Poke (game)

From Academic Kids

Poke is a two-player card game invented by Sid Sackson and discussed in his book A Gamut of Games. It combines strong elements of Poker with trick-taking games like Bouré or Spades, and adds scoring reminiscent of Bridge.

Like bridge, score is kept on a pad split down the centre both across and down; points "above the line" count for the final total, whereas points "below the line" are intermediate. The game is also played until a rubber, or best of three games, is completed.

A hand of Poke is played in two phases; in the first phase, players draw cards to better their Poker hand, and in the second phase the players proceed to take "tricks" with their hand. Points from the first phase go above the line; points from the second go below the line, with some exceptions. Once a player has twenty points below the line (which may take more than one deal), the game is over, bonus points are added, and the points above the line are tallied to determine the winner of that particular game.

Play is as follows:

  • The dealer passes out five cards to himself and his opponent.
  • The opponent may elect to stand pat, or not take any more cards. They may also discard from one to three of the cards in their hand and draw replacements. This doubles their hand; during the trick-taking phase, their opponent will now receive two points per trick won instead of one. After doubling, they may elect to stand pat, or discard from one to three cards again and draw replacements. This is a redouble, and their opponent will now receive four points per trick. They must stand pat at this point.
  • The dealer acts similarly, except for the fact that they get one "free" discard-and-redraw; they may also double and redouble afterwards, for a total of three possible discards-and-redraws.

This ends the first phase. Next comes the trick-taking phase.

  • The non-dealer leads by playing one or more cards from their hand. If more than one card is played, they must be of the same rank; in other words, only singles, pairs, three-of-a-kinds, and four-of-a-kinds are allowed as a single play. Their opponent must beat the cards on the table. If it is a singleton, a card of higher rank will suffice; if it is a pair or greater, the opponent must play the same number of cards, and can only beat if their own cards are all the same rank and of higher value. If they do not have a pair or higher, they can simply toss off other cards, which will not beat what is on the table. If the cards played have the same value, the leader wins them.
  • Note that suit is irrelevant at this stage; there are no trumps, and one does not have to follow suit to beat.
  • Players keep their own cards, turning them face-up if they won the trick or face-down if they did not.
  • The winner of the last trick leads for the next one, following the rules above.

After all five cards have been played in tricks, points below the line are determined. Each player gets one point below the line for every trick they take if their opponent did not double or redouble; they get two points for every trick if their opponent doubled but did not redouble, and four points for every trick if their opponent redoubled.

If a player took all five cards in tricks, they have performed a sweep, and receive a bonus of 250 points above the line.

Next, both player's hands are considered as Poker hands. The player with the highest Poker hand received points above the line as follows:

  • Pair: 50 points
  • Two Pair: 100 points
  • Three of a Kind: 200 points
  • Straight: 300 points
  • Flush: 400 points
  • Full House: 500 points
  • Four of a Kind: 600 points
  • Straight Flush: 750 points
  • Royal Flush: 1000 points

Deal then passes, and a new hand is dealt. However, if either player reached 20 points, that game is over, unless there is a tie in the number of points below the line, in which case a tiebreaker hand is played. Once a clear winner has been determined, that player gets a bonus of 100 points above the line, and all of their opponent's points below the line are cancelled. (This is particularly unclear; unless both players reset their scores below the line, one player would constantly have more than 20 points; it may be that at some point there were large numbers of points below the line, which were transferred above the line at this point. In Bridge and its derivatives, at this point the score below the line is set to zero for both players; one can assume the same occurs here.) When a player has won their second game, they receive the 100 point bonus mentioned above, plus 750 points above the line if their opponent did not win a game in the rubber, or 500 points above the line if their opponent won one. At this stage, the points above the line are tallied, and the person with the most points above the line wins the game.

A sample game would be nice, as Poke is not as intuitively obvious as its predecessors.



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