What is Kaiser?
Kaiser is a card game that I have been playing most of my life. It is also know as "Three Spot" and "Troika" (I think that is how it would be spelled) which is belived to be of Ukrainian orgin.
The object of the game is to collect "tricks", this a single hand playing which consists of one card from each player. The game is played with 32 cards so there are total of 8 tricks. But there are more points because not all cards are worth the same amount.
Kaiser is played by four people: two teams of two players each. Unlike many card games, only 32 cards are used out of a normal 52 card deck. The deck contains the cards from 8 to ace inclusively (8, 9, 10, jack, queen, king, ace) for each suit. The other four cards are the 7 of clubs, 7 of diamonds, 5 of hearts and 3 of spades. All 32 cards are dealt out: 8 to each player.
In a clockwise manner, starting with the player to the dealer's left, each player may bid on the number of points that he believes he can make. The minimum bid is established before the game, with the most common value being 7. Players must bid higher than the current bid or pass, with the exception of the dealer who may take the bid at the current value. A bid is only for the number of tricks and not which suit will be trump, with the exception of a no-trump bid. Bids range from the minimum bid to 12 with a no-trump bid being greater than a trump bid (for example, 8 no-trump is larger than an 8 bid but smaller than a 9 bid). After a successful bid, the person who won the bid declares trump (unless it was a no-trump bid) and plays any card they choose. If no players bid then the dealer must make a "forced bid" for the set minimum bid (although he can pick any suit or no-trump). Players must follow suit if able (they cannot "trump in" if they have a card in the suit that was led). The player who played the highest card in that suit if no trump has been played or the player who played the highest trump card takes the trick and plays the next card of their choosing. That trick is worth one point towards their score, unless it contains the 5 of hearts or 3 of spades. The trick that contains the 5 of hearts is worth an extra 5 points (+6 net), while the trick that contains the 3 of spades (the "three-spot") is worth 3 fewer points (-2 net). Play continues until all cards have been played.
There are two special types of bids: no-trump and kaiser. A successful no-trump bid will mean that there are no trump cards. Simply, the highest card played (following suit) wins the trick. A kaiser bid is equivalent to a 12 no (no-trump) bid. To make 12 points, the bidder (not the team—note this is the only type of bid in the game of Kaiser where the member of the team taking the trick makes a difference) must take seven tricks, including the 5 of hearts, while forcing the opposing team to take the 3 of spades in the one remaining trick. In the very rare case of a kaiser bid, the bidding team immediately wins the game (or loses, in the event of an unsuccessful result).
Once all cards have been played, each team counts up the number of points they have made. If the bidding team made at least the amount they bid, they score the number of points they made (or twice that amount for a no-trump bid). If they did not, they lose the amount they bid (or twice the amount they bid for a no-trump bid). The opposing team gains the amount of tricks they have made and adds that to their score, unless they are at "bid-out". The bid-out point is where a team must bid in order to count an increase in points. This point is usually 45 to 47 and is calculated by subtracting the agreed-upon minimum bid from 52. The game ends when a team bids and gets to 52 points, at which point they are declared the winner. One variation increases the number of points to win from 52 to 62 if a no-trump bid is made. This also increases the bid-out point by 10 points.
Even though Kaiser is a rare game, rules do vary between groups and between regions. Some variations on the popular rules include:
- Varying the minimum bid (usually anywhere from 5 to 8)
- Including the 7 of hearts and 7 of spades. When dealing, two cards are dealt into a "kiddie" and the winning bidder may pick this kiddie up and exchange cards in his or her hand for cards in the kiddie. If the 3 or 5 are in the kiddie, then the player must include these in his or her playing hand.
- Allowing passing between players. Players are allowed to pass 1 or 2 cards before bidding. This can create an opportunity for communication between players within the rules of the game. This is often accompanied by raising the minimum bid, because the increased level of strategy makes it possible to attain higher scores.
So there are many variations to this great game. How you play my be dependent on where you play. The variations of the game are decided by "house rules", basically it is up the house owner to decide how you are going to play. So when my friends come over this is how we play:
- If the players have no preference, the pairing of partners is done by each player cutting the deck. The highest players are and team the lowest players are a team.
- The dealer is decided by dealing of cards face up by any player and the first player to receive a jack is the first dealer of the game.
- After the dealer has shuffled the cards then the deck is cut by the player that deals before them (to the right) and no more shuffling is allowed
- Bid out is 52 or 62 if there were any 'No Hands' (no-trump hands)
- Minimum bid is 6 or 7 if trading cards. The dealer has to go "one up" (if the current bid is 7 the the dealer has bid to 8 or 7 no)
- Depending on the day and experience of the players one of the following three variations:
- Standard play with 32 cards
- Play with 34 cards (two spare 7's), these are thrown into the middle while dealing and the winning bid gets these two cards. Trump must be called before looking at these cards. Two card are set aside that the winning bidder no longer wants (discard) and neither the 3 or 5 cards can be discarded. No one can look at these cards until the end of the hand.
- Card trading also played with standard 32 cards. The trading of cards happens before the bidding but the amount of traded cards is called by the dealer before looking at his/her cards. These amount of cards can be any combination that you can think of. My favorite is 3,2,1 which basically means that you pass three cards face down to your partner, pick up the cards he passed you, look at the cards, decided what get rid of and then pass two and so on. I have been know to call one pass of eight, so look at your cards, memorize as much as you can and then pass them all to your partner. If no card pass is called by the dealer before looking at his/her cards then there is no pass and standard play continues.
If you have any other variations or questions, please feel free to let me know.
Please feel free to contact us:
Kaiser Rules at pagat.com