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Put - card game

The Tavern Game of Ill Repute
A game of cards Joos van Craesbeeck.
Origin England
Family Trick-taking
Players 2-4
Skills required Tactics & Strategy
Cards 52
Deck English
Play Clockwise
Playing time 15 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games
Brelan, Brag

Put is an English tavern trick-taking card game first recorded in the 16th century and later castigated by 17th century moralists as one of ill repute. It belongs to a very ancient family of card games and clearly relates to a group known as Trut, Truque, also Tru, and the South American game Truco. Its more elaborate version is the Spanish game of Truc, which is still much played in many parts of Southern France and Spain.


The name Put, pronounced "u", like the name of the English village of Putney, derives from "putting up your cards in cafe", if you do not like them, or from "putting each other to the shift".

"The Buck"

The game of Put appears in a "riddle", or acrostic, probably written by a Royalist in the thrilling interval between the resignation of Richard Cromwell on May 25, 1659 and the restoration of Charles II, crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661. It expresses in enigmatical terms the designs and hopes of the King's adherents, under colour of describing a game of "Put". The initial letters of the seven verses are an anagram, and indicate the number of cards shared between the two players in the game. S, X, I, C, R, A, T, make SIX CART, or six cartes (six cards). Six cards, also, are expressly mentioned in the riddle itself, namely: "the Knave" (line 2), "a King" (3), "Heart" (5), "Trey", "Quarter" or quatre, and "the Buck" (7). "The Buck", probably one of the picture-cards, or the ace, inferior to "Trey", which is the best card in the game of put; therefore "Trey" comes "to pull down the Buck".

"The Buck" is an old English synonym for the Coarse Appellation, intended, no doubt, for a Puritan, or for the Puritan party.
"Pulling down the Buck", is also an allusion to hunting.

The game

The game of Put is played generally by two people, sometimes by three, and often by four, with a 52-card pack with cards ranking 3-2-A-K-Q-J-T-9-8-7-6-5-4 in each suit. The game is won by the first player to score 5 points over as many deals as necessary, or by the player who wins a majority of three tricks played in any deal.

The deal

The player drawing the highest Put card (Three high, Four low) deals first, and the deal alternates. Shuffle thoroughly and deal three cards to each player in a clockwise mode, one at time. The turn to deal always passes to the left.

The play

Tricks are played to unusual rules. Any card may be led, and the other player may also play any card: there is no need to follow suit and there are no trumps. The trick is taken by the higher card, and the winner of one trick leads to the next. If cards of equal rank are played e.g. two Threes, two Aces, or whatever, the trick is tied and belongs to neither player. In this case it is put to one side, and whoever led to it leads to the next.

If non-dealer throws up his cards, he loses 1 point; if he plays, and the dealer does not lay down another to him, he scores 1 point; but should the dealer either win the same, pass it, or lay down one of equal value, forming what is styled a tie, non-dealer is still at ease to Put, that is, play or not, and his opponent then only scores 1 point; then if both parties agree to go on, whoever wins all the tricks, or two out of three, scores 5 points, which is the game. If each player obtain one trick, and the third is a tie, then neither party scores.

Putting & Throwing

Either player, when about to lead to a trick, may do one of three things:


The game is won outright, regardless of points scored, by the player who winds two tricks in a deal, or one trick if the other two are tied. If each player wins one trick and one trick it tied, the result is a draw by "trick and tie" and there is no score for that deal. If neither wins outright, the winner is the first player to score 5 points for concessions.

The laws of Put

It is obvious that neither player will reach 5 points, because as soon as he reaches 4 the other will have no incentive to concede. Having nothing to lose, he may as well play the hand out on the off-chance of winning outright. This is not necessarily a defect in the game, though there may be a defect (of omission) in the only original source from which all later accounts of the game derive. What it means, in effect, is that in the course of one game you have four chances of throwing your cards in without penalty the points are not a score so much as a way of keeping count of your used opportunities. Of course, you could agree that an outright win earns a double game or stake, and a win on points only a single, in which case they become a "score" rather that of a "count".

Considerable daring is necessary in this game, for a bold player will often "Put" upon very bad cards in order to tempt his adversary into giving him a point. Sometimes the hand is played with "Putting", when the winner of the three tricks, or of two out of three, scores 1 point. The best cards are first: the Three's, next the Two's, and then the Aces; the Kings, Queens, Knaves, and Tens following in order down to the Four, which is the lowest card in the pack.


The game becomes more interesting if you shorten the pack to 32 cards by stripping out all the lower ranks from Four to Nine.

Put le Truc

In his book A Gamut of Games, Sid Sackson describes a similar French game called Le Truc, which he translates as "The Knack". This is played with a 32-card pack ranking 6-7-A-K-Q-J-T-9. The winning of two tricks, or one and two ties, scores 1 point. When about to play to a trick, a player may propose to double the value of the hand, allowing the other to throw in his hand to prevent the double from taking effect. The first to reach 12 points wins the game, and the first to win two games wins the rubber. This version of Truc is closely related to the English Put.


This is a lively and amusing round game, and is played with a pack of fifty-two cards, which rank in the same order as at Whist. Each player deposits a certain number of counters in the pool, from one to three, and the dealer double the number of the others. Three cards are dealt, one at a time, to each player, and one turned up for trumps, which the dealer may sell to any one who will purchase it, either before or after it is turned up. The highest trump card dealt out is entitled to take the pool, but the cards are not to be looked at except in this manner: The elder hand turns the uppermost of his three cards; if not trumps, or if lower than the dealer's turn-up, it is of course of no value: but if higher, he may sell it to any one who chooses to speculate, and the price offered should bear some proportion to the chance of the card being the best trump in the deal, and likewise to the number of counters in the pool. This is done by asking who will buy; and if two or more offer a price, the seller of course accepts the highest bidder's offer, if he considers it adequate to the value of the card. If a sale is not effected, the next in hand turns the uppermost of his cards, and if it is a saleable png, proceeds to sell it as above described. When a, card is sold, it .is h? buyer, who places it before him, and .does HQt turn any of his remaining cards till a higher trump appears, his left-hand neighbor becoming elder hand, and turning the next card. In this way the playing goes on, till all the cards are turned, when, as before stated, the holder of the best trump, whether by purchase or otherwise, wins the pool.

When a good trump is turned by any of the party, he should be allowed time to sell it before another card is discovered. On turning knaves and fives of any suit, a counter is to be paid into the pool for each, by the possessor of the hand in which they happen to be.

It is customary to purchase cards before they are turned, when they happen to be among the last, and no high trump already discovered. Speculations are frequently profitable; but if you turn a good card, it is generally advisable to sell it if you can obtain a fair price, particularly if there are many cards to turn. A cautious player sometimes sells his hand before it is dealt, or before turning any of his cards, if he can get more for H than his stake in the pool.

This game is sometimes a little varied by dealing a spare hand, which is not to be looked at till all the hands are discovered, and if it should contain the best trump dealt, the pool remains for the next deal, in addition to the usual contributions of each player, thus doubling the amount.

Four-handed Put

It differs only in that any two of the players give each his best card to his partner, who then lays out one of his, and the game is afterwards played as in two-handed Put.

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