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Auction Pitch

Game Type
Trick Taking
Age
Kids, Adults
Players
3, 4, 5
Deck
Standard

All Fours is a game of English origin and dates from the 17th century. Once known to virtually every card-playing American, it survives today, principally as Auction Pitch.It is still a popular game in the United States and has also evolved into Seven-Up, Cinch, and other games. There are many versions of Auction Pitch, and while the rules have changed greatly over the years, the essential feature has always been the scoring of high, low, jack, and the game.

Number of Players

Two to seven people can play, but the game is most often played by three to five people, with four players being the most popular number of participants. Each person plays for himself.

The Pack

The standard 52-card pack is used.

Rank of Cards

A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The Draw

From a shuffled pack spread face down, each player draws a card. The player with the highest card deals and has his choice of seats. His opponents may sit where they please, and in case of any question, the player with the next highest card has preference.

The Shuffle and Cut

Any player may shuffle, the dealer shuffles last, and the player to the dealer's right cuts, leaving at least five cards in each packet.

The Deal

The dealer completes the cut and deals three cards at a time clockwise, in rotation, beginning with the player to his left, until each player has six cards. After each hand, the deal passes to the left.

Object of the Game

The goal is to be the first player to reach a total of 7 points. Points are scored as follows:
High One point for holding the highest trump in play.
Low One point for being dealt the lowest trump in play, no matter who wins it in a trick. (Variation: In many games, Low counts for the player winning it.)
Jack One point for winning the trick on which the jack of trumps was played.
Game One point for winning tricks with cards scoring the greatest value, each ten counting 10 points, each ace 4, each king 3, each queen 2, each jack 1.

If the trump jack is not in play, no one counts it. If two or more players tie for game, no one counts the point for game.

The Bidding

The player on the dealer's left bids first. Each player in turn may either bid or pass. The lowest bid is two, and each successive bid must be higher than any preceding bid, except the dealer, who can bid and play for the amount of the preceding bid. However, if any player bids four, he is said to "smudge," and the bid cannot then be taken away from that player.

The Play

The "pitcher" (highest bidder, or the dealer if he assumes the contract at the highest preceding bid) leads first. The suit of the card "pitched" indicates the trump suit. On a trump lead, each player must follow suit if possible. On any other lead, a player may either follow suit or may trump. When unable to follow suit, a player may play any card. The player of the highest trump - or the highest card of the suit led if the trick contains no trump - wins the trick and leads next.

Scoring

When all six tricks have been played, the points due each player are tabulated. Usually a score is kept with pencil and paper. Each player except the pitcher scores whatever points he makes. The pitcher scores whatever points he makes if the score at least equals the bid contract. However, if the pitcher has not scored as many points as were bid, he is "set back" by the amount of the bid - that is, the number of points bid is deducted from his score. Thus, a player may have a net minus score, which is called being "in the hole." The score for a player in the hole is indicated on the score sheet as a number with a ring around it.

The first player to reach a plus score of 7 points wins the game. The pitcher's score is counted first, so that if the pitcher and another player reach 7 points on the same hand, the pitcher wins, even if the other player has a higher total score. If two players other than the pitcher are able to reach 7 points on the same hand, the points are counted in this order: High, Low, Jack, Game.

A player who smudges and who makes the bid by winning all 4 points wins the game immediately - unless he was in the hole (in which case the smudger only receives the 4 points).

The winner of the game receives one point from each player whose score is 1 point or more, and 2 points from each player whose score is zero or minus (in the hole). (Variation: In some games, the winner receives an additional point from each player for each time that player has been set back.)

Irregularities

Mis-deal. It is a misdeal if an ace, jack, or deuce is exposed during the deal. Since the deal is an advantage, a misdeal loses the deal.

Revoke (failure to follow suit or trump, when possible). A play once made cannot be withdrawn, so a revoke stands and play continues to the end. If the pitcher revokes, he cannot score and is set back the amount of his bid, while all the other players scores what that player makes. If any player except the pitcher revokes, all players except the revoker score what they make (including the pitcher, even if he does not make his bid); the revoking player cannot score and has the amount of the bid deducted from his score.

Error in bidding A bid not higher than a previous bid, or a bid out of turn, is void, and the offender must pass.

Error in pitching Once the pitcher plays a card, the trump cannot be changed. If a player pitches before the auction closes, he is assumed to have bid 4 and play proceeds. However, any player before the pitcher who has not had a turn to bid may himself bid 4 and pitch when it is his turn, whereupon the card illegally pitched, and any card played to it, must be withdrawn. If the wrong player pitches after the auction is closed, the pitcher may require that that card and any card played to it be withdrawn. In addition, when it is the offender's turn to play first, the pitcher may require him to play the highest or lowest card of the suit led, or to trump or not to trump. Exception: If the pitcher has played to the incorrect lead, it cannot be withdrawn and the pitcher must immediately name the trump, which he must then lead the first time he wins a trick.

The Jack and the Knave

Auction Pitch evolved from All Fours, an English pub game that dates back to the 17th century. It is the first game that used the term "jack," which is now the name used for the third-ranking face card in a standard 52-card pack. Previously, this card was known as the "knave." As the popularity of All Fours spread, the special role of the jack in scoring usurped the term knave. Today, the term knave has been relegated to an alternate name for jack.