How to Play All Fours

Knave or Jack
The card currently called a Jack was originally known as a Knave (marked with the letters Kn on the card). However, due to the similarity of this denomination marking with the King (marked with a K), there was sometimes confusion or mistaken identities between these two cards. A new indicator was thus adopted, the Jack(marked with a J). The Jack was named after one of the point scoring categories in the game of All Fours. This category was scored for capturing the Knave of Trumps in a trick.
All Fours is the primary member of a family of a number of related games, many of which have been popular since the middle 1600's. Although this game was originally developed and played in England, it has spread throughout the world and is currently especially popular in the Caribbean island nations of  Tobago and Trinidad (particularly the four player variation which will be described in the variations section below). All Fours is a trick taking game where players attempt to win up to four points per hand. This game is designed for two or three players with a four player partnership version to be described later. All Fours uses the standard 52 card deck with the cards ranking as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. All Fours is also commonly known as Seven Up, Old Sledge, High-Low-Jack and Old Fours.

Determination of the first dealer is usually performed with all players cutting cards and the player cutting the highest card set as the first dealer. If there is any dispute as to seating arrangements, the players may also select seats in the precedence of their cut card. The deal rotates in a clockwise direction around the table after each hand.

Once the first dealer is determined, this dealer distributes the cards in face down three card packets in a clockwise rotation until each player has six cards. The top card of the remaining stock is then turned over to specify the trump suit for the hand. If this card is a Jack the dealer instantly scores 1 point.

After looking at his hand, the player to the dealer's immediate left has two options. He can either stand or beg. To "Stand" indicates he accepts the trump suit. To "Beg" indicates a preference to have additional cards dealt and another card turned to indicate trump. If the player Begs, the dealer then has the option either to still use the turned up trump suit, saying "Take it", or to agree with the player and take a new trump suit (saying "Refuse"). If the dealer does accept this original trump suit, each opponent of the dealer earns one point, called gift. If any opponent has a score of 6 (meaning he would win if earning one more point), the dealer may never accept the trump suit. If the suit is accepted by player or dealer, play of the hand then begins.

However, if the opponent elected to "beg" and the dealer also refused the trump suit, the trump card is turned face down, three new face down cards are dealt to each player (called running the cards) and a new trump card is exposed from the stock. If this card is of the same suit as the rejected suit, another three cards are dealt to each player and a different trump card is exposed. This continues until the exposed trump card is a different suit than the originally exposed trump card. Each time a player receives three new cards, he must discard any three from his hand (which might include any of the three new ones) to the table which are out of play for the remainder of the hand. Play should begin with each player having six cards. If the new exposed trump card is a Jack of a different suit than the original exposed trump card, the dealer scores 1 point. If, in the rare circumstance the entire deck is exhausted before a new trump suit is turned, everyone throws in their cards and the same dealer deals a new hand from start. Any points that the dealer earned from upturned Jacks are retained by the dealer.

When a new trump suit is turned, any player may also call "Bunch". If all the other players agree, all the cards are also thrown in (bunched together), reshuffled, and a new deal begins with the same dealer. Any points the dealer may have earned from turning up Jacks are still retained by the dealer.

Play of the Hand: Once the trump has been determined play of the hand can begin. The player to the immediate left of the dealer leads the first card to the first trick. Each player in a clockwise rotation plays one card to the trick. A player who has any cards of the same suit as led to the trick must either play a card of that suit to the trick or may trump if he has a card of the trump suit. A player who has no cards of the suit led, may play any card to the trick including one of the trump suit. The highest trump card played to the trick wins the trick, but if no trump cards were played to the trick the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick.

The following scores are then counted after completion of play of the hand.
NameDescriptionScore
HighThe player being dealt the highest card of the trump suit in the hand.1
LowThe player being dealt the lowest card of the trump suit in the hand.1
JackThe player winning in a trick the Jack of the trump suit.1
GameThe player winning the most high-card points during play of the hand. The following cards captured in tricks each have the following indicated high-card point values for purposes of determining who wins the scoring category "Game":
Card DenominationHigh-Card Point Value
1010
Ace4
King3
Queen2
Jack1
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 90
Whichever player has the highest total in these captured high-card points earns the one point score for the Game category.
Card Values for cards won in tricks in All Fours
1
     
Scoring categories in All Fours
This diagram shows the four scoring categories used in All Fours; highest Trump dealt, lowest trump dealt, capturing the Jack of Trump and most card points captured.
Note that Low is scored by the lowest card dealt during the hand, and as such, may not necessarily be a Deuce. Similarly, the point for High, may not always correspond to an Ace.

If two or more players tie for the most high-card points in the hand, the non-dealer scores for the category. If more than one player who is not the dealer ties for the most high-card points, the first player to the left of the dealer scores the point for Game. If the Jack was not played during the hand, no one scores for Jack.

If any player has accumulated 7 or more points at the end of a hand, they are declared the winner. The point categories are scored in the following specific order: High, Low, Jack, Game. Thus, if more than one player reaches or exceeds 7 points at the end of a hand, the scores should be added in order, with the first player who actually reaches 7 in the scoring order declared the game winner.

The winner of each game deals the first hand for the next game.
                     

Variations and Optional Rules

Low Captured: In some games of All Fours, the point for Low is earned by the player winning the card in tricks rather than by the player to whom it was originally dealt. This can change a player's strategy in choice of discards as well as the selection of specific cards to be played to certain tricks.

Eleven Makes Game: Some players increase the scoring requirement from 7 to 11, which makes for a somewhat longer game. All other rules are identical to the standard version described above.

Running All Fours: This game is played identically to the standard game except with regards to potential scoring on the turned up trump card. In this game, the turned up trump card earns the following values for the dealer dependent on the specific card exposed:
CardPoint Value
Ace4
King3
Queen2
Jack1
Any other card turned up as the trump earns nothing. In addition, the score required to win is 31 points. This version is sometimes played on a Cribbage board with the first player to peg halfway around the board declared the game winner.

Running of the Cards: There are various methods used regarding how players might reduce their hand to six total cards each time the cards are run. In the standard game described above, each player discards any three cards of his choice each time he receives three more from a run. However, there are several other methods that are sometimes used:

In some games, the three new cards are dealt to each player but the player does not immediately pick them up or add them to his hand. If the turned up card is of the trump suit and the cards need to be run again, the three cards that were dealt are discarded, replaced with three new ones from the deck.

Another method sometimes used is that the players keep accumulating any additional cards added to his hand when the cards are run. Once a new trump suit is revealed, at that time the player discards enough cards of his choice from his hand to reduce his hand to six.

Some games even allow the players to keep all the additional cards dealt each time the cards are run and then play out the hand with the larger number of cards in the hand. Thus, if the initial trump suit is not accepted, the hand will consist of more than six tricks being played.

Another variation has the player discard three existing cards from his current hand before being dealt the three new ones each time the the cards are run.

Partnership All Fours:

This variation of All Fours, is played by four players in two partnerships. This game is particularly popular in the nations of Trinidad and Tobago. In those locations it is also sometimes titled All Foes.

Determination of partnerships and first dealer can be determined using any of the normal methods, with the cutting of cards being most common. The two players cutting the two highest cards would be partners against the two cutting the two lowest. The player cutting the highest card of all would be designated as the first dealer. In case of a tie in the cut, any tying players would cut again to break the tie. The players should seat themselves at the table such that each player is sitting directly across from his partner.

The deck and ranking of the cards is the same as in the standard version as is the method of the deal, with each player getting six cards in packets of three. One difference however, is that unlike in standard All Fours, in this version the direction of play, deal, and rotation of the deal moves in a counter-clockwise direction.

After distributing the cards the dealer then turns over the top card of the remaining stock to determine the trump suit. If this card is an Ace, Six, Deuce or Jack the dealers partnership earns points as indicated in the following chart:
CardPoint ValueNotes
Jack3-
Six2This card is only scored in the Trinidadian version.
Two2This card is only scored in the Tobago version of the game.
Ace1-
Note that, depending on the specific version being played either the Two or the Six earns two points when exposed. Usually only one or the other of the two cards earns the bonus. Primarily, the Trinidad version of the game scores for the six and the Tobago version of the game scores for the two.
All Fours determination of Trump

After the trump card is exposed, the player to the dealers immediate right then has the standard options to Stand or Beg. If that player wants to play the hand using the exposed trump, he would state "Stand" which would then allow play to begin. However, if that player would rather use another trump suit for the hand he would state "I Beg".

If the player Stands, the game would then begin with the player to the dealer's immediate right playing the first card to the first trick.

If the player, instead stated "Beg", the dealer has two options of his own. He can state "Take One" which earns the opponent team one point and retains the suit of the turned up card as trump for the hand and starting play of the hand. The dealer may never Take One, however, if the opposing partnership is within one point of winning the game. Besides declaring "Take One", the dealer can instead opt for another trump suit. He does this by dealing three more cards to each player and turning over a new trump card. If the new card is a Jack, Six or Ace, the dealer scores the appropriate number of points.

If the new exposed card is of the same trump as the first card exposed, three more cards are dealt to each player and another card is exposed for determining trump. The dealers partnership again earns points if the turned up card is a Jack, Six or Ace. The dealer continues to do this until a card of a different suit is exposed. Once any card of a different suit is exposed as the trump, this sets the new trump suit and play begins. If the entire deck is dealt out before a new trump suit is exposed, all cards are tossed in and the same dealer deals again, but any points his partnership has earned from exposure of the trump card are retained.

Once play begins, the player to the dealers immediate right plays the first card to the first trick. Each player, in a counterclockwise rotation then plays one card to the trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick. Play to the tricks continues until all the players cards have been played. Note that, unlike the original game, players do not discard any cards when cards are run.

On any trump lead, a player must play a trump card if he possesses one, however he is not required to attempt to win the trick if he does not want. If he has no cards of the trump suit, he may play a card of any suit.

If any other suit is led to the trick a player who has cards of the led suit must either play a card of the led suit or a card of the trump suit at his option. If he has no cards of the suit led, he may play any card to the trick, including a trump if he has one.

A trick is won by the highest card of the trump suit played to the trick. If the trick contains no cards of the trump suit, it is won by the highest card of the suit of the original card led to the trick.

After all tricks have been played and won, the partnerships may then score for the following scoring categories:
Category NameDescriptionScore Earned
HighThe player's team who was dealt the highest trump in play1
LowThe player's team who was dealt the lowest trump in play1
Hang JackJack of the trump suit if won by the opponents of the team to which it was originally dealt3
JackJack of the Trump suit if won by the same team to whom it was originally dealt1
GameThe partnership which was able to capture the most high card points in tricks. The following cards captured in tricks have the following high-card point values for purposes of determining this:
Card DenominationHigh-Card Point Value
1010
Ace4
King3
Queen2
Jack1
All other cards captured in tricks have a point value of 0.
1
If both partnerships tie for total high-card points captured during the hand, neither side scores for the Game category. If the Jack of trumps was not dealt to any player's hand, no score is earned for Hang Jack or Jack. The order of scoring the categories at the end of each hand is as follows; High, Low, Jack (or Hang Jack), Game.

The first partnership to win 14 points over any number of hands is declared the winning partnership of the game.

All Fives: All Fives is a high scoring variation of the standard game All Fours. The game, designed for two or three players, is played identically to the standard game, except for the scoring. Instead of the standard four categories as used in All Fours, the following specific cards earn points for the player capturing them in tricks:
CardScoring Value
Ten of Trump Suit10
Five of Trump Suit5
Ace of Trump Suit4
King of Trump Suit2
Queen of Trump Suit2
Jack of Trump Suit1
                Captured card point values when playing All Fives
The player earns the score for the various cards as soon as he wins the trick. The first player to accumulate 61 or more points is declared the winner of the game. This game is often scored on a Cribbage board with the first player to advance his peg around the board being the winner.

Auction Pitch: Auction Pitch is another popular and commonly played variation of the game All Fours, this time featuring bidding. Auction Pitch is played by from two to seven players using the standard 52 card deck with the same ranking as in the standard game.

The players all draw cards from a shuffled deck to determine seating positions and first dealer. The players would take seats in order of precedence from high to low cards drawn. The player drawing the highest of all cards drawn would be the first dealer.

As in all other versions of All Fours, the dealer deals out three card packets face-down to each player until all players have a total of six cards. Rotation of play, card dealing and movement of the deal all move in a clockwise direction.

Once all players have the requisite number of cards, there is one round of bidding, starting with the first player to the dealer's left. Each player may either make a bid higher than any previous bid or pass. The lowest allowable bid is two and the highest bid is four. Although a player's bid must be higher than any other bid, the dealer may tie the last highest bid and still win the bid, unless the high bid was four (called Smudge), with that player instantly the winner of the bidding. A player's bid is his estimation of the minimum number of points he intends to win during the hand. A player who intends to bid Smudge, sometimes indicates this high bid simply by playing his first card to the middle of the table to start the play.

Once a high bidder is found (called the Pitcher), the player making that bid leads the first card to the first trick. The suit of the card he leads (pitches) becomes the trump suit for the hand. When a card of the trump suit is led to a trick all players must play a card of the trump suit if they so have one. On a lead of any other suit, the other players must follow suit, or may also trump if they have any cards of the trump suit. If the player has no cards of the trump suit, he may trump or play a card of any suit. Each trick is won by the highest trump card played to the trick. If the trick contains no cards of the trump suit, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit originally led to the trick.

The first card led by the high bidder determines Trump for the hand
The first card led by the high bidder indicates the Trump suit to be used for the hand.
After all tricks have been played and won, the score for each player is determined. The scoring categories are as in standard All Fours: