Sheepshead Variations

Playing Sheepshead With Other Than 5 Players

Below are variations and rules. If you have played a different way please share with us.


Two Player Options

  • Two HandedThis version emphasizes luck over skill. It’s a time-waster for those occasions when you and one friend are very bored. There is no blind. Each player receives 16 cards, as follows.A row of four cards is placed face down before each player. A second round of four cards per player is dealt face down, stacked on the first rows. A third round of four cards per player are placed face up on the stacks. Each player is also dealt four cards to hold. (You may deal these in any order, so long as the result is as described.)

    The player opposite the dealer leads, either from his hand or from his face-up row. The dealer then plays a card from his hand or from his face-up row. After taking the trick, any cards played from the stacks are replaced by the card below, which must be turned up. Play then continues, with the lead by the person who took the previous trick. Since half one’s hand is a surprise, one’s strength varies unpredictably. But having some of both hands exposed also eliminates some of the strategy, and this game can be rather mechanical.


Three Player Options

  • Picker Alone – 2 Against 1Each player gets 10 cards, with two left in the blind. Three-player sheepshead reduces the emphasis on trump and shifts some of it to the fail aces. With only three cards per trick an ace has a good chance of taking a trick. Quantity of trump and aces becomes almost as important as quality. With ten tricks to play, stamina becomes a factor. It’s quite possible to lose a three-handed game despite holding all four queens. One rule of thumb is to pick when you have seven or more trump and aces combines.As a defender, you want to set up a crossfire between you and your teammate. Try to keep the lead in front of the picker.


Four Player Options

  • Cut Throat
    Each player gets 7 cards, with four left in the blind. 3 against 1. Burying 4 cards is a strategy in itself. People can risk picking on weak trump hands and bury points.
  • Partners
    Another option is to have Queen of Clubs and 7 Diamonds partner. No blind.
  • First 2 Queens Played
    Another option is partners are determined when the first 2 queens are played. If player plays the first 2 queens he/she goes alone. This requires alot of card counting on all players. There is a lot of stragety on who you want as a partner. It is played as double on the bump so if you are holding a lot of trump you want not want to be on of the first 2 queens played to win double.
  • Birish
    Similar game as it is played with 32 cards, 8 cards each and no bury. Each player in turn has opportunity to “pick” and call an ace as partner. If instead they go alone or someone makes an overcall, then it is 3 on 1 as overcalls are just variants of going alone.Hands play normally and points scored normally, but there are 5 different ways to go alone.Overcalls in ascending order
    1. Standard, diamonds trump
    2. Call another suit, same style of play, but picker calls either clubs, spades, or hearts as trump
    3. Just Queens and Jacks are trump, all other cards play as suits
    4. Just Queens are trump, all other cards play as suits
    5. Just Jacks are trump, all other cards play as suits

    When someone picks, another player has option to overcall before play begins, other players or original picker may continue to overcall until Just Jacks is called or no one wishes to make additional overcalls. Then hand it played out.


Five Player Options

  • Call an Ace – The Call Ace is partner
  • Jack of Diamonds – The Jack of Diamonds is partner


Six Player Options

  • 5 Handed – Dealer SitsThis is a version of 5 handed but the “dealer sits.” (Meaning doesn’t play the hand they dealt.)
  • Jack of Diamonds/Player To Right are PartnersAnother way to play is each player gets five cards, with two left in the blind. Typically the jack of diamonds identifies one partner. The player to partners right becomes a second partner. If the picker of the player to his right also has the jack of diamonds, they play two-against-four.


Seven Player Options

  • Two Partners PartnersThis is quite a crowd, and it makes for an odd game. The picker has two partners, the one who holds the jack of diamonds and one who is determined by the roll of a die. If the picker or randomly selected partner holds the jack of diamonds, they play two-against-five.

    Each player is dealt four cards, with four left for the blind. When someone picks he takes just two cards from the blind. He then rolls one die. The number that comes up identifies one partner, as counted clockwise from the picker. That player receives the remainder of the blind, and must bury two cards as well.>

    The game then proceeds as normally as possible. With only four tricks of seven cards, don’t rely on aces to take tricks.

  • Shit On Your NeighborThe person next to the picker (to the pickers left) is the partner.


Eight Player Options

  • First Two Queens Are PartnersIn this game, there is no blind, and the first to queens played are partners, but the best part is the 7 of diamonds is the highest trump so it is very easy for the pickers to not get a trick. It’s a fun game if you have people that take cards to seriously because they tend to get fired real quick the first time they get no tricked.