Methods of Scorekeeping

Almost every type of competitive game (card games notwithstanding) has some concept of keeping score during the course of the game. This keeping of score is usually essential to the play of the game and is used in some way to determine the games ultimate winner. In most cases the player or team who has the highest accumulated score is considered the winner, however in some games, players attempt to avoid scores, with the lowest scoring individual or team set as the winner.

Scoring and Winning Conditions:
There are a number of different methods in card games in which the scoring directly relates to the condition for winning the game. Some of the most popular of these are as follows:

Recording the Score:
Any game that does in fact use some form of score accumulation also requires a method in which this score is recorded. There are several methods in which this is commonly done, which include the following popular methods:

Example card game score sheet
  • Pen and Paper: By far the most common method is the use of the traditional score sheet. In this method, each player's score is recorded on one master score sheet. Usually one column is made on the scoresheet for each player (or partnership) with their ongoing score throughout the hands added to the scoresheet as the scores are made. The scores recorded in the column can then be quickly added together to determine any player's current score at any point during the game. Often, subtotals are made after each hand to show the player's current accumulated score in the game so far. In games which also feature potential negative scoring during the hand, a subtractive score is marked in such a way to be clearly distinguishable, such as being made in a different color. When a player's total score is negative, this is also marked in some distinguishing manner, the most common being to circle the total (called "in the hole").
    When the scoresheet method is used, one player (often the dealer) is usually selected to also be the scorekeeper for the hand and ensure all scores are marked and added as appropriate. At any time during the game, generally any player has the right to ask what his or any opponents current score, as recorded on the scoresheet, is at the current time.


  • Chips or Tokens: Another fairly common method of keeping a cumulative score over the course of a game is to use tokens or chips. Before the start of the game, each player is usually provided a set and equal number of such chips. Each player, during the hand may be required to pay or collect chips to or from the other players. At the end of some set number of hands or specific time span the game ends and the chips can be easily counted to see who has the highest total and would thus be declared the winner. In most standard, competitive games of cards that use this method, the chips provided are all similar and intended to represent the same number of units. However, in some games, there may be several styles or colors of tokens or chips intended to represent varying scoring denominations (i.e. one unit, five units and ten units).


  • Special Markers: Several games use score marking mechanisms that are unique to that particular game and possibly it's variants. This would include scoring mechanisms such as the special board used when scoring Cribbage in which the movement of individual pegs on a board represents the current games score. Other games might use spinners, sliders or other mechanical devices. Several games also record the score using playing cards which are not used in the actual course of the game. This might using the specific rank of the card to display the score as in Euchre, or placing cards in a certain pattern to represent a player or teams current score. These methods are usually traditional methods used specifically for that game or some of it's variations.


  • Electronic Devices: A fairly recent addition in scoring mechanisms is the use of electronic means for recording scores for card games. Originally these were digital devices which allowed for players to easily record and add scores, usually for a specific game. Usually these were created for very specific and popular games, such as Cribbage and Bridge. More recently a number of computer programs and smart phone apps have been created which can record scores for many of the most popular card games. In addition, these devices or programs can often be configured to track a number of other statistics, such as ongoing Game Points, maximum and minimum scores, trends over a particular time period and many other similar facts. Most of these programs can be downloaded free to a users mobile device or computer. See our Links page for sites that feature some of these utilities in which a player can download.


  • Game Points:
    Although most games may keep a cumulative score from hand to hand until the current game completes, some players or card groups prefer to keep an ongoing score over a longer period. This may be over the course of many games, a number of game sessions or perhaps even over a number years. Thus, while, at the completion of a game, the game scores are reset with each player starting again from the base score (usually zero), a number of global game points may be recorded on an ongoing score for each participant. These points usually have no bearing on the score during the game, but can give an overall score rating over the course of a longer time. These types of Game Points are often used in card clubs or groups to rate players over a potentially long period of time. This is also sometimes referred to as Ladder scoring, as it shows a player's position on a ladder based on his current number of game points.

    In most cases, a player's point score earned during play of the game does not carry directly over to be added to a Game Point score, there is usually some type of translation from a player's score during a specific game to an overall, ongoing score. Sometimes this may be as simple as earning one such global Game Point for winning a specific game, but may also be directly calculated by the margin of victory during a game. In addition, players may also have Game Points subtracted from their Game point score based on the outcome of a particular game or set of games.

    Bracket Chart - Teams of Four Tournaments and Competitions: In addition to Game Points and Ladder Points, many players participate in Card game tournaments. There are a number of formats commonly used in these tournaments in order to determine the ultimate winner of the tournament. These include the following:



    Contract Bridge Tournament Scoring: When Contract Bridge is played in a tournament or contest setting, the usual form played is Duplicate Bridge although Progressive style Bridge is sometimes played. At the end of a session, players are usually assigned a number of points, either Match Points or International Match Points. From these points, the players can then easily determine the winners of the tournament or match.



    Hollywood Scoring Hollywood Scoring:
    High powered Gin Rummy players in the Hollywood movie colonies developed and popularized this method of scoring in the 1950's. In Hollywood scoring, each game is scored as if it were three separate games. Hollywood scoring is most prominently seen in Gin Rummy and Eights, however, this scoring method can be utilized in many other two player games.

    Using Hollywood scoring, a set of columns for three separate games is usually made on the scoring sheet, labeled Game 1, Game 2 and Game 3. When a player wins his first hand, his earned score in the hand is added in the Game 1 column. Upon winning his second hand, the score for that hand is added in Column 1 and Column 2. For the third and each subsequent won hand, the score is added to all three columns. Thus, the game is score as if three simultaneous games were being played. Once a player has earned a high enough score in one game column to have won that game, that game is closed out (with that high scoring player declared the winner of the game in that column), with subsequent scores scored only in the remaining columns. Once a game column is closed out, no further scoring by either player may be added in that game column.

    It is not unknown for some high scoring players to enjoy extending it beyond just three columns to almost any number, which of course will make for longer and a more protracted game session.
     
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