Input from Readers

Thanks for your comments. I will attempt to update this page as soon as possible when cool ideas come in.

Comments From Other Players

Henry wrote:

We always played a 4 person game in which the persons who had the Queen of Clubs and Jack of Diamonds were partners. This was unspoken and had to be determined from plays made during the game. If one person had both the Queen of Clubs and the Jack of Diamonds, he/she was said to be going it alone and had to earn at least 61 points on his or her own.

(Comment: I believe it was understood that the two black 7's were removed from the deck and that only 2 cards were placed in the blind)

Todd wrote:

Ever played 6 handed? Jack of Clubs is partner (5 in each hand, with 2 in the blind)-- that tends to balance the power so that the 2 can play against the other 4. Not quite as fun as 5-handed call an ace, but at least no one is sitting out. I've also played 7-handed, 4 to each and 4 in the blind. You can either play "shit on your neighbor" where the person to the picker's left is their partner, or have Queen of Spades partner; dealer is forced to pick if it gets to him. And there is also 8-handed, with no blind and the 2 black queens partners; sometimes you make the 7 of Diamonds the highest trump in that game (called the 'spitz'). Because there is no blind, 8-handed can get pretty boring, though.

James wrote:

My version of 8 handed sheepshead is the same as Todd's, except that you can "sell" the black queens (without the 7 of diamonds as "boss" trump) . If you have a bare black queen with no other trump, you can sell it to the highest bidder. This almost assures you of not losing any money in the round, and probably gaining money. You may want to wait to see if anyone else is selling first, though, because the second black queen "sold" almost always receives a higher bid of money. You can also sell both black queens if they are bare in your hand, first selling one of them, waiting, and than selling the other. You are almost assured of making more money than the "picker(s)" this way.

Mark wrote:

Our version of sheepshead was 4 handed where the two black queens were always partners. There was no blind, each person got 8 cards. If you're dealt both black queens, you could go it alone or you could call a partner with an ace the way you described it.

We kept score in a 3-6-9 format with the winner being the first over 36 without a tie.

Terry wrote:

I have a couple of comments. First of all, you are entirely ignoring Marathon County when you refer to Diamonds as trump. Don't ask me why, but they play clubs trump. I never had to play diamonds trump until I moved to California. I am almost 100% converted to diamonds trump now.

6 Handed Variation:

Remove 2 black sevens from the deck.

No blind.

2 black queens and the jack of diamonds are partner.

If one person is dealt more than one partner card, he/she can discretely "pass" the "extra" card(s) to the person to the left, who then returns a different card. Ideally, the new partner is able to clear a suit. Partners are determined as the cards are played.

Ken wrote:

We have open play every Wed. night at a bar called the Commodore, on Delaware St. in Bay View (Milwaukee). Start at 5:30 pm and play until about 9 pm. 25-50-75, double on the bump, leaster/doublers (if everyone passes it is a leaster, then the next hand is a doubler).

If there are only 4 at a table, we play 8 cards per person (no blind), and the first 2 queens to be played (hit the table) are partners. If you play both the first two queens, you go alone. Best version of 4-handed I have found.

Starting in Jan (1998) we will be having a 5 handed call An ace, tournament in Milwaukee (at the Commodore, on Delaware St. in Bay View) every 1st Sat. of the month. Start at 3pm. Cost to enter is $10, and all money taken in will be paid back in prizes money. You play four rounds of 15 hands each. The high score at each table for each round gets $5. The top two scorers from each round move to another table. Your total from all four rounds is added together for pay outs at the end. Top will usually be $50 depending on the number of players. So you could win as much as $70 for your $10 investment.

Todd wrote:

I am from Waupun, WI. In high school, sheepshead is the most popular game. In a five handed game, if the picker has the two black queens in his/her hand, it's called blitzers and the point value of the game is increased by "one". Meaning each player would have to pay the picker one more point than usual, or the picker and partner on a 2:1 ratio will go down 1 more point per opponent. A non-picker can voluntarily call blitzers if he/she wishes to raise the point value of the game "one". If he/she does not call before the first card is played, blitzers do not apply.

Indians is similar, except it involves the two red queens, and any player, picker or non-picker must call this to raise the point value of the game one (one per picker opponents).

Another common thing is Uncle Charlie and Uncle Bill. The rules vary from game to game on this. If the first person with the opportunity to pick picks without looking at his/her hand, it's called Uncle Charlie'ing, and it raises the point value per picker opponent by let's say three, it varies. If the last person with the opportunity to pick picks the cards without looking at his/her hand, it's calling Uncle Bill'ing and the point value per picker opponent goes up let's say two, it varies, but it's less than Uncle Charlie'ing. It's less because there is a greater chance the person on the end has a good hand, because everyone else passes.

Cracking is when a non-picker says crack and automatically raises the point value "one" just as in blitzers and indians. The picker has the option to re-crack and raise it another one.

I, myself, am not for indians, blitzers, Uncle Charlie'ing, Uncle Bill'ing, and cracking, but thought I would mention how it's played out here in Waupun.

John wrote:

The way 7 handed is traditionally played in Manitowoc WI (home of the ships) is that 4 to each, four in the blind. You must pick if you have the queen of clubs or the two middle queens, but you can pick on anything you like. You can either 'go alone' and pick up all four cards or shake for a partner. You grab a die (yes that little six sided cube thing) and the partner is the number you shake starting from your left (man to your immediate left is 1, next guy is two, etc.) each person gets two in the blind and buries two of their own cards.

Anecdote : If somebody picks, takes a partner, and then someone else knocks on them, and then the picker doesn't take a trick, it is scored picker loses 18, partner loses 12. And the other 5 people will inevitably break out in a version of the 1812 Overture. It is really funny when it happens.

Scott wrote:

I've played 7-handed with 4 cards to each, two blinds of two, and two pickers. I think we made the dealer take the second blind if only one got picked. Fun, but really only useful when you don't have a second deck handy.

Fred wrote:

3-handed: Take out the black sevens, deal 9 cards to each player with 3 in the blind. I do not like this perversion of the classic 3-handed game, as black aces are likely to be cut to ribbons. And, having learned top strategy from Joe Wergin while in school in Madison, it's hard to follow the point system he espouses.

5-handed: Essentially "Racine", except the dealer automatically picks if everyone passes. This is also a poor excuse for a game because it encourages mauering. To try to abate the mauers, there is no double on the bump, but that does not stop those dogs!

Lee wrote:

We play 2 handed by laying out 8 cards face down for the 2 players and 8 cards go on top of them. When you use the cards on top, you put the face down cards in your hand. Of course we also can't seem to go a game without cheating.

Otto wrote:

The English word "Sheepshead" for "Schafkopf" isn't right at all. "Schafkopf" hasn't got anything to do with the heads of sheeps. A "Schaffkopf" is the top of a barrel, where usually was played card on by workers. I think the person who transferred the German noun into English didn't know anything about the original meaning of "Schafkopf/Schaffkopf".

Barnie wrote:

Up here in Sturgeon Bay, we don't call aces - we call the lowest jack that the picker doesn't have in his hand. If you pick up the blinds and end up with all four jacks, you have to play alone.

Chuck wrote:

In southern Minnesota, the 7 of diamonds is called the schpitz and it is second in command, between the queen of clubs (called the "mench") and the queen of spades (called the "blue"). The picker can call any ace he wants (except of course, any aces he has been dealt). If he has the suit of the ace that he is calling, he holds a card of that suit in his hand. If he doesn't have the suit of the ace that he is calling, he puts a card face down on the table and that card must be played on the "called ace" trick. Five handed is the preferred method, each player getting 6 cards. In six handed, the dealer sits out.

Brian wrote:

We always had the option of a 'moster', a leaster, or a doubler if no one picks. A moster is where the person who gets the most points pays everyone -- half as much as if they'd picked and lost, unless they get over 60, in which case they pay as much as if they'd picked and lost. Calling 'mosters' tends to catch maurers much more than leasters ... it also tended to incite the singing of "Kill the Maurer" (sung to the tune of "Kill the Wabbit" (i.e. Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries")).

Tiffany wrote:

We played (in Florida) 5-handed, Clubs as trump. The partner was automatically the Jack of Diamonds. If the picker had that card, he could call the Jack of Hearts. If he had both, he called a fail Ace. If calling an Ace, the picker had to have a card of that suit, which was placed face-down on the table until played. Anything (except the face-down card when an Ace was called) could be buried, but "trump in the bury" had to be announced. The picker led the first hand. If someone, who had not gotten a chance to pick, felt they had a very strong hand, they could "double" (which sounds like the descriptions I've seen of "crack"ing). Either the picker or partner could "re-double", but all doubling and re-doubling had to be done between the play of the first and second cards of the first trick. If no one picked, the game went to Leaster. Game was 61 points, Schneider (for either side) was 31 points.

Darcy wrote:

I have grown up playing a version similar to Chuck. We play a four hand version with the "schpitz" (7 of diamonds) in between the two black queens in trump order. There are 26 cards in the deck, nines and up plus the 7 & 8 of diamonds. Everyone is dealt 6 cards, with two in the blind. The person who picks and whomever has the jack of diamonds are partners. If the picker finds the jack of diamonds in the middle, then he or she is playing alone (this makes picking a little interesting). The picker also has the option of calling off the jack of diamonds and going alone. Also, if someone after the picker wishes to go alone, they can steal the bury of the picker and go alone.

Thomas wrote:

I am from Germany (Munich). Don't you have real Sheaphead cards? I mean not a queen, instead an OBER or UNTER. I think this should be added in your page, because we play in Bavaria only with these cards.

When I want to play Shephead I can do this only with the bavarian cards (but I think these card should be available everywhere). The differences are:

Numbers are equal. Ace is the same and king also. But now: the boy or joker is the UNTER (german for under) and the queen is the OBER (german for upper) Also the colours are different. We have grass, heart, "schelln", "eichel". Eichel is the uppest, then grass, heart and the lowest is schelln. So when you play a single game against three opponents ("SOLO"), this sound like that: "I play a GRASS WENZ" Wenz stands for playing alone and only the UNTERS and the colour grass are counting. The same for OBERS "I play a SCHELLN GEIER". If you say I will make every "STICH" -this means that you will get all cards- it is called " I play a heart SOLO TOUT".

Griffin wrote:

I learned the game from a cousin of mine from Germany. We played with a German deck that had O's instead of Queens, U's instead of Jacks and the trump suite was hearts, the suites were Yellow (looked like acorns), Green (looked like leaves), Hearts, and Bells. The game was played with 8 cards dealt to each player without a blind. A rule variation was a game called marriage. If a player had a hand with only one trump card he could put that in the middle. Any player could pick it up and trade him one non-trump card. These two players would be partners.

Other variations:

Color high. One player against the other three. The chosen suite as well as the high trump cards were high. Queens (O's) high: One player against the other three. Only the queens were trump. The Jacks (U's) were then lowered underneath the King. Jacks (U's) high: As above but only the Jacks trump.

The picker multiplied the value of the game by the number of trump cards he possessed in a row from the most powerful card or the same number of cards missing on the top. If a picker (and possibly partner) had the four highest cards, they would multiply the value of the hand by 4. Or if they were playing missing those same cards (the other side had it) they would multiply the value of the game by the same number. Its not the number of trump cards that is important, but rather the number in a row starting from the top card only.

Peter wrote:

I thought I couldn't believe my eyes. Someone in the U.S. knows Schaffkopf! However, the cards that you display on your webpage (queen of clubs) are a French deck, whereas in Bavaria, where Schaffkopf (and I) come from, a German deck is used. The only difference are the assignments for the suits (club = acorn (german: Eichel), spade = leaf (germ.: Blatt, Grass, or Gruen), diamond = bell (germ.: Schell). Also the queen becomes the "Ober" and the "Jack" becomes the "Unter".

(Below is an image of some of the cards): Unter, bells; Ace, acorn; Ober, hearts; King; leaf).

Some of the face cards have nicknames as well:

Ace, acorn: "die Alte", the old one, or "die Alte Sau", old pig

Ace, leaf: "die Blaue", the blue one, or "die Blaue Sau"

Ace, bell: "die Bumpe", no translation

Ober, acorn: "der Alte", the old one (masc.)

Ober, leaf: "der Blaue", the blue one.

Also, I think it's funny that the english translation is 'sheephead' although the original word has nothing to do with sheep, since it's "scha*ff*kopf", not "scha*f*kopf". The name is believed to originate from the location where it was played: On the lids (heads) of wooden barrels or kegs (Schaffen). BTW, although the game is approximately 500 years old, official rules were written in 1989, where?... in the Hofbraeuhaus in Munich, of course.

John wrote:

Here in Nebraska we usually play 4 handed. The two black queens are partners. Notice that this method of play eliminates "leasters" or "mosters". Every hand is played as partners... you just don't know your partner(s) at the start.

If you hold both blacks, you can call "first trick"... the first person (except for you) to take a trick is your partner. If you have both blacks and you don't call "first trick", you are playing solo (you don't have to announce it), if you make it, pay is X 3. If you lose, you pay everyone else.

Doublers are sometimes allowed and they are cumulative. For example, the first doubler is X 2, the second consecutive doubler is X 3, the 3rd X 4, etc...

If you hold a powerful hand, you can announce a "solo do". Then it's you against everyone else and, if you win, your pay is X 5. If you lose, you pay everyone else.

5 handed is played the same a 4 (blacks are partner) except it is 2 against 3 instead of 2 against 2. 6 handed is played with the two blacks and jack of diamonds partners. If you hold 2 of the partner cards, tough... you can either get paid X 2 or have to pay X 2. If you hold all three partner cards, you can call "first trick". If you're really really really gutsy, you can play a "solo do".

Course, these games sometimes get boring. So, then we mix _2_ decks and play doubled decked. The first queen of clubs, first queen of spades and first jack of diamonds are partners. If two identical cards are played, the first one played is high. But sometimes even that gets dull, so we add the "Bike" (ie a Joker). The Bike takes everything (including both queen of clubs). When that gets old, we add another Bike.... Yes, two jokers and two decks. The first Bike played takes the second. Believe it or not, I've seen a side hold all four blacks and not take a trick. It's often better to attempt to_not_ be a partner by withholding your queens and jacks... hoping that the holder of the other will play his/hers first. This game is particularly interesting because you often can "pick" which side you want to be on (either with the first blacks or against). If you are dealt both Bikes, you must, by mutual agreement, buy one round of drinks. When dealt both Bikes, it is common to attempt to play them sneakily in the hope that no one will notice that you were dealt both of them. It seldoms works however. Surprisingly, players usually get dealt both the Bikes frequently enough that there are usually several cold beers sitting in front of you.

For what's it's worth, taking all 120 points is usually called a "12 o'clock".

Steve wrote:

Greetings from Colorado, where sheepshead is something that hangs on the wall. We used to play many nights away in Stevens Point..... We had a five man game we called Sheepsblood. As exciting as a normal game could be, "blood" was an apt name. I suggest you try it.... if someone scares off (can't take it) find someone who can.

5 players

2 Queens or 5 trump MANDATORY pick.

crack/recrack/reverse ...... and the real kicker... passcracks too!!

Blitz (and Blitz crack)

red-Blitz (ditto)

We played for dimes. A bad night might cost you $15.00, but it's more fun than The Safe House on Tuesday night......

Deborah wrote:

Our favorite mode of play is 4 handed. All 32 cards are dealt out; there is no blind in the 4-player scenario. Proceding from the dealer's left, each player is offered the chance to pick. Options for the picker include calling for an ace, going solo (with or without a change in suit) and doing a Jacks solo. If no one picks, play defaults to a game where the two black queens are partners.

I think our version is more similar to Doppelkopf than most of the other versions I've read about. Scoring is done by drawing boxes, and a game consists of three full boxes. Full instance, if your round earns you two points, that is one-half of a box. We (my group of card friends) have recently started awarding an additional point to the picker as a means of encouraging picking (rather than the default queens-partners game).

After reading that you use a blind in your 4-handed version, I think I'll suggest instead adding in the 6 of diamonds to produce a one card blind, which the picker would take. I'm surprised you use a 4 card blind! I've never seen that version; seems like an enormous advantage to the pickers.

Kent wrote:

We've been playing what we call "Up and Down the River" when we can only round up four people. Everyone gets eight cards, no blinds. You play at least 28 rounds {Two for every trump}. The first hand the seven of diamonds plays alone. The second is eight of diamonds alone, and so on up to the queen of clubs. Then you work your way back down to the seven and start it all over if you want.

Joel wrote:

4-handed: The holders of the two black queens are partners with the seven of diamonds in between -- the "spitz." (The spitz comes between the two black queens in power). If you have both the black queens, you can call for the holder of the ace of one of the suits you have fail in -- if you have one fail in more than one suit, you call the ace of the suit you have the higher card in. We also don't play with blinds -- all the cards are dealt out.

6-handed: We use a standard pinochle deck with nines through aces. There will be two of each card, and 121 points are needed to win the hand. Partners are every other player on the table. What is interesting is the second card takes the trick -- for example, if your opponent sitting to your right plays the queen of clubs, you can take the trick by playing your queen of clubs afterward. Also, three points are given per hand -- one for the team that scores over 121 points and one for each of the aces of diamonds taken.

Adam wrote:

One variation I know of for four-handed is 8 cards to everyone and the first 2 queens played are partners. It's rather interesting because a lot of points come out early and there's no way to tell who is your partner's are for a while.

Another way for 7 handed is to play 4 in the blinds, pick 2 - pass 2, JD partner. With pick 2-pass2 the picker takes 2 cards from the blinds and passes the other 2 to the player on his left. This keeps him from being able to bury too many points. Makes for an interesting game since you can pick on almost nothing and still win.

As far as scoring goes (we usually play 1 point is a quarter) it's the regular 1,2,3 payout but with a few oppurtunites to multiply it. Cracking (only those who have not gotten the chance to pick have this option) doubles it and Recracking (by picker or partner) doubles it again so a crack leads to 2,4,6 and recrack to 4,8,12.

Blitzers (2 black queens) and Miniblitzers (2 red queens) can be called by anyone before they pick or have the chance to and each one doubles it like cracking. So if there's a crack and recrack and blitzers and miniblitzers are called the stakes are 16,32,48 points (or quarters) per person. If you're playing doublers and with a lot of people the hands can get rather expensive.

David wrote:

When I was a student in Madison, Wisconsin, we played pretty straight-forward 5-hand, but instead of "call an ace" or "Jack of Diamonds", we let the dealer choose anything they wanted. They had to choose before they looked at their own cards, however, or it defaulted to Jack of Diamonds.

Common calls (besides an Ace or Jack of Diamonds) were things like "first black Jack", "whoever takes the first trick", "whoever takes the last trick" (that was a sticky one), "First Ace", and so on. But you could say "7 of clubs" if you were feeling mischievous. Often with calls like that, the hand ended up a leaster.

Oh, and you could also declare an automatic leaster when you dealt (again, before you looked at your own cards).

There was no obligation to play your ID card at any particular time (other than basic rules of following suit, of course). But in situations like "first Jack", waiting too long might cost you the opportunity.

This variation (I didn't know it was a variation at the time) was really exciting, because 1: the partner often stayed mysterious longer, and 2: often multiple players had the option of becoming partner, and might compete to take (or not take) that role.

Also interesting about this variation, the picker could elect to go it alone simply by meeting the requirements for the partner (playing the first black Jack, for example). If there was just one "magic partner card" and the picker found it in their hand or the blind, they had to go it alone.

Jay wrote:

One interesting 5-handed rule for calling a partner is "first red jack" whereby whoever plays the first red jack is the partner. If the picker plays the first red jack, they play alone. A similar rule is "first trump stone" where the trump stones are the 7-, 8-, and 9- of diamonds. We also have a "first" game where picker may choose one of the above. An interesting dilemma is often: "Should I sign up as partner or try to be on the defense, hoping to collect more"? (We play double on the bump for 5-handed)

The specific partner calling rule for a hand is decided by the dealer before the cards are dealt.


1) A picker with both red jacks must always go alone.

2) One of the other 4 players may have a red jack but decline to play it hoping the picker will have to play his/hers first and be stuck going alone. But that player may be outsmarting himself/herself if another player has the other red jack and gets to "sign up" and the picker is strong.

3) A picker with one red jack may, of course, bury it to guarantee playing with a partner.

Electronwizzy wrote:

Otto's comments on English etymology remind me of another theory of the origin of Sheepshead. From the Latin, General Julius Caesar exclaimed 'the die (dice) is cast' as he started to make war on the Emperor Cnaeus Pompey the Great in 49BC. As was often the custom, Caesar won the head of Pompey when it was lopped off in Egypt. In actuality, schafkopf, aka, barrel heads or lids, were the customary place to cast dice. Shepherds did not need barrel heads to play cards on, but the standard flat surface of a barrel head is quite important in dice throwing.

Tim wrote:

We play 5 handed JD and the dealer on the end has the option to play leaster, moster, or double it.

We play 4 handed and the first 2 queens to come out are partners. If someone were to play the first 2, they went alone.

Jay wrote:

We play a variant of a moster (whoever takes the most points loses and pays everyone else) that we call an "Icky Leaster". Only tricks with trumps on them count - tricks won by a fail card do not count any points. The objective is to try to make the player with the strongest hand (who perhaps mauered) pay. (A hand with weak trump and fail Aces and Tens may be forced to eat many points in a moster if all-fail tricks count.)

In our "icky" leaster, the BLIND leads the first trick and all players (beginning with the player normally on lead) must follow if possible. If the BLIND wins that trick, it leads the second trick; if the blind is exhausted, the game is null and no one pays. The remaining blind card, if any (3 or 5 but not 4 handed), is added to the last trick.

We also have adopted a "modified icky leaster" whereby the first trick where a trump is lead does not count. This protects against a possible loss on a hand with a singleton trump which may otherwise be forced to eat one expensive trick.

Brenda wrote:

I grew up playing with my family and have to say that the version we played (in Eastern Iowa) was very different. The general rules are:

-4 players, cards 9-A, all players dealt 6 cards (no blind)

-black queens are partners (not the Jack of diamonds)

-clubs are trump (w/queens and jacks)...same convention only use clubs instead of diamonds

-no blind or leaster (?--still not sure I understand this)

-same point system; after all tricks are played; count up points

-all tricks pay out 3 coins (we usually play for nickels)

-if the losing partners got a trick but no snider, then 2 coins

-if the losing partners got a snider, 1 coin

-if the black queens end up in one hand, that person can 'call for help' usually calling for an ace in anything other than clubs (trump) OR can play it alone

-if someone has one black queen and a great hand, they can 'call off' the other queen before play begins

-common language...if your partner has the trick and its your play, you 'schmeer' the trick with a card of high point value

-often a strategy...if you are the lead hand right after the deal, leading trump, is telling the players at the table you have a black queen and entice the other queen to play out on that inadvertently, the queens don't come out on the same trick.

-if you don't have a black queen, its common to lead with an off suit

-of course, any ace always work to try to get a family trick...though if you have a black queen, beware that you could loose a 'guarteed' trick of both black queens fall on the same trick later

I'm curious if you've ever heard of a version like this; perhaps under another name? I'm interested in finding a local club (in Indianapolis where I now live) to begin playing again. However, the game as you and so many others on the net have defined it is very different than the version we played.

John wrote:

Glad to find a decent sheepshead site. Here are some variants I didn't find on your page. They all originate from the same place and may be unique. In the late 80s and 90s, I worked for a small software company in Madison WI called Health Micro Data Systems. When I started there in 88, I was surprised that 5-8 people (mainly guys) spent their lunch-hour playing sheepshead (it was great when the VP joined us - we could sometimes get a 2 hour lunch!). I hadn't played much since college, but this lunch-hour game was a great way to fit in to the company and make friends.

Anyway, on to the variants:

Like many of your posters, we played mosters instead of leasters, with blitzing and cracker/re-crack. We also "schmaltzed" with the two red queens.

We sometimes threw in the cards when no one picked - we then counted "mauer points". This was a simple way to punish a mauer without "wasting time" on a leaster or moster. The concept was simple: every trump except queens was worth half a mauer point; queens were worth one mauer point. If no one picked, we'd turn our hands face up and count the mauer points - if one person had the highest number of points, he'd pay the table one point. We sometimes made an exception for partner (we always played JD). I have since found that mauer points are a good way to train new players in the art of "when should I pick"?

Another, weirder, variation was a double-deck form of sheepshead known as "peckerhead". This allowed us to play 7 and 8 handed while still keeping a decent amount of cards in our hands. 7 handed was played with 60 cards (one set of 7s was removed) - we dealt 8 cards each with four in the blind. The partners were either the first queen of diamonds played (this version was brutal - picker had a hard time winning) or both queens of diamonds for a 5 on 2 game. In the event that the same high card was played in a hand, the first card played first won the hand. For example, if the Queen of Clubs was led and you had only one trump - the other Queen of Clubs, your queen was worth nothing as far as power was concerned. The points were all doubled - 121 to win, 61 to schneider. 31 was also a threshhold, but I forget what we called it. It was possible to win 4 points per person per hand on a no-tricker.

The 8 handed version was similar to the 7 handed, except both JDs were always partners we played with a 62 card deck (the two black 7s were removed).

In both versions we played double-on-the-bump, and a picker getting no-tricked in a 7 or 8 handed game was liable to lose quite a bit all at once. We also allowed partners to play against the picker - the picker had to take a trick or he was no-tricked, regardless how many tricks the partner took.

I stayed at the company for 6 years; when I left, they were still playing, but I believe that the lunch game's days were about over. I still miss those quick hours every day - we had a blast!

Sylvia wrote:

The 4 handed game we play, that my mom learned from her mother is played as partners. All the cards are dealt out and the two black queens are partners. If the first person to lead doesn't have a black queen, they lead fail. However, the first person with a black queen leads trump. The person with the other black queen must play it (this is where I think it's a waste of trump if there are no points on the table). Now both sets of partners know who their partners are and the game continues. Now if a player is holding both black queens they can call for a partner by naming an fail ace, but it must be of a suit that they have in their own hand and when that suit is lead the ace is played so that, once again, the partners are determined. A player with both black queens can play alone if they choose and this will be recognized within the first few hands as play begins. In this case, the game is also scored like a doubler.

My mother grew up in Wisconsin, she said this is where everyone she knew played it, she actually calls it by its German name which she pronounces, Shaw ska. I've played with my aunt as well and the whole family plays it this way.

There you have it. Many thanks for the interesting comments. If you have your own variations you would like to add, please email me. My address is mihal1951 (at) live (dot) com ..... sorry, I do that so bots don't invade me.