Sheepshead Quiz

So you want to test your Sheepshead skills?  I’ve written a number of brain teasers to see if you measure up.  Once you are done, you can call yourself an expert or maybe just learn something in the process.  Keep in mind that some questions really don’t have a definitive answer and the questions are not in any particular order.  Assume 5 handed, call an Ace play in all games unless stated otherwise.  The Sheepshead quiz was donated and updated by Jim Mihal.

Question #1

You are the picker (and called Ace of Clubs partner which has not yet been lead) and have these cards remaining:


Jack of hearts    Eight of Clubs

You have the lead and you know that there is one trump left which is higher than your Jack.  (We can also assume that you are not sure who your partner is or who has the high trump.)  Which card should you lead with?

Make your choice…

Answer #1

Lead the called suit (Eight of Clubs)!  Why?

If your partner has the high trump, it doesn’t matter which card you lead- you win both tricks.  But if your partner does not have the high trump, and you lead the called suit, it will take the remaining high trump to take the trick, making your trump the high card for the last trick.  And who knows, maybe the person with that high trump also has a card from the called suit, in which case, the called suit walks.  Either way, you will get at least one trick.

What if you lead the trump?  Bad news!!!!  You lose this trick and then have to hope that the last card in the opponents hand is the called suit or you lose both tricks.

Question #2

You just picked the blind and have these 3 fail:


10 of Hearts, 9 of Spades, and 7of Spades

Which cards do you bury and what ace do you call?

Make your choice…

Answer #2

Bury the two Spades and call the Ace of Hearts partner!  Why?

It is tempting to bury the 10 and call the Ace of Spades but this is a poor choice.  This almost guarantees that the called suit, when lead, will get trumped (because you already have two of the six fail spades).  It may be a bit of a gamble but almost a sure win if the called suit walks.

What if you “play it safe” and bury the 10?  OK, you have 10 in the bag but when the called suit is lead, you will loose the ace (and probably the 10 of Spades) and if you are really down on your luck, the suit gets trumped with an Ace of Diamonds….32 points right there!!!

I know what your thinking… could lose your 10 of Hearts, Ace of Hearts (and more) if the called suit gets trumped….but you have to figure that you can get burnt either way…which one gives you the least chance of failure?

The only instance where I would “play it safe” is if I had the lead and had the Queen of Clubs.  I could get out two trump leads and hope that the called suit walks because most players are drained of trump.

This particular problem is one for the ages.  There is no “right answer” but is a situation you will see quite a bit playing Sheepshead.


Question #3

Is German “Schafkopf” the same as Sheepshead? Yes or No

If different, how?

Make your choice…

Answer #3

The two games are similar but not quite the same!  Thanks to the many inputs from readers (see link at bottom of top frame) I have found many differences from the original German game.  For starters, German Schafkopf is a 4 player game which uses a different looking deck (Bavarian cards):


As far as I can tell, there is no blind (8 cards are dealt each).  There are many variations but unfortunately, I have not yet translated these pages (all in German)


Question #4

You have 4 trump and 2 fail and are thinking of picking the blind.  Can you count on at least one trump in the blind?

Are your chances closest to:

1 in 3 (33%)
1 in 2 (50%)
2 in 3 (67%)

Make your choice…

Answer #4

Of course you need a trump to avoid holding a “loser” fail. But odd as it may seem, you have a 63% chance of getting at least one trump in the blind.  Here is the math:

There are 10 trump and 16 fail on the table what is the probability that the first card in the blind is a trump? 10/26 and the probability that the second card is also a trump is 9/25…so multiply to get 90/650 or 14%.

Now the probability that the first card is a is a trump is 10/26 and the next card is fail is 16/25…multiply to get 160/650.  Also the probability the first card is fail is 16/26 and second card is trump is 10/25…multiply to get 160/650.  So the probability of getting one trump is 320/650 (49%).

14% + 49% = 63% chance of getting at least one trump….not bad!

There is only a 37% chance of getting 2 fail in the blind with this hand.

The odds get slightly better if you only have 3 trump but I wouldn’t pick unless those 3 trump are pretty good (or you have lots of points to bury).

Gregory Hoerth states: “Even though statistically the answer is correct, from playing, I think odds that trump are in the blinds increase as more and more people pass. So if I’m at the end, and all four people passed, I think my odds are higher that a trump is in the blind.”  

I agree, as long as you don’t sit with a filthy mauer!


Question #5

You find that you are not the partner and have the first lead. The Ace of Spades is the called partner and you have this hand:


Queen of Spades, 10 of Hearts, 7 of Hearts, Ace of Clubs, King of Clubs, 9 of Spades

What do you lead?

Make your choice…

Answer #5

This is known as the “Lone Queen of Spades Trick”.  Normally you would lead the 9 of Spades automatic!!! But here is a case where you could add some trickery to the game. You have to figure the picker for the top queen.  On the pickers first lead, you will lose your queen!  But if you lead your queen, you will fool the picker into thinking that you are the partner and he/she will schmear points to you.  Then you come back with the called suit.

Can this backfire?  Sure….your team-mates might have the big lady and overtrump your queen!!! Would that make the picker happy 🙂 and your team-mates mad:( or maybe one of your team-mates is short of spades and you just drew his one and only trump*&%$#&^!@#

Note: I’ve played this game since 1961 and have not had a chance to play this “trick”!  If you are an long time player, you have heard of this situation!  Ever happen to you?


Question #6

Would you pick on this hand?


Queen of Hearts, Queen of Diamonds, 9 & 7 of Diamonds, 8 of Clubs, King of Hearts

Make your choice…

Answer #6

This hand is known as “Red Death“.  Holding the two red queens looks awful good and you have two more trump to boot!!! What more can you ask for?  Most players would pick in an instant….but wait!  You have no sure trick in this hand…nothing to bury and I’ve seen some of the best crash and burn on hands just like it (including myself).  It is quite possible to get no tricked with this hand and I’ve been there!  So you have to ask yourself one question….do you feel lucky, punk?  Well, do you?

As for me, I would pick, no questions, if I had the lead (with no help in the blind…lead the 7 of Diamonds and go fishing) or if I was on the end (hoping nobody maured).  But I would think twice if playing a doubler or “double on the bump” (but would most likely grab’em otherwise).  Beer helps a timid player and of course, if anyone sees your hand after everyone passes….watch out you filthy maure!


Question #7

You have:


Queen of Clubs, 7 of Diamonds, 10 of Spades,  King of Spades, 7 of Clubs

The picker called Hearts and you just trumped it and now have the lead with the picker at the end.   What do you lead?

Make your choice…

Answer #7

The general rule is “long suit through the picker, short suit with the picker at the end”….hoping the picker is carrying a loser (which works much better in 3 & 4 handed play).  But not in this case! You must lead the King of Spades here.  Why?

Most likely you will loose this trick because the picker at the end.  However, you know you have the lead coming again when you play your big queen.  The second time the same fail suit is lead your team-mates will be all over it.  Wow! You mean you’d lead a 10 with the picker at the end? You bet! One of your mates will go high, forcing at least a queen out of the picker (or may even take the trick).  If you can make the picker blow a queen on a fail lead, you are doing OK.

Question #8

You are the partner with the first trump lead in the game and the picker (your mate) is not at the end.  You have these trump cards:


Queen of Diamonds, 9 & 8 of Diamonds

What do you lead?

Make your choice…

Answer #8

Lead the 9 or 8 of Diamonds.  Why?  If you lead the queen, the picker will surely overtrump it if he/she had the big lady (to insure the lead)…so you would be throwing away a queen.  If the picker had a weak hand and did not have the big lady (say just the queen of spades), then the picker would be in a dilemma….do I play it and flush out the lady?  If so, the picker would have done so with the 8 of Diamonds lead (again a waste of your queen).  Or maybe, the picker has the queen of spades and decides to save it….fine, except you could loose the trick to the queen of hearts….and the picker is still left with the big lady out there 🙁

If the picker has the queen of hearts and spades (but not the big lady), the picker will lay a queen and flush out the big ma.  Your queen will be high card soon.

Let the picker take control here and lead out a low trump (that alone should make the picker happy)!  If the picker has only 2 of the 3 top queens, your queen will most likely be a high card soon and it should take a trick later.

BTY, if the picker is at the end (instead of on your left), you lead out the queen…no questions asked!  Why? Because your lead will either flush out queens from your opponents, or give you the lead again if not overtrumped (the picker would not overtrump you). 

Question #9

You are the picker (Ace of Hearts partner…which has not been played yet) with these cards remaining:


Jack of Clubs, 10 & 7 of Hearts

You have the lead, you know that your partner (which lead out trump earlier) has the only remaining trump…a low Jack in his/her hand.  What do you lead? (From a game played on 9/12/98)

Make your choice…

Answer #9

Lead the 7 of Hearts.  Why?  If you lead the trump card, you will suck the last trump out of your partners hand.  When you then lead the called suit, the partner takes the trick….so far, so good. But the last trick may be lost (and lost big) because the partner may not have a good card to lead.

To avoid the problem, lead out the 7 and let the partner take the trick.  Then you must rely on careful play by your partner to insure getting all the tricks (see next question).

BTY, if you lead the 10, you get the trick and a bunch of sure points.  The partner has the lead and if they lead out their last trump, you will have to over-trump it (you are still OK if the partner leads fail…can you see why?…if not, see the next problem).  Then you are left with the 7 for a lead…but what if one of your opponents has a higher Heart?  Bad News and you get burnt!


Question #10

First read the answer to the last question.  What should the partner lead after the first trick (above) is played?

Make your choice…

Answer #10

Put yourself in the partners position now!

The partner should then lead with their fail suit (and hope that the picker is not holding a card from that same suit).  Because the picker will take the trick with the high trump and the last trick will be taken by partner (because they have the only remaining trump). This is assuming both the picker and partner are on the same page!

In fact, if the partner holds  (and plays) the high card of the fail suit, it is guaranteed because it it will take the trick.

The partner knows that the picker has one fail left  (even though it is a good one, but the partner doesn’t know that) and also the high trump card (if they were paying attention).  If the pickers fail card is of the same suit as the partners and neither player has the high card in that suit you will lose the trick anyway you look at it.

What if the partner leads the trump? It sucks the last trump from the picker and gives the picker the lead.  Then you have to hope the picker has the high card of the fail suit in his/her hand.  If the pickers fail suit is of the same suit as harm no foul (same as above).  But if you have different fail suits….you just messed up because you could have had both tricks guaranteed.

Question #11

You picked and are playing it alone.  You lead out three big queens and have a no tricker going. The only problem is there is still one trump (a Jack of Spades) in the hand of the player to your left. What do you lead?


Jack of Hearts, 9 of Diamonds, & Ace of  Hearts

Make your choice…

Answer #11

Play the Ace of Hearts!  If you lead out the small trump, it will be taken and three opponents will get a chance to schmear points, giving them schneider.  But if you play the Ace of Hearts, it places the player to your left with a tough decision.  If he/she trumps it, all other players must follow suit and it may not give schneider.  If he/she (player to left) does not trump it (which is a better choice), it may draw out the 10 of Hearts out of an opponents hand which could be the only schmear card that player has! If that is the case, no schneider!

From a game played on 10/23/98 (brilliant insight by Mark Herder)


Question #12

The picker called Ace of Hearts and you are at the end (as partner).  The picker just lead out the two black queens which sucked out 10 trump.  Next the picker leads out the Queen of Hearts and luckily, all the remaining trump fall and you have the last play. What do you play?


Ace of Spades,  7 of Spades,  Ace of Hearts, 7 of Clubs

Make your choice…

Answer #12

It is tempting to schmear the Ace of Spades to your mate but don’t do it!  Play the 7 of clubs. The picker will likely play the called suit next.  After you take the called suit, your Ace of Spades is good as gold (and who knows, it may make the 7 of spades high for the last trick….which it did on 10/23/98) 


Question #13

You picked up a great hand which included all the queens except the queen of spades, the two top jacks, and the king of diamonds.  You are playing it alone (on a doubler, yet).  You trump the first fail lead with a jack, and come back with the big lady…but still no queen of spades.  So you lead out the other jack only to find that your opponents just got schneider .  This is what you saw:


Crap! They got  30 points – schneider.

Now the next lead is the 8 of hearts and you see this:


and you have


What do you play?

Make your choice…

Answer #13

Play the king of diamonds!  The trick may be lost because the person to your left may still have trump…but who cares!  They already have schneider and the worse that can happen is 22 points fall after your play…still no game.  You then take the last two tricks and win.  Chip blew this one on 6/25/99 and we’ll never let him forget it (he lost the game).  BTW, can you see another way this could have been played when you lead out the jack (to force out the queen)?  It may be worth a point to lead out the queen of hearts instead of the jack.  Perhaps someone may be reluctant to schmear points thinking that the picker has all top queens and is trying to bluff points out of them.