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Card Games: Rams Group

The characteristic feature of these plain-trick games is that players who think they will be unable to take a trick (or unable to reach some minimum quota of tricks) can drop out before the play begins. By dropping out they avoid the penalty for failing to win a trick (or reach the quota), but may also make it easier for the other players to succeed. Typically, a fairly small number of cards is dealt, leaving a lot of cards out of the game, which makes it harder to assess whether one can win a trick.

Members of this group are found in many countries under quite different names: Rams in France, Mauscheln in Germany, Julepe in Spain, Bourré in the USA, Schnellen and Mulatschag in Austria, Zwicken in Germany and Austria, Blesang in Switzerland, Loo in England, Norrlandsknack in Sweden.

This group includes some quite notorious gambling games. In this type, there is a pool, which is divided between the players who stay in according to the tricks taken. Players who drop out have no chance to win anything from the pool, but if you stay in and fail to take a trick, you must pay an amount equivalent to the value of the whole pool to be polayed for in the next hand. Even if you start with quite small stakes the size of the pool in some of these games can escalate rapidly. To avoid the stakes becoming unmanageable, sometimes the penalty for failing to take a trick is limited or set at a fixed amount.

Another type of game within this group is played for points rather than money. Usually everyone starts with a positive score, such as 15 or 20, and the object is to reach zero. A point is deducted for each trick taken, and the penalty for staying in and failing to take a trick is that 5 points are added to your score.

The game of Preference, which is played in many variants throughout Central and Eastern Europe, also has the feature that players have a quota of tricks if they play, but can drop out to avoid a penalty. is based on similar principles. Preference is a game for three active players using a 32-card pack. Each player is dealt 10 cards, the winner of the bidding has to win at least 6 tricks and the opponents, if they choose to defend, must take their quota of 2 tricks each.