On the History of Sheepshead


Sheepshead is one of the oldest card games of german origin. It is at least 500 years old and some suspect that the name comes from the fact that cards were most often played by shepherds in those days.

Card game experts from the International Playing Card Society indentify several members of the Sheepshead family: German Sheepshead, Wendish Sheepshead, Doppelkopf (Double Sheepshead), Skat, and Bavarian Sheepshead whose first written rules first appeared in the year 1896 in a booklet published in Amberg.

Unlike the game of Skat for which the rules were standardized in a Congress that took place in the nineteenth century, Sheepshead rules were not codified until December 1989. In that year, Sheepshead players from around the world (including Canada and the United States) met at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich and established the official Rules of Sheepshead.

Despite that, Sheepshead continues to be played in a variety of ways at different locations and we have included many variations in our program. Especially the rules used in the United States differ substantially from the standard German form. Most of all, the differences have to do with the method by which partners are determined. We are sure that you will enjoy both versions and will discuss each in detail later.

In Sheepshead, there are more than 99,650 Trillion (99,650,000,000,000,000) possible combinations of the cards and this doesn't even include the order in which the players sit. It would take a player about 3,666 Billion (3,666,514,456,925 to be exact) years, playing 12 hours per day and 1 minute per hand, to play each of the possible card combinations. Of course, the earth would be six billion years old then.

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