In many card games, a round of play consists of some number of “tricks” where each player presents 1 card. Then, by some criteria, 1 player will “take” the trick.

The first person to play in a trick “leads” the trick. Usually, this person chooses a suit that must be followed or trumped. In that case, the following players must, if they can, play a card from the same suit as the leading card. This may be referred to as the “lead suit” of the trick. If the player cannot play the lead suit or the trump suit, then they may play a “slough” card, which is guaranteed¬†not to take the trick.

In some games (as in up the river), the rules will specify that you do NOT need to “play to kill” and that may mean that you do not have to follow suit or play trump before sloughing cards. In those games, cleverly sloughing cards is a winning strategy.

Once all players have presented their card for the trick, the person who takes the trick is usually the person who has the largest value trump suit or the largest value lead suit.

Taking the trick may be generally desirable to gain points (as in pitch), or it may be generally undesirable (as in hearts).

Typically, the number of cards dealt to each player’s hand is the number of tricks in the round, and there may be multiple rounds of play.

Play to Kill

The “Play to Kill” mechanic is common in trick-taking games, although it may have slightly different meanings. In general, play-to-kill is a rule where you must try to win the trick if possible.

Play-to-kill is frequently required for games with trump suits. In this case, there is typically a lead suit for each trick, and you must play the lead suit if you can. However, if you do not have a card in the lead suit, but you do have a card in the trump suit, then you must play a card of the trump suit. Additionally, if you have a card that will take the trick, you must play it regardless of whether you have other cards that meet the usual play criteria but would not take it. This is the way play-to-kill works in Pinochle.

Related Term: A “slough” is a play that is guaranteed NOT to take the trick at the time you play it.

In poker, you may see a “Kill Hand” triggered, which forces some lucky player to make a large blind bet. This mechanism is intended to curb reckless betting that wins by pure luck. As a group, we will not implement “Kill Hands” in our poker games until we are all experienced enough to unanimously agree on the need. If you wish to read more about this particular poker mechanic, you can do so at Wikipedia.

Up The River

We played this game during our very first meeting at Nancy’s, and we’ll play it again Nov 7 at Cheryl’s clubhouse.

Full disclosure: the rules we played by that first time do not match any of the games I found online with the same name. I may have gotten some of this wrong, and we may have to figure out some of the details as we go again!

Overview: Up The River is a trick-taking game with trumps. Before each round, you bid (wager) how many tricks you will take that round, and scoring is based on whether or not you took exactly the number of tricks in your bid. To win, you need to have the most points after all fair hands have been dealt out of the deck.

Dealing: Each round deals an equal number of cards to each player, starting with the person to the dealer’s left, and also passing the dealer token to the left after each round. In the first round, each player receives 1 card, and there will be exactly 1 trick played. In the second round, each player receives 2 cards, and there will be exactly 2 tricks played. This increases for every round, until a fair hand cannot be dealt from the deck. In addition to the cards dealt to each player, the next card from the draw pile is turned up, and that card’s suit represents the trump suit of the round.

Bidding: After cards are dealt and trump is revealed, each player, starting with the player to the dealer’s left, guesses how many tricks they will take. For example, in the first round, there is only one trick, so exactly one person will take the trick, and the bidding is a guess at who will take it. If you have a trump card, or you are leading the trick with a high-value card, you might want to bid 1 because you are likely to take the trick. A bid of 0 is valid and may even be popular during the first two rounds.

Play: The person left of the dealer leads the first trick of each round. You do not have to play to kill. The person who plays the highest value trump will take the trick. If no trump card is played, the person who plays the highest value of the leading suit will take the trick. The next trick is led by the next person clockwise.

Scoring: At the end of each round, your score is determined by whether or not you took exactly as many tricks as you bid. If you did, then you are awarded your bid + 10 points. If you did not, then you are penalized your bid + 10 points.

End Game: The winner is the person with the most points when the deck can no longer deal a fair hand to all players.