Twenty-Nine is an Indian card game, whose popularity has spread to other parts of South Asia. It is very popular in Bangladesh for example.
The game is closely related to Jass. As with many trick-taking games, it is played in partnerships. This means that 29 is generally only played with 4 people, forming two partnerships of two.
Let’s have a glance at the key rules for the 29 Card Game:
- 4 player partnerships try to take tricks and score card points
- Bidding phase to determine the trump suit and target score
- Must follow suit if able or declare otherwise
- Win tricks by playing the highest cards
- Score Card Points for Jacks, Nines, Aces, and Tens
- Meet bid to gain Game Points; miss to lose
- First partnership to 6 Game Points wins
How to Play Twenty-Nine?
Twenty-Nine is played using a modified version of the standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. In order to finalize the deck, the 5s, 4s, 3s, and 2s of every suit should be removed from the deck.
The 6s should also be removed, but should be set aside separately from the other removed cards. This leaves a total of 32 cards remaining.
The partnerships should be formed such that Players sit opposite from their partners. Traditionally, each Player assumes a cardinal direction, such that Player North and Player South are partners, while Player East and Player West are partners.
The 6s, set aside earlier, should be given to one Player of each Partnership. One Black-suited 6, and one Red-suited 6 should be given to that Player.
This player shall be the scorekeeper for their partnership, with the 6s representing their score.
- The Red 6 will represent a positive score.
- The Black 6 will represent a negative score.
When there is no score, Players leave both of the 6s face-down. When scoring in the positive or negative direction, Players turn the relevant 6 face up.
So, for example, the Red 6 will be turned face-up if a team has 2 Game Points.
Players then use the other card to cover the individual pips of the card.
So, if scoring a positive two, a Player would flip over their Red 6, and then overlay the face-down 6 over 4 of the pips, such that two red pips are visible. In this way, Players always know their running score during a round.
Once each Team has its 6s, a dealer is selected by whatever random means the Players determine.
The 32-card deck is shuffled, and four cards are dealt to each Player face-down. With these four dealt cards, Players will begin the Bidding Phase.
Players are bidding on the number of points they believe that they can win in the round. These points are separate from the Game Points represented by the 6s. These are instead Card Points.
The minimum bid is 15, while the maximum is 28. Although the maximum bid is 28, Players can potentially win a total of 29 Card Points in a round (hence the game’s name).
A bonus point is awarded for winning the last Trick of the round.
The highest bid will win the bidding phase, with the bidding phase ending once a Player has bid the maximum of 28, or once three Players have passed on bidding.
So, for example:
- Player 1 bids 15
- Player 2 bids 26
- Player 3 passes
- Player 4 passes
- Player 1 passes
Once three players have passed, and bidding returns to the previously highest bidder, the bidding phase ends with Player 2 as the winner.
Determining the Trump Suit
The Player who wins the bid is granted the right to determine the Trump suit of the round.
Traditionally, the winning bidder takes four of the discarded 5s, 4s, 3s, and 2s: one of each suit. The rank of the cards does not matter, as long as there are 4 distinct suits.
- The winning bidder will keep these cards hidden, and separate from the 4 cards in their hand.
- The winning bidder will stack these four cards, face-down, such that their desired Trump suit is on the bottom of the stack.
- Their chosen Trump suit should remain hidden from the other players, even their partner.
Once the Trump suit has been determined, and the bidding Player is contracted to win a certain number of Card Points, the game begins.
Ranking of Cards
Twenty-Nine does not follow the conventional ranking of cards. In Twenty-Nine, cards are ranked in the following manner, highest-to-lowest: J-9-A-10-K-Q-8-7
In order to win a trick, called “Taking” the trick, Players must play the highest-ranking card into the trick. Each Player will place one card into the trick, per trick, such that all Players lose cards at the same rate.
The winning bidder earns the right to Lead the first trick, by playing the first card. All other Players must follow the suit of this leading card.
Subsequently, tricks will be led by the Player who took the previous trick.
Players must follow suit if they are able. If a Player cannot follow suit, they must declare so to the table before playing any card of their choosing. A card that does not follow suit cannot take the trick.
The first time a Player is unable to follow suit, the winning bidder will reveal the Trump suit. This cannot be done until the first Player fails to follow suit.
This also means that there are no Trump cards until this officially occurs.
Gameplay occurs following normal Trick-Taking procedures. The Trump-suited cards are only outranked by higher-ranking Trump cards, such that a 7 of Trump beats a J of non-Trump.
Gameplay ends when all 8 tricks have been taken. Players tally their Card Points as partners, combining their scores together.
Rounds are played until one partnership achieves a positive score of 6 Game Points or a negative score of 6 Game Points.
- A team ending the game with a positive 6 wins.
- A team ending the game with a negative 6 loses.
Twenty-Nine is scored in two different ways, Card Points and Game Points.
Card Points are relative to the Bid made by the winning Bidder. The Winning Bidder must achieve at least their contracted number of Card Points.
Card Points are scored according to the cards in the taken tricks. Different cards have different values, given below:
Only the partnership which won the bid is eligible to gain or lose points. The opposing team does not have their score changed.
- The Bidding team will gain 1 Game Point for successfully meeting their bid.
- The Bidding team will lose 1 Game Point for failing to meet their bid, with negative scores possible.
Suppose a partnership bid 19 points, and has a total of 12 cards from three taken tricks. The 12 cards in this assortment are:
J♦, 8♠, 8♦, 10♥, 7♣, Q♥, K♠, J♥, 9♠, 9♥, 7♥, A♥
The scoring cards are the J♦, 10♥, J♥, 9♠, 9♥, A♥
This means that this partnership’s total number of card points is 12. As 12 is less than their contracted number of 19, this partnership would lose a Game Point.
So, if they had a score of 0, they would expose the Black 6, and cover all but one of the pips, to create a visual representation of -1 points.
For an example Trick, suppose that the Trumps have been revealed, and are the ♥s cards.
- Now suppose that Player 1 leads the trick with a K♣.
- Player 2 follows suit with a Q♣.
- Player 3 cannot follow suit, and plays a 9♠.
- Player 4 plays a 7♥.
Although Player 4 played the lowest-ranking card, it was a Trump card. As there are no other higher-ranking Trumps in the trick, Player 4 takes it.
You can practice with this 29 Card Game App from the PlayStore. There also is an iOS version.
Strategy and Tips
Twenty-Nine is a partnership game, and as such your score is combined with your partner. Do not try to take a trick that your partner has already won.
If you see that your Partner has played a 9 of Trump, there is no reason to play your Jack of Trump into the trick. You are wasting a high-ranking Trump card on a Trick that you are already guaranteed to win.
Partners are not allowed to discuss their hands during the bidding phase. So, you must be able to guess your partner’s hand based on their bidding.
If your partner passes on bidding altogether, bidding highly is a risk. A lack of bidding from your partner signals a weak hand.
Conversely, if your partner is bidding highly, and your hand is a good hand as well, composed of Jacks or 9s, then raise the bid even further.
This increases your chances of winning the bid, and standing to potentially receive a Game Point. Remember, you cannot score unless you win the bid.