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Rook (card game)

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Title: Rook (card game)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Trick-taking game, Hasbro, List of Hasbro games, Rook, French tarot
Collection: Card Games Introduced in 1906, Dedicated Deck Card Games, Parker Brothers Games, Point-Trick Games, Winning Moves Games
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rook (card game)

Rook (card game)
Publisher(s) Winning Moves
Genre(s) Trick Taking Card Game
Players 2 to 6 players
Setup time 1 to 2 minutes
Playing time 10 to 60 minutes per round, Any number of rounds

Rook is a trick-taking game, usually played with a specialized deck of cards. Sometimes referred to as "Christian cards" or "missionary poker", Rook playing cards were introduced by Parker Brothers in 1906 to provide an alternative to standard playing cards for those in the Puritan tradition or Mennonite culture who considered the face cards in a regular deck inappropriate[1] because of their association with gambling and cartomancy.


  • Rook playing cards 1
  • Official rules for Tournament Rook (Kentucky Discard) 2
    • Deal 2.1
    • Bidding 2.2
    • Play 2.3
    • Rook Bird card 2.4
    • Scoring 2.5
  • Variants 3
    • Adaptation for standard playing cards 3.1
    • Four player partnership variants 3.2
      • Other variants 3.2.1
      • Trump calling variants 3.2.2
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Rook playing cards

The Rook deck consists of 57 cards: a blue Rook Bird card, similar to a joker, and 56 cards divided into four suits or colors. Each suit—black, red, yellow, and green—is made up of cards numbered one through fourteen. This fourteen-card, four-suit system is derived from the French tarot deck; removing the 21 atouts, or trumps, from that deck while keeping a 57-card French-suited deck that was re-faced to create the Rook deck. Though the culture-neutral deck was developed for the game Rook, many other games have evolved or existed previously that use the 56-card deck with or without the Rook, or — by removing the fourteens and the Rook — one can use the deck like a deck of standard playing cards. The cards 2-3-4 are not in the game.

Official rules for Tournament Rook (Kentucky Discard)

Kentucky Discard is the version of Rook played at most Rook tournaments and clubs, and is a partnership game for four players. The players are organized into two teams of two players each, sitting opposite each other. Players must keep their hands secret from all other players, including their teammate. The object of the game is to be the first team to reach 300 points by capturing tricks that contain cards with point values. If both teams have over 300 points at the end of a round, the team with the higher point total wins.

Only certain cards, known as counters, have point value. Each 5 is worth 5 points, each 10 and 14 is worth 10 points,each 1 is worth 15 points, and the Rook Bird card is worth 20 points.


The Rook Bird card is included, while the 2s, 3s, and 4s are removed from the deck, for a total of 45 cards.[2]

The dealer shuffles and cuts the deck, then deals all of the cards, one at a time. After every player has received his or her first card, the dealer places one card in the center of the table. This is repeated until there are five cards—the nest of rook—in the middle of the table. The remaining cards are dealt normally to the four players, giving each a hand of 10 cards.


After the deal, players bid in increments of 5 points for the privilege of using the cards in the nest and naming the trump suit. Bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer and passes clockwise. The minimum bid is 70 points, and the maximum is 180 points (the sum of the point values of all of the counters). If a player chooses not to increase the bid, he or she may pass to the next player. A player that has passed may not bid for the remainder of the round. If no player has opened the bidding yet, a player may "check", reserving the right to bid on a later turn while not opening the bidding this turn. If all players check on the first round, or if one player has checked to their partner and the opposing partners have both passed, checking is no longer an option; each player remaining must bid or pass.

Once all players but one have passed, the high bidder adds the five cards in the nest to his or her hand, and then puts any five cards back into the nest. He or she then names the trump suit.


After the trump suit has been named, the player to the left of the dealer leads with any card, placing it face-up on the center of the table. Play proceeds clockwise, with each player playing one card face-up in turn. A player must either follow suit (play a card of the same suit as the card that was led) or play the Rook Bird card. If a player has no cards of the leading suit, he or she may play any other card, including the Rook Bird card or a card of the trump suit.

After each player has played, the player who played the highest trump card, or, if no trump card was played, the highest card of the leading suit takes all four cards, or takes the trick, and places it face-down in front of him or her. Tricks taken may not be reviewed by any player until the end of the round. The person who takes the trick leads in the next trick.

If a player reneges, or fails to follow suit when he or she could have, the error may be corrected before the next trick is taken. If it is not discovered until later, the round ends, and the team that made the error loses a number of points equal to the bid, regardless of which team made the bid. The opposing team scores all the counters they captured before the error was discovered.

The player that takes the last trick in a round captures the nest and scores any counters in it.

Rook Bird card

The Rook Bird card is the highest trump card in the game. As such, it takes any trick in which it is played. It counts as being in the trump suit when it is led to a trick, and a player who has the Rook but no other trump must play it to a trick in which the trump suit is led; however, the Rook Bird card may also be played at any time, even if the player can follow suit with a different card. It is the only card that may be played this way

As the Rook is worth 20 points and will take any trick in which it is played, the player who is dealt the Rook can very often make the winning bid. It is possible, though more difficult, to win a lower bid without it, but a player with the Rook and a few high cards (including the 14) of a suit they can call as trump has a very strong hand that is difficult to beat.

To reduce the power of the Rook and increase strategic play, the Rook Bird card can be made the lowest trump card in the game. As such it beats all non-trump cards, but is taken by any "numbered" trump, similar to the Petit (1 of trumps) in many Tarot variants. This adds a different strategy to play, with the bid winner actively seeking out the Rook, and its holder trying to save it for a trick in which other players cannot or have not played trump, so that it can be played "safely" and end up in its owner's scoring pile.

A third method known as "Rook ten-and-a-half" places the Rook card's rank between the 10 and 11 of trump. In this version the player holding the Rook must follow suit if possible. The Rook retains its 20 point value when the game is scored.


When all possible tricks have been taken, each team adds the values of the counters it captured. If the bidding team failed to make the number of points bid, that team loses a number of points equal to the amount of the bid, and does not make any points for counters captured in the round. The opposing team receives points equal to the value of any counters they captured.

The first team to reach 300 points (or a predetermined amount established by the players at the game's start) is the winner.

A great accomplishment is reaching 120 points on one hand, this difficult task is referred to as "Shooting the Moon."


Adaptation for standard playing cards

Kentucky Discard Rook may be played with standard playing cards by removing the 2s, 3s, and 4s from the deck, playing Aces high, and adding one joker to be used as the Rook Bird card. When playing with such a deck scoring changes as follows: each 5 is worth 5 points, each ace and 10 is worth 10 points, and the joker is worth 20 points. Aces always play high in tricks.

A common alternate form of the game (as described in Hoyle's Rules of Games) uses a complete deck of standard playing cards but assigns the point cards differently (aces = 15, kings = 10, tens = 10, fives = 5), and is essentially similar to the 1-High Partnership described below.

Four player partnership variants

Since the game of Rook has been played for over a century, many local variants are in existence for the four-player partnership form of the game. Perhaps foremost is that the game can be played exactly according to the above Kentucky Discard Tournament rules, except using the entire deck, giving all players 13 cards with a 5-card nest. Other variants, including the original form of Kentucky Discard, do not include the Rook, while still others make the Rook the lowest trump or change its relative value, are played without a nest, add the 1 as a 15 point counter that is the highest card in each suit, or give a 20-point bonus for winning the majority of tricks or the last trick. Most of these variants are described in a book titled Rook in a Book published by Winning Moves, and in the official rules that come with Parker Bros editions of Rook.

The two official variants of four-player partnership Rook described by the game publishers are Kentucky Discard Rook (Tournament Rules), and Regular Partnership Rook:

  • Kentucky Discard Rook (Tournament Rules) is the most popular form of the game, and the rules have been described above. Officially recognized variants of Kentucky Discard Rook (Tournament Rules) include Kentucky Discard Original Rules (eliminates the Rook card), The Red 1 (adds the red 1 card as a higher 30 point trump), and Buckeye (adds 1s as 15 point counters that are the highest cards in each suit).
  • Regular Partnership Rook is played with all cards 1-14, but without the Rook or a nest, and 20 points is given to the partnership that wins the majority of tricks. Officially recognized variants of Regular Partnership Rook include Dixie (which uses a nest and uses the 13 as a 10 point counter instead of the 14), Display, and Boston (both of which involve the declarer playing the partner's hand as a dummy, similar to Bridge).

Rook in a Book describes other common variants, including 1-High Partnership. This game is very similar to the version of the game for regular playing cards as it appears in Hoyle’s Rules of Games and many internet sources. It is played with all cards 1-14, adding the 1s as 15 point counters that are the highest cards in each suit. The Rook functions as the lowest trump and is worth 20 points, and an additional 20 points is given to the partnership that wins the majority of tricks.

Other variants

Many other forms of the game can be played with 2 to 8 players, both with and without partnerships.

A version for an odd number of players is known as "call-your-partner Rook." Typically played with 5 players, the player who wins the bid immediately "calls" one card to add to his team. The player holding the named card called secretly partners with the bid-winner until play reveals the card and partner's location. Points in a hand are divided between the two teams that formed during play, but scores are recorded individually over a series of hands, as partnerships change from hand to hand. After winning a bid, a player is often faced with the choice of calling a high trump card, or a high card of another suit to be his or her partner. The three defenders meanwhile are often forced to choose whether to add points to a hand when the identity of the partner remains unknown.

Another version which is very popular and similar to the above variant, "call-your-partner Rook", can be played with 4,5, or 6 players. There are 200 total points for every hand, 1's = 15, 14's = 10, 10's = 10, 5's = 5, and the Rook card = 20. The team who takes the last hand also gets 20 points and the kitty or nest, and whatever points are there. Rook can be called high or low by the bid winner as well as which card of which suit that person wants as their partner. The Rook card is always trump and must be played likewise. When called low, it is the lowest possible trump(below the 2 card); when called high, it is the highest possible trump. The 1 card is the highest card of each suit, unless the Rook card is called high. Players must follow suit when discarding, the player with the Rook card may not play it anytime (unlike other versions). When playing with 6 players, the bid winner is allowed to call 2 cards as partners. After the bid winner exchanges cards with the kitty, they then must declare if there are points in the kitty. Next they state which card or cards will be their partner, whether Rook is high or low and which color is trump. In 4 player Rook there are 5 cards in the kitty, 5 player has 7 cards in the kitty(since the bid winner and their partner will be against 3 opponents), and 6 player has 3 cards in the kitty. If the 2's, 3's and 4's are removed the number of cards in the kitty remains the same except for 5 player Rook, which will then have 5 cards in the kitty.

Another four-player version which uses all the same cards as the version of "call-your-partner Rook" which would include using the all four 1's and also using all suits of 5's through 14's. The total point count is at 180 points. The point system uses the 1's = 15, 14's = 10, 10's = 10, 5's = 5, and the Rook still valued at 20. The game still follows the standard still of play only difference is that the 1's are included and they replace the 14's as the highest of their suit.

Trump calling variants

Low Card: Low card can be called when the bid is taken, in this scenario the Rook becomes the 10.5 of trump, fives are the best, and ones are the worst with quality of card descending as the number gets higher. It can be called low card with any color being trump.

No Trump: No trump hands can be called, when this is done, the Rook becomes the 10.5 of Red, and there is no trump, all cards play as if they were off suit. This can be called in conjuncture with high card or low card.

Circus Rook: Circus Rook is a variant where when the winning bid is earned, the player who takes the kitty calls "Circus Rook". After this is called, the person to the immediate left would call trump, and give their best card to the player to their left (for instance, if high card green is called, and the rook was in an opponents hand, they would pass it to their left) the player who called circus rook and his partner would then pass their worst card to their left (most likely a low off suit card). The game play then continues with the team who called trump leading.

Black 2 Trump: Another variation of Rook in which the black 2 can be used to trump the Rook card.


  1. ^ Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream - Malcolm Bull, Keith Lockhart - Google Boeken
  2. ^ McLeod, John. "Kentucky Rook", 2007-6-27. Retrieved on 2009-4-09.

Orbanes, Philip E. (1999). Rook in a Book. Winning Moves, Inc. ISBN 1-891056-25-5.

External links

  • PDF Rules Tournament rules for Kentucky Discard from Hasbro
  • Coit Morrison's ROOK Card Collection A collection of old and new ROOK Card sets and related items.
  • BGG Rook page's information page with pictures and discussion about Rook
  • ROOK Card Collectors Association Organization with the goal of educating and networking ROOK card collectors.
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