Red Nines

Red Nines is a simple card game for four or more players. It is suitable for players of any age. Having more than four players adds to the fun, provided that the game is played without hesitation.

The origin of Red Nines is uncertain, although it is known to have been played in south-west London during the 1950s.

Objective

The aim of this game is to make the lowest possible score by discarding as many of the cards in your hand as possible. At the end of each round of play, the value of the cards remaining in your hand counts against you. The player who ends the round by discarding the last of his cards thus makes a score of zero in that round. The number of rounds is determined by the number of players (see below).

Play

One complete pack (without jokers) is used if there are four players, with an extra suit added for each additional player. There should be equal numbers of red and black suits if there is an even number of players. If there is an odd number of players there should be one more red suit than black suits. All the cards are dealt, so that each player has 13 cards.

The player to the left of the dealer commences play by discarding cards in ascending numerical sequence. He/She (we will use “He” for simplicity) may start wherever he likes in the sequence, laying as many as he wishes of his starting card but only one of each rank after this. He continues to discard cards in numerical sequence until he reaches a point where he does not have the next card. The next player then continues the sequence if he is able to do so, otherwise he must miss a turn and play is continued by the first player able to lay the required card.

Each player in turn announces his discards so that all players can follow what is happening easily; for example he might say “eight, nine, ten, jack, no queen”. If the next player has a queen he would lay it and if possible a king as well. Discarding a king confers the right to start a new sequence at any number, including another king. Play continues until one player discards the last card in his hand or ‘goes out’.

Sometimes no player will have the next required card, everyone having announced “no-“(whatever the required card is). When this happens the player who was last able to discard plays again, beginning a fresh sequence at any point.

Red nines

Red nines are wild cards and may be used to substitute for any card of a different rank. If a nine is the next number required in the on-going sequence, a player with no nine other than a red one may say “no nine” and hold it in reserve. This could, however, be a risky strategy. Note that it is not necessary to announce the use of the red nine to substitute for any other card. The player simply announces the card that the red nine replaces as if he had that card. It is up to the other players to observe that a red nine is being used.

Scoring

Each card from two to ten scores its face value. Jacks score 11, queens 12 and kings 13. Aces, although representing 1 in the sequence, score 20. (An alternative simpler scoring convention, favoured by American players, is for the Jacks, Queens and Kings each to score 10 and the Ace 11.) If a player is caught with a red nine in his hand when another player goes out, his score is doubled. Two red nines would quadruple his score. Conversely if the last card discarded by the player going out is a red nine he should announce “…and out on a red nine” and the scores of all the other players are doubled.

The first turn

Being the first to discard in a round confers a useful advantage, especially if the player has one or more aces. The player may, as stated above, play more than one of his first card. After this, no player may discard more than one card of the same rank at a time (although discarding a king and starting again with another king can give the appearance of laying more than one king as a discard).

Strategy

Success in Red Nines is mainly determined by luck rather than skill, although there are some opportunities for strategic decisions to be made. In general it is desirable to discard higher scoring cards when starting a sequence, especially an ace even if the player has no two (“ace, no two”). Deciding when to play a red nine can make a big difference-they can be very valuable to fill in a gap, but getting caught with one should be avoided.

The end of the game

Each player has one opportunity to be the first to discard, so the number of rounds equals the number of players. After the end of the final round all the scores are totalled and the player having the lowest score is declared the winner.