Rook is a 4-player bidding and trick-taking partnership card game. If you're not into the complicated bidding of bridge, but want more of a challenge than hearts or spades, then Rook is the game for you.

Rook has the following major differences from Bridge:

*There is no dummy hand.
*A player may not re-enter the bidding after passing.
*Some cards are worth points, as is the last trick.
*The object is to win a certain amount of points.
*Bidding is based on expected points, not tricks, and makes no mention of suit.

Of course, if you've never played bridge, or if you've never played cards at all, then these differences mean nothing to you. That's fine - just read along and learn!

The Basics:

Rook is a card game originally created in 1906 by Parker Brothers. A deck of Rook cards consists of four colors (black, red, yellow, and green) each numbered 1-14, with a special "Rook card", which is basically a picture of the Rook bird. Rook is played as a partner bidding game. In this respect it is similar to Pitch, Spades or Pinochle, where players bid based on how many points they feel they and their partner can take through the course of a hand. Each round every player plays a card, and in general the high card wins the "trick". When all cards have been played, a team totals up the cards that count as points to determine if they win the hand.

The winning bidder also wins the right to name whatever color he wants "trump". The trump color is then regarded as the superior color throughout that hand, meaning that it will take tricks of other colors, regardless of value.


The game of Kentucky Discard has been one of the most popular of all Rook games for decades, and it is the game used for Tournament Rook and at most Rook clubs. Therefore, this is the one described below ...

Step One: Beginning

In this version of Rook, the Rook Bird Card is always used. When in play, it can be thought of as the equivalent of the 14 of Trump. All together, 57 cards are used (13 for each player and five for the "nest" in the center or the table.

The four players sit around a card table, partners sitting across from each other.

To determine the dealer, the players "cut" the deck and the player who draws the highest card deals.

t The cards are dealt, one at a time beginning to the dealer's left and then clockwise around the table. The fifth card is placed face down in the center the table to be the first card of the "nest." This order of dealing is repeated until there are five cards in the "nest;" then the remainder of the deck is dealt, one at a time, to the players. If any card as high as a ten is exposed during the deal, a new deal is required. If any card, although lower than ten is exposed, it is the right of any player to demand a new deal. In either case, the dealer himself redeals. Then a player does not have a card above a 9 on any game, he can call for a redeal.

Players arrange their cards in suit order (by colors) without telling any other player what they have. Now you're ready to bid.

Step Two: Bidding

After the cards are dealt, players bid for the right to call trump. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer and going around clockwise, each player either makes a bid, or passes. A player who passes may not re-enter the bidding. This process continues until three players have passed; the fourth is the winner of the bid. The winner gets to call trump. There is a great advantage in being the player who chooses trump color, since a trump card can capture any card or any other color.

But first, let's explain bidding...

A player's bid signifies the minimum number of points that he believes he and his partner will win in the hand (by count cards), provided they are able to name the color that will be trump. Bidding starts at 70 and increases by 5 each time someone bids again. There are 120 total points in a hand, broken down as follows:

Each 5 is worth 5 points.
Each 10 is worth 10 points.
Each 14 is worth 10 points.
The Rook is worth 20 points.
No other cards are worth points.
Tricks captured have no separate value.

So what keeps people from bidding right up to 120 in order to get to call trump? If after playing the hand, the player who called trump and his partner do not make their bid (in other words, they get fewer points than they bid), then they lose the number of points that they bid.

By bidding 100 (as an example), you are saying that you and your partner will take 100 points during play of the hand, which is also known as "making the bid". If you and your partner succeed in making the bid, you score 100 points, plus however many points above your bid you manage to take. If you fail to make the bid, you lose the amount of your bid, in this case 100 points. There are no "sandbags" in Rook (penalties for underbidding your hand), nor is there any opportunity to "shoot the moon" (making a certain number of points by taking all the points in a hand).

You should remember, there's always a risk when you take the bid. If you do not wish to bid, you may "pass." After passing, you may not bid again on this hand.

Once the bid has been placed (remember to write it down!), the bidder picks up the "nest" of 5 cards. The bidder then discards five cards from his hand he doesn't want, which are not shown to everyone else. The idea is to discard low cards, point cards (as the person who takes last trick gets the discard), or attempt to get rid of an entire color in your hand, so you can trump in that color right away. The bidder may not discard what he intends to make trump unless he has no other option. If the bidder is caught discarding trump, or discards too few or too many cards, it is an automatic set.

After discarding to the "nest,", he names aloud the trump color. You generally should have at least five cards in a suit in order to cdonsider calling trump in that suit. After the first card is played, the "nest" becomes common property and must remain face down on the table until the last trick is caught. The player who captures the last trick in the game, captures the "nest" and counters found within are credited to his score.

Step Three: Playing

After the discarded "nest" is placed face down on the table and the Trump Color is announced, the player at the left of the dealer, who may or may not be the "declarer of the trump color" makes the initial lead and play begins.

Any color may be led and players must, if possible, follow suit (play the same color that was led). If it is impossible for a player to follow suit, he may play any card in his hand. The highest card of the color led takes the trick unless the trick is "trumped."

Each player must play a card on each trick, and whomever wins the trick must then lead off the next trick.

When the tricks are taken, they are placed face down on the table and can not be seen until the play of the hand is completed. Counters captured by partners are added together to form the team's score for that hand. However, if the "declarers" team does not capture enough counters to make a score equal to his bid, he and his partner are penalized by subtracting the bid from their existing score, and they get no credit for the counters they captured. If they capture more than their bid, full credit is given for each counter. The opposing team gets credit for the counters they capture.

The Rook card is used as the highest of all cards regardless of which color is chosen trumps. It may be played at any time the holder wishes, regardless of the color led. It is the only card that has this privilege. If led, it calls for play of trump color. It play is demanded, however, if trump color is led and its holder has no card of trump color.

Players must follow the color suit lead whenever possible, unless they have no more of the color, at which point they are free to play any card they choose, or they may "trump in". If trump is played on any trick, high trump wins the trick, regardless of the numerical values of the non-trump cards. The Rook is considered trump in each hand, so if a player has no more trump color to play on trump-lead trick, the Rook must be played to follow suit.

Step Four: Scoring

When all tricks have been played, the team that takes the last trick wins the bidders discard (the "nest"), as well. Points are then tallied by each team to determine if the bidder made his bid or went set. The non-bidding team gains the amount of points they take regardless. The bidding team either makes the points they took if that total is over their bid, or loses their bid in points.

Play continues for as many hands as are necessary for one team to reach game point. Depending on who makes bids or goes set, and by how many points, a game can be over in as little as 3 hands, or continue indefinitely.

After play is over, each team counts up the number of points in their pile. A reminder:

Each 5 is worth 5 points.
Each 10 is worth 10 points.
Each 14 is worth 10 points.
The Rook is worth 20 points.
No other cards are worth points.
Tricks captured have no separate value.

There are 120 points in each game. A running score is kept. Games go up to 500 points (first team to reach or exceed 1000 points wins), but any number may be agreed upon beforehand (Some play to 300, some to 500 and some to 1000).

If the team of the player who called trump has fewer points than he had originally bid, then they are "set." They do not add the amount of points they get to their total; rather, they subtract the amount of points that they bid. The team that did not call trump has no such restriction.

One further scoring bonus: If a team takes all thirteen tricks, then they get a 100 point bonus, giving them 300 points for the game, although this does not happen very often.

Pick up a couple decks of Rook, and break them out the next time you have a gathering of family or friends. Even if some or all have never played, the rules of Rook can be taught in a few minutes, and most people find it interesting and enjoyable straight off. Card games have traditionally been a great way to socialize, and Rooks unique variety of simple rules and complex strategies will appeal to a wide variety of people.

Terms for New Players

TRICK: one player "leads" a card faceup on the table from his hand, and each other player in turn lays a card on it. The highest card of the color led "takes the trick" unless someone plays a trump; then the trump (or highest trump) card takes it.

TRUMP: The player who bid highest "picks trump," naming one of the four colors to be trump for that hand. Now any card of the trump color is more powerful and beats any card of another color.

BID: Before the trick-taking play begins, all players bid (as in an auction) for the privilege of naming the trump color. During the hand, the player who bid the highest and "took the bid" must win enough tricks to capture Counters worth enough points to equal or exceed the amount of the bid.

SCORING: At the end of the hand, players count up the Counters in the tricks they have taken in order to calculate their scores for the hand. A high bidder who does not capture the number of points at least equal to his bid "goes down" and subtracts the total amount of that bid.

NEST: A number of cards dealt to the table and "won" by the highest bidder. These cards may be exchanged for the same number of cards in the high bidder's hand. The high bidder is the only player who knows which cards are in the next and therefore out of play. The last team to take a trick "wins" the nest.

The Rook Club

Rook Club is a group of people that meet once a week or once a month (each night is called a "session") to play Rook. We meet at our home, the Rookery.

We supply everything needed to play and can teach participants how to play, if needed. This is a great way to keep the game going and have great fun at the same time, whether you're an experienced player of many years or whether you're a "ROOKie"!

Think about starting your own Rook Club ... you'll be glad you did!