How to Play Cucumber

How to Play Cucumber Cucumber is a fun trick taking card game with a unique twist. This game originated in Denmark and is also known as Agurk, the Danish word for cucumber. The unique feature of this game is that players score nothing for winning individual tricks but instead, try to avoid winning the last trick of each hand. This game is designed to be played by 2 to 7 players.

Cucumber uses one standard 52 card deck. The ranking of the cards in this game are as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. The suits of the cards are irrelevant when playing Cucumber.

The first dealer can be determined in a variety of ways. One common method to use for this game is to have any player begin dealing cards face-up from a shuffled deck in a clockwise rotation. The first player to receive a Jack is designated the first dealer. Thereafter, the deal rotates in a clockwise rotation around the table. If a player whose turn it is to deal is no longer in the game (due to being eliminated in play as described below), the deal passes to the next player who is still active in the current game.

Once the dealer is determined, he then shuffles the pack and deals one card at a time to each player in a clockwise rotation until each player has a total of seven cards. The remainder of the cards are then set aside, face down and will not be used for the rest of the hand. After each hand the deal rotates in a clockwise direction around the table.

Once the cards are dealt, the players then pick up their cards to begin play of the hand. The player to the dealer's immediate left plays the first card to the first trick. Each player in turn in a clockwise rotation then plays one card from his hand to the trick. Instead of playing cards to the center of the table, the players simply play the card face-up directly in front of themselves on the table. Since suits are irrelevant in this game, there is no need or obligation to play a card of the same suit as led to the trick (which is different from most other trick taking games). However, there are still specific rules on what cards can be played to a trick, as follows:

The player who leads the first card to a trick can play any card of his choice from his hand. The subsequent players to the same trick then have one of two choices of play to the trick. Once each player has played a card to the trick in clockwise order, the winner of the trick is determined. The highest card (of any suit) played to each trick wins it. If there are two or more cards which tie for the highest played to the trick, the latest one played to the trick wins the trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick.

A hand consists of seven total tricks played. The first six tricks played during the hand do not score any points for the winner of those tricks. However, the winner of the last trick of the hand scores a penalty based on the specific card he played on that last trick. The penalty points added to his score are calculated as per the following chart:
Card DenominationScoring Value
Ace14
King13
Queen12
Jack11
2 to 10Numerical value marked on card face
      Example Cucumber Score Sheet

Sample Hand at Cucumber
In this example of a last trick, the Leader leads a five of Clubs. Since the two Eights are the highest cards played, the second of them played (Eight of Diamonds) wins the trick (scoring 8 points). The player of the first eight (Spades) would have a bonus of 8 points subtracted from their current score.
Any player who, on that last trick, was able to play a card of the same denomination as the card winning the trick (but did not themselves win the trick) can subtract an equal number of points from their hand. They would subtract the number of points as per the chart given above, based on the card's denomination. However, a player can never reduce their score below zero. If a player already has obtained one Cucumber (see below), they will still retain that cucumber even if they can reduce their current score to zero. This subtraction of points from a player's score occurs after any players who earned their first cucumber in the game re-enter the game, setting their current score equal to the player with the highest score before any subtraction takes place.

Once a player reaches or exceeds 21 total accumulated points they earn one "cucumber". This is normally designated by drawing a small cucumber on the score sheet in that players column. When a player receives two cucumbers they are out of the game. When a player receives their first cucumber, they can resume playing after making the appropriate marking on the score sheet. They would re-enter the game with a score equal to the current, active player who has the highest score (but still below 21).

The game continues in this manner until there is just one player left at the end of a hand whom is declared the winner.




Cucumber Variations and Optional Rules

Aces: There are several variations of Cucumber that differ only in the rules for how Aces may be played. Thus, in some games, one or more of the following rules might be used regarding Aces in that game: There are several other great games similar to Cucumber that are played in other regions which are equally as popular. These include some of the following:

Gurka: Gurka, being the Swedish word for Cucumber, is a variation of this game often played in Sweden. The game is played similarly to the standard game described above with a few differences.

In this version each player is dealt six cards, which results in six tricks being played per hand. Because of the fewer cards dealt, this variant allows up to 8 total players to participate.

Another major difference relates to the allowable cards to play to an existing trick. In Gurka, the obligation on a players turn regarding playing to a specific trick are slightly different. In this variant, a player is only obligated to beat or equal the immediately previous players card. Alternatively, they may play the lowest card remaining in their hand.

As in standard Cucumber, the winner of the last trick of each hand earns a number of penalty points dependent on which card wins the trick. The scoring value of this last cards is identical to that for standard Cucumber. However, a major difference is that each player who plays a card of the highest denomination to this last trick earns these penalty points, not just the last of these played.

When a player reaches 30 or more points they are eliminated from the game (That player is said to be a Cucumber). In this version there is no re-entering the game, and eliminated players must wait until a winner is declared and a new game begins. Once all but one player has been eliminated, the game ends and that player is declared the winner.

Norwegian Gurka: The name Gurka is also that used by another popular variant of Cucumber. This is the version usually played in Norway.

This game is played the same as standard Cucumber, with a few essential differences: In all other respects, the Norwegian version of the game is played the same as the standard version.

Polish Cucumber: Another variant of this game which is often played in Poland is called Polish Cucumber. This version is also played very similarly to the standard game with a few exceptions.

Gurka hand in progress In the deal, each player receives six cards, which allows up to eight players to participate in a game.

A player, on his turn must play a card higher than any other played to the current trick if able. If they cannot play such a card they must play the lowest card remaining in their hand. The highest card played to the trick wins the trick, and in the case of a tie for highest card, the last played to the trick wins the trick. The winner of each trick leads to the next. During the hand, players play their cards to the center of the table, however they are not gathered up between each trick and are left in a pile in the center until the end of the hand.

As described in the optional rules for Aces, in this game, an Ace is considered the highest card in all but the last trick of the hand. In the last trick, an Ace is considered the lowest card in the deck. If an Ace ends up winning the last trick, it's value is set at 1 point.

When a player reaches 50 or more points at the end of a hand, they must drop from the game. They do not reenter the game once reaching the 50 point total. The game continues until there is but one player remaining who is declared the winner.

Pickle: Pickle is a fun variant of Cucumber developed by the Cats. It is played similarly to the base game, but adds in a special feature, called the Pickle.

This game uses the standard 52 card deck and the same normal card ranking as in the parent game. Determination of seating positions and first dealer are the same as in the standard game. However, after all players have received their seven card hands, the next card of the stock is exposed and placed partially under the remainder of the stock. This card is called the Pickle. This card can have a significant affect on the scoring and ranking of that hand. It has two specific direct affects on the current hand as follows: Cumulative scores are kept for each player form hand to hand. When a player reaches or exceeds 100 points he must drop from the game. The last player remaining is declared the winner.
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