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The important parallels between a Scroker deck and a standard British or International deck of cards may
too quickly be overshadowed by the most glaring difference—the use of
letters instead of numbers. But take heart, this changes less than one
might expect about the standard formats of centuries old, well oiled
card games. In fact readers will find most of the games in this guide
are merely variations of known card games with the added nuance of
"word-play" to outwit an opponent.
"The Cards" topic is
front-loaded to provide specifics about the Scroker deck itself,
necessary information for playing some of the more advanced games. "The
Games" provides a broad overview of the types of games found on
pages of this site. Lastly, the general rules of card
playing are covered in "The Process," helpful to the true novice. For those
readers like me who may never reach the end of this rambling before
their minds say "yeah, yeah, yeah—I’m ready to play," I recommend Four Play , ironically,
for the single player and Scrummy for multiple players. These are
the games that the
Quick Start Guide on the "Home" page will guide you
require only a minimal understanding of the make-up of the deck. (then, when
you’re ready for the next level, come back to "The Basics").
Important to everyone using this guide, the "Glossary" is essentially
a collection of mildly ambiguous terms that will be helpful for coloring
as well as defining play. A comprehensive knowledge of every term,
however, is far from necessary, particularly in the beginning. When you
are reading the rules for a given game and see a
hypertext, you know that a definition for that term exists in the
"Glossary." Clicking on it will take you directly to the
definition. Some critical rules of play, when they are common to more
than one game, are often imbedded in the "Glossary" definition. In these
cases, a review of that term will be a review of a critical rule. Your
browser's "back" and "forward" functions between a game's rules and the
glossary will come in handy.
One other convention employed in this guide is worth mentioning.
Every card in this deck has an associated and unique proper name that is
not necessarily exactly the same as the letter depicted. Since multiple
cards may depict common letters, I found it important to distinguish the
instances that I am referring to a specific card from the instances I am
referring to all cards that depict a common letter. Rather arbitrarily I
chose the square-ish parenthesis, mostly because it seemed card-like, to
house the proper name for any given card, and quotation marks for other
- Proper card name: [A], [B], [C] etc.
- Other instances: "A," "B," "C," etc. or simply A, B, C etc.
Lastly, I never met a rule that couldn’t be changed. I have provided
the hardware—the Scroker deck—and some games to get a player up and
running. If there is a problem with a rule, change it—as long as
everyone at the table agrees. Name a new game for that matter—just don’t
deal me out completely.
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The Scroker deck contains 52 regular cards (often
referred to as "letters" in this guide) plus 2 wild
cards that are removed before most games unless
specifically called for—sound strangely familiar?
Like a standard deck, all the cards are divided into
4 suits of 13 cards each. Also, like a standard
deck, all the cards within a suit have a natural
rank, which is broadly defined by the alphanumeric
hierarchy: "A" to "Z." Specifically, "B" outranks
"A," "C" outranks "B," etc.
Unlike a standard deck, the 4 suits themselves
have a defined hierarchy, which leads to the
conclusion that all 52 cards have a ranking with
respect to each other. The names of the suits in
ascending order are: 1) Lemons, 2) Limes, 3) Chili
Peppers and 4) Animals.
"Lemons" is the lowest ranking suit and, like all four of the suits
in the deck, it contains 13 cards. The suit is simply made up of the
first 13 letters of the alphabet. Within the suit, the lowest ranking
card is called the [A] and the highest-ranking card is the [M]. For
further clarification, a player might say [Sour A] or [Sour M].
(Letters are depicted from lowest to highest rank)
The next higher-ranking suit after "Lemons" is "Limes." Essentially,
the Limes continue the alphabet where the Lemons left off. Since there
are 26 letters in the alphabet, these 2 "sour" suits may be thought of
as the alphabet cut in half with the first 13 cards making up the
"Lemons" and the second 13 making up the "Limes." Like in the Lemons
suit, the specific name of each card in the Lime suit is simply the name
of the letter depicted. A player might use the name [Z] or [Sour Z] to
refer to the highest-ranking Lime.
(Letters are depicted from lowest to highest rank)
The next highest-ranking suit above the two "Sour" suits is the Chili
Pepper suit. This suit is the most complex. Unlike any other suit, all
13 cards in this suit are vowels. But, just as in all suits, the normal
alphanumeric order (in this case: A, E, I, O, U) is still the primary
system governing rank. The secondary system, which I call the "heat"
factor, determines ranking for the duplicate vowels: the more chili
peppers depicted, the "hotter" the card and therefore the higher rank.
(Letters are depicted from lowest to highest rank)
The full and proper name for all cards in the suit identify the
number of chili peppers for the corresponding vowel. For the "A" cards
depicted above, the proper names are [One-chili-pepper-A],
[Two-chili-pepper-A] and [Three-chili-pepper-A] respectively. Note that
the distribution of vowels correspond roughly with common usage in the
English language (i.e. there are more "E’s" than any other vowel).
Occasionally, certain games may give uncommon value or power to cards
with multiple chili peppers but it is important to recognize the default
ranking within this suit. That is, the [Three-chili-pepper-A] outranks
the [Two-chili-pepper-A] but, the [One-chili-pepper-E] outranks all of
the Chili Pepper "A’s." Likewise, you should conclude that the
highest-ranking card in this suit is the [One-chili-pepper-U]. Also,
because of overall suit ranking, all Chili Peppers outrank any Lemon or
The fourth and highest ranking suit in the deck is "Animals." Again,
normal alphanumeric order determines ranking within the suit and all
Animals outrank every other card in the deck. These "power" cards wield
ultimate authority in the deck. As Vanna knows, they are some of most
often used letters in the alphabet.
(Letters are depicted from lowest to highest rank)
I like thinking about the cards that comprise this suit as falling
into a low (A-D-E-I), middle (L-M-N-O-P) and high (R-S-T-U) group to
help remind me of the relative value of any given Animal held in my
hand. For recalling the makeup of this suit, keeping in mind that
exactly one of each vowel is present comes in handy. Also, remember when
the song taught us that "L-M-N-O-P" was actually that one big letter in
the middle of the alphabet? Well, it’s helpful here. If you happen to be
one of those acronym kind of people, how about this for an idea?
"A-D-E-I" can be rearranged into "IDEA" and "R-S-T-U" into "RUST."
Finally, all Animals are properly named as the animal depicted on
each card. The highest-ranking card shown above is not a "U," it is the
[Unicorn], effectively the highest-ranking card in the entire Scroker
deck. The 13 cards that comprise this suit from lowest to highest are
the [Alligator], [Dog], [Elephant], [Insect], [Lion], [Moose], [Newt],
[Owl], [Pig], [Rhinoceros], [Snail], [Turtle] and [Unicorn].
Memorization is not required—just look at the picture.
Lastly, the deck contains two standard wild cards named [Scrokers].
Almost any game may be played with the addition of one or two
[Scrokers], though most serious card players choose to remove them
unless the rules specifically call for their inclusion. [Scrokers],
serve as any desired card by the holder, thereby introducing a higher
degree of pure chance to any given game.
Really, any card may be designated as "wild" for a particular game.
Likely choices would be the [X] or [Z] or even a sub-group of cards such
as "reptiles" or "birds." This option tidily serves a dealer’s desire to
temporarily introduce wild cards without physically adding [Scrokers] to
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Certainly there are notable differences between a
traditional card deck and a Scroker deck, but the
parallels are abundant. All known card games
(traditional or Scroker) fall into families of games
which have a similar structure or objective, but
vary in their specific rules or complexity. To
simplify the discussion, let’s distill them down to
four major families of objectives.
"Creating order" is the only discernable
objective of solo card games. Although every card
game hinges on the ability of players to create some
sort of order with his hand of cards to gain an
advantage, this category of card games has no other
objective because there is nobody to beat but the
cards. Victory belongs to the lone participant who,
having overcome statistical odds and intellectual
obstacles, returns a mixed-up deck to some logical
Scrolitaire is the generic classification of
Scroker card games that are played by one person. As
with traditional solitaire games, there are no
points to be earned or money to be won.
Scrolitaire is modeled, in concept, on
traditional card solitaire games that are won by
successfully rearranging a shuffled deck into a
defined order based on rank and suit. Intended to
exercise a player’s memory and ingenuity, the stated
objective is always much easier "said than done."
The only true difference of Scrolitaire from
its traditional counterpart is the ordering
requirement to create words.
Simply stated, the aim of these games is to be
the first player to successfully "go-out" thereby
emptying one’s hand of cards. Nearly all "going-out"
games require a player to match cards in some way in
order to remove them from his hand and ultimately go
out. The match may be to other cards in his hand or
other cards in play. But, in all cases a necessary
relationship, be it suit, rank or other, will
dictate the freedom to play or obligation to hold
onto a card for later disposal.
Several games have multiple, at times even
conflicting objectives that are ultimately settled
by the player who goes out first. The games of
Scrummy, broadly fashioned after the well-known
traditional Rummy games, are prime examples.
In these games, the objective of collecting sets of
cards is as important as freeing the hand of cards.
Specifically, in Rummy the player seeks to
"meld" by collecting and arraying cards of common or
sequential value. Correspondingly, in Scrummy,
the player seeks to "word" by collecting and
arraying cards that spell a word. In both games the
player must never lose sight of the goal to go out
In "trick-taking" games, a player’s primary goal
is to strategically sequence the order he plays his
cards to influence his chances of taking a trick. A
"trick" refers to the collection of cards in the
middle of the table after all players have
contributed one card each in turn. Accordingly, the
number of cards in a given trick ordinarily equals
the number of players at the table. Once a single
trick has been completed, one player or team of
players will have earned the right or obligation to
"take" the trick. The designated player then removes
the trick from the center of table and stores it
facedown near him for easy accounting following a
round of play.
"Suit-following" is considered a basic rule of
trick construction. Players must play only cards of
the same suit as the first card contributed to that
particular trick. Only if a player does not have a
card of the same suit in his hand may he play one of
another suit. Whoever plays the first card of a new
trick, usually the winner of the previous trick,
chooses to lead with a card from a specific rank and
suit in order to attempt control over who will take
the trick when it is complete. In general, the
winner of the trick is determined by considering the
relative rank of only cards of the suit led,
ignoring higher-ranking cards of different suits.
Of course, there is always that exception to the
normal rule. In traditional card games, that
exception is called the "trump." Correspondingly,
the "ruling suit" of the Scroker deck
shares nearly identical properties to those of a
trump suit for trick-taking purposes. For example, in a game a
dealer declares that "Chili Peppers rule," a player
who plays the highest-ranking Chili Pepper,
regardless of the suit led, will take the trick.
Unlike traditional card games,
another significant exception called the "scrump" allows the final player contributing to a
trick to overturn the prevailing rule of the trick
by creating a word.
Three major categories of trick-taking games
exist. (1) In "plain-trick" games, a player attempts
to win a target number of tricks. Winning more than
the stated goal may or may not be beneficial
depending on the game, while winning fewer almost
always equates to some sort of penalty. (2) Players
of "point-trick" games are less concerned with the
number of tricks taken and more concerned with the
point earning potential of specific cards within the
tricks. (3) Finally, "trick-avoidance" games
challenge players to take as few tricks as possible
or avoid taking tricks that contain cards of high
point value. Generally, high scores in this last
category of games are losing scores.
Bridge, probably the best-known traditional
card game in this family, is a good example of how
elaborate the rules of trick-taking games can get.
Frequently, games combine elements of plain and
point trick and even trick-avoidance games all in
one. Complicating the matter further, elements of
other types of games such as the collection of sets
of cards are sometimes incorporated. While some
games are structured to enable autonomous
competition, the most common trick-taking games are
for four players (usually divided into two teams of
two) and involve several rounds of play. Because of
the often-complex scoring systems, one player
normally will keep a running tally of all players’
points, updating scores at the completion of each
Quist is the Scroker deck trick-taking
mainstay tracing conceptual lineage to the
traditional card game Whist although some
variations borrow heavily from the more modern Black Maria, a descendant of
Finally, Scroker introduces Soup, a
trick-taking variant that involves players taking
"loose tricks." The term "loose" is used to indicate
a radical deviation from the normal rules applied to
The objective of gambling games is obvious. But
don’t be mislead by the crude premise and lack of
much actual card-play. Much skill is required.
Beyond the initial deal and limited exchange of a
few cards, any chance a player has to affect the
hand he has been dealt is precluded in fairly short
order. Chips occupy the center of the table and
seemingly the players’ attention. How much and when
to bet are the only tangible concerns for most of
the game. But it is precisely this skeletal
structure which supports the real muscle of these
games—psychology. Understanding some basic
strategies based on possible card combinations and
their associated statistical likeliness is
important. Understanding your opponent is paramount.
Actual coins or other forms of cash are sometimes
used as the tokens of wager. But Poker chips,
readily available at game stores, are the universal
standards for all gambling games. A basic set of
white, red and blue chips adequately serve most
friendly events. There are some variations in
corresponding value depending on the desired stakes
of a game. "White" generally serves as a single unit
for whatever amount will be gambled, be it a penny,
nickel, quarter, two dollars or whatever. "Red"
comes next, usually as a multiple of 2 or 5 of
"white" depending on the system chosen. "Blue"
chips, just like on Wall Street, are the big boys
weighing in at 5, 10, 20 or even 25 times the value
of "white." Serious gamblers may even employ yellow
chips (25, 50 or 100 units) and black chips (100,
200, or 250 units).
Dusty old gambling games like
Brag and Primero have been played in pubs and clubs for
centuries, but none have been so globally successful
and infamous as the much younger, Poker.
Though many variations of this traditional card game
exist, all are based on possible five-card
combinations commonly called the "Poker hand." The
value of any given Poker hand corresponds directly
to the statistical improbability of a player being
dealt matching cards (two, three or four of a kind)
or sequential cards (straight) from a common suit
(flush). Similarly, the value of any given
hand, also comprised of five cards, corresponds
directly to the improbability of a player being
dealt a word (two, three, four or five letter) from
a common suit (clean).
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Again, no surprises exist for anyone who has ever
participated in a traditional card game. The players
of any Scroker card game, from the moment they meet
to the time they stand-up to collect their
belongings and pride if necessary, conduct
themselves just as any soused comrades in the
dankest of early English pubs. For anyone who
slipped through the cracks, I have included the most
basic rules of the road.
The number of players that plan to participate
primarily drives the choice of games, and
consequently the seating arrangement. The rule of
thumb governing all seating arrangements dictates
players to sit as most opposite as possible from all
other players. In games of four players with two
sets of partners, the partners will sit directly
opposite each other. Five or more players are most
comfortably seated symmetrically around larger
circular tables. In all cases, common sense should
prevail to minimize the chance of players being able
to see each other’s cards.
The player who first handles the cards, usually
the owner, may resolve any disagreement about
seating or partner selection by conducting a simple
card-draw. Cards should be shuffled to everyone’s
satisfaction and spread as a single facedown array
in the center of the table. Each player then draws a
single card from anywhere within the array. The
player with the highest-ranking card has first
choice for whatever issue is in contention and so on
down the line. If the conduct of the card-draw
itself is in contention over the simple issue of
"seating," perhaps another group of players is
Most games require some predetermined number of
cards be equally distributed to each of the players.
Accomplishing this task is the responsibility of the
dealer. Again, players may draw cards at the start
of the session to facilitate selection of the first
dealer. The highest-ranking card rules. Subsequent
dealers are generally dictated by the rules of the
game. Unless stated otherwise, the winner of a hand
earns the next deal. As a default, the role of
dealer will pass one player to the left of the
The deal really begins with the shuffle. Since
the nature of most games is to systematically
organize the cards throughout the course of play,
ensuring a thorough shuffle between hands should be
the chief concern of a conscientious dealer. Any
player may shuffle the deck upon request between
hands, although the designated dealer will conduct
the final shuffle.
After shuffling, the dealer will present the deck
facedown to the player to his right. That player
then initiates a "cut" of the deck by lifting a
random number of cards (ordinarily half the deck)
from the top and placing them along side the
remaining cards. The dealer then completes the cut
by placing what had been the lower half of the deck
on top of the others. Contrary to some beliefs, the
ceremonial cut is not a ritual of superstition, but
rather serves one practical function: to ensure that
no player knows what the bottom card is. Therefore,
laboring over where exactly to cut the deck is
unnecessary. Likewise, the whole sacrament will have
been for naught if the dealer nonchalantly flashes
everyone the new bottom card while picking up the
deck and dealing out the cards.
A standard deal is conducted by distributing
cards one by one to each player, beginning with the
player to the dealer’s left and continuing around
the table clockwise. The deal is completed logically
with the last card to the dealer when everyone has
received the number of cards called for by the
rules. As a matter of trivial exactitude, any
declarations by the dealer should be completed
before the last card is dealt.
Occasionally, even a proficient dealer will
"misdeal" accidentally exposing a card or dealing
the wrong number of cards to a player. Other than a
slight deduction of pride, there is no consequence
for a single occurrence. The cards are gathered,
shuffled, cut and re-dealt by the same dealer. Two
misdeals in a row, however, and the dealer forfeits
his turn to deal.
Final setup for the game or hand, such as placing
the stock in the middle of the table and turning
over the top card, is also the responsibility of the
dealer. In most instances, this concludes the
obligations of the dealer, though a few games,
especially gambling games, require him to remain the
card-doling toastmaster throughout the course of the
Upon completion of the deal, each player will
pick up the cards and hold them in one hand as a
loose array for his own viewing, assessment and
rearrangement as desired. Even in casual games, the
importance of holding cards carefully as not to
disclose any portion of them to other players cannot
be overemphasized. The intellectual appeal of any
card game hinges directly upon observing, deducing
and inferring information from revealed cards amidst
the concealed dispersal of all others. An innocent
dipping or turning of the hand that carelessly
divulges the coveted particulars to another player,
quite frankly, spoils the fun.
Play begins when the lead initiates his turn.
Directly following the deal, the lead is usually the
player to the dealer’s immediate left. Depending on
the game, he may lead by playing a card from his
hand, drawing a card from the stock or discard pile
or exchanging a card or cards with another player.
In gambling games, the lead is the player who is
afforded the first option to bet.
Usually, when the lead player is finished with
his turn, the player to his left takes his turn and
so on i.e. play moves clockwise around the table.
Some games sequence continually in this manner until
someone wins while other games are structured with
periodic interruptions to this cycle. In trick
taking games, for example, the winner of the trick
usually leads to the next trick, thereby momentarily
disrupting the normal clockwise flow.
Often, games consist of several rounds more
commonly called "hands." These mini-games typically
conclude when one or more players deplete their
hands of cards. If the global game has not been won
by anyone upon completion of one of these hands, the
cards are reshuffled, dealt, and a new hand is
played. Many games designate the winner of the
previous hand as the new dealer. While gambling
games default to passing the deal clockwise around
the table, the winner of non-gambling games earns
the right to deal or pass the deal to his left for
the next game.
Scoring falls in three categories. The first, and
simplest, is the "goal" oriented games such as those
of the Scrolitaire family. A player either
wins or loses based on whether he accomplishes the
stated goal of the game. The second major category
is the "gambling" games. Requiring minimal card
play, these games lack substance without the
psychological tension created by wagering. The lure
is lucre. Accordingly, the distribution of cash or
chips amongst the players at any given time is a
fair indicator of who’s winning and who’s losing.
The final category is the "soft-score" games.
Soft-score games are played primarily for their intellectual
challenge rather than for money. These games which include all the
well-known trick-taking and going-out games, derive much of their
interest from the unique scoring mechanisms integral to the strategies
themselves. Usually, a target score is set and a player or team of
players tries to attain that score by playing, holding or collecting
cards that have an associated point value. More often than not, these
games span several hands and sometimes have elaborate rules for
assigning values to cards or sets of cards. Accordingly, the election of
an accountant with pencil and paper to keep the running totals is a
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