|Players||4 (2 teams of 2)|
|Age range||7 +|
|Playing time||60-90 minutes|
|Skill(s) required||Card Counting
Pluck is a trick-taking playing card game for four players (two teams of two). The game is played similar to Spades and Hearts. A standard deck of playing cards is dealt out (excluding jokers) evenly among the players. The objective is to get ten points (called plucks) before the other team.
Thirteen cards are dealt singly in turn to each of the four players.
The player that calls the initial trump suit plays a card and all other players must play a card of that suit if they have it. Highest card wins. If the player doesn't have a card of that suit but has a card of the trump suit, he/she may play that card and win unless another player plays a higher card of that suit. The trump suit cannot be played until a player is out of a suit and cuts the hand. If a card of neither suit is played, the player loses that hand. After the first hand, the call of the trump suit passes to the left.
To score, each team must win a certain number of times (each win is called a book). The team with the call must get eight books before earning plucks (points) and the team without it must get five. After all thirteen books have been played, that's the end of the first round and the cards are re-dealt. The first team that reaches ten points wins.
The team with the most plucks after each round then gets to pluck the other team. This means that for every point earned, someone from that team may give a card to someone of the other team. That person must then give the person who is plucking the highest card of that particular suit (even if it means returning the card given).
Shooting the Moon is when a team wins all thirteen books in one round. Some also refer to this as "Going to Boston" or simply "Boston".
One of the most primary strategies is plucking. One must know who to pluck and in what suit to pluck. Also, it is wise to choose a cut suit that at least one person in the team is strong in. It also takes skill to know when to cut over ones partner (this may be done to avoid the other team from cutting over the top card). For example, if the Queen of a suit has been played by your side and you suspect that the player after has the King, you play the Ace.
Pluck is a three-person trick-based card game. It's different from most of these games in at least two ways: it's explicitly designed for three players, and there's no real score to keep. On a complexity level, it's probably a little less challenging than spades: the trump is declared by the dealer, but the number of tricks each player must take is fixed.
It uses the standard 52-card (poker) deck, with some modifications: remove all twos ("deuces") except the two of clubs; add both of the jokers into the deck, and make sure that the two jokers have different faces. One of these will be the "big joker" and the other will be the "little joker"; these are the highest-ranked trump cards in any turn. This should leave you with a deck of 51 cards (52 - 3 deuces + 2 jokers). Since there are three cards played every trick, this gives us 17 tricks per hand. Aces are high.
The point of each round is to win at least as many tricks as your position (relative to the dealer) dictates. Of the 17 total tricks per round, you need to take:
Falling short of this goal in one round means you will get plucked at the beginning of the next round. If you fell short, someone else must have an excess - and that person is the one who gets to pluck from you!
Each round starts by having the dealer shuffle (optionally letting one of the other players cut), and dealing out all 51 cards.
There are no plucks in the first round.
The person who has the most plucks (that is, the player that went over their quota by the most tricks in the previous hand) goes first. If two players are entitled to the same number of plucks, start with the dealer and go left.
To pluck, the plucker passes a card face-down to the pluckee. After looking at this card, the pluckee must pass back the highest-ranked card in the same suit. The jokers are not in any suit, and are always valuable - so, a plucker would not want to pass one, and a pluckee cannot be forced to give them up.
After plucking (or getting plucked), the dealer has to declare trump. Since they have to take the most tricks, they get this serious advantage. They can pick any suit; as with any trick-based game, this is a tradeoff between quantity and quality. Finally, the dealer should remember that there are two jokers in the game, and they are higher than any card in the actual trump suit.
Whoever is holding the deuce (two) of clubs puts it down as the first lead card. This has two side effects: one, it's a guaranteed loss; and, if clubs were chosen to be trump, then trumps are open from the very start.
This portion of the game should be very similar to any other trick game. Whoever took the last trick has to lead for the next trick. You have to play in suit if you can; if you have a void in that suit, you can either slough or trump. You can't lead trumps until they have been opened (but see the comment above regarding clubs as trumps.)
For the purposes of determining which cards are in what suit, the jokers are considered to be the same suit as trump.
A trick is taken by the highest-ranked lead-suit or trump card on the pile.
Players receive (or get taken from them) as many plucks as they won tricks over (or below) their targets.
After a hand is scored, deal passes to the left of the current dealer.