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How to Play Rook

Learn the rules and strategies that can help you win the fun card game called Rook.

How to Play Rook

Rook has been in the United States for at least a century. A specially designed 57-card deck was officially introduced by Parker Brothers in 1906. There are four suits in this deck: red, green, black, and yellow, and the numbers on the cards range from 1 to 14. The Rook card, featuring the picture of a bird, is a high-point card that can be used as an extra trump.

Rook is a bidding and trick-taking game that should be played with a minimum of four people (two pairs). The object of the game is to score as many points as possible with the cards in your hand.

Cards are valued as follows:

  • 5 = 5 points
  • King, 10, and 14 = 10 points
  • Ace = 15 points
  • Rook = 20 points (counts as extra trump)
  • Winning the last “trick” = 20 points

The number 14 card is high and 1 is low. There are 200 points that can be won in each hand. Decide beforehand how many points you would like to play to: It is common to play to 1,000 points.

By Hook or by Rook

Partners should sit across from each other. Cut to see who deals first. The dealer shuffles and then deals all the cards and places the last card face-down on the table. Once the cards are dealt, the bidding can begin.

Each person bids, starting with the person to the left of the dealer, and continues bidding until everyone but one person has passed. That person, the winner of the bid, calls trumps.

The bidding starts at 70 and increases in increments of 5. You are bidding on the minimum value of points you think you and your partner will score by the end of the game (when the last trick is played).

Three Strikes

Be careful not to bid too high, because you will lose if you go over the total amount scored by you and your partner.

The point of bidding is to win the right to call trumps. The trump suit beats all other suits. Remember when you are bidding that you can't see your partner's hand, and your bid is based on both your hands. As mentioned earlier, each hand is worth 200 points. You might be wondering why you would want to stop bidding before 200 since that's the highest you can go. Well, if you win the bid and you and your partner score fewer points than what you bid, you lose the number of points that you bid. So try for the minimum points you think you can get.

When the bidding is over, the winner of the bid takes the card from the center and returns a card from his hand face-down in front of him or her. The winner can return the original card that he or she pulled from the center if it is not useful to his or her hand. The winner and his or her partner keep any points that this dropped card is worth.

At this point in the game, passing begins. Each player passes three cards, face-down, to the right (or the left, but alternating right/left/right between hands). The winner of the bid must call trump before picking up the cards that have been passed to him or her. No one is allowed to pass cards that have been passed to him or her; you must pass cards from your original hand. When each player has passed cards and trump has been called, play begins.

Let's Rook

Play starts with the dealer or the person to the dealer's left (it's the dealer's choice). The goal is to try to play a card from your hand that matches the first card played. If you have no card in the suit of the first card played, you can play a trump card to beat the others playing in that suit (but follow suit first—you can only play a trump if you have none of the suit that was led).

If you don't have a card in the same suit and you also don't have a trump card, then you may play a card of any suit—but make sure it's a low card because it is likely you will not win the trick. The winner of the trick takes all the cards in the center, places the hand face-down in front of himself or herself, and then leads the next trick.

Whoever wins the trick gets to keep all the points associated with those cards. If you win the trick, you should keep the winning piles next to you or next to your partner. You then lead the next trick. Play continues until all cards have been played.

Winning Plays

Did you know that you can play Rook with a standard 52-card deck? Just use a Joker as the Rook and play the game according to the same rules as the special deck.

These are the rules for winning the trick:

  • The winning card is the highest card played in the lead card's suit (with the exception of the trump card—trump cards beat all other suits).
  • The highest card played in a trump suit wins (if other players play a card in the trump suit).
  • In each suit, Ace is high and 2 is low.
  • The Rook is always the lowest trump. It is always trump, but is lower than the 2 of trump. In other words, since it is a trump card it beats any other suit, but it is the lowest in its own suit.


High Score

A rare bonus: If a team takes all the tricks, they get a 100-point bonus. This is a very rare occurrence—so rare that the other players might not be aware of it. So talk about it in advance and if it happens, be prepared to celebrate!

When all the tricks are played, it's time to count the points. There are 200 points in each game, and since you will likely play several games, running scores can go up to at least 1,000 points.

Here is where the bidding at the beginning of the game affects your total score. If the team who won the bid and called trumps at the beginning does have as many points as they bid, their points are considered “set.” They cannot add the amount of their cards to their total, but have to subtract the amount that they bid from their total. The team that did not call trumps may add to their total with no restrictions.

For example, if you win the bid at 120 points and you win 120 points in the game, then you and your partner add 120 points to your total score and 80 points (the number of points your opponents won) are added to your opponents' total score.

But if you win the bid at 120 points and you only win 105 points, then 120 points are subtracted from your total score and 95 points (the number of points your opponents won) are added to your opponents' total score.

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