Spoil Five is a trick-taking card game that must be played with five players. In Ireland, where the game is known as Twenty-Five, it is considered the national game of Ireland.
This game is at least 350 years old as there exists a reference to it, which was then called “Five Fingers”, in 1674 (as recorded by the Oxford Dictionary of Card Games).
In that reference, Five Fingers is said to be an Ancient game, meaning its likely date of conception is even before 1674. Playing Spoil Five is playing a piece of living history.
How to Play Spoil Five?
Spoil Five should be played with five players, although it is possible to play with 2-8 players if necessary. This article will concern itself with the standard way to play, a five-person free-for-all. A standard 52-card Anglo-American deck should be used.
Spoil Five is usually played as a gambling game, with each player placing an equal wager into a central pot before cards are dealt.
The Dealer will be chosen randomly, per the Players’ preferred methods.
Once the Dealer has been selected, cards are dealt out to each Player, first in a packet of two, then a packet of three cards. So, each Player will be dealt two cards around the table, and then three cards in the same method.
Once each Player has their cards, The Dealer will then reveal one more card from the top of the deck. The suit of this upturned card will determine the Trump suit of the entire hand.
Each suit in Spoil Five has its cards ranked differently from each other, as well as the conventional ranking of cards. The four suits and their card rankings will be explained below in the relevant section.
If the card turned up to represent the Trump suit is in fact the Ace, then the Dealer may discard any one of the cards from their hand, and may instead take the Ace of Trump. If this happens, the Trump suit remains the same.
If a Non-Dealing Player has the Ace of Trump in their hand when the Trump suit is revealed, then the Player is able to swap their Ace with the Trump card shown. This can potentially be advantageous, as Aces are not the highest-ranking cards in the Trump Suit.
The game will begin with the Player to the immediate clockwise of the Dealer, after the Trump card has been revealed and anybody has chosen to swap or not. Players will take turns placing one card from their hand into the center of the table to form the “trick”.
The leading card of the trick, the first card played, determines the suit other Players must follow.
- Players must follow suit if they are able, and can play any card if they cannot.
- Players can always play a Trump card.
- A card that does not follow suit cannot win the Trick.
- A low-ranking card that follows suit will beat a high-ranking card that does not follow suit.
- Trumps can only be beaten by higher-ranking Trumps.
- A low-ranking Trump will beat a high-ranking card that follows suit.
Players that have won a trick should collect all of the cards in the trick, and keep them in a pile in front of them. Multiple tricks should be kept in distinct piles.
Players that win multiple tricks should keep each trick pile separated for ease of tallying score. Each Player has five cards in their hand, meaning there will be a total of five tricks played.
Spoil – Ending
If a Player manages to win three of the five games, they are simply awarded the total value of the pot created at the start of the game. If no Player manages to win the majority of tricks, the game is considered a “Spoil.”
In the event of spoilage, the cards are collected and reshuffled. Players must each pay an additional wager into the pot, and a new game begins with the now-doubled pot. Players repeat this process for each proceeding spoil.
The rankings of cards in Spoil Five is rather unconventional. In order to make it easier to follow, a reference chart exists below to quickly see the ranking of a suit depending on its status as a Trump or not.
|Trump Suit||Cards Ranked Highest To Lowest|
|Hearts||5♥ J♥ A♥ K♥ Q♥ 10♥ 9♥ 8♥ 7♥ 6♥ 4♥ 3♥ 2♥|
|Diamonds||5♦ J♦ A♥ A♦ K♦ Q♦ 10♦ 9♦ 8♦ 7♦ 6♦ 4♦ 3♦ 2♦|
|Clubs||5♣ J♣ A♥ A♣ K♣ Q♣ 2♣ 3♣ 4♣ 6♣ 7♣ 8♣ 9♣ 10♣|
|Spades||5♠ J♠ A♥ A♠ K♠ Q♠ 2♠ 3♠ 4♠ 6♠ 7♠ 8♠ 9♠ 10♠|
|Non-Trump Suit||Cards Ranked Highest To Lowest|
|Hearts||K♥ Q♥ J♥ 10♥ 9♥ 8♥ 7♥ 6♥ 5♥ 4♥ 3♥ 2♥|
|Diamonds||K♦ Q♦ J♦ 10♦ 9♦ 8♦ 7♦ 6♦ 5♦ 4♦ 3♦ 2♦ A♦|
|Clubs||K♣ Q♣ J♣ A♣ 2♣ 3♣ 4♣ 5♣ 6♣ 7♣ 8♣ 9♣ 10♣|
|Spades||K♠ Q♠ J♠ A♠ 2♠ 3♠ 4♠ 5♠ 6♠ 7♠ 8♠ 9♠ 10♠|
Note that the Ace of Hearts acts as a Trump card in all other Suits.
Also, notice that the Ace of Diamonds is the lowest ranking card when the Diamonds is not Trump. The 5 of each suited card is always the highest-ranking Trump.
Spoil Five Rules
The main rules of the game are as follows:
- Players must follow suit if they are able to. Players that do not follow suit cannot win the trick unless they play a Trump card.
- The rankings of the cards will vary, depending on whether the suit is Trumps or not. Black card usually rank from 2-10, while red cards rank from 10-2.
- If a hand is spoiled, each Player pays in an additional wager and a new game begins. If a Player wins 3 of the tricks, they are immediately paid out the total value of the pot.
Suppose that the Player before you has led the Trick with a J♣, and suppose that ♦ is the Trump suit.
You have two cards in your hand, a 5♦ and an A♣.
Remember that in the Spoil Five card game, Aces are not ranked above Jacks. Although you could play the Ace, and would still be following suit, you would still certainly lose the trick.
However, as Diamonds are the Trump suit of this hand, the 5♦ is actually the highest-ranking card in the game. By Playing the 5♦, you are guaranteed to win the Trick.
Even if the Players after you have the K♣, the highest ranking card which follows suit, they will still lose.
Strategy and Tips
Save the Trumps for Hands You Cannot Follow Suit in
Do not play your Trump cards when you still have a chance to win by following suit.
For example, if the leading card is a 6♦, and you have the 7♦, as well as a Trump card, you should just Play the 7♦.
The Trump will be able to win you a more difficult trick later on in the game. There is still the chance to win from the 7♦ alone if no other Players can follow suit with a superior card.
As the Dealer, Go For The Ace
If you are Playing as the Dealer, you should always swap one of your cards for the Ace if it is turned up as the card representing the Trump suit.
An Ace of Trump is a very strong card, only beaten by the 5 of Trump, Jack of Trump, and the Ace of Hearts (Unless Hearts are the Trump suit).
Furthermore, if you are a Player with the Ace of Trump, and the card revealed from the deck is a 5 or Jack of Trump, then swap your Ace with those cards. They are the two strongest Trump cards.