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How to Play Auction Pitch

8, spades will be the trump.
8, spades will be the trump.

Auction Pitch is a quick card game of trumps, filled with strategy and surprise. Also known as Pitch and Setback, it is a descendant of the Mississippi riverboat game Seven Up. Here's how to play:

Number of players: Four is best, but two to seven may play.

Object: To be the first player to 7 points by winning high trump, low trump, jack of trumps, and game (see "Scoring" section below).

The cards: A regular 52 card deck is used. Aces are high.

To play: Deal six cards each, three at a time. The players evaluate their cards, and estimate how many tricks they believe they can win. Starting at dealer's left, players each have one chance to pass (or bid nothing) or bid. Bids must be a number one through four, and each bid must be a higher number than any earlier bid.

The highest bidder -- called the pitcher -- always begins play by leading (pitching) a card. The suit led becomes trump. For instance, if the pitcher plays a 8, spades will be the trump.

When trump is led, each player must follow suit if possible. If a nontrump suit is led, each player must follow that suit. If unable to follow suit, play any card. Each trick is won by the highest trump it contains or, if it contains no trump, by the highest card of the suit led. The player who wins the trick leads for the next round.

Scoring: If you make your bid, score all the points using the cards you won during play. Points can be scored in four possible ways:

  • High: One point for holding the highest trump in play.
  • Low: One point for holding the lowest trump in play.
  • Jack: One point for winning the trick on which the jack of trumps was played.
  • Game: One point for holding the highest value of cards at the end of play -- aces count 4, kings 3, queens 2, jacks 1, and 10s 10. All other cards do not count when totaling the game score.

If you don't make your bid, you lose, or are set back, the number you bid. Whoever reaches 7 points wins the game. When two players are near 7, always tally high point first, followed by low, jack, and game.Tips: A bid of one by the first player usually will not end the bidding, so you can often make this bid on a questionable hand to make the other players risk a bid of at least two. An ace is always worth a bid of one, and it will often take two points, since the player with the lowest trump may have to play it. In the unusual case where just one trump is in play, it counts as both high and low. ©Publications International, Ltd.