Monday, March 15, 2010

Irish national card game: Twenty-Five

Given that this wednesday is St. Patricks Day, the Americanized "Irish" holiday, I would like to present the national card game of Ireland, twenty-Five..... Yes you read correctly 25----not 21.

So the basic rundown of 25:

25 is played by 2–8 persons, five being the best number. When three play at this game, it is still necessary that one of them should win the three tricks in order to make a Five, as the stakes must remain for the next game if two of the players get two tricks each, and the other one. If the party consists of four, they play in two partnerships, which are determined by cutting the cards, the two lowest playing against the two highest, or by agreement among the parties.

Each player starts with a pre-arranged amount of chips determined by the table.The pool is started with one chip from each and usually limited to a certain maximum, allthough each dealer is required to "tit-up" the pool

The deal

The turn to deal and play always passes to the left, and after the first hand, each player deals in rotation. Where the game is strictly played, the person who misdeals, or who departs from the order with which the game began, of dealing either the three or the two cards first, forfeits his stake. Stack the rest face down, turning the topmost card for trumps.


If the turn-up is an Ace, the dealer may "rob" the trump, i.e. put out, face downwards, any card from his hand and take in the Ace, but the trump suit remains unaltered. If the holder of the trump Ace does not wish to rob, and does not announce the fact that he holds it before playing to the first trick, then, whenever he does play it, it counts as the lowest trump. Similarly a player who holds the Ace of trumps may himself rob the trump at any time before playing to the first trick, putting out any card and taking in the turn-up, but need not disclose the fact until it is his turn to play. A player who fails to rob cannot go out that hand. The card put out may not be seen. Robbing must take place before the first player on the dealers left, leads. Some players make "robbing" optional

The cards

Rand and Order of the Cards When Trumps:

Five of Trumps

Knave of Trumps

Ace of Hearts

In Red Suits When not Trumps:

♥♦ K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 A

In Black Suits When not Trumps:

♠♣ K Q J A 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In Red Suits When not Trumps:

5 J A♥ A of trumps K Q 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

In Black Suits When Trumps:

5 J A ♥ A of trumps K Q 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

So it will be seen that when the suit is not trump, the Ace of Diamonds is the worst card in the pack, when the suit is trump it is the fourth best card in the game. When Hearts are trumps, there is no Ace of trumps and whether trumps or not, the Deuce of Clubs or Spades is better than all plain cards in their respective suit.

The play

The player on the dealers left leads first. Players must follow suit whenever is possible and the highest card of the suit led or the highest trump, wins the trick. Each player must follow suit when trump is led, under the penalty of forfeiting his stake, except in the case of the three best trump cards, the Five, Knave and the Ace of Hearts, each of which is privileged to renounce. If a player takes three tricks he wins the game. If no one succeeds there is a spoil, and a fresh stake, smaller than the original one as a rule, is put into the pool for the next round.


When trumps are led, the Five and the Knave of trumps, and the Ace ♥, need not be played. This is called reneging (colloquially, "renigging"). The Five may always renege: if it is led, no card can renege. The Knave may renege if the Five is played, not led. Only the Five can renege to the Knave led. The Ace ♥ can renege to any inferior card. If Hearts are not trumps and the Ace ♥ is led, a trump must be played if possible, if not, it is not necessary to play a Heart.


At Spoil-five a player winning the first three tricks straight off may claim the pool without further play. If however, he leads to the fourth trick (described as "jinking"), he thereby is obliged to win all five. If he elects to jink and fails, he cannot score during that hand. A player who jinks, if jinking is agreed upon, receives an extra stake all around.


If no one wins the three tricks, or if a player jinked and failed to win all five, the game is said to have been "spoiled". Everyone then adds another chip to the pool, which is carried forward to the next deal. Otherwise, whoever took three tricks wins the pool, with an additional chip from each opponent if he took all five.

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