Although Five Hundred is now the national card game of Australia, it was in fact invented in the USA, and promoted by the US Playing Card Company, who copyrighted the rules in 1904. The game is called 500 because the first team (or player) to reach a total score of at least 500 points wins. It is an extension of Euchre, in which the following elements have been added:
From the outset, special expanded decks with extra pip cards were made to allow the game to be played by six people. Arnetta Lee reports that she purchased a 61 card deck of "BIJOU" playing-cards made by the US Playing Card Co. Cincinnati, U.S.A, including a joker and 11-spot and 12-spot cards in all suits, and bearing a patent from June 30, 1896. She was advised by the US Playing-card Museum that the 61-card deck was first patented in 1881. The rules leaflets in these early packs envisage a version of 500 played without the joker: two players use 24 cards - 10 each with a two card kitty for each player; three use 32 cards with a 2-card kitty; 4 use 44 cards with a 4-card kitty; 5 use 52 cards with a 2-card kitty, and 6 use 60 cards and there is no kitty. Use of the joker as highest trump is given as an option. In 1897 13's were added to the red suits to make a 63-card pack, and the game was regularised to have a 3-card kitty in all cases.
In Australia, 500 is normally played by four people, two playing against two in fixed partnerships; a similar version of the game is played in New Zealand. The antipodean four-player versions of 500 will be described first, followed by versions for other numbers of players.
500 is still played in North America as well, but the standard American rules are rather different from the Australian game. Also included on this page are two specific American variations from St Paul, Minnesota, contributed by Ben Butzer, and from Youngstown, Ohio, contributed by Carol Bott. Yet another version of 500 is played in French Canada.
I have been told that 500 is also popular in the Shetland Islands (to the north of Scotland). As yet I have no details of the version that is played there.
There are four players, with partners sitting opposite. A pack of 43 cards is used, consisting of
When there is a trump suit, the highest trump is the joker, followed by the jack of the trump suit (right bower), the other jack of the same colour (left bower), then Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9, etc. down to 5 or 4. For purposes of following suit, etc, the joker and left bower behave in all respects as members of the trump suit. The other three suits rank in the usual order from ace (highest) down to 5 or 4, but the suit which is the same colour as trumps has no jack.
When there are no trumps all the suits rank in the usual order from ace (high) down to 5 or 4 (low), and there are special rules governing how the joker is played.
Deal, bidding and play proceed clockwise. The first dealer is chosen at random, and the turn to deal rotates clockwise after each hand. The cards are shuffled and cut and the dealer deals 10 cards to each player and three face down in the middle of the table to form the kitty. The cards are usually dealt as follows: a batch of 3 to each player; one to the kitty; 4 to each player; one to the kitty; 3 to each player; one to the kitty.
The bidding begins with the player to dealer's left and continues clockwise. The possible bids are:
A player who does not wish to bid can pass. If all four players pass the cards are thrown in.
Once someone has bid, each subsequent bid must be higher than the previous one. Higher means either more tricks, or the same number of tricks in a higher suit. For this purpose No trumps are highest, followed by Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades (lowest). Thus the lowest possible bid is Six Spades and the highest is Ten No Trumps.
Misere is higher than any bid of seven and lower than any bid of eight, but Misere can only be bid after someone has bid seven - Misere cannot be bid directly over a six bid, or when no one has made a positive bid.
Open Misere is higher than Ten Diamonds but lower than Ten Hearts. You do not have to wait for the bidding to reach any particular level - Open Misere can be bid over any lower bid, or even as the first bid of the auction.
Note that some players rank Misere and Open Misere differently - see variations.
A player who has once passed cannot bid again in that auction. The bidding continues clockwise for as many rounds as necessary, until all players except one have passed. The highest (and last) bid becomes the contract which the bidder (contractor) has to make, with the named suit (if any) as trumps.
The contractor begins by picking up the three cards of the kitty (without showing them to the other players), and discarding any 3 cards face down in their place. The cards discarded can include cards which were picked up from the kitty.
If the contract is Misere or Open Misere, the contractor's partner does not take part in the play, but puts his cards face down on the table.
The contractor leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. A player with no card of the suit led may play any card. A trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if no trump is played by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.
If the contract is Open Misere, after the first trick has been played, the contractor arranges his cards face up on the table for all to see, and plays the rest of the hand with his cards exposed.
If there is a trump suit, the joker counts as the highest trump, as stated above.
In No Trumps, Misere or Open Misere, the joker may be used in one of two ways:
Note that if you are the contractor in a Misere, it is possible to keep the joker in your hand and nominate it as belonging to a suit. You may then be able to dispose of the joker by discarding it on a lead of a suit in which you hold no card at the time. If you bid a Misere, keep the joker in your hand and forget to nominate a suit, your Misere automatically fails, since your joker wins the trick to which you play it.
Note that in some games the rules for playing the joker in No Trumps are different from the above - see the variations section.
A cumulative score is kept for each team, to which the score for each hand is added or subtracted. The scores for the various contracts are as follows:
Tricks Spades Clubs Diamonds Hearts No Trumps Misere Six 40 60 80 100 120 Seven 140 160 180 200 220 Misere 250 Eight 240 260 280 300 320 Nine 340 360 380 400 420 Ten 440 460 480 Open Misere 500 Ten 500 520
In a suit or no trump contract, the contractors win if they take at least as many tricks as they bid. The contractors then score the appropriate amount from the above table, and their opponents score 10 points for each trick they manage to win. There is no extra score for any additional tricks the contractors may make in excess of their bid, except when they win every trick, which is called a slam. If the contractors make a slam, and their bid was worth less than 250 points, they score 250 instead of their bid. If the bid was worth more than 250 (8 clubs or more) there is no special score for a slam - if the contractors win every trick they just win the value of their bid as normal.
If the contractors do not take enough tricks for their suit or no trump contract, they score minus the value of the contract, and their opponents still score 10 points for each trick they won.
If the contract was Misere or Open Misere, the contractors score the appropriate amount (250 or 500) if the contractor succeeds in losing every trick, and minus that amount if the contractor wins a trick. The opponents score nothing in either case.
The game ends when a team wins by reaching a score of 500 points or more as a result of winning a contract.
The game also ends if a team reaches minus 500 points or worse, and thus loses the game. This is called "going out backwards" or "going out the back door".
Reaching 500 points or more as a result of odd tricks won while the other side are playing a contract is not sufficient to win the game. If this happens, further hands are played until one team wins or loses as described above.
As far as I know, there is no official and universally accepted set of rules for Australian 500. There are four major areas of dispute that I know of: the play of the joker, the bidding process, Misere and the scoring by contractor's opponents. There are several other variations which will occasionally be encountered. If you are starting a serious game with unfamiliar players, it would be advisable to discuss and agree on your interpretation these rules in advance, to avoid arguments during the game.
In some previous editions of this page I tried to identify some of the variations above as specific to New Zealand rather than Australia. From information I have since received, it seems that by and large the same versions of 500 are played in both New Zealand and Australia.
The deal is always 10 cards to each player and 3 in the kitty. Therefore the size of pack varies with the number of players.
A 33 card pack is used, the lowest card in each suit being the seven. The highest bidder plays alone, with the other two players forming a temporary partnership.
Each player's score is kept separately. The game is won by a player whose score reaches 500 or more as a result of winning a contract, or lost by a player whose score reaches minus 500 or worse.
Use a full standard pack plus a joker - 53 cards in all. If the contract is a suit or no trumps, the contractor may choose either to play alone (one against four) or to play with a partner (two against three).
When playing with a partner, after discarding the kitty the contractor nominates any specific card other than the joker or a bower. The player who holds that card is the contractor's partner but must not say anything to reveal who they are. The identity of the partner becomes clear when the nominated card is played.
A contractor who wishes to play alone should say so, instead of nominating a card.
If the contractor calls a partner, they each win or lose half the value of the contract. A contractor who chooses to play alone wins or loses the full contract value alone. Misere and Open Misere are always played alone against the other four players.
The winning and losing conditions are as in the three and four player games. If two players simultaneously reach 500 or more by winning a contract they both win. Similarly, two players could lose at the same time.
In the books, I have seen two other variations as to how the partner is chosen - I do not know whether either of these methods is commonly used:
There are also variations in the restrictions as to which card can be nominated. Some do not allow any trump to be nominated; on the other hand, some allow any card to be nominated except the joker.
In some circles, if you wish to play alone, rather than announcing this you are allowed to do this secretly by nominating a card which you hold yourself or have discarded. In this case your opponents may not realise that you are playing alone until you play the nominated card, or until the end of the play if you have discarded it.
It is a problem with 500 that Misere is too easy to win, compared to its scoring value. This problem is worse in five-handed 500. Brent Easton recommends the following house rules:
There are two partnerships of three players, with partners sitting alternately. A special pack of 63 cards is used, having 11's and 12's of all suits and 13's of the red suits, ranking above the 10 and below the pictures. I am told that in Australia it is normal to use this pack for 500 (leaving out the extra cards), even when the game is played by fewer than six people. The rules are as in the four player game. In a Misere or Open Misere, both partners of the contractor put down their cards and take no part in the play.
If you want to play six handed but don't have the special pack, you can add the 2's, 3's and red 4's from a second deck. If two of the same card are played on the same trick, the first played beats the second.
This version was contributed independently by Megan Corino and Barry Rigal
The two player game is played with the standard 43 card deck as used for 4 players. Each player is dealt a hand of ten cards, plus five separate piles of two cards on the table, each pile consisting of a face down card with a face up card on top of it.
The dealing procedure is as follows. First place 3 cards in front of your opponent to start 3 piles (each with 1 card face down), then the same for yourself, then a packet of 3 cards to the opponent's hand and 3 to your own hand and 1 in the kitty. Next deal 4 cards to your opponent - 2 face down to start two new piles, making a total of 5 piles and the other 2 face up on top of any two of these piles; then repeat this for yourself; then deal a packet of 4 cards to your opponent's hand, a packet of 4 to your own hand and a second card to the kitty. Finally, place 3 face up cards to complete your opponent's remaining piles, do the same for yourself, and then deal a packet of 3 cards to your opponent's hand, 3 to your own hand, and the last card goes in the kitty.
The bidding is as in normal 500, except that Open Misere can not be played. In practice, No Trump and Misere contracts are rarely bid. There is no rule that a 7 call must be made before you call Misere. (In Barry Rigal's version, Misere calls are not allowed at all).
Each trick consists of four cards: one hand card and one face up card from each player (this applies also in Misere). As usual a trick is won by the highest trump in it, or the highest card of the suit led. For the first trick, the contractor always begins by leading a card from hand, the opponent follows from hand, then contractor plays one of their face up cards (following suit if possible) and finally the opponent plays one of their face up cards (following suit). Where the trick is won determines the lead of the next card:
Each time a face up card is played, if there is a face down card under it, it is turned over at the end of the trick and can be used in a future trick.
The scoring is as in normal four handed Five Hundred.
The standard version of American 500, as promulgated by the US Playing Card Company and described in various books, differs from the Australian game in a number of ways.
The book descriptions always start with the three player version, which might suggest that in America, 500 is more often played by three players than by four, but this does not seem to be true. The descriptions I have received, from players in Minnesota and Ohio, agree that 500 is normally played by four players.
The kitty is called the widow. The deal is 3-widow-4-3.
There is only one round of bidding - each player has just one opportunity to bid.
The Misere contract is called Nullo. Some do not allow it at all. If it is allowed, it ranks in the bidding above 8 spades and below 8 clubs.
In No Trump and Nullo contracts the joker cannot be announced as belonging to a suit. It is in a suit by itself and always wins the trick to which it is played. The joker can only be played to a trick when the holder is void of the suit led, but it is not compulsory to play it then. In these contracts the joker can be led to any trick, and when leading the joker, you nominate a suit which the other players must follow. You are not allowed to nominate a suit in which you have previously shown void - for example if you have previously discarded a diamond on a spade lead by someone else, you cannot later lead the joker and call it a spade.
Irrespective of whether or not the contractors make their contract, the opponents score 10 points for each trick taken. In the three- and five-handed games, each individual opponent scores 10 points for each trick taken. In a Nullo, all the opponents of the contractor score 10 points for each trick taken by the contractor.
The game is won by the first player (or team) to reach 500 points or more. A game can be won by an opponent of the contractor by means of the 10 points scored for each trick taken. If the contractor and an opponent reach 500 or more in the same deal the contractor wins. In the three or five player game if two opponents of the contractor reach 500 in the same deal but the contractor does not, the first opponent who reached 500 wins (considering the opponents' tricks to be scored as they are taken). A player or team who reaches minus 500 points or worse loses the game.
When five people play, many people play that the bidder chooses a partner by naming a specific player, not by calling a card.
It may be agreed that if everyone passes, the cards are not thrown in, but the hand is played in no trumps, with each player (or team) scoring 10 tricks for each trick taken.
It is possible to play without the joker, in which case there are only two cards in the widow.
Ben Butzer has contributed the following version of American 500, played in St Paul, Minnesota. West Seventh Street in St. Paul contains the old ethnic neighborhoods where Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Irish, and Italian peoples settled around their respective Catholic Parishes.
There are 4 players, in partnerships, partners sitting opposite. A 45 card pack is used - a standard pack without the twos and threes but including a joker.
Players take turns drawing from the top of the deck until one draws a jack. That player becomes the dealer.
Each player is dealt 10 cards as usual, and the 5 remaining cards are called the middle (rather than the widow or kitty). Dealing goes 3 each - 3 to the middle - 2 each - 2 to the middle - 3 each - 2 each.
If you have exactly one ace, but no jacks, queens, kings or joker, then at your turn to bid you may announce "Ace - no face", which is a proposal to abandon the deal. Partner may agree or disagree. If partner agrees, the cards are thrown in and the cards are re-dealt - the bidder's opponents have no say in the matter. If partner disagrees, the bidding and play continue, but the team which said "Ace - no face" are not allowed to play Nullo or Grand Nullo.
A bid of 6 is called an inkle. For example "inkle diamonds" is a bid of 6 diamonds. Only the first two bidders are allowed to inkle (i.e. bid 6) to their partners. The inkler's partner must either bid higher than 6, or pass. If no one bids, or no one bids higher than 6, the cards are thrown in and re-dealt by the same dealer.
The first two bidders have two alternative ways of bidding no trump, thus conveying extra information to their partners. They can either bid a number of "No Trump" or just a number of "No" - for example "Seven No Trump" or just "Seven No". Using the full expression "No Trump" is the standard no trump bid. Bidding a number of "No" indicates in addition that the bidder has either the joker or split bowers. Having "split bowers" means that you have two jacks of opposite colours, which guarantees that you have a high trump, whatever the trump suit may be.
Combining the above rules, either of the first two bidders could bid "Inkle No", a bid of 6 No Trumps including the joker or split bowers.
"Nullo" is only allowed if agreed before the game commences. In the four handed game it is played such that the bidder plays alone. The bidder's partner places his hand face down upon the table and does not play. The bidders opponents play two versus one. The 250 score of the Nullo bidder is still shared by the team.
"Grand Nullo" (or "Granola") is a team variation of Nullo. For bidding purposes it is worth 510 points. So it beats a ten heart bid, but is beaten by a ten no-trump bid. Grand Nullo can only be bid if the bidder's partner had opened with Nullo. In Grand Nullo, the bid winner picks up the middle, adds it to his hand and discards any five of his 15 cards. The bidder's partner (the original Nullo bidder) then picks up the five discards, adds them to his hand, and discards any five cards. The Granola bidder leads to the first trick. The bidders win if neither of them takes a trick. If either of them wins a trick they lose and their opponents score ten points for each trick taken by the bidders.
The usual American rules apply. A team which loses the game because their point total has reached minus 500 or worse is said to have "gone out the back door".
Jefferey McQuston describes a variant in which after winning the bidding with any suit or no trump bid, after picking up the middle 5 cards the contractor may announce a "Grand Slam", which is an undertaking to win all 10 tricks playing alone against the two opponents, with the trump suit (or no trump) named in the final bid. It is worth 500 points with any trump suit or 520 points with no trump. The contractor's partner gives one card to the contractor, discards the other 9 face down and takes no part in the play. The contractor now has 16 cards and must discard 6 of them. The contractor leads to the first trick as usual. If the opponents win any tricks, the contractor's team loses 500 and the opponents score 10 for each trick they win.
Five Hundred Tournaments are held in the St. Paul Midway area. They use the West Seventh street rules except for the following:
Carol Bott contributed this description of the version played in Youngstown, Ohio.
It is similar to the St Paul Midway tournament style described above. A session consists of 10 rounds of 4 hands each. During a round you can score any number of points more or less than 500. The total is than added after all ten rounds. The winner usually has between 5000 and 6000. A session usually involves 5 or 6 tables of 4 people each.
There are no Nullo bids and the Ace - No Face rule is not used.
The scoring is standard except for one thing. If you bid anything less then 10 tricks, but make 10, then you score an extra 100 points. For example, if you bid 8 clubs(which is 260), but took all ten tricks, then you would get 360 (260 + the bonus 100). This means there is generally no point in bidding ten tricks (except to outbid an opponent); you would get the same score with less risk by bidding 9 and making 10.
Six-bids are used as description bids for your partner. If you bid "6 no trump", it means you have the Joker. If you bid "6 no", it means you have 2 aces. A six bid in a suit means you have the bower of that suit. A bid of "7 no" means you've got better then 2 aces, but don't want the bid (for example you might have 3 aces but no bowers). "7 no trump" means that you want to be contractor at no trump.
The bidding is competitive - it usually takes a bid of 8 red or 9 black to get the contract. This is why the 6-bid is used as a description bid. As in Minnesota, in the unlikely event that no one bids, or no one bids higher than 6, the cards would be thrown in and re-dealt by the same dealer. Bids of 7 or higher are played, so for example if you bid "7 no" and everyone else passes, you have to play the 7 no trump contract.
500 is played, under the name Cinq Cents, in French Canada, especially Montreal. It is played with a 46-card pack, made by throwing out the twos and threes from a 52-card pack and adding two distinguishable jokers, which are the highest trumps. There are four players in fixed partnerships, each of whom receive 10 cards; the high bidder takes the kitty of six cards and discards six.
You can play 500 on line at Julianne Giffin and Richard Kennard's free House of Cards web site.
X500 from Paradice software is free 500 program, with one human and three computer players.
Several people have produced 500 apps for Android, in which you play against computer opponents:
Special K Software has software to play the card game of 500. This software is available at www.specialksoftware.com.
Louis-Pierre Pagé's free 500 program for Windows is available in French and English. It supports both Canadian and Australian versions of the game and can be used to play against the computer or against live opponents online.
Archive copy of the 500 page from the British site Card Game Heaven, devoted to the nowadays rarely played 3-player game.