Have the latest stock market woes taken away all your day-trading fun? Here's a financial game you can play with ordinary playing cards. Assemble high-profit portfolios, but watch out for your greedy opponents, who'll swipe them away if you give them the chance. This is a nice mix of luck and strategy that plays particularly well with two or three players. It's enough to make the bear market bearable!
Players: 2-5 players
Equipment: With two or three players, you'll need two standard decks of 52 cards; with four or five players, use three decks. You'll also need pencil and paper to keep score.
Set-Up: Select one player to be the scorekeeper, who creates a scoresheet by drawing a long column for each player and gives each player a starting score of $6. Choose a dealer, who shuffles the cards together and deals each player 13 cards face down. The remaining cards are placed face down to form the stock. The top card is exposed, beginning the discard pile. The player to the left of the dealer plays first.
Portfolios: The object of the game is to have the most money. Money is earned by possessing portfolios. A portfolio is a group of at least three cards of the same suit in sequence. For example, the 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 of Hearts is a five card portfolio. Cards rank from Ace (low) to King (high). Portfolios may not go "around the corner" (for example, Queen, King, Ace, Two is not a legal portfolio). Portfolios can be as long as thirteen cards.
Turn Summary: Each player begins his turn by collecting money for the portfolios he possesses. He then draws at least one card from the stock, although he may draw more cards at his option by spending some of the cash he has just received. The top card of the discard pile is also eligible to be drawn. He may then make as many or as few portfolios as he wishes. He may add to his own portfolios at his option. He may also neutralize (discard) or acquire his opponent's portfolios by spending money and playing the proper cards. In short, there is no limit to the number of actions a player may make in his turn as long as he possesses the proper cards and has sufficient money. The player then ends his turn by discarding one card from his hand onto the discard pile. The player to his left then takes her turn and so on, with the player order moving clockwise.
Collecting Money: Each portfolio has a cash value, which is based on the worth of the cards that make it up. Cards of the rank Ace through Six are worth $2. Cards of the rank Seven through Ten are worth $3. Cards of the rank Jack, Queen, or King are worth $4. However, the two lowest cards of a portfolio are not counted towards its value. Thus, a portfolio consisting of the Four, Five, Six, Seven of Spades would be worth $5 (the first two cards aren't counted, the Six is worth $2 and the Seven is worth $3). The suit of the portfolio has no effect on its value. The card values are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1 - Card Values
|Ace, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six||$2|
|Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten||$3|
|Jack, Queen, King||$4|
The first thing a player does in her turn is collect the value of all her portfolios. The player may add the entire value of her portfolios to her score or she may reinvest all or part of the income by using it to draw more cards that turn. The player always draws at least one card at the start of her turn. She can pick a second card for $2. A third card would cost an additional $3, a fourth an additional $4, and so on. This money must come from dollars she has collected that turn. The player may spend all of that turn's income on draws, none of it, or any amount in between. So if, for example, a player has an income of $10, she can pick one card and add $10 to her total, or two cards and add $8, or three cards and add $5, or four cards and add $1. The decision of how many cards to draw must be made at the beginning of the turn before any cards have been drawn. The player may never spend money she has earned and saved from previous turns for the purpose of drawing additional cards.
In case you don't want to do the math, Table 2 shows the cost of drawing cards from the deck.
Table 2 - Card Costs
|Number of Cards Drawn||Cost|
There is one additional rule about drawing cards. If at the beginning of a player's turn, he has no portfolios in front of him and fewer than 13 cards in his hand, he can declare pauper's rule and draw two cards. The additional card costs the player no extra money. It is the responsibility of the player to enforce this rule; if at the time of the draw, he does not notice that he qualifies, his one card draw is a legal play. There is no limit to the number of times that a qualifying player can take advantage of the pauper's rule.
No matter how many cards a player draws on her turn, one of the cards may be the top card of the discard pile. This must be the first card she draws—once she draws a card from the stock, she can no longer take the top card of the discard pile. This card is counted as one of the player's draws. Thus, if a player has reinvested $5 for a turn and therefore draws three cards, she may either draw three cards from the stock or she may take the top card of the discard pile and then draw two cards from the stock. Under no circumstances may a player ever take more than one card from the discard pile.
Making Portfolios: After drawing from the stock, the player may make portfolios. To do so, the player takes at least three cards from his hand which are in sequence and the same suit and places them face up in front of him in full view of all the players. Players must keep their different portfolios separate from each other.
There is no limit to the number of portfolios a player can own. Players may own more than one portfolio of the same suit. Once they are played, players may never combine two portfolios into one, even if they are of the same suit.
Whether or not a player creates any portfolios during her turn, she may add to any portfolios she created in previous turns. To do so, the player simply extends the portfolio in a legal fashion at either end. For example, for a portfolio consisting of the 9, 10, Jack of Clubs, the player could add either the 8 or Queen of Clubs. She could also add both cards, or the 7 and 8 of Clubs, or any combination of cards which results in a legal portfolio. (But note the restriction in the next paragraph.) The effect of extending a portfolio is simply to add to the income it generates in any future turns.
Players can also cap their portfolios. A portfolio is capped by playing a card of the same rank and color on either its highest or lowest card. For example, to cap the portfolio consisting of the 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 of Hearts would require either the 6 of Diamonds or 6 of Hearts to cap the low end or the 10 of Diamonds or 10 of Hearts to cap the high end. A portfolio may be capped at both ends. A portfolio may be capped at the time it is created or during a later turn. A player can also extend an existing portfolio and then cap it in the same turn.
The purpose of capping a portfolio is to protect it; this is explained further in the next section. But another side effect of capping is to restrict growth. Players cannot extend the capped end of a portfolio. So if, in the above example, the player had played the 6 of Diamonds to cap the lower end of her portfolio, he couldn't extend it with the 5 of Hearts. But he could still extend the other end with the Jack of Hearts.
If a player has a card which he can legally play to two of his portfolios, he can choose which one to play it to. Under no circumstances may a player combine two portfolios by adding a card or cards to it. For example, a player has two portfolios, one consisting of the 6, 7, 8, 9 of Spades and another consisting of the Jack, Queen, King of Spades. Assuming none of the cards are capped, he may play the 10 of Spades to either portfolio, but he may not use it to combine the two into a single portfolio.
Neutralizing or Acquiring Opponent's Portfolios: During a player's turn, regardless of whether or not she creates or adds to her own portfolios, she may play cards onto an opponent's portfolio. The end result of this will either be to neutralize the portfolio (discard it so that no player owns it) or to acquire the portfolio (transfer ownership of it from the opponent to herself).
To initiate either of these actions, a player plays a card to an opponent's portfolio just as if she were adding a card to her own portfolio. In order to neutralize an opponent's portfolio, the player must extend the lower end of the portfolio; in order to acquire a portfolio, the player must extend the upper end of the portfolio. For example, suppose an opponent has a portfolio consisting of the 3, 4, 5, 6 of Clubs. The player could neutralize this portfolio by playing the 2 of Clubs. She could acquire it by playing the 7 of Clubs.
In addition to playing a card, the player must spend money to neutralize or acquire a portfolio. To neutralize, the player must spend dollars equal to the value of the portfolio prior to her playing the neutralizing card. Thus, in the above example, it would cost a player $4 to neutralize the portfolio, and not the $6 the portfolio would be worth with the addition of the 2 of Clubs. To acquire a portfolio, the player must spend dollars equal to twice the value of the portfolio prior to her playing the acquisition card. In the above example, it would cost the player $8 to acquire the portfolio, even though it will have a value of $7 with the addition of the 7 of Clubs.
When a portfolio is neutralized, the cards which make up the portfolio and the neutralizing card are all placed in the discard pile. When a portfolio is acquired, it is removed from the previous owner and placed in front of the active player, together with the acquisition card. The money spent for either action is subtracted from the player's total on the scoresheet. The previous owner of the portfolio receives nothing.
Possession of a neutralizing or acquisition card may not be sufficient for a player to perform either of these actions. First, the player must have sufficient money to carry out the action. Players are never allowed to go negative in their dollar totals. More importantly, a card may never be played to the capped end of a portfolio. Thus, if a player has capped the lower end of a portfolio, it cannot be neutralized; if he has capped the upper end, it cannot be acquired; if he has capped both ends, he can never lose it. (Of course, in the latter case, it can never be extended, either.)
When a player acquires a portfolio, she may add to it and/or cap it just like any other portfolio she owns. She receives no income from it until her next turn, assuming she still owns it, just like a normal portfolio.
Since there is no card lower than an Ace, a portfolio with an Ace at its lower end can never be neutralized. (Thus, there is never any reason to cap an Ace.) However, portfolios with a King at its upper end can be acquired. In fact, they are more vulnerable than normal portfolios. To acquire a portfolio headed by an uncapped King, a player need only play an Ace of the same color as the portfolio. The dollar cost is the same as usual. This is the only instance in which the acquisition card is not added to the portfolio. Instead, the Ace is discarded.
Ending the Turn: After a player has performed all the actions he wishes, he ends his turn by discarding a card onto the discard pile. If one of the cards he drew that turn was the top card of the discard pile, he may not discard that card unless it is the only card remaining in his hand at the end of the turn. This card may be discarded during one of the player's future turns. The person to the player's left then takes her turn.
If a player has played all of his cards during his turn, he obviously cannot discard. He suffers no penalty and simply ends his turn.
Player Negotiations: At any time during the game, whether it is a player's turn or not, she may openly negotiate with any other player or players. Negotiations can consist of suggesting courses of action, threatening reprisals, offering to work together, showing or demanding to see cards, or anything at all. The results of such dealings can be trading cards, portfolios, money, or agreements to perform or not perform certain actions. All deals made in negotiations are binding.
Ending the Game: In the three and five player games, the players go twice through the deck. Therefore, in these games, when a player draws the last card from the stock, the discard pile is shuffled and turned over to reform the stock. If the player still has cards to draw, he takes them from the new stock and goes on with his turn. In these games, the end of this reformed stock represents the last card; in the two and four player games, the end of the original stock represents the last card.
When a player draws the last card from the stock, the game is near its end. If the player exhausting the stock was the original dealer, she finishes her turn and the game is over. Otherwise, the players take their turns (without drawing from the stock, obviously) until the dealer has her turn. Other than not drawing, these turns are the same as usual, with players earning income, taking actions, and discarding.
Once the dealer has taken his last turn, every player earns income one last time for all the portfolios in front of them. The player with the most money wins the game. If there is a tie, the player among those tied who has portfolios with the greatest total value wins. If there is still a tie, there is a shared winner. Cards remaining in the player's hands at the end of the game count for nothing.
- Larry Levy