USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Card games’
Game
general

Euchre – A Michigan Game

Item:

R: Euchre, in fact, uses a subset of a deck of cards.  It only uses cards 9 through Ace, or I guess Ace then 9 through King.  But ah, you play.. by.. ah, it’s like- it’s like Hearts or Spades where there’s the trump suit.  But uh, when you play, oh and everybody, uh uh, there’s- has five cards in their hand, and you do five different tricks where everybody plays down one card.  I’m sure it’s similar to Peaknuckle, and Hearts, Spades, other ones.  One of the suits is trump, and the way that that suit becomes trump is very Euchre way of making it, I think.  Maybe it’s similar to Peaknuckle.  One of the weird things about Euchre is that the Jacks, are the highest cards in the game.  Usually, in a game of cards, either the Aces are the lowest or the Aces are the highest and then Kings are the highest or the second highest.  But in Euchre, the Jack of trump is the highest card and the Jack of the same color off suit of trump is the second highest card, so there’s that extra thing to remember.  Ah, and thereafter all the other cards of the trump follow as you would expect: Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9.  Then you keep track of your score on the five cards.  First team to get ten points wins.  You get one point if you take a majority of tricks in a hand.  Two points if you take all the tricks in the hand, or you take the majority of tricks in the hand but the other team called trump.  You get, ah, four points if you go alone and you let your partner not do anything at all.  You get eight points if you go alone when the, ah, other team called trump. And you win still, because you Euchre’d them.  To “Euchre” someone means to beat them when they called trump.  But.. ‘cause when they call trump, they get the advantage of being able to pick up an extra trump card, or they get the advantage of knowing what’s in their hand should be better toward that trump.  If they called trump, and you still beat them, they were fools!  They made a terrible mistake and misread their hands.

Q: Sorry, could you explain trump again?

R: Trump is a system in cards where that suit mysteriously beats the other suits for no particular reason.  It’s like, it’s like white supremacy, there’s no real good reason for it, but for some reason white people beat other people at things.  In Euchre, every time you play a new hand, ah, you.. every hand, the trump gets redecided.  The trump is a suit of cards.  So, in one hand it might be spades, the next hand it might be hearts, and somebody who’s brave and thinks they could do well with that trump calls that trump.  Usually what happens is the dealer deals out cards, and then the dealer flips over one of the remaining four cards, ‘cause you don’t deal out four of the cards, otherwise people would be able to count cards and you don’t want that.  So, flip over one of the cards, that card is up for grabs as the trump suit.  The person to the left of the dealer goes first and says either they want to pass, or they ask the dealer to pick up that card.  If they ask the dealer to pick up that card, that suit become trump, the dealer puts that card in their hand and puts a different card down on the table, face down and puts those and the other cards to the side.  That’s how trump is decided. But if nobody tells the dealer to pick it up including the dealer doesn’t want the card they flipped over, they don’t want that card to be trump, the dealer flips that card over and then you go in the circle, and from the left of the dealer around, you can choose any suit as trump, except for the one you flipped over.  If nobody picks it, then the dealer is screwed.  It’s a move called screw the dealer, and the dealer has to pick the trump.   Even if they have no chance of winning with anything.  You play in pairs, the dealer is one member of the pair.  It’s a four-person game, and uh, the dealer rotates around.  You rotate the dealer around in the circle.

 

Context:

I picked up Euchre while hanging out with a group of friends from the University of Southern California and we all began to talk about games from our childhoods or where we grew up.  Two members of this group were from Michigan, but one of them did not know the game, explaining how she’s had people assume she knew the game because she was from Michigan.  She talked about how if someone knows the game Euchre, and knows that someone else is from Michigan, it’s a good possibility that the person knows how to play it.  She also explained that you would pick the game up from family or friends in a social setting.  The other informant did not entirely grow up in Michigan, but did know how to play and explained the game in great detail above.

 

Analysis:

Euchre is a prominent example of how a particular piece of knowledge is tied to a certain locale, in this case, the state of Michigan.  It is also an example of how something like a game shared from person to person amongst a group creates or reinforces a certain identity.  Euchre serves as a very obvious identifier of who comes from Michigan.  The significance of the relationship between Euchre and Michigan is evidenced by how the female informant explained that everyone assumes she knows the game because she’s from Michigan.  She does, in fact, know of the game, but she does not know how to play.  To some others from the state, it may seem like she is not truly a Michiganian.  Since Euchre is primarily a Michigan thing, learning it may also be a method of assimilating into the state culture.  In the case of the male informant, he actually lived in Maryland before moving to Michigan.  As such, he turned from an outsider to an insider by learning how to play, becoming a Michiganian himself.  There appear to be no rules about sharing Euchre outside of Michigan, alluding towards openness in the state culture because there is not any exclusivity.  In this particular case, the informant’s willingness to share the game with others outside of Michigan allowed them to partake in the state’s culture when they otherwise would not have had a chance to.

 

Additional Informant Information:

The data of the male informant, ‘R’, who explained the gameplay of Euchre is in the section above the item.  The same information is provided for the other informant below.

‘S’ – Nationality: USA; Age 29; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew

Game
general

Bitch Card – A Drinking Game

Item:

M: So we use the.. the poker card, and like you use like, possibly two or three packet or pack of the.. the poker card and you make a ring like, here’s one cup [gestures to a cup on the table] and then you make the poker card a circle and this in the center [gestures again to the cup] and everyone like, uh, in order to take a card.  So, uh, every- every number has different meaning, and possibly like, so for the- for the ‘A’- for- for the ‘1’, number 1, you can point at [name] and let him to have a shot or drink a shot.

Q: So it was a whole deck of cards?

M: Yeah like, several.  Several.  And like when you- when you make a ‘K’, then you can pour, like, pour some possibly the shot or possibly the orange juice or milk or something like, just liquid

Q: Oh into the center cup

M: Yeah, the center cup.  So for the first, second, and third ‘K’, you just pour it.  The fourth one, you drink it.  Yeah, and every number has different rules.  Like, like for the number 2, like you will be the.. whore and if there’s someone like, he has to take the drink, then he can order you to drink with him together.

Q: So if you pull the number, then you do the action.

M: Yeah, like when you take the num- take the card, you will follow the number.  You follow the rule according to the number.

Q: Was there a name for the game?

M: It’s called like, bitch card [laughs]

 

Context:

I collected this piece while hanging out with friends and we began talking about the games we knew from our childhood and school-age years.  The conversation progressed to games we know now, particularly drinking games, such as the one the informant described above.  The informant is a student of the University of Southern California and actually learned this game from her peers at the university last semester.

 

Analysis:

Games establish our identities in certain ways, including our group identities are revealed by the games we know and our individual identities are revealed by the games we choose to play and how we choose to engage in them.  Drinking games, like the bitch card game collected above, albeit riskier than children’s games, for example, are no exception to this.  Furthermore, they are no exception to the wide variety in types of games, like card games or dice games.  Most popular among college students and young adults, often times drinking games are initiated to foster the interactions of a group and facilitate the formation of group identity – even if that group is specific to a particular time and place and may be temporary – because they get people to start drinking and letting loose.  On the flip side, drinking games can also alienate those who choose not to participate, but this is common amongst all games and not just restricted to drinking games.  Even worse is the risk of personal vulnerability that can result from a drinking game gone overboard.

All of the analysis that can be applied to games can be extended to drinking games.  Since the bitch card game is purely based on luck of the draw, there is no learning or knowledge curve that would place an individual at a significant disadvantage.  The game allows for variation as well in the card assignments; a bit of internet searching revealed several different versions of the game where the card action assignments were different from the few that were described by the informant.  What appears to be a constant, though, is the rule regarding drawing Kings and the King’s cup, most likely because the center cup is the focal point of the game.  Though drinking games can be interpreted in many of the same ways as other games, the significant point to consider is the addition of alcohol because it adds on a much greater sense of risk.  There is a physical risk and maybe even a social risk like when bad drinking stories go viral, and these things can significantly affect how and why people choose to interact with drinking games.

Game

Magic the Gathering – Pile Shuffling 1

My informant plays Magic the Gathering.  One of the things you do in a game of Magic, before the start of the game, is you shuffle up your deck.  There are no strict rules to how a player may go about shuffling his or her deck, but there are a few preferred methods out there.  My informant prefers the method known as the 7-pile shuffle.  He learned this method by reading posts online from a Magic blogger by the name of Mike Flores.  According to Flores, who is regarded by my informant as an “activist of sorts with regards to the way people shuffle,” the 7-pile shuffle method is the best way to shuffle ones deck.  The 7-pile shuffle method involves taking your deck in one hand (or half your deck if it is too big to hold in your hand all at once) and dealing it out into seven piles in the way one would deal hands in poker.  After dealing out the entire deck into these piles, the player then recombines these piles.  After performing this shuffling ritual, my informant will then riffle shuffle about 5 or 6 times before deeming the deck adequately shuffled.  If he thinks the deck is particularly bad before starting out (usually right after a build session, where cards are often next to copies of each other and thus very non-random), he will perform the 7-pile shuffle twice before riffle shuffling.

I am also a Magic the Gathering player and I also employ the 7-pile shuffle method.  After each pile has been dealt, I will stack the 7 piles into two piles, then riffle shuffle those together before starting more riffle shuffle.  I learned the 7-pile shuffle method from a friend who simply said it was a good way to shuffle.  It’s also a good way to make sure you have the right number of cards in the deck, since you know which pile the last card should end up in if you did it right.  I also like the 7-pile shuffle method because when you start a game of Magic, each player draws 7 cards, so 7 piles for 7 cards lines up nicely.

Game
Homeopathic
Magic

Magic the Gathering – Top Decking part 1

My informant is a Magic the Gathering player, and he tells me that when he really needs a good card, he’ll tap his teck, and talk to his deck and say stuff like “Come on, deck!”  And then my informant says that he will pick the card up really slowly, and put it at the back of his hand and not look at it right away.  He takes his time before he fully looks at the card.  He believes that if he doesn’t look at it right away there is a better chance of being the card he needs.

When this person opens up new packs of Magic cards, he also does something similar.  The rare card in the pack is always at the back, and most players will just go right to that, but he prefers to look at every card before it, hoping that if he takes longer to get to the rare then it will be a better rare.

When I play Magic, often times I will be in situations like these, where I desperately need a good card or else I lose.  And I will say stuff like “Heart of the Cards” as I pull the card from the deck into my hand.  Other times I will pick the card up from the deck and, without looking at it, place it on the table in front of me.  After waiting a few seconds, I will pick it up slowly and look at it.  I have seen a lot of players who will says “give me something good” or “Give me a good one” before drawing, and then in response to the card they will say stuff like “not a good one” or “close enough” or “I can work with this” as though they are speaking to the deck.  While this is definitely featured in the TV show Yugioh, the tradition can been seen elsewhere.  When playing poker or blackjack, players will often ask for good cards.  While they may be talking to the dealer, said dealer IS the deck in a sense.  The practice of asking the deck for a card can also be observed in magic routines (magician magic, not Magic the Gathering) where a participant picks a card and then the magician must either find the card or summon it to the top.  In the latter case, the magician often asks the card to come to him or her.

Game
Homeopathic
Magic

Magic the Gathering – Top Decking part 2

I asked my informant if he had any rituals or practices for when he is playing Magic the Gathering, and he really needs to draw a certain card or cards.  He says that he does not have any such practices, but that his friend does.  His friend comes from Taiwan, and he says that in Taiwan, all the Magic players will knock on their deck when they are desperate for a card, like when the right draw is the difference between staying in the game or losing.  Also if his girlfriend is around or any of his buddies are around, the player will get all these people to also knock on the deck.  My informant says that if you believe in it, it increases your luck of drawing what you need.  It’s similar to “believing in the heart of the cards” like in the show Yugioh.  And when you do draw that card, you make a big, dramatic effort of unveiling the card.

I find it very intriguing that this informant says that the “knock on the deck” tradition is practiced by his Taiwanese friends, but my other informant on Top Decking rituals, who is American, also does this “knock on the deck” thing even though he has probably never heard of the Taiwanese folk belief.

Game

Magic the Gathering – Pile Shuffling 2

My informant spoke to me about rituals and practices of Magic the Gathering.  Of the most ritual acts of Magic is the shuffling ritual.  Since shuffling must always take place before a game, and since it involves the player’s deck, often something very personal to them, shuffling is very ritualistic.  While each player does it slightly differently, they almost always do it the same way and sometimes doing it differently gives you a bad feeling about the game.

The way my informant prefers to shuffle is with two runs of the 5-Pile shuffle, followed by riffle shuffling.  5-Pile shuffling is where you take the deck in one hand, or half the deck if it’s too big to hold, and you place cards from the top into five piles as though you were dealing out hands of poker.  You continue to place the cards into these piles until you have placed all the cards, then you pick them up and put them back into one big pile.  According to my informant, one of his friends told him this was the optimal way to shuffle the deck for good randomization.

I am also a Magic the Gathering player and I also employ the 7-pile shuffle method.  After each pile has been dealt, I will stack the 7 piles into two piles, then riffle shuffle those together before starting more riffle shuffle.  I learned the 7-pile shuffle method from a friend who simply said it was a good way to shuffle.  It’s also a good way to make sure you have the right number of cards in the deck, since you know which pile the last card should end up in if you did it right.  I also like the 7-pile shuffle method because when you start a game of Magic, each player draws 7 cards, so 7 piles for 7 cards lines up nicely.

Attached to the submission are two photos.  One photo is a demonstration of 5-pile shuffling and the other is a demonstration of 7-pile shuffling.

Game
Holidays

Thanksgiving Traditions

I learned from my informant that ever since she was a little girl, her family has always hosted a large Thanksgiving dinner.  Members of her extended family as well as members of the Stern extended family would come to her house and all have a big dinner.  Her mother would make the turkey and everyone else would bring something along or make something.  One person usually brought a vegetable salad.  She herself started baking desserts for Thanksgiving when she was in high school.  And these desserts rarely included anything pumpkin because no one in the super-extended family liked pumpkin very much.  Then after everyone was done eating and talking, they would all gather round and play card games and eat popcorn.  Hearts was usually the game of choice but some people also played spades.  Later in life, after most of the younger family members grew up and had gotten married, and the large family became even larger, they started playing huge games of hearts with multiple decks.

The rules for regular hearts are listed here so that the extended rules make more sense for those who have never played the original.  In hearts, a standard 52-card deck is divided between four players.  The player to go first in a round plays a card, then the next player must play a card of the same suit if possible.  After all four players have played, whomever played the highest card of the leading suit takes all the cards, then must be the starting player in the next round.  For the first round, the player with the 2 of clubs must go first.  Hearts may not be played on the first turn, and a player may not lead a turn with hearts until hearts have already been played.  Hearts are worth one point, and the Queen of Spades is worth 13 points.  At the end of the game, you tally all the points you have, and at the end of all the games, the player with the fewest points wins.  Additionally, before each game, you must pass three of the cards in your hand to the player in a given direction, alternating between left, right, across, and no pass.

For the extended version, all of the regular rules apply, except that the player to go first on the first round is the first player to the left of the dealer who has a 2 of clubs.  The only major addition to the rules is that multiples of the same card cancel out.  So if there are two King of Clubs on the board, and clubs is the leading suit, neither king counts for the highest card, and instead the turn goes to the player who played the highest singular card (non-canceled) in the leading suit.  In games with three or more decks, if the third multiple of a card comes out, then that card is not canceled and is treated normally.  Additionally, the passing order is slightly modified, and is now left, right, two to the left, and two to the right.  According to my informant, these new rules lead to emergent play.  First and foremost, players have a lot more power depending on where they are in the turn.  Players near the end are often begged and pleaded to cancel out whoever is highest (or not to cancel out the high player if said beggar/pleader has the second-highest card).  If you want to screw over a particular player, you may choose to cancel the high card and force someone else to take the turn.  Also, she says that when you are passing cards at the start of the turn, and your hand has multiples in it, you should pass one of the multiples to the designated person and then try and work with them to hurt others.  For instance, if you are dealt both Queen of Spades, you can give it to the designated person, and then plot to play them one after another, preventing either of you from having to take your own queens as well as sticking some unlucky bastard with 26 points in one turn!

My informant also told me of one last tradition that revolves around this large game of hearts.  At the end of the game, either when someone gets 100 points or everyone gets tired, the three players with the highest scores all got to go on the family vacation.

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