All 4s Rules 

* excerpt from https://www.pagat.com/allfours/allfours.html 

Introduction

All Fours originated in England, probably in the 17th century. It was taken to the USA, where it became very popular in the 19th century and gave rise to numerous other games. Meanwhile All Fours itself has become the national game of Trinidad, where it is sometimes known as All Foes, and it continues to be played in England, in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

All Fours in Trinidad

With thanks to Glen Benjamin for explaining the modern Trinidad game to me.

Players, cards and objective

Normally there are four players, in two fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other. It is also possible, but less usual, for two people to play.

A standard 52 card pack is used. In each suit, the cards rank from high to low: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The object of the game is to score points by winning tricks with valuable cards in them. The player or team that takes more valuable cards in tricks will score one point for “game”. In addition, there are points for taking the jack of trumps in a trick, and for the holders of the highest and lowest trumps dealt. It is also possible for the dealer’s team to score points for the card turned up for trumps during the deal.

Deal

Players cut for the deal, and whoever cuts the highest card becomes the first dealer. Deal and play are anticlockwise, and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand. Each player is dealt six cards. The dealer can choose whether to deal the cards one at a time or in batches of three, but having chosen must stick to the same method for the whole game.

When everyone has six cards, the dealer turns the next card face up to indicate the trump suit. If this turned up card is an ace, six or jack, the dealer’s team immediately scores for it as follows:

Ace turned up . . . 1 point
Six turned up . . . 2 points
Jack turned up . . . 3 points

If the player on the dealer’s right is happy with the trump suit that is shown by the turn up, he says “Stand” and play begins. If the player on the dealer’s right would prefer a different trump suit, he says, “I beg”. The dealer then has the option to change trumps or to keep the suit of the turned up card as trumps.

If the dealer decides to keep the trumps as turned up, he says, “Take one”; the opponents of the dealer receive one point and play begins.

If the dealer agrees to change the trump suit, he sets aside the turned up card, deals three more cards to each player, and then turns up the next card to determine the trump suit, scoring for it as above if it is an ace, jack or six.

  • If this new turn up is of a different suit than the first turn up, play begins with this new suit as trumps.
  • If the new turn up is the same suit as before, the dealer gives another three cards to each player and turns up another card, scoring again if it is an ace, jack or six. This procedure is repeated until the turn up produces a new trump suit.
  • If the deck is exhausted before a new trump suit is found, the entire deck is reshuffled and redealt. The dealer’s team nevertheless keeps any points they have scored for turned up cards.

Play

The player on the dealer’s right has the first lead, and the winner of the trick leads to the next trick. Any card can be led, but the other players are subject to the following rules:

  • If a trump is led, the other players must play a trump if they can; anyone who has no trumps left can play any card.
  • If a card of a non-trump suit is led, then any player who has a card of that suit must eitherfollow suit, by playing a card of the suit led, or play a trump. A player who has no card of the suit led can play any card (there is no obligation to play a trump in this case).

The trick is won by the highest trump card played to it; if no trumps are played it is won by the highest card of the suit led.

Note that the effect of these rules is that is is always legal to play a trump. The only play that is prohibited is to throw a non-trump card of a different suit from the lead when you could have followed suit. That would be a revoke or renege, and is penalised as explained below.

Play continues until all players have played all their cards. If the original trump suit was accepted there will be six tricks, but if a change of trump suit was begged for and allowed, the players will have larger hands and there will be 9 or 12 tricks, or possibly even more in a two-player game.

Scoring

At the end of the play, points are scored for the cards that were dealt or taken in tricks. The points are as follows:

High 1 point This point is won by the team of the player who had the highest trump.
Low 1 point This point is won by the team of the player who held the lowest trump that was dealt. It does not matter who wins the trick containing this trump – the point is for the original holders.
Jack 1 or 3 points If the jack of trumps wins a trick, or is won in a trick by the partner of the holder, the team with the jacks scores 1 point. If the jack is captured in a trick won by the opponents of the holder, the team capturing the jack scores 3 points for hang jack. If the jack of trumps was not dealt, then of course neither team scores for it.
Game 1 point This point goes to the team that wins the more valuable cards in tricks. For this purpose only, the top five cards in each suit have the following values: ace = 4, king = 3, queen = 2, jack = 1, ten = 10; other cards (2-9) have no value. Each team adds up the total value of the cards in their tricks, and whichever team has more scores the game point. If both teams have the same value of cards, no one gets the game point.

Each team keeps a cumulative total of points they have won, and the first team to reach a total of 14 or more points over however many hands it takes wins the overall game. When nearing the end of a game, the points are counted strictly in the order high, low, jack, game to determine who has reached 14 first, so a tie is impossible. For example, suppose that at the start of a hand both teams have 13 points, that no points are scored for the turned up trump, and the trump suit is accepted. If team A has the highest trump, but team B win low, jack and game, then team A will win, because their point for high takes them to 14 before the other team can score.

Irregularities

Misdeal

If the dealer gives the wrong number of cards to the players, the opponents score one point for a misdeal, and the cards must be thrown in and shuffled and dealt again.

Revoking – also called Reneging

This is playing a card of a non-trump card of a different suit from the card that was led when you could have followed suit. There is no penalty provided that the error is corrected by the player of the incorrect card before the end of the trick. An opposing player who notices the error may call the revoke at any time up to the end of the hand, and in that case the penalty is as follows.

  • If the player failed to follow a trump lead with trumps when they held one or more of the top five trumps, that player’s team loses the whole of the game (14 points) currently in progress and a new game is started.
  • In other cases – a revoke on a non-trump lead or a failure to play a small trump on a trump lead – the opponents of the revoking player are awarded one point as a penalty, and the revoking team cannot win the point for game.

Calling

If a player exposes a card other than in normal play, it must be left face up on the table. The opponents can then “call” for this card to be played on any subsequent trick, provided that playing it will not cause a revoke.

Variations

In Tobago, it is the two rather than the six which scores two points when turned up.

Some play that a player who has no trumps is forced to beg.

Some play that “undertrumping” is not allowed. That is: if a non-trump suit is led and trumped, a later player is not allowed to play a lower trump unless he has no option.