Appendix D: American Sheepshead

1.0 Introduction

The American rules for four-handed Sheepshead are streamlined versions of their German counterpart. There are two main versions, the details of which are described below. Both versions have the following in common:

*The normal 52-card pack of cards is used with the 6 through 2 removed.
*The object of the game is to capture in tricks 61 or more card points. For this purpose, the values of the cards are:

*All Queens, Jacks, and Diamonds are permanent trump cards and rank from high to low:

Club Q, Spade Q, Heart Q, Diamond Q, Club J, Spade J, Heart J, Diamond J, Diamond A, 10, K, 9, 8, 7.

The remaining suits rank equally and the cards within them rank A, 10, K, 9, 8, 7.

*The cards are shuffled, cut by the player to the dealer's right, and each player is dealt eight cards in clockwise rotation in batches of four cards.

*The player sitting to the dealer's left plays the first card. Each player in turn plays one card following the suit led, if possible. If unable to follow suit, any card may be played. The trick of four cards is won by the player playing the highest card of the suit led or the highest trump, if any are played.

*The player winning each trick, leads the first card to the next one.

*This process continues until all thirty-two cards have been played.

2.0 American Sheepshead Variations

2.1 The Base Game

The players sitting opposite each other are permanent partners. At the end of play, they combine their cards and count the card points captured between them. The side capturing 61 or more card points wins the hand and is paid one chip by each of the losing partners. A score of 60-60 results in no points for either side. If the winning side captures 91+ points (Schneider), then the losing side pays two chips each. Capturing all tricks (Schwartz) calls for the payment of three chips each.

Catch the Fox. This option is played as above, but adds a one-chip (stake) payment for capturing the Ace of Diamonds (Fox).

A match consists of an agreed-upon number of hands.

2.2 The Alternative Game

If they are held in different hands, the holders of the two black Queens become automatic partners, although this fact is revealed only through the play of the cards. As above, each side attempts to capture 61 or more card points. A 60-60 score is a loss for the holders of the Black Queens. Because this method of selecting a partner gives an advantage to the holders of the two top trump, players may agree ahead of time to determine partnerships on the basis of other cards. A common alternative is to pair the holders of the Club Queen and Diamond Jack.

A player holding one of the black Queens may have a strong hand and wish to play a solo game alone against the other three players. In order not to deceive the holder of the other black Queen, this "solo" must be announced before play begins by saying, "I play alone." In this case, the soloist may designate a suit other than Diamonds as trump, but is not required to do so.

In fact, any player may announce a solo game and select a trump suit whether or not he or she holds one of the black Queens. In the event that two or more players want to play solo, the player sitting in clockwise rotation closest to the dealer has preference.

If one player holds both black Queens he or she has the following options:

  1. Play a secret "solo" game against the other three players by leaving Diamonds as trump and saying nothing. The fact of the solo is revealed only through the play of the cards.

  2. Select as a partner the holder of a (non-trump) Ace not in his or her hand. Only the suit is announced by saying something like, "I call the Ace of ___ (suit)." The identity of the partner is revealed only through the play of the cards, however. The holder of the black Queens must hold at least one card of the suit called and may not lead or throw off the called suit until it has first been led by another player. The holder of the called Ace must play it, if the suit is led by another player.

  3. If an Ace cannot be called (e.g., all side suit Aces are held or no suits are held that are not headed by an Ace), then the holder of the two black Queens may announce that the other player first winning a trick will be his or her partner. If the holder of the black Queens wins the first three tricks, he or she must play a Diamonds-solo game, however.

    Scoring: For the soloist or partnership holding the black Queens to win, they must capture 61 or more card points. A 60-60 score is a loss for them. Each loser pays each winner one chip (stake); two for Schneider; and 3 for Schwarz.

    A match consists of an agreed-upon number of hands.

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