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A hand of cards in Forty-fives
Origin Ireland
Alternative names Forty-Five, Forte Fives, Auction Forty-Fives, Auction 120s, 120, Growl, Spoil Five, Maw and Strong Fives
Family Trick-taking
Players 2-6
Skills required Strategy
Cards 24, 2x24, 32, 36
Deck Anglo-American
Play Clockwise
Playing time 20 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games
Spoil Five, Maw

Forty-Fives (also known as Forty-Five, Forte Fives, Auction Forty-Fives, Auction 120s, 120, Growl, Spoil Five, Maw and Strong Fives) is a trick-taking card game that originated in Ireland. It's well known in Eastern Canada and played on the Gaspé Coast in Québec, in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. There are slight variations across the provinces.

There are variations of the game. Traditional Forty Fives goes to a score of 45 point (hence the name of the game). Auction Forty Fives goes to a score of 120 points and requires bidding. In many areas outside of Canada, Auction Forty Fives is simply referred to as Forty Fives. Although the number 45 has no relevance to Auction Forty Fives, the name persisted. Auction Forty Fives is closely related to the game One-hundred and ten (110) also described below.


Early history

Forty-Fives is a descendant of the Irish game Spoil Five, which in turn is a descendant of a game that King James VI of Scotland popularized in the 17th century called Maw. Maw was first seen being played in 1511 and the earliest written rules of 1576, the incomplete "Groom Porter's lawes at Mawe," may have originated from Scotland. James VI was recorded playing "Maye" at Kinneil House at Christmas 1588.

Recent history

In the 1920s, French Canadian immigrants moved south into the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and introduced the game there where it continues to be popular, sometimes under the French name quarante-cinq. The game is most popular in southern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts. Forty fives tournaments are becoming more popular. In New England, the New England Academy of 45s holds occasional tournaments in Plaistow, New Hampshire. Also, Methuen, located in the Merrimack Valley, recently held a 45s tournament. John Cavanaugh and Ryan Gill are currently tied for the #1 ranked player spot in the world. A popular pastime on Dog Beach in Newbury, Massachusetts is to play auction 45's, at low tide during green head season.

Forty-fives is popularly played on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Regular 45's Tournaments are held as a fun night out in locations like Workingman's clubs and RSA buildings. Serious competition tournaments are held yearly. There was a large percentage of Irish immigrants on the West Coast, normally around a third of immigrants to this region of New Zealand in colonial times, and the game of 45s originated from among these immigrants.

On Cape Breton Island, notably in Richmond County, there are 45-Card-Games in almost all communities. This may involve tens or hundreds of people depending on the size of the jackpot. Generally 25 games are played in an evening, couples only, usually lasting about two hours. Winning teams rotate around the room, while the losers remain stationary. Winners always deal first. Each couple has a small cue card with the numbers 1 through 25, wins are punched out with a hole punch. Usually there are three winners for the evening, the teams with the highest number of games. Ties may be broken by splitting the prize, cutting the deck for low card win, or playing off. If one party wants to play-off, others either do so or forfeit; splitting must be unanimous. Thus, if two couples have 18 games, a third couple 16 games and a fourth and fifth couple 15 games, then the third couple is automatically the second place winner. First and third place prizes are either split, or the deck is cut, or there is a play-off. Sometimes there is a cookie jar, where a couple can attempt to win eight or ten randomly chosen games. Sometimes there is a consolation-like boobie prize for the team with the fewest games.

Card ranks

Cards are valued in the following order, depending on trump suit, where A is the Ace of Hearts. If no trump card is played during the trick, the value is awarded according to the off-suit rules listed below. In the absence of a trump card, the winning suit is always the suit led. The rank of cards depends on a number of factors, the foremost being what suit is trump. A basic way it is commonly thought of is "red is high, black is low."

General game play for Traditional Forty Fives - 45 point

General game play for Forty Fives - 120 point

General game play for Auction Forty Fives

  1. Heads Up: Two players, one on one.
  2. Cut-throat: Three players, in this game after a player wins the bet and calls the Trump, the other two players form a temporary unspoken truce to try to 'Shoot' the bidder. Players who do not honor this truce are seen as selfish and called 'Nickel Grabbers' (each 'Trick' is worth 5 points). Five-Way Cut-throat: Similar to normal 3 man cut throat. In this game it is much harder to make your bid as it tends to be 4 vs. 1 and the bidder is often shot.
  3. Partners: Either four or six players, with partners sitting opposite. Partners points are pooled towards overall score, and towards bid.


One-Hundred and Ten

One-Hundred and Ten (110) is similar to the Merrimack Valley variant of Forty-Fives. In it, an extra hand is dealt, face down, by the dealer into the centre of the table. No trump card is turned. Once all hands have been dealt the "bidding" begins with the player to the dealer's left, and proceeds in turn around the table. Each player must bid a minimum of fifteen points and five more points than the previous highest bidder, or pass. An exception to this rule is the dealer, who can appropriate (match) the highest bid and force the other players to either raise his bid or pass. Bidding continues to circulate around the table until all players have "passed" (i.e. the same player can bid, be raised, and raise again in turn).

When bidding has concluded the highest bidder declares which suit will be trumps. He then takes the hand dealt face down in the centre of the table and chooses his best five cards from the combination of the two hands. Meanwhile the remaining players are entitled to draw up to three cards from the deck, first discarding from their own hand. When all players have obtained their hand the winning bidder has the option of playing first or requiring the player to his left to play first. If a player has the Ace of trumps the player may turn over the cards remaining in the deck stub, one at a time, until a trump card is turned, then he may discard his weakest card in favour of the trump card, or choose not to.

A bonus of five points (bonus trick) is awarded to the player who plays the highest card during the course of the round, thus the maximum amount that can be bid or obtained in 30. If the bidder obtains or exceeds his bid his score increases by that amount, if he fails to reach his bid his score is reduced by the amount of the bid. All other players often co-operate (without collusion) to prevent the bidder from reaching his bid, though selfish interests can supersede this.

A player cannot progress beyond 105 unless he is the bidder. If a player wins tricks during another players bid, which would otherwise increase his score beyond 105, those scores do not count, nor are they assigned to any of the other players. This encourages the remaining players to bid against a player who is approaching one hundred and ten, so that he will rarely be able to win the bid cheaply. Scores can reduce below zero, it is common to set a cut off point (often minus 80) at which a player is removed from the game.

The first player to reach 110 wins the game.

Several variations of 110 exist. These include the removal of the Ace of trumps rule, the use of jokers (usually valued just below the jack (knave) of trumps), the bell rule (where a successful call of 30 yields 60 points) and various reneging variations.

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