500 is a trick-taking game, based on the older classic game of Euchre. Like many trick-taking games, ‘Five Hundred’ is commonly played in a four-Player configuration, where there are two partnerships. These partnerships share a score.
There is also a cutthroat version of 500. Cutthroat games are the name for non-partnership variations of different trick-taking games. Cutthroat 500 is most commonly played when there are only three Players, and when a fourth is available standard 500 is most common.
How to Play 500?
The 500 Card Game is played using a modified version of the 54-card Anglo-American Joker pattern deck. To create a 500 deck, simply remove all of the 2s and 3s from the deck and then remove the black joker and the black 4s from the deck as well. This leaves a 43-card deck.
The Deal and Partnership
This 43-card deck is then shuffled, and ten cards are dealt to each Player. Players that are sitting opposite of each other shall be partners. These partnerships are traditionally known as the North-South and East-West, based on the Player’s seating position relative to the cardinal directions.
- Once the partnership has been determined, each Player will have three cards dealt to them, in a packet of three.
- Once each Player has received their three cards, a further packet of three will be dealt to the middle of the table. These player-less cards are known as the “Kitty” or “Window.”
- Players will then be dealt four cards in a packet of four.
- After each Player gets their four cards, each Player will then be dealt a final three cards for a total of ten to each Player.
Once each Player has the appropriate amount of cards, the bidding phase can begin.
The Bidding War
Players will take turns, starting with the North, who will be:
- Declaring the number of tricks which they intend to win.
- Declaring the suit they wish to be Trump for the round.
Players may also pass if they do not wish to bid any number of tricks. However, Players that do not bid have no control over the Trump suit of the round.
- Bids must be higher than the previously highest bid. For example, Player 1 declares a bid of 5 tricks with a desired Trump of hearts, or simply “Five, Hearts.” Therefore, Player 2 must bid at least six tricks or more.
- Players are allowed to declare “No Trumps” instead of a desired Trump suit. In this case, there is no Trump suit, with the only Trump card being the Joker.
- The Player which makes the highest bid will win the right to declare the Trump suit, or lack thereof.
- Players must win the tricks within their partnership, not necessarily on their own. For example, Player 2 wins the bidding war at 8 tricks. Player 2 wins 4 tricks during the round, but Player 4 also wins 4 tricks. This means that they completed their contract.
- Players that do not complete the contract, i.e. do not meet or exceed the number of wagered tricks, will receive a scoring penalty that will be explained in the “Scoring” section.
Winning the bidding war
Only the Player which won the bidding war will be held to account for their contract. Other contracts are null and hold no penalty for those Players.
- Player 1 bids 4 tricks
- Player 2 bids 8 tricks and wins the bidding war.
- Players 1 and 3 will not be penalized for winning 3 or fewer tricks.
- Players 2 and 4 WILL be penalized if they do not win at least 8 tricks.
As there are only 10 tricks in a game, the maximum possible bid is 10 tricks. Any Player that declares 10 tricks automatically wins the bidding war, but they and their partner must win every trick in the round.
The bid winner is also permitted to draw the three cards from the Kitty, but they must discard three cards back into the kitty, face-down, before the game begins. If they wish, the Player may discard the kitty cards they just drew.
The Order of Trumps
Players should keep in mind that the Trumps do not follow a traditional card hierarchy. In 500, the Trumps are ordered in the following way:
- Jokers are the highest-ranking Trump;
- Followed by the Jack of Trumps;
- And last the Off-Suit Jack.
The Off-Suit Jack is simply the Jack of the same color but a different suit as the Jack of Trump. For example, if Trump is ♥, then the Off-Suit Jack is ♦.
The Off-Suit Jack is ranked immediately below the Jack of Trump, and immediately above the Ace of Trump. The traditional card hierarchy then follows, from Ace all the way down to 4, or 5, depending on whether the color is black or red.
Once the auction has been completed, the Player which made the winning bid during the auction is given the right to lead the first trick.
Tricks are simply a grouping of four cards, composed of one card contributed by each Player. When leading the trick, Players may choose whatever card they like from their hand.
Players take turns clockwise from the Trick-leader, placing one card into the trick. Players that do not lead the trick must instead “follow suit.”
When following suit, Players must play a card matching the suit of the leading card. If a Player cannot do this, they may play any card in their hand. However, if a card is not a Trump, or does not match suit, it cannot win the trick.
Players do not have to follow suit if they are playing a Trump card. When Playing a Trump card, only a higher-ranking Trump card can win the trick, even if it is of a higher rank than that Trump card.
For example, if Player 2 plays a 4 of Trump, and Player 3 plays a 10 of non-Trump, Player 2 will still win the trick.
The Joker is the highest-ranked card in the game, it is considered a Trump. A Joker automatically wins the trick it is played in, though all Players must still contribute their cards to the trick.
The Player which won the previous trick will then be given the right to lead the next trick, and this gameplay cycle continues until every player has exhausted all ten cards in their hand.
Players then divvy up the number of tricks taken, tally their score, and re-deal the cards for another round. The scoring system of 500 will be explained below in the “Scoring” section, but keep in mind that the win condition of 500 is to achieve 500 points.
Below you can find a summary of the 500 card game rules:
- Players that win the bidding war are allowed to draw the cards from the Kitty. They may then discard any three cards that they wish.
- Partnerships that make a contract must meet or exceed that contract. If they do not win at least the proscribed number of tricks, they will take a score penalty.
- Partners’ scores are combined, such that an individual Player’s score will always be the same as their partner’s, and will be made up of a combination of their two scores during a given round.
- The Joker is the highest ranking card, followed by the Jack of Trumps, followed by the Off-suit Jack, followed by the Ace, down to the 4 of Trump.
- Players must follow suit if they are able, unless they are playing a Trump card. If they are not able to follow suit, or choose not to Play a Trump, they may play whatever card in their hand that they wish but they will not be able to win the trick.
Scoring in Five Hundred
There is a somewhat complicated scoring system for 500, but with a scoring table, this system becomes much more easily understood.
Firstly, keep in mind that this scoring table applies ONLY to the partnership which won the bidding war. The partnership which did not win the auction wins only 10 points for each trick taken.
The Players which did win the bidding war calculate their score based on the trump suit for the round, as well as the number of tricks bid at the start of the round.
Players are not awarded MORE points for exceeding their contract, they only win the proscribed number of points based on their contracted amount.
So, utilizing the table above, imagine the following scenario:
- Players 1 and 3 win the bidding war with a bid of 9 tricks.
- They declare that the Trump suit for the hand was clubs, and successfully completed their contract.
- As such, Players 1 and 3 are awarded a total of 200 Points.
This table is also used for the penalties applied to the team which won the bidding war. If that Partnership does not manage to make their contract, they will lose the same number of points.
For example, imagine the above scenario, but instead of Players 1 and 3 winning their contract, they fail to achieve the 9 necessary tricks. Then, those Players would have to deduct 200 points from their score total, rather than adding 200 points.
It is possible to have a negative score, or a score below 0, in 500.
Imagine the following hand is the starting hand that you are dealt:
8♣ 4♦ K♣ K♦ J♥ 10♥ Q♥ 5♦ Q♣ K♠
The two most prevalent suits in this hand are ♣ and ♥, meaning that bidding for these cards may be advantageous.
This hand is also stacked with a number of high-ranking cards, meaning even though they might not all become Trump cards depending on the outcome of the auction, the variety of suits here allows for ease of following suit, and potential victory due to the high rank of those cards which might follow suit.
This hand will lose to a partnership with a large number of trumps, but so will every hand. At least this hand is quite strong when Trumps are not considered. It may even be advantageous for a Player with this hand to bid highly on a No Trumps game.
Even though the Joker isn’t in this Player’s hand, it might be in the partner’s, and even if it isn’t, that only guarantees the enemy partnership a single trick out of 10 possible.
Strategy and Tips
- Although it might seem like a good idea to push for a high bid when you have a large number of the same suited cards, keep in mind the following: If you only have 4 or 5 of those cards in that suit, you may actually be in a weaker position than you realize. Remember that your partner only makes up one-third of the remaining cards at the table. Your opponents make up the remaining 66%. This means that those other Trump cards are twice as likely to appear in your opponent’s hands as they are in your partner’s. As you cannot see your partner’s cards before the bidding phase, only make a very high bid on a suit if you have 6 or more cards of that suit in your hand.
- Score can be reduced if you do not make a contract, but contracts are the only way to win the game reasonably quickly. A Partnership that constantly plays on the defensive, never attempting to win the bidding war, will be in a very safe position in the sense that they cannot lose any score, but they still might lose. A Player that never takes contracts would take a minimum of 5 rounds to win, and that is assuming they win every single trick, which is very unlikely.
- Do not fight with your partner over tricks. This doesn’t refer to verbal argumentation, but rather the mechanics of the game. As your score is combined with your partner, and your score is determined by the number of tricks won, there is no advantage to trying to take the trick when your partner is already going to win. For example, if your partner has already played a Jack of Trump into the trick, there is no reason to play your Joker. Simply play your lowest-ranking non-Trump card. That way, you can save your Trump for another trick.
With this app, you can practice 500 online.