How To Play Cassino

Cassino is an exciting game with the major goal to capture specific point scoring cards throughout a number of hands. Although classically called Cassino (spelled with a double s) the name of this game is often shortened to just Casino (singular s). The standard game is usually played by two players, although there are variations for differing numbers of players (see the variations section, below).

Cassino is played using the standard 52 card deck. Although there is no real concept of card ranking in this game, most of the cards are considered to have a value for building purposes (see below). Aces count 1 point and the numbered cards 2 through 10 count their face value. Kings, Queens and Jacks can only be captured with like ranked cards so do not have equivalent numerical values (as detailed below).
An example of the initial layout for the card game Cassino
Initial Layout
The initial layout for a game of Cassino might look like the following. At the completion of the initial deal, each player would have four face down cards and there would be four face up cards in the center of the table.
Selection of the dealer for the game of Cassino is usually done by drawing for high card from a shuffled deck. Once this first dealer is determined he shuffles and his opponent cuts the deck. The dealer then deals two face down cards to his opponent, two face up cards to the center of the table and then two face down cards to himself. He then repeats, again dealing two cards to his opponent, two to the center (face up) and then two more to himself. After this deal, each player should have a total of four cards with four face up cards in the center. After the play of each four card deal, the dealer will then deal four more face down cards to his opponent and himself in batches of two. He does not deal any further cards to the center of the table for the remainder of this hand, but leaves any cards that already remain there.

The dealers opponent is the first to play after each of these four card deals. When the deck is exhausted (has entirely been dealt out in these four card deals) the hand is over and scoring ensues. If the game is not yet won, the deal passes to the dealers opponent who deals the next hand. The deal of each hand will continue to alternate between the two players until the game ends in a victory for one of the players. When a game is actually won, the player winning the game begins the deal for the next game.

On a players turn, he may make any one of the following plays:
  1. Trailing: A player may play any one of the cards in his hand face-up to the center of the table. This is generally done when the player has no other possible plays.

  2. Taking Example
    A player holding an eight in their hand could play it and take in the eight from the table, the five and three (summing to eight) and their own originally played eight, for a grand total of four cards taken in for the play.
  3. Taking: If a player has a card of equal rank to any other cards in the play area at the center of the table, he may play this card and take any other cards of the same rank. He may also take two or more other cards that might add together to equal the card rank. For example, if a player played a 5 to the table, he could take any other loose fives on the table. If there was a three and a two on the table he could take that combination of cards as well. Since Kings, Queens and Jacks do not have an equivalent numerical ranking in this game, they can only be taken with another of the same rank (i.e. a Jack could take another Jack). These face cards can only be taken in groups of one or three such matching cards shown on the table. Therefore, a player can take one matching card or three matching cards on the center of the table. For instance, if there were two Jacks in the center, and the player played a Jack from their hand, he could only take one of the two Jacks. A player should place all cards he takes during his turns in a distinct, face down pile in front of him for later determination in scoring the hand.

  4. Building Example
    A player holding a nine and a three in their hand could first play the three, using it to build nine combined with a five and ace already on the table. He could also add a nine that was already on the table, creating the situation shown, declaring "Building Nines". On his next turn, he could play the nine in his hand and take the four cards from the build on the table along with his played nine.
  5. Build: A player may add a card from his hand to one or more cards already on the table and build a higher rank. Thus, the player could take a five from his hand and play it on a four that was already on the table and build nine. When doing this, the player must declare the value he is building and must contain within his hand a card of the rank that he is building. The player would place all the cards used in the build in a pile. In addition to this build, the player may add any other loose cards that can also be added together to make this total. He can also add to the build any specific cards of this rank (thus, in the prior example the player could add a loose 9 on the table). This is called augmenting the build (see below). A player creating a build must beware, however, as their opponent could take this build on their turn if they hold a card of the built rank in their hand.

  6. Augmenting a Build: A player could add a single card from his hand, either alone or in combination with one or more loose cards on the table which add to the same current total of a current build already on the table. Thus, if a build of 10 was on the table, the player could combine a six from his hand with a four from the table and add it to the build, augmenting it. He could also add a single 10 from his hand directly to the build. Once a build has been augmented in any way, the build cannot be increased.

  7. Build Increase: A player may increase a build that is already on the table. This could be a build of his own or of his opponent. He can directly increase the build with his played card or can add it to one or more other cards (which are not part of another build) from the table to increase the build. A build may never be increased if it contains a specific, singular card of the previously built total. Again, this build can be taken by the opponent if he has a card of the newly built rank in his hand.
Once a player makes one of these plays, his turn immediately ends and the turn passes to his opponent. In this way, the turn alternates between the two players until they have each had four turns. At this time, the dealer deals each player four more cards from the stock as described above. When the dealer deals the sixth and last deal of four card hands, he should announce "Last". This may have significance as the last player to be able to take any cards from the center takes any remaining cards in the center of the table when the last card of the hand is played. When the last card has been played, the hand ends and each player scores based on the following criteria, based on the cards they were able to capture during the play of the hand:

Player having taken the most cards3
Player having taken the most spades (♠)1
Big Cassino - 10 of Diamonds (10 )2
Little Cassino - 2 of Spades (2 ♠)1
Each Ace captured1

The scoring categories in Cassino

Thus there is generally a total of 11 points possible per each hand. However, in occasional circumstances both players may each get an equal number of total cards taken in (26 each). In this case the 3 points for cards is not awarded to either player for this hand. The game is usually played to a total of 21 points, with the first player to reach this total declared the winner. When scoring at the end of the hand, the scores should be totalled in the following order:

Most Cards, Most Spades, Big Cassino, Little Cassino, Ace ♠, Ace ♣, Ace , Ace

Thus, during this scoring order if a player's score totals or exceeds the 21 needed for victory, he is instantly declared the winner of the game.

At any time during the game a player who thinks that they may have totalled 21 or more points in their hand and on the score sheet may call for a "count out". When this is done, immediately, this players' captured cards for the hand are examined and totalled. If their current score sheet total and any points they have won in their already captured cards for the current hand reach or exceed 21 points, this player is immediately declared the winner of the game, regardless of their opponents score (even it if would be greater than this players). However, if the player falls short of 21, the opponent is immediately declared the winner, no matter what their current score is.

Cassino Variations and Optional Rules

Partnership Cassino: This variation of the basic game is designed for four players, playing in two opposing partnerships.

The partnerships can be chosen in various ways. A common method to do this is to have all four players draw a card from a shuffled deck. The two players drawing the highest cards play as partners against the players drawing the two lowest.

The partners should sit opposite each other at the table (as in most other partnership type games), such that the turns will alternate between a player from each partnership.
The game is played identically to the standard game of Cassino, above, however all cards taken by each partnership are combined into one scoring pile for that partnership. As in the standard game, a player may only make a build equalling a total that they contain in their own hand. They may not attempt to build a total for a card rank that they do not hold in their own hand, but which they think their partner might have. At the end of the hand, the partnership as a whole scores for all point earning combinations as in the standard game.
Just as in the standard game, the first partnership to score 21 points or more wins the game.

Draw Cassino: This game is played exactly the same as the parent game above, with one major exception.
After the initial hands are dealt (along with the four cards to the center of the table) the remainder of the stock is placed face down in the center of the table as a stock pile.
After each player takes his turn, he draws the top card of the stock pile and adds it to his hand. When the stock pile is exhausted, the game continues as in the standard version until the players have each played their last card. In all other respects this version is played the same as the standard version of Cassino.

Royal Cassino: This game is played similarly to the basic game above, with one major exception:
In this version the royalty cards have equivalent rank values for use in building or taking builds. These cards have values as follows:

CardEquivalent build value
Ace1 or 14 at holders option
          In Royal Cassino royalty cards have numerical equivalent build values                

Thus, for example, a King could be taken not only by a matching King from the hand, but could also be used to take a number of cards on the table that totalled to 13. These royalty cards can be built and used to take builds just as any other card in the game. A player holding an Ace can use it as either a rank of 1 or 14 at their option. They can do the same for an Ace on the table, as long as it is not already part of another build, in which its value has already been declared. When using an Ace in a build, the player must declare what they are building. Differing from the standard game, a player can take any number of equally ranked cards with a royalty card from their hand (they are not limited to just one or three). In all other respects the game is played exactly as standard Cassino.

Spade Cassino: This game is played identically to the standard game described above, with the addition of several new scoring cards:

The deuce (2), Jack and Ace of spades (♠) are all worth 2 points each. All other spades score one point each. The other scoring cards and criteria are as in the standard Cassino game. As this can be a high scoring game, game is usually 61 points. For convenience, this game is often scored on a cribbage board, with the first player to go once around (for the requisite 61 points) being declared the winner.

California Cassino: California Cassino is another form of Cassino which is very similar to the base game. The following detail the only differences between California Cassino and the standard game described above:
  1. Sweeps are never used or counted in California Cassino. While some variations of Cassino feature scoring points for a Sweep (clearing the entire table of cards) California Cassino never allows a score for any type of sweep.
  2. A player can capture any number of face cards from the table. In the standard version, these face cards must be paired in multiples of two. In this variation, any number of the same denomination face card can be captured from the center of the table.
  3. California Cassino is designed to be played by 2, 3, 4 or 6 players, each playing for himself.
  4. A game continues until each player has dealt exactly twice. After each player has dealt two times the game ends and the player with the highest score is set as the winner.
All other rules for California Cassino are the same as for standard Cassino as detailed above.

Sweeps: This is an optional rule that is sometimes added when playing Cassino or any of its variations. In this variant rule, a player who on his turn, manages to take all the cards on the table is said to have earned a sweep. Each sweep entitles a player to one point at the end of the hand. A player who earns a sweep, should place one of the cards taken in the sweep at a 90 degree angle in their face down capture stack to assist in scoring at the end of the hand. When totalling the scores at the end of each hand, sweeps are the last point category to be scored, right after each of the Aces.

Cassino For Three or Four: This is basically the standard game played by three or four players. As opposed to Partnership Cassino described above, each player in this game plays for himself. The rules are exactly the same as for the standard game, however there will be a few differences due to the number of players.

For starters, after the first dealer is selected (as above) the dealer begins by dealing two face down cards to each player in a clockwise rotation, starting with the player to his immediate left. After all the other players have two cards, the dealer then deals two cards face up to the center of the table. He then deals two face down cards to himself. He then repeats this procedure once more. As in the standard game, for subsequent deals of the same hand, he deals in the same way, however no new cards are dealt to the center of the table.

At the end of a hand, if the game has not yet been won, the deal rotates clockwise around the table. The deal of each hand will continue to rotate around the table, from player to player until the game ends in a victory for one of the players. The winner of a game begins the deal for the next game which then proceeds in the same way.

Because there are more players than in the standard game, there will be fewer deals per hand. With three players there should be four deals per hand. With four players there will be 3 deals per hand.
With more than two players in the game, there may be occasions where there is a tie for the player who captures the most spades in a hand. If this is the case, the score for spades is not scored in this hand. In the same manner, if two or more players tie for the most cards captured in the hand, the 3 points for cards is not awarded during this hand.

African Cassino: African Cassino is a variant of Royal Cassino in which players, in augmenting builds on the table, may capture the top card of other players captured piles. It is most popular in the Swaziland area of Africa and this version is thusly often called Swazi Cassino.

The version described first is for 3 players, each playing for themselves. Variants for two and four players are described further below. The dealing rotation, play and dealing privilege all rotate in a counter-clockwise rotation.

For purposes of creating builds, each of the cards has an equivalent value as per the following chart:
CardBuild Value
2 - 10Value marked on card face
Ace1 or 14 at the Option of Player
To begin the dealer shuffles the deck and the player to his immediate right, draws four unseen cards from the middle of the deck. These cards are placed individually and face up in the center of the table to start the center layout. The dealer then deals out the remainder of the cards to the players in rotation, one card at a time. The player to the dealers right makes the first play.

The play is similar to standard Cassino in that, on his turn a player may take one of several actions; Capture (called Chow), create a new build, extend an existing build, augment an existing build or discard. A player must play exactly one card on each turn.

When Discarding, a player who usually has no other play will simply place one card face up in the center of the table.

The rules for Capturing are identical to those in standard Cassino. A player may capture any individual cards or combination of cards that totals to the card he is playing. He may also capture a build if that build totals the exact same as the individual card played.

A player may also Create a new build. He may combine any combination of cards from the table to form a build of a certain total. He may also use one card from his hand in creating a build. When creating a build, you are considered the owner of said build. You may never create a build in which you do not have a card which could capture that specific build.

Increasing a build is also similar to the standard game. A player may add one card from his hand to increase the current value of a build on the table. However, this can only be done on a build that was first created by an opponent. As in creating a new build, when increasing a build, the player must have a card that could actually capture that build.

Capturing in African Cassino
In this example, a player augments a build of 9's using a two from their own hand and a seven from an opponents capture pile.
Lastly, a player, on his turn, can Augment a build. Augmenting a build is simply adding one or more cards to the build that is the same total as that of the current build. You may normally only augment builds that are currently owned by you or your partner (in the partnership version), however if you capture the build in the same turn, you may augment an opponents build. You may add a card from your hand as well as cards from the table to augment the build. Furthermore, when augmenting a build, the top card of an opponents capture pile may be used to assist in this endeavor. Only the topmost card of an opponents capture pile is allowed to be accessed at one time. However, if the next exposed card in the pile could be used with another card (from the hand or the table) to further augment the build, that is permissible.

When capturing cards or builds, the player places all the captured cards in one neatly stacked face up pile (called his capture pile). He may arrange this pile as he wants when capturing cards, but the actual card used to make the last capture must always be the top, faced card of the pile. In the partnership version, each partnership contains just one pile for the partnership, which may be set in front of either of the partners. As can be seen in the rules above, this topmost card can then be potentially captured by opponents augmenting a build on the table.

When an Ace is used in a build, the player playing it must announce the builds value (which indicates the value of the Ace in it). Once set in this way, the value of that card must remain the same until the card is captured. When an Ace is the top card of a players capture pile, an opponent may use it as either 1 or 14.

When all cards have been played, the uncaptured cards remaining on the table are collected by the last player to have made any type of capture. At this time the hand is scored as per the following chart:
Scoring CategoryScoring Value
Player or Partnership Having the Most Captured Cards2
Player or Partnership with the Most Captured Spades2
Capturing the Two of Spades (called Spy Two)1
Capturing the Ten of Spades (called Big Ten)2
Each Ace Captured1 Point Each
If there is a tie between one or more players (or partnerships) for most cards or most Spades captured, the tying players would each score 1 point for the category. The first player or partnership to score 11 or more points at the end of a hand is declared the winner. If two or more players reach or exceed 11 points in the same hand, the scores are calculated in the following strict order (first to last): Most Cards, Most Spades, Spy Two, Big Ten, Spade Ace, Club Ace, Ace of Hearts then Ace of Diamonds.

Two Player African Cassino: Although played very similarly to the standard African Cassino variant, there are several differences when the game is played by two.

The deck, determination of first dealer, shuffle and ranking of the cards is identical to standard African Cassino. The non-dealer has the first turn, with the deal alternating between both players.

As in the standard version, four cards are pulled out from the center of the deck to form the layout on the table. However, with two players each player receives only 12 cards. When those 12 cards have been played, the next batch of 12 cards is dealt.

A player may never discard to the center of the table while they have any uncaptured builds on the table. At the end of a players turn, that player may never have more than one uncaptured build on the table.

In all other respects the game is identical to standard African Cassino.

Partnership African Cassino: African Cassino also makes a great four player version. When played by four, the game is played in two partnerships of 2 players each with one score kept for each team. The partners should each sit directly across from their teammate.

The rules for four player, partnership African Cassino are identical to the standard rule with a few exceptions:

One score is kept for each partnership. In addition, each partnership has only one capture pile. This pile may be kept in front of either of the partners.

Under most circumstances a player may never create, increase or augment a build in which they do not have a card which could capture this build (in effect, creating a potential build for their partner). However, in one specific instance a player can make a build that their partner must capture. If a player's partner had a build that the opponents increased (thus preventing the player from capturing it) his partner may make or increase an existing build to be that same value that his partner can then capture. A player may also request that his partner not capture a specific build during a turn (such the player himself can capture it), but his partner is not necessarily obliged to fulfill the request.

Stealing Bundles: This is a common game, often played by children that is a predecessor to learning to play Cassino. Stealing bundles can be played by from two to four players.

After determining the first dealer (high card draw), this dealer deals two cards face down to each player, clockwise around the table. After each other player has two cards, he deals two cards face up to the center of the table. He then deals two cards face down to himself. This dealing pattern is then repeated, such that each player (including himself) has four cards and there are four face-up cards in the center. He also places the remainder of the pack face down near the center to form the stock pile.
How to Play Stealing Bundles
This figure shows the basic layout for the game of Stealing bundles (with a possible game in progress). Displayed are the center cards, each players individual face up bundle, the draw pile and each players four card hand.
The player to the dealers immediate left begins play and thenceforth play continues clockwise around the table.

On his turn a player must play one card from his hand. He can do several things: When all the players have played the last of the four cards from the deal, the players then each draw cards from the stock pile. This occurs with each player drawing a card one at a time starting with the player to dealers immediate left. This continues until each player again has four cards and play resumes.

When the last card of the entire hand is played, the game ends. The player who has the most cards in their bundle is declared the winner of the game.

Each hand is a complete game and the player to the immediate left of the previous dealer deals the next.

Copyright © 2015 All rights reserved.
[Main][Site Map][Glossary][Copyright Page]