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Marjapussi

Bondtolva, Huutopussi
Origin Finland
Type Trick-taking
Players 4
Cards 36 (24-36 in variants)
Deck Anglo-American
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) A 10 K Q J 9 8 7 6
Related games
Bezique, Pinochle, Mariage

Marjapussi (Bag of Berries) is a traditional Finnish partnerships trick taking game. The speciality of Marjapussi is that the trump suit is determined in the middle of the play by declaring a marriage (a king and a queen of a same suit). To win a game, a partnership must get exactly twelve points. A very similar game evidently related to Sixty-six, but with a curious resonance of All Fours is played in Sweden under the name Bondtolva, Farmer's Dozen.

Later, Marjapussi evolved into Huutopussi (Auction Bag), which involves bidding. The exact winning condition was dropped, but the trump determining process remained. Actually, in Huutopussi the trump suit may even change in the middle of the play if players declare further marriages.

Rules of the four-handed partnership games

The details of rules in both Marjapussi and Huutopussi vary significantly, and the choice of the rulesets presented below is rather arbitrary. See Variants section about how the rules can vary.

Marjapussi is a trick taking game for four players in fixed partnerships. The partners sit opposite to each other. Marjapussi is played with a deck of 36 cards, remove the cards 2-5 from the standard deck. The order of cards is Ace (highest), ten, king, queen, jack, nine, eight, seven, six (lowest). That is, the order is otherwise normal except that a ten beats a king, a queen and a jack. All cards are dealt so that everyone gets 9 cards.

The play

A hand always starts as a no trump game, but a suit can be declared trumps during a hand. The player to the dealer's left leads first, and if he has an ace, he must lead to the first trick with an ace. Later, the winner of the trick starts the next with any card he wants to.

Players must follow suit if possible. If a player who is not starting a new trick cannot follow suit and trumps have been declared, the player must play a trump. If the player cannot follow suit or play trumps, the player can play any card. If possible within the previous restrictions, the player must always beat the high card in the trick. The trick is won by the highest trump, or if there are no trumps in the trick, by the highest card of the suit led.

When a player has won a trick, he may declare trumps with a king and a queen of a same suit. He has three options:

After each trick, the winner of the trick is entitled to exactly one of the actions mentioned above. If trumps have been declared, players can declare little ones, other marriages in a similar fashion, but they affect only scoring, and do not change trumps. Each suit can be declared only once during a hand.

Scoring

Counting pips in tricks
Rank A 10 K Q J 9 8 7 6
Pips 11 10 4 3 2 0 0 0 0

The points are counted after all cards have been played. The play is to 12 points. To win, the partnership must get exactly twelve points. If the partnership gets more, they go down to seven points. If the team got no tricks in a hand, the team goes to Porvoo, loses all their points from the previous hands.

Bondtolva

The Swedish game Bondtolva is similar to Marjapussi. Four-handed Bondtolva differs from Marjapussi as follows:

The game uses the 24 card deck with cards ranking from A-9 in all suits. After declaring a marriage, the player leads to the trick, if possible, with a card from the declared marriage.

The point for pips goes to the team having more aces and tens in the tricks. In case of a tie, counting where aces are worth 4 pips, kings worth 3 pips, queens worth 2 pips and jacks worth 1 pip is used as a tie-breaker. The play is to 12 points, and the requirement to get exactly 12 points is an optional rule. If the exact winning condition is used, the extra points are subtracted from 12 points.

Huutopussi

Huutopussi is an auction version of Marjapussi. It literally means auction bag. In colloquial Finnish, bidding in card games is called huutaminen, auctioning. The differences from Marjapussi are as follows:

The auction

Each hand starts with an auction where the players bid the number of points their partnership will get in the hand. The dealer starts bids by bidding at least 50. Later, players may either make a bid that is higher than the previous one or pass. A player who has passed is not allowed to bid again. The bids must be multiples of five. The auction ends when all the players except for one have passed.

If a player holds three sixes in his hand, in his first opportunity to bid, the player may demand a new deal.

The play

When everyone except for the highest bidder has passed, the auction ends and the highest bidder becomes the declarer. The partner of the declarer gives the declarer three cards from his hand, and the declarer adds the cards into his hand. Now, the declarer may raise his bid if he wants to. The declarer gives three cards to his partner so that everyone has nine cards. The declarer starts the first trick with any card he wants to.

A player is allowed to try to declare marriages only after he has won a trick started by himself. He is allowed to use the same choice of actions, that is, declare himself or ask the partner for either a whole or a half, as in Marjapussi. Furthermore, each declared marriage changes the trump suit so that trumps can change four times during a hand. If a new trump suit is declared, the old trump suit becomes an ordinary suit. Each suit can be declared trumps only once during a hand.

Scoring

Declaring trumps:

Ten points for each ace and each ten in the tricks and five points for each king, each queen, and each jack in the tricks. Winning the last trick gives an additional 20 points.

So, the theoretical maximum bid is 440 points (every marriage and all play points).

If the declarer partnership collected points at least the amount of the bid, they get the points they bid, otherwise, they lose the amount of points indicated by their bid. In any case, the points they got in play do not directly affect their score. The opponents get what they were able to collect.

If either side got no tricks, the original high bid (the bid before raising after exchanging cards) is subtracted from their score. Getting all the tricks is called läpiajo ("drive-through"), equalling grand slam in Bridge.

If the contract is over 160, it is possible for the declarer side to play läpiajo and still not make the contract. In such a case, the declarer side gets negative points for not making the contract and the opponents get negative points for not taking any tricks.

The team that first gets at least 500 points wins. If both teams break the 500 limit in the same hand, the team that has more points wins.

If a team has -500 points or less, they are not allowed to bid except that the dealer is allowed to make the initial bid of 50 points.

Two and three-handed variants

Two-handed Bondtolva

Two-handed Bondtolva is similar to the four-handed game, except for the following:

In the beginning, each player is dealt six cards, and the rest of the cards form the stock. As long as there are cards in the stock, each player takes a card from the stock after playing to a trick, so that there are six cards in both hands. As long as there are cards in the stock, the players do not need to follow suit, ruff or beat the high card.

After the stock has exhausted, the rest of the cards are played, and the players are required to follow suit, ruff and beat the high card like in the 4 handed game. The players are not allowed to declare marriages after the stock has exhausted.

Two-handed Marjapussi

This two-handed variant of Marjapussi is known as Avomarjapussi, Open Marjapussi. Each player is dealt four cards. Each player is also dealt a row of seven cards face down on the table and a row of seven cards face up on the top of the face down cards. To declare marriages and play cards to tricks, the players can use their own face up cards and their own hand cards. When a player plays a face up card in a trick and there is a card under it face down, the face down card is turned face up.

Other rules are like in the four-handed game, except that there are no partnerships, and consequently the rules on asking for a whole or a half do not apply.

Three-handed Huutopussi

There are no teams. Each player is dealt 11 cards, and the remaining three cards form a kitty. After bidding the kitty is exposed, and the declarer takes the kitty in his hand and discards three cards. The discarded cards count as the declarer's points, but he is not allowed to discard aces or tens.

Trumps can be declared after winning any trick, that is the trick does not need to be started by the winner of the trick, but since each player plays individually, the rules on asking for a whole or a half do not apply.

The points for each defender are counted individually. Also, the läpiajo penalty applies to every player who did not get any tricks.

Strategy of partnership Huutopussi

Bidding conventions

General guidelines

Card exchange

Partner to the declarer

Giving cards to the declarer is considered to be the most difficult part of the game.

Declarer back to the partner

Trick play

Declarer side

Defenders

Variants

Huutopussi

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Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy