how to make sure you take the last trick:
- Bidding – Ideally you should have a two-color hand, with high cards in each color: the Rook, the 1, and the 14, 13 and 12. Any additional cards in each suit will be helpful.
- Naming trump – you will usually have an idea of what you are going to name trump before even bidding. However, once you win the bid and pick up the kitty, you may find that your trump changes. Perhaps you had a fairly strong suit, and weaker second suit, and suddenly receive a the 1 and other high cards in the kitty. Now, you have to decide which suit is your strongest.
- Play – The bid winner starts the game. If you have a strong two-color hand, including the rook , 1 and 14 of trump, then you will probably lead with your 1. You do this to draw out the trump the other players are holding. You don’t lead with the 1, if you don’t have the rook!
- Lose a trick - Once you have bled all the trump out, then you can begin playing your second suit. If you don’t have a strong second suit, then you may play a low-value card, hoping that your partner will be able to take the trick. You may also play a losing card to bleed out that color from your hand, thus allowing you to use trump if another player leads with that suit, returning control of the game to you.
- The last trick – Worth 20 points, plus the points of any cards discarded into the kitty, you want to make sure you hold onto a trump card, or the highest power card still in play, to make sure you take the last trick.
Learning how to play Rook is a great way to get into formal bidding card games, and players will slowly learn how to bid effectively and read into what their partner is telling them about their hand. For this reason, you may decide to keep the same partners to allow teams to bond, or to mix partners regularly to keep the game fresh.
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