First off – read this twice.I get hundreds of email a year asking me to explain the slight specifics of Sheepshead. (normally I am helping settle disputes)
Go ahead and email me, I will do the best to settle disagreements and explain the rules. (One note, there has been a lot of “house rules” established based on family traditions. The best thing to do is agree on things prior to playing.)
A serious note: Have fun playing! There has been families split up because of disputes. Sheepshead is supposed to bring us all together. Once again, The best thing to do is agree on things prior to playing. Personally, my family’s house rules is different than my friends games and tournaments I play in. I have tried to conform my friends and fmaily to “tournament rules”…it is a lost cause. I just smile and enjoy their way of playing the game.
Black Blitzing (or Blitzing)
Before the picker picks, the individual may announce they are blitzing. This means they currently have both black queens (the two highest cards). The stakes double. Note a non-picker can declare black blitzers at the time the picker picks. Typical when a person blitzes they show the cards.
Red Blitzing (or Indian blitzing)
Before the picker picks, the individual may announce they are red blitzing. This means they currently have both red queens. The stakes double. Note a non-picker can declare red blitzers. Typical when a person blitzes they show the cards.
After someone picks the cards, but before play begins, someone who did not have the option of picking may crack. (if they have the proper cards, they may black blitz crack or red blitz crack.) In a sense one would crack when they feel they have a stronger hand then the picker. Cracking doubles the stakes and red or black blitzing doubles it again. This is when it gets fun and intense because a lot is at stake.
Recrack (or double cracking)
Once someone cracks, the picker (or their partner) may then recrack (and again, if they have the proper cards, they may double black blitz crack or double red blitz crack). When a recrack occurs the picker is saying I feel very strongly that my hand is stronger then yours. This doubles the stakes again. Keep in mind blitzing can double it again.
No Ace, No Face, No Trump
Some play that if you are dealt a hand without an ace, face (King, Queen or Jack) or trump that it is an auto misdeal. (This is a house rule, just agree on it before playing. It is not used in tournaments.
When No-one Picks
When no one picks the game can be played two different ways. It is best to determine before playing and stick to one way throughout the time playing.
In a Leaster:
- The player with the least number of points receives 4 points, everyone else loses 1 point.
- To win the game you must take at least 1 trick. (the trick can be 0 points)
(Slight Variation Note: I have played in some games where the house rule was if you didn’t take a trick you win…but this is rare. The most common way to play, including tournaments is you must take a trick. Agree on this rule before playing.)
- A trick with 16 or fewer points has a good chance being lowest.
- Lead out a bare suit so someone else is forced to lead. Don’t lead your long suit or everyone else can get rid of their high-point cards.
- In case of a tie, the tied players draw to determine a winner. Use Sheepshead card order and draw from the whole Sheepshead deck. Trump must be drawn to win. If two fail suits are drawn, draw again. Variation: It is common to split the pot amongst ties…once again agree on this prior to playing. Another variation is if two people tie they all tie and replay the hand.
A doubler can also be played when everyone passes. This calls for a re-deal and the next games stakes doubles, hence the name. A doubler will also double no-trick, schnider points, etc.
If anyone misplays; doesn’t play trump when it is lead, doesn’t follow suit correctly, calls the wrong ace, misburies, etc., he loses 4 points and everyone else gets 1 point each. (including his/her partner) This is cut-throat Sheepshead BABY! This rule is usually waived if the player is a novice.
- In call an ace game. The picker must play the called suit on the called suit trick (the first time…when the ace gets played) If he/she accidentally throws his/her called suit card on another trick and does not have a called suit card to play on that trick…it is a misplay.
- In call an ace game. The ace of the called suit must be played the first time the called suit is played. If the picker accidentally buried the ace….it is a misplay.
- In call an ace game. If the picker accidentally called himself/herself. It is a misplay. (in some circles I have played that you can call yourself to be sneaky…you better agree on this prior to playing. Play the game out…and argue about it afterword.)
Picker/Partner Gets No Tricked
Ouch! This can happen. Especially with aggressive players that will pick on anything and afraid of being labeled a Maurer. The most common way to play is the picker pays everyone and his/her partner is off the hook.