The Game of Rook in KY

I have been trying to do a little research into the game of Rook in eastern Kentucky.

Rook is a standard bidding/trump card game that is played with a special deck made by Parker Brothers. The deck consists of a 1-14 of four colors (typically red, green, yellow, and black) and a “Rook”.

The thing that interests me is that while there is a rule book that comes with the deck, the game played all over eastern KY is unlike any in the book. For instance, the 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s are always removed, there are always two teams of two, etc.

So what I have been trying to figure out is–what made this game so popular in eastern KY? In most places you can’t even find Rook cards, but any store would sell them here.

And, how did such a standard set of rules get spread throughout such a wide area, despite having not been written down anywhere?

My theory on question one is the percieved evil of “poker” cards by the religious folk of the area. With Rook cards, you could safely play cards with the family after church without worrying about keeping up appearances.

Pretty obscure topic, I know, but does anyone have any ideas? I’m hoping to turn this into a magazine article.

Dr. J

I am not from KY, but the rules that we use for Rook where I am from, GA, are the same as those you state. I am not sure where or why they originated, but I do seem to recall that in the rule book of the deck we have, that the variation you describe has Kentucky in the title. (At least there seems to be one variation that has KY in the title, I can’t find the rule book right now.)

My father used to play rook in college, same area as I am now, and he used the same variation. That was at least 30 years ago.

I am not sure if this helps or not but the game and the rules are used here in Atlanta.


Just checked the rule book which belongs to my deck of Rook cards. On page 7, the Official Rook Tournament Rules begin. The subtitle is: Partnership play for 4 players, based on the game of Kentucky Discard.

The book also says t"The game of Kentucky Discard has been one of the most popular of all Rook games for many years."

The 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s are discarded and the Rook card is added, making a 41 card deck.

Please check with Parker Brothers for more information. BTW, I’m sure I’ve seen Rook decks sold at many of the stores which sell UNO decks. What I’m looking for, though, is a deck of RAGE cards (made by the same folks who make UNO).


Rook was a very popular game in various religious communities in Canada. Like you, I think the reason is that there is a stigma attached to ‘regular’ cards because they are often used for gambling, so these communities use Rook cards and play essentially the same games (Gin, Rummy, etc).