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Rook - card game

Genre(s) Trick Taking Card Game
Players 2 to 6 players
Playing time 10 to 60 minutes per round, Any number of rounds

Rook is a trick-taking game, usually played with a specialized deck of cards. Sometimes referred to as "Christian cards" or "missionary poker", Rook playing cards were introduced by Parker Brothers in 1906 to provide an alternative to standard playing cards for those in the Puritan tradition or Mennonite culture who considered the face cards in a regular deck inappropriate because of their association with gambling and cartomancy.

Rook playing cards

The Rook deck consists of 57 cards: a blue Rook Bird card, similar to a joker, and 56 cards divided into four suits or colors. Each suit - black, red, yellow, and green - is made up of cards numbered one through fourteen. This fourteen-card, four-suit system is derived from the French tarot deck; removing the 21 atouts, or trumps, from that deck while keeping a 57-card French-suited deck that was re-faced to create the Rook deck. Though the culture-neutral deck was developed for the game Rook, many other games have evolved or existed previously that use the 56-card deck with or without the Rook, or  - by removing the fourteens and the Rook  - one can use the deck like a deck of standard playing cards. The cards 2-3-4 are not in the game.

Official rules for Tournament Rook (Kentucky Discard)

Four players are organized into two teams of two players each, sitting opposite each other. Players must keep their hands secret from all other players, including their teammates. The object of the game is to be the first team to reach 300 points by capturing cards with a point value in tricks. If both teams have over 300 points at the end of a round, the team with the higher point total wins.

Only certain cards have a point value. These are known as counters. Each 5 is worth 5 points, each 10 and 14 is worth 10 points, and the Rook Bird card is worth 20 points.

The Deal

The 1s, the 2s, the 3s, and the 4s should be removed from the deck, and the Rook Bird card should be added, for a total of 41 cards. The dealer shuffles and cuts the deck, then deals all of the cards, one at a time. After every player has received his or her first card, the dealer places one card in the center of the table. This is repeated until there are five cards (the nest) in the middle of the table. The remaining cards are dealt normally.


After the deal, players bid in increments of 5 points for the privilege of naming the trump suit. Bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer and passes clockwise. The minimum bid is 70 points, and the maximum is 120 points (the number of points a team would make if they captured all the counters in the game). If a player chooses not to increase the bid, he may pass to the next player. A player that has passed may not make another bid for the round. The high bidder adds the five cards of the nest to his or her hand, then lays any five cards to the side. The high bidder then names the trump suit.


After the trump suit has been named, the player to the left of the dealer places any card of any suit face-up on the center of the table. Play proceeds clockwise, with each player playing one card face-up in turn. After each player has played, the player that played the highest card of the suit of the leading card takes all of the cards played, or “takes the trick”.

A player must either follow suit (play a card of the leading suit) or play the Rook Bird card. If a player has no cards of the leading suit, he or she may play any other card, including the Rook Bird card or a card of the trump suit. The highest card of the leading suit takes the trick, unless a trump card is played, in which case the highest trump card takes the trick.

If a player reneges, or fails to follow suit when he or she could have, the error may be corrected before the next trick is taken. If it is not discovered until later, the round ends, and the team that made the error loses a number of points equal to the bid, regardless of which team made the bid. The opponents score all the counters they captured before the error was discovered.

The person who takes the trick leads in the next trick. When a trick is taken, it is placed face-down in front of the player who took it. Tricks taken may not be reviewed by any player until the end of the round. The player that takes the last trick in a round captures the nest and scores any counters in it.

The Rook Bird card

The Rook Bird card is the highest trump card in the game. It takes any trick in which it is played.

You may play the Rook Bird card at any time, even if you are able to follow suit. It is the only card that may be played this way. If the Rook Bird card is led, all other players must play a trump card, if they have one. If the trump suit is led, and you have no other trump card, you must play the Rook Bird card.


When all possible tricks have been taken, each team adds the counters it captured. If the bidding team failed to make the number of points bid, the team loses a number of points equal to the amount of the bid, and does not make any points for counters captured in the round. The opposing team receives points for any counters they captured.

The first team to reach 300 points is the winner.


Adaptation for standard playing cards

Kentucky Discard Rook may be played with standard playing cards by removing the 2s, 3s, and 4s from the deck, playing Aces high, and adding one joker to be used as the Rook Bird card. When playing with such a deck scoring changes as follows: each 5 is worth 5 points, each ace and 10 is worth 10 points, and the joker is worth 20 points. Aces always play high in tricks.

A common alternate form of the game (as described in Hoyle's Rules of Games) uses a complete deck of standard playing cards but assigns the point cards differently (aces = 15, kings = 10, tens = 10, fives = 5), and is essentially similar to the 1-High Partnership described below.

Four player partnership variants

Since the game of Rook has been played for over a century, many local variants are in existence for the four-player partnership form of the game. Perhaps foremost is that the game can be played exactly according to the above Kentucky Discard Tournament rules, except using the entire deck, giving all players 13 cards with a 5-card nest. Other variants, including the original form of Kentucky Discard, do not include the Rook, while still others make the Rook the lowest trump or change its relative value, are played without a nest, add the 1 as a 15 point counter that is the highest card in each suit, or give a 20-point bonus for winning the majority of tricks or the last trick. Most of these variants are described in a book titled Rook in a Book published by Winning Moves, and in the official rules that come with Parker Bros editions of Rook.

The two official variants of four-player partnership Rook described by the game publishers are Kentucky Discard Rook (Tournament Rules), and Regular Partnership Rook:

Rook in a Book describes other common variants, including 1-High Partnership. This game is very similar to the version of the game for regular playing cards as it appears in Hoyle’s Rules of Games and many internet sources. It is played with all cards 1-14, adding the 1s as 15 point counters that are the highest cards in each suit. The Rook functions as the lowest trump and is worth 20 points, and an additional 20 points is given to the partnership that wins the majority of tricks.

Other variants

Many other forms of the game can be played with 2 to 8 players, both with and without partnerships.

A version for an odd number of players is known as "call-your-partner Rook." Typically played with 5 players, the player who wins the bid immediately "calls" one card to add to his team. The player holding the named card called secretly partners with the bid-winner until play reveals the card and partner's location. Points in a hand are divided between the two teams that formed during play, but scores are recorded individually over a series of hands, as partnerships change from hand to hand. After winning a bid, a player is often faced with the choice of calling a high trump card, or a high card of another suit to be his or her partner. The three defenders meanwhile are often forced to choose whether to add points to a hand when the identity of the partner remains unknown.

Another version which is very popular and similar to the above variant, "call-your-partner Rook", can be played with 4,5, or 6 players. There are 200 total points for every hand, 1's = 15, 14's = 10, 10's = 10, 5's = 5, and the Rook card = 20. The team who takes the last hand also gets 20 points and the kitty or nest, and whatever points are there. Rook can be called high or low by the bid winner as well as which card of which suit that person wants as their partner. The Rook card is always trump and must be played likewise. When called low, it is the lowest possible trump(below the 2 card); when called high, it is the highest possible trump. The 1 card is the highest card of each suit, unless the Rook card is called high. Players must follow suit when discarding, the player with the Rook card may not play it anytime (unlike other versions). When playing with 6 players, the bid winner is allowed to call 2 cards as partners. After the bid winner exchanges cards with the kitty, they then must declare if there are points in the kitty. Next they state which card or cards will be their partner, whether Rook is high or low and which color is trump. In 4 player Rook there are 5 cards in the kitty, 5 player has 7 cards in the kitty(since the bid winner and their partner will be against 3 opponents), and 6 player has 3 cards in the kitty. If the 2's, 3's and 4's are removed the number of cards in the kitty remains the same except for 5 player Rook, which will then have 5 cards in the kitty.

Another four-player version which uses all the same cards as the version of "call-your-partner Rook" which would include using the all four 1's and also using all suits of 5's through 14's. The total point count is at 180 points. The point system uses the 1's = 15, 14's = 10, 10's = 10, 5's = 5, and the Rook still valued at 20. The game still follows the standard still of play only difference is that the 1's are included and they replace the 14's as the highest of their suit.

Trump calling variants

Low Card: Low card can be called when the bid is taken, in this scenario the Rook becomes the 10.5 of trump, fives are the best, and ones are the worst with quality of card descending as the number gets higher. It can be called low card with any color being trump.

No Trump: No trump hands can be called, when this is done, the Rook becomes the 10.5 of Red, and there is no trump, all cards play as if they were off suit. This can be called in conjuncture with high card or low card.

Circus Rook: Circus Rook is a variant where when the winning bid is earned, the player who takes the kitty calls "Circus Rook". After this is called, the person to the immediate left would call trump, and give their best card to the player to their left (for instance, if high card green is called, and the rook was in an opponents hand, they would pass it to their left) the player who called circus rook and his partner would then pass their worst card to their left (most likely a low off suit card). The game play then continues with the team who called trump leading.

Black 2 Trump: Another variation of Rook in which the black 2 can be used to trump the Rook card.