In the Christian denomination in which I grew up, Rook was almost an article of the faith. In general, the denomination frowned upon traditional playing cards, and Rook became the game of choice.
In our family, we have a Rook game or tournament going nearly every time we get together.
The version of Rook played by most in our denomination was fairly unique, and was not in the official Rook rules. I have played most of the Rook variations, and in my opinion, the version we played was the best. Here are the rules for a typical 4-handed game.
A Rook deck has four suits of cards named after colors (Black, Green, Red, and Yellow). The cards are number 1-14. There is one joker in the deck, the Rook (or “Bird”) card.
The only cards that have value are the 5s, 10s, 14s, 1s, and the Bird. The fives are worth 5 points, the tens and fourteens are worth 10 points each, and the ones are worth 15 points. The Bird is a special card worth 20 points, but a face value of 10.5. Thus, a Bird can take a 10, but can be taken by an 11, 12, 13, 14, or 1. Note that the 1 is the highest card in a suit.
The total number of points available on any given hand is 180 or 200. The 180 comes from adding up the values of the point cards ( (5 x 4) + (10 * 4) + (10 * 4) + (15 * 4) + 20). If the game is of the 200-point variety, an extra 20 points is awarded to one of the teams based on one of two ways: either the partnership who takes the last trick of the hand, or the partnership who takes the most tricks. (I have played Rook across the United States and with missionaries from around the world, and I was never able to determine whether the preference for Last Trick or Most Tricks was based on region.)
In our family, we always play the 200-point variation, with the last 20 points awarded to whoever takes the last trick of the hand.
To play, remove the 2s, 3s, and 4s from the deck, since they just clutter up the hand. (In fact, these are the cards you give the toddlers who are sitting on your knee. It lets them be part of the game, they get to gnaw on some useless cards, and they think they are playing with the grown-ups. Plus, it gets the next generation card-handling experience.)
After you have removed the low-end twelve cards from the deck, you are left with 45 cards, which are then shuffled and dealt. The play is between two partnerships of two players each. The cards are dealt face down one-at-a-time to the players, with 5 random cards going into the “kitty”.
After the deal, the players bid for the right to name the trump color. Whoever wins the bid gets the 5 cards from the kitty, and is able to discard the worst 5 cards from his or her hand.
During the bidding process, a player may make a bid or must pass. Once a player has passed, he or she may not bid any more for that hand.
In the cut-throat form of Rook played in our family, the bidding opened at 100 points, with 150 points being the average cut-off. Typically, anybody bidding 160 or higher is probably going to lose the hand.
I call the form of Rook we play “cut-throat” because we would generally short-circuit the bidding if one of the partners passes early. In many forms of Rook, if one of the players passes, the bidding would continue to go up by 5 points, which allows the remaining partnership to exchange information about the relative strength of their hands. In our cut-throat variety, the bidding would go like this:
North: Open (100)
With this exchange, West decides that he isn’t going to let North and South exchange any information and so short-circuits any information flow. By the time the bid gets back to North, she has to determine if her hand is stronger than South’s without any way of knowing. Typically, a raise of 5 points means that person’s hand is at least biddable … if South had raised by 10 or more points, that would be a signal to North to drop out as quickly as possible.
Once the bid has been won and the winning bidder has collected the kitty and discarded the worst 5 cards in the hand (bringing her hand back down to 10 cards), she gets to name the trump color.
That player then starts the hand by playing a card. The other players must follow suit if they are able. If a player is unable to follow suit, any other card can be played. Highest card takes the hand, with a trump card taking the other non-trump cards. The Bird is always considered trump; thus the Bird is the 10.5 of trump.
Generally speaking, a player starts by playing the highest trump card and working down until everyone else is out of trump. With the discarding of the 2s, 3s, and 4s, there are a total of 12 trump cards in every hand, so the card-counting is fairly simple.
The winner of each trick gets to lead the first card for the next trick.
Once all ten tricks have been played, the points are counted (5s, 10s, 14s, 1s, and the Bird), plus the extra 20 if playing the Last Trick or Most Tricks varieties.
The partnership who did not name trump gets any points they may have won.
If the partnership who named trump met or exceeded their bid, they get that many points. However, if they did not meet their bid, then they lose that many points. (Thus, if North-South bid 160 and only got 150, they would take a loss of 160, while East-West would get 50 points [in a 200-point game].)
Games are typically played to 500 points, or until there is a 500-point spread between the two teams.
Sometimes a partnership can get into a “partner call trump” scenario (generally never good) or even a “no trump” situation. If a person calls “no trump”, then the Bird is the only trump card and everything else is based on high card of each suit. In nearly 40 years of playing, I have only seen two people win a “no trump” hand.