The national card game of Australia is 500, a trick taking style card game. Aussies have even customised and tweaked the game a little, changing it slightly from the more conventional and original North American version of the game which was conceived in 1904.
The aim of the game is for you and your partner to reach a points total of over 500, through ‘making’ hands and successfully completing them. For instance you might say “six clubs” and then the hand plays out and you need to win “six tricks” to score 60 points.
So how do you play the Australian national card game?
Five hundred is not played with the traditional deck of 52 cards. It is played with a deck of 43 cards. Your average deck of 52 cards can be adjusted for a game of 500 by simply removing all two’s and three’s from the deck as well as both black fours. One Joker should be added to the deck too.
Now you have a suitable deck of cards ready to play 500.
The only other thing you need to get started is three other people because 500 is essentially two vs two adversarial team game, although there are variations which allow three people to play against each other.
Once you have organised your deck of 43 cards and two teams of two people, it is time to deal. A dealer can be decided at random or by drawing cards.
Team members should sit across from each other, not next to each other.
From there the dealer will deal three cards, face down, to each player starting with the player to their immediate right. One card must be dealt in the middle of the table, or to the ‘kitty’. From there the dealer will deal another four cards to each player with another in the kitty and finally another round of three cards ending with the final card in the kitty. At the end of dealing each player should have 10 cards each with three cards in the kitty.
Now that you have 10 cards each with three cards in the kitty it is time to start bidding. The person to the left of the dealer gets the bidding under way. During bidding it must be known that each suit has a specific ranking. Hearts is the highest ranked suit and in descending order it is diamonds, clubs and spades.
The bidding is to determine what the trump suit will be for the hand, i.e what suit will be the strongest. A player must bid a suit and a number of tricks. You cannot make a bid lower than six tricks and you can make a bid of 10 tricks at most. Be careful though, you and your partner must be able to make the number of tricks you bid, so don’t get too carried away.
The next person to bid in sequence must increase on the previous bid. For example, if the person before you has bid seven diamonds, then you could bid eight diamonds. seven hearts or eight of either clubs or spades.
If you have a shocking hand you can also opt out of bidding and pass, however if you do, then you cannot bid again in that round. If everyone playing ends up passing, then all the cards are thrown into the middle and the deal commences again.
Depending on whether you are playing ‘no trumps’ it is possible to bid no trumps during the bidding process. This actually ranks higher than hearts. But be aware that you need a lot of high cards to successfully call no trumps because a player can potentially wipe you out with a suit you don’t have.
A misere is essentially a bid to lose, which also breaks your partnership, you are basically backing yourself to win no tricks. This can only be bid once someone has made a seven trick bid but not after someone has made an eight trick bid. An open misere is basically the same as a misere but your hand is placed face up on the table after the first trick is made.
Bidding continues until everyone except one person has passed. The last person standing has won the bid and the “contract”.
The person who won the bidding will then collect the three kitty, or community cards, take them into his hand and then discard any three cards — usually their weakest card or a card in a suit you don’t want. The winner of the bid lays out the first card. To lose the lead an opposition player must beat your card, either with a higher card of the same suit, a trump card or the Joker. Keep in mind that you must always follow suit if you can.
Point values are calculated according to the winning bid. A bid of six tricks is the base point value, but increases with each trump card. For instance if you called eight spades you would score 240 if you successfully got those tricks.
The base points table:
A bid of six spades gets 40 points.
Six clubs gets us 60 points.
Six diamonds is 80 points.
Six hearts is 100 points.
A bid of misere is worth 250 while a bid of open misere will net you 500 points.
To win the game your team must be the first to reach 500 on a successful hand, meaning you must call and then successfully complete a hand as your pass 500.