Card Game Glossary

Many card games use words which may be confusing for beginners. Use this card game glossary if you are confused about any terms.

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Aces High/Low  ||   Auction  ||   Bid  ||   Bowers  ||   Court Cards
Cut  ||   Cut Throat  ||   Dead Hand  ||   Deal  ||   Dealer
Deck  ||   Dummy Hand  ||   Follow Suit  ||   Hand  ||   Kitty
Lead  ||   Meld  ||   Misere  ||   No Trumps  ||   Off Suit
Open Misere  ||   Partner(ship)  ||   Renege  ||   Revoke  ||   Short Suit
Shuffle  ||   Stock Pile  ||   Suit  ||   Tableau  ||   Trick
Trump  ||   Widow


Aces High/Low: The general order of cards is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack (J), Queen (Q), King (K). In some games the Ace (A) is counted less than 2 (Aces Low) while in other games an Ace is counted above the King (Aces High). Occasionally, a game will have Aces High and Low, so the cards run in a cycle: A 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A 2 3 4 etc.


Auction: See Bid


Bid: Players must sometimes try to estimate the number of tricks they will win from a hand, before the hand is played. For example, each player in Five Hundred has ten cards and must guess how many tricks they can win with those cards. The rules for bidding depend on the particular game.

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Bowers: In most games the general order of the cards is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack (J), Queen (Q), King (K) with Aces High or Aces Low. However, in some games with tricks and trump suits, there may be three cards higher than the Ace (assuming Aces High). The Joker is the highest card (which can win any trick), but the Jack of the trump suit and the Jack of the suit of the same colour as the trump suit are the next highest cards, above the Ace of the trump suit. The Jack of the trump suit is known as the Right Bower and the other Jack of that colour is the Left Bower. For example, if clubs (♣) are trumps, the order of the trump cards is:

    Joker, J♣, J♠, A♣, K♣, Q♣, 10♣, 9♣, etc.

Note: Since the Left Bower is a trump card, it is counted as part of the trump suit. In the example above, the J♠ is actually a club! Be careful not to renege.

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Court cards: The Jack, Queen and King of all suits are called court cards.


Cut: The deck of cards is shuffled and placed face down in the middle. A cut occurs when another playing picks up part of the pile. In some games, each player picks up part of the pile and looks at the bottom card to determine who will be dealer before the deck is shuffled again normally. In other games, the cards are cut and the remainder of the pack is placed on top of the cut part of the pack after the dealer has shuffled, in order to reduce the risk of the dealer manipulating the cards for his/her own benefit.

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Cut Throat: Many card games have each player playing by themselves with the hope of beating all the other players. This is called Cut Throat. Games where players work together as a team to beat the other team is called a partnership.


Dead Hand See Dummy Hand


Deal: To distribute cards evenly to each player. The player to the left of the dealer receives the first card, then each player in a clockwise direction until all players have one card. The deal continues in a clockwise direction until every player has the required number of cards for that game, with the dealer receiving the last card.


Dealer: The person who deals the cards at the beginning of a card game. The dealer may be a new player for each new game, often the player seated on the previous dealer's left.

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Deck: A full set of 52 cards, with 13 cards in each of four suits. Jokers may be included for some games.


Dummy Hand (Also known as a "Dead Hand") A hand which is dealt normally but is left face down on the table. For example, some card games for two players have an extra (third) hand dealt. This adds uncertainty to any bidding and to the play.

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Follow Suit: In games with tricks, you must play a card of the same suit as the card which is played first for each trick, if you have a card in your hand of that suit, even if that card cannot win the trick. For example, assume clubs are trumps and 10 is put down as the first card in a trick. You have the following hand

    A♠    3♠    8    4♣    9

You must play your 8 rather than the 4♣.


Hand: The group of cards which each player holds during the game or during each round of the game.

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Kitty: Some games which have bidding for tricks involve a Kitty (also known as a Widow). For example, Five Hundred (for four players) only uses 43 cards; ten cards per player and three cards for the kitty (which is placed face down in the middle of the table). The player who wins the bid picks up the kitty and can replace up to three cards from their hand with cards from the kitty if they are of benefit. The player discards three cards (which could have been from their original hand or the kitty (or a combination of both) to leave themselves with ten cards.


Lead: The first card in a trick is the lead (pronounced leed). Other players must follow suit if possible.

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Meld: A series of cards, either three or four of a kind (for example, Q, Q, Q♣, Q♠) or a run of at least three cards in order from the same suit (example 4♣, 5♣, 6♣, 7♣)


Misere: In Five Hundred and other games involving tricks a player can bid misere. This means they intend to lose every trick in that hand (with no trumps). Open misere is similar to misere, except that the player must show their cards face-up before play so that other players can see the hand as it is being played. (In some games, the player can lead their first card from their hand before placing the remaining cards face up.)

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No Trumps: Some games with tricks (for example, Five Hundred) allow you to bid with no particular suit as a trump suit. This means there are no Bowers. The Joker becomes the highest card of any suit. Otherwise, the highest card of the suit which is led will win the trick.


Off suit: In games with tricks, if you cannot follow suit, you can play a card of any other suit, including the trump suit. In some games, it is useful to short suit your hand.


Open Misere: See Misere.

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Partner(ship): Some card games with bidding involve four players who work in pairs, seated so that members of a pair are seated opposite each other. Partners must work together in bidding and playing to defeat the other partnership. A game where every player plays for themselves is called Cut Throat.


Renege: (pronounced ree-NEGG) A player should follow suit if they have a card of that suit. If they do not follow suit but later in the hand produce a card from that suit, they are said to have reneged. The penalty for reneging varies from game to game but usually involves gaining or losing points. (Also known as Revoking.)


Revoke: See Renege.

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Short Suit: In games where you can discard some cards from your hand (for example, Five Hundred), it sometimes useful to get rid of one entire suit so that you can use a trump card to win a trick if someone else plays a card from your short suit.


Shuffle: To mix up a deck of cards so they are in a random order.


Stock Pile: The cards which are left over after the deal. The stock pile is not used for that hand, but is shuffled with the rest of the deck for the next hand.

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Suit: A standard deck of cards has 52 cards plus one or two jokers (which are only used in a few card games). There are four suits (Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades) with 13 cards (Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack (J), Queen (Q), King (K)) in each suit.


Tableau: The cards that are set out at the beginning of a one-player card game before the game begins.


Trick: Many card games are based on winning tricks. A trick is when each player takes one card from their hand and places it face up in the middle of the table. After every player puts their card down, the trick is won according to the particular rules of each game; usually the highest card of the suit which is led wins that trick. Players must follow suit if possible. If not, they can play a trump card to win the trick. Usually, the player on the dealer's left plays the first card of the first trick for each hand, then the winner of that trick plays the first card of the next trick and so on until the whole hand has been played. If there are five cards in a player's hand, there will be five tricks to be won.

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Trump: In some games, particular suits or cards become important in winning tricks. For example, if spades (♠) are trumps, player four would win the trick:

    Player One - 8
    Player Two - J
    Player Three - A
    Player Four - 3♠

Trumps can normally be played only if the player cannot follow suit.


Widow: See Kitty



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