Smear or Schmier is a North American variation on the popular English trick-taking game, the All Fours card game. Smear exists in the All Fours Group, including other favorites such as Auction Pitch and Pedro.
The game is particularly popular in the Northern United States, where there is a long-standing tradition of playing card games in the German-American community that lives there.
Smear borrows the same “Victory Point” system utilized in its mother game.
How to Play Smear?
The Smear card game is played using the Joker Variant of the standard Anglo-American deck, leaving a total of 54 cards. Traditionally, Smear is played in partnerships, with either 4 or 6 Players. This guide will primarily be concerned with 4 Player Smear, however cutthroat 2 Player Smear, and the 6 Player variation are both also playable.
There is a special Jack in Smear, known as the “Jick.” The Jick is the Jack that is the same color but not the same suit as the Jack of the Trump Suit. For example, if the Trump suit is hearts, then the Jick of the deck would be the Jack of Diamonds.
The Jick is considered a Trump card, whose rank is immediately below that of the Jack of Trump, and immediately above that of the Jokers.
The Dealer in Smear is determined by drawing from the deck, and the highest rank card from the draw wins. If there is a tie, the tying Players will draw more cards from the deck, until one has a higher ranked card than the other. That Player becomes the first dealer. After the first round, the Dealer position will move clockwise to the next Player.
After the deck is reshuffled, the Dealer will give out 10 cards to each Player. From here begins the bidding portion of the game.
Each Player “bids” or declares that they will win at least a certain number of tricks in the coming round. The minimum bid is one trick. Starting with the Player to the clockwise of the Dealer, each Player may either bid or pass. To bid, a Player must bid higher than the previously highest bid.
Bidding ends in Smear when no more tricks can be bid (10) or when all other Players except the highest bidder pass. It is also possible for all Players to pass, in which case the Pitcher becomes the Player clockwise to the Dealer.
The Pitcher in Smear is allowed to declare the Trump suit for the round. After Trump is declared, 8 cards are discarded from the remaining 14 in the deck. Each Player must then discard 4 cards from their hand, leaving them with 6 in the hand, and none can be Trump cards if possible.
The Pitcher then leads the game with the first card of the first trick, and must play a Trump on their first trick. For the next trick, the right to lead will move to the next clockwise Player.
Players must follow the suit of the lead card if possible, meaning they play a card of the same suit as the lead card.
A Player does not have to follow suit if they play a Trump card. If suit is not followed, and a Trump card is not played, then that card cannot win the trick regardless of rank.
Play continues until one partnership collaboratively accumulates 21 total Victory Points.
- Smear is a partnership game, which means that Victory Points are combined by each Partnership. Partners should sit opposite from eachother.
- The Jick is a special card, the same color as the Jack of Trumps but not the same suit. Hearts and Diamonds are red, and Clubs and Spades are black.
- The Jokers are used in this game as Trump cards. Jokers are always Trump cards. Jokers are ranked immediately below the Jick, and immediately above the 10 of Trump.
A game of Smear is scored by Victory Points, a system borrowed from its mother game, All Fours. However, unlike other variations, Smear has more possible Victory Point conditions.
All of these Victory Conditions, except for Trey, award one single Victory Point. The normal All Fours point conditions that apply to Smear are explained the list below:
- High – Awarded to the Player of the highest rank Trump card played in a trick
- Low – Awarded to the lowest rank Trump card played in a trick. Awarded to the Player of the card, not the trick-taker.
- Jack – Awarded to the winner of a trick containing the Jack of Trumps.
- Game – Awarded to the Player with the highest value of cards in their total taken tricks.
For the Game Point, there are special values assigned to each card within a taken trick. These values are as follows:
|9 till 2||0|
The Player whose taken tricks accumulate the most of the above points will be awarded a Victory Point for Game.
Smear also has additional Victory Conditions, explained below:
- Jick – Awarded to the Player that takes the trick of the Jick.
- Joker – Awarded to the Player or Players that take the tricks containing the Jokers. One Victory Point is awarded for each Joker taken.
- Trey – Awards Three Victory Points to the Player which wins the trick containing the 3 of Trump.
A game of Smear ends when a Player accumulates at least 21 Victory Points.
The following is a possible hand at the start of a round in Smear:
K♦, Red Joker, 8♣, 3♦, 5♣, 4♣, 9♠, K♥, J♦, 5♥
The above hand could be very advantageous if the Trump suit is either clubs or diamonds. It would be wise to discard the K♥, because it will not provide much value even though it has a high rank. The spade should also be discarded, leaving 2 remaining cards to be discarded.
Do you have to follow suit in Smear?
Yes, if it is possible for you to, then you must follow the leading suit of a particular trick. However, unlike many other trick-taking games, a Player is always allowed to play Trump, regardless of the leading suit.
Who leads the trick in Smear?
In Smear, the lead card is the first card Played in a particular trick. The Pitcher is allowed to play the first lead card in a round. All Players must follow the suit of this lead card if they are able, unless they are playing a Trump card. The privilege to play lead card then moves clockwise, from the Pitcher on.
What happens if the Game Point is tied?
If two Players have the same card value in their taken-tricks for the purpose of the awarding the Game Point to a Player, then the Game Point is simply not awarded to either Player.