(also known as 45's
, Forte Fives
, Auction Forty-Fives
, Auction 120s
, Spoil Five
and Strong Fives
) is a trick-taking card game
that is played in Ireland
, and in some parts of New England
and Nova Scotia
where it is known as Forte Fives
. It is closely related to the game One-hundred and ten
(110) also described below. The game may have got its name from "forte" which is Latin for strong which describes the 5's in the deck. The origin of this game is thought to be Canada
. In the 1920s, the game became Forte Fives when it moved South into the Merrimack Valley
and New Hampshire
with French Canadian immigrants. Today, Forty-fives continues to be very popular in the Merrimack Valley. It is played with a standard deck of 52 cards (sometimes with jokers).
Forty-Fives is a descendant of the Irish
game Spoil Five. Spoil Five, in turn is a descendant of a game King James VI of Scotland
popularized in the 17th century called Maw. King James was known to have a servant hold his cards for him when playing. Keith
Southam was known to be the master in the early times. Maw is first seen being played in 1511 and the earliest written rules come from 1576 in Scotland
The history of the name of the current version is unknown, especially since 45 has no relevance to the New England version of the game, although some contend it comes from the fact that there are "four fives" in the deck.
Yet in Ireland and Nova Scotia, the game is often played up to 45 points instead of 120 as in New England, which may be an earlier version of the game. A variation of the game is extremely popular in the Merrimack Valley in northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. The game is most popular in greater Taunton, Massachusetts
, Lawrence, Massachusetts
and greater Haverhill, Massachusetts
Forty fives tournaments are becoming more popular. In New England, the New England Academy of 45s
holds occasional tournaments in Plaistow, New Hampshire
In 2001, Bill DiSanto created a computerized-version of the 45's game. It is Windows-based and is played in a partner-version where you can select from a multitude of players and personalities. Information on the game can be found at
A similar game is popularly played on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. There is a large admixture of Irish immigrants on the West Coast, which may indicate the derivation of the game played here.
As well, this game is very popular in Newfoundland Canada with slight variations across the province.
General game play
- Each player is dealt three cards at once, starting with the player left of the dealer and continuing in a clockwise-direction.
- Each player is dealt two cards at once, in the same order.
- The top card of the deck is turned face up. The card that is shown determines the trump suit and that card is left on top of the deck. If an Ace is turned up, that is the trump suit but the dealer must immediately claim the Ace by discarding one of his dealt cards. Failure to discard removes this right to rob the deck. Note, if a Joker is turned up, the dealer keeps it by discarding one of his own cards and then flips up another card that becomes trump.
- If any of the players is dealt the Ace of the trump suit, then he may claim the card that was turned up by discarding one of his other cards. This must be done before he plays his first card, otherwise his Ace becomes the lowest trump card.
- One card is played by each player, in turn, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. The winner of the trick is determined by who played the highest card. The winner gets five points (on his way to 120). A bonus trick worth ten points rather than five points is awarded for the best card played during the round. This is determined at the end of the round.
- Points are added up based on tricks won and the bonus trick at the end of the round. If a player reached 120 points or more (including points earned in previous rounds), that player wins. If more than one player reaches at least 120 points in the same round, the player with more points is the winner. If no player reaches 120 points, the deal is given to the player to the left of the last dealer and a new round begins.
Merrimack Valley variant
Merrimack Valley (southern New Hampshire
and northern Massachusetts
) play is different.
- The Joker is not used.
- Three cards are dealt to the kitty after each player has three cards.
- Instead of the top card being turned over after the deal and determining trump, players bid based on the strength of their hand. Bidding is done before a trump suit is declared. Players bid 15, 20, 25, or 30 points based on how many points they think they can earn with their hand if they get to call the trump suit. Bidding goes in the same order as the deal.
- The player who wins the bid announces the trump suit.
- After trump is called (it is important for trump to be called prior to this step), the person who called trump adds the kitty to their hand.
- Players then discard any unwanted cards (usually non-trump suited cards except for the Ace of Hearts). Players must keep at least one card in their hand. The winning bidder may not keep more than five cards.
- In the same order as the original deal, the dealer replenishes each player's hand so that all players have five cards.
- Common variation: Players may discard all five cards, but when being replenished, the fifth card is dealt face-up. This is known as "four and a flip".
- Winning bidder gets first play.
- When points are counted at the end of the round, the winning bidder adds their point total only if it equals or beats their bid. If they do not "meet their bid" they instead subtract their bid amount. This is known as being "set" or "setting the bidder." The object for the players that did not win the bid, therefore, is to make as many points as possible while at the same time preventing the bidder from making their bid.
One Irish variation
- The game is won when a player gets 45 points.
- The ten point trick is only present if the highest trump is the five of trump, jack of trump, Joker, or Ace of Hearts.
- An exception to standard scoring is if a player wins all five tricks they get 45 points and win the game, thus a new game is started. If they had any points from an earlier rounds these points are carried over to the next game.
- Only the five of trump can be reneged.
- Some players in Ireland do not use the Joker and some do not have the above stated exception to standard scoring. For some players any trump is acceptable for best trump not just the five, jack, Joker or Ace of Hearts.
Nova Scotia variations
Variations of "Forty-Fives" or "Forty-Five" are known to exist in all parts of Nova Scotia. On Cape Breton Island, notably in Richmond County, there are 45-Card-Games (conducted in either English or French) in almost all communities. This may involve tens or hundreds of people depending on the size of the jackpot. Generally 25 games are played in an evening, couples only, usually lasting about two hours. Winning teams rotate around the room, while the losers remain stationary. Winners always deal first. Each couple has a small cue card with the numbers 1 through 25, wins are punched out with a hole punch. Usually there are three winners for the evening, the teams with the highest number of games. Ties may be broken by splitting the prize, cutting the deck for low card win, or playing off. If one party wants to play-off, others either do so or forfeit; splitting must be unanimous. Thus, if two couples have 18 games, a third couple 16 games and a fourth and fifth couple 15 games, then the third couple is automatically the second place winner. First and third place prizes are either split, or the deck is cut, or there is a play-off. Sometimes there is a cookie jar, where a couple can attempt to win eight or ten randomly chosen games. Sometimes there is a consolation-like boobie prize for the team with the fewest games. These games are played according to the Traditional Nova Scotia 45 Rules located below. Although these 45-Card-Games are popular in community or parish halls and taverns, the game is also frequently played in the home. Usually at 45-Card-Games in Nova Scotia, there are snacks and refreshments served as well.
Traditional Nova Scotia 45 Rules
Variations are as follows:
- The Jokers are not used.
- One may deal two cards to all players and then three cards to all players if desired. This is the dealer's choice. Two cards first is sometimes called the Newfoundland Deal or the Rocky Bay Deal. Before the deal, the player to the right of the dealer must cut the deck. For the next round the deal passes to the dealer's left, so the dealer of one round always cuts in the next round, should there be one.
- One game of 45 is only played to the total score of 45 (hence the name of the game), thus when a team or player reaches 45 points they win the game.
- Usually in a less formal setting (at home), a group may play two best (this means the best two out of three).
- Scores after the first round are as follows: Full 30, 25-5, 20-10 or Two 15's. Note that the total must be 30.
- Scores after the second round are as follows: Win, 40-20, 35-25 or Two 30's. Note that the total must be 60.
- If there is a third round it will always finish the game, a fourth round is practically never played although it is technically possible (most life long players have never seen it).
- The score of the game is not written down, simply remembered by the players. If many games are played one should keep track of the number of games won.
- If it happens that all players have no trump, hence no best trump (extremely rare when four are playing) then the score after a round will only add up to 25.
- If a player or team wins when the opponents start the round with 40 points, it is called hanging a 40.
- The winner is the first team to reach 45 points, even if they were unaware that they had the best trump.
- The game is usually played with two couples sitting across from one another, although the same rules apply if two are playing. If three or five are playing it is a cut-throat match and scores after the rounds are different (see General Game Play above), although the first person to 45 points is still the winner. Four people would almost always play as couples and seldom by cut-throat. Sometimes six players play. All players place a fixed bid into the ante. First there are two teams of three people each who play a full game. The three winners play again in a second game of cut-throat. The winner of this second game wins the ante.
- Common Rule: The five of trump can be reneged at any time. The jack of trump and Ace of Hearts can be reneged with some exception. The jack must be played if the five is the lead (bottom) card and the player has no other trump. The Ace of Hearts must be played if the five or jack is the lead card and the player has no other trump.
- Exceptional Rule: If the Ace of Hearts is led, players must always play a trump card to follow suit. If they have no trump (and trump is not Hearts) they must play a Heart if there is one in hand. If they have no trump or Heart they may play any other card. Someone leading the Ace of Hearts might say "Hearts on Hearts" so that no one reneges.
- There is another version of the game that many Nova Scotians refer to as Auction or Auction 45 that is similar to the Merrimack Valley variant explained above and 110 explained below.
Nova Scotia Auction Rules
The principal difference between Nova Scotia variations is when it is appropriate to renege. In Colchester County it is common to renege only the five of trump, yet in Cape Breton and Richmond Counties usually five, jack and Ace of Hearts are renegable cards.
Note that Auction may be played with 2, 3, 4 or 5 players. In two- and three-player games, it's every player for themselves. Four-player games are divided into partners. The five-player variant is also known as Call Your Partner. Once trump has been decided, the player who won the bid may "call" for a card. If that card has been dealt out, it must be played in the first trick, and whoever plays it becomes the bidder's partner. The other three players play for themselves and against the pair. Scoring is shared for the hand between the partners; they both go up or down the same amount. If one partner wins the game, the other is considered to have won as well, regardless of their score.
- Auction is sometimes called Auction 45.
- The Jokers are not used.
- One may deal two cards to all players and then three cards to all players if desired. This is the dealer's choice.
- Auction is played with a kitty. A common variation is a four card kitty game, where the kitty receives two cards at the end of each time around, making a total of four cards in the kitty. Although a variation is to place three cards in the kitty as done in Merrimack Valley.
- Instead of the top card being turned over after the deal and determining trump, players bid based on the strength of their hand. Hence, in this version a player cannot rob the deck. Bidding is done before a trump suit is declared. Players can either pass or bid 20, 25, or 30 points (15 is used in some old-fashioned circles) based on how many points they think they can earn with their hand if they get to call the trump suit. Bidding goes in the same order as the deal (clockwise), each player (except the dealer) bidding five or ten points higher than any previous bid. The dealer can say "I hold", which means they steal the highest bid thus far. Any players who have bid may now raise their bid to a higher value or pass, always going clockwise around the table. This may continue until the dealer does not hold. The dealer may also pass and other players can still out-bid one another. Finally one player will win the bid. For example in a four-player team game, Player 1 (clockwise from the dealer) may bid 20, Player 2 may pass, Player 3 may bid 25, then the dealer holds. Player 1 may now bid 30 (thus Player 3 cannot bid again and the dealer can either hold again or give it to them) or may pass (thus Player 3 can either give it to the dealer for 25 or bid 30, which the dealer may either give to him or hold again). If the dealer had passed to begin with, Player 1 could either bid 30 or give it to Player 3. This is similar to the 110 rules described below. After a bidder who has bid 20 or 25 wins the bid, he may raise his bid to 30 before calling trump or picking up the kitty; the advantage of this is for 30 bonus points as described below.
- The player who wins the bid announces the trump suit. This player must have at least one trump card to call a given trump.
- After trump is called, the person who called trump adds the kitty to their hand. A common Richmond County variation is to look at the kitty before calling trump.
- In Cape Breton County, players may discard their hand and "go on the kitty". This means they can choose the trump only from the cards in the kitty. A variation on this (also used in Cape Breton County) is to even reject going on the kitty and instead "go on the top card". This means that a player discards the kitty and is dealt a single card which they must declare as trump.
- Players then discard any unwanted cards (usually non-trump suited cards except for the Ace of Hearts). Players do not need to keep one card in their hand ("four and a flip" is not used). The winning bidder may not keep more than five cards.
- In the same order as the original deal, the dealer replenishes each player's hand so that all players have five cards. Note that if a person needs four or five cards, they are dealt three cards the first time around and one or two (respectively) the second time around. Thus the dealer never deals more than three cards at a time.
- The person to the immediate left of the winning bidder plays first.
- If the bidder obtains or exceeds his bid his score increases by that amount, if he fails to reach his bid his score is reduced by the amount of the bid. The object for the players that did not win the bid, therefore, is to make as many points as possible while at the same time preventing the bidder from making their bid.
- Scores below zero are called "in the hole" or "in the box". A player cannot be removed from the game for having a score that is too low (i.e., there is hope for everyone...even the player at -80); the reason for this is due to the bonus points described below.
- The winner(s) of the game is the first player or couple to reach 120 points.
- Once a player or team reaches 100 points they must win the bid to receive points. The other players will go up or down but they will stay at the same score. They are locked in at that score unless they win the bid. Once they win the bid they will either win the game or go down depending on if they make the bid or not. This encourages the remaining players to bid against a player who is approaching 120, so that he will rarely be able to win the bid cheaply.
- A 30 bid is always called 30 for 60, which means that if the player or team gets all 30 points in the hand they get a bonus of an extra 30 points. If they do not win the bid they only go down 30 points. Thus a team at 65 points that bids 30 for 60 will either win the game or go down to 35 points.
- This game is usually played with four people in teams (couples), although it may also be played by two, three or five people. Three people play cut-throat (every player for himself/herself), whereas five play a cut-throat version called "Call Y'r Partner". In this version, bidding and discarding is done the same, except right before the first card is played, the winner of the bid calls for any card. The only card that he cannot "call for" is one that is higher than any card in his hand. Thus a player can never call for the "five of trump". A player usually calls for the next best card available, hence if he has the five and jack of trump he would say "I call for the Ace of Hearts", whereas if he has the jack of trump and Ace of Hearts he would say "I call for the Ace of trump". If a player wishes to go alone, he can either say "I'm not calling" or call for a card in his own hand (the latter is uncommon). When a card is called, the holder of that card becomes the caller's partner for a single round. The card that is called must be played on the first or second trick (even if the caller calls for something in his own hand) so that the caller quickly knows the identity of his partner. If after the second trick no one has played the card that was called, than the caller does not have a partner for this round. Partners gain and lose points together, so either both go down by the bid or up by a number of points equal to or higher than the bid. The remaining three players score as usual, noting that players at or above 100 must be the winner of the bid or the partner to score any points. The common way of playing is that both partners win the game if they both go over 120 at the same time, regardless of which partner has the highest score. Thus, it is sometimes advantageous for a partner to backstab (play against) the winner of the bid if he does not want him to go game (be the winner). After the scoring, partnerships are dissolved.
- Players must always follow the suit of the person who played before them, if possible, unless they play a trump.
- The leading card can only be bettered with a better card in the same suit or with a trump.
- Any trump suit card beats every non-trump suit card (except the Ace of Hearts, which will be explained below).
- The only time in which a player may choose not to follow trump suit is when the only trump card he has is the five or if he does not have any cards of the trump suit. A player might wish to save the most powerful card (the five of trump) if he believes that another player is saving another strong card, or until he believes the other trump cards have been exhausted so that he can have the advantage of leading the remaining tricks. The action of holding a card in this fashion is known as "reneging."
- Other variations allow the jack of trump and the Ace of Hearts to be similarly reneged, unless a better card has been led, or if you have a remaining card of the played suit.
- Points are added from round to round until a player or team reaches 120 and wins.
- Once a player has revealed his card to players, that card is deemed to be played.
The rank of cards depends on a number of factors. A basic way it is commonly thought of is "red is high, black is low."
- For red (hearts and diamonds) trump cards: 5 of suit, Jack of suit, Joker, Ace of Hearts (even if trump suit is diamonds), Ace of suit (if trump is diamonds, void if trump is Hearts), K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2 (all of suit)
- For black (spades and clubs) trump cards: 5 of suit, Jack of suit, Joker, Ace of Hearts, Ace of suit, K, Q, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
- When a non-trump suit is led, a trump suit will always beat it. If no trump card is thrown to beat it, the suit that is led is the only suit that can win the trick. However, the Ace of Hearts and Joker are always considered trump. The orders are as follows:
- Red non-trump: K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A (Ace only in Diamonds)
- Black non-trump: K, Q, J, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
- Teams: Two teams of two players (teammates play in alternating positions with the opposing team so that teammates are not next to each other) play and combine their scores. When the game is played without teams, it is referred to as cut-throat.
- Six players: Two teams of three are formed with alternating players being partners. Each player is dealt five cards initially. Then, three cards are dealt to each player (these cannot be viewed before making bids) and four cards to the kitty. Each player makes their bids using the initial five cards and after the winning bidder announces the trump suit, each player uses their initial hand and the second set of three cards to make the best five card hand. The four cards in the kitty goes to the winning bidder to aid in making his best five card hand. Tricks taken by teammates are combined when scoring at the end of a round.
- Twenty Five: No bonus is given for the bonus trick.
- 30-for-60: Without looking at ones cards one mus call 30-for60. It is the same as bidding 30 regularly but a player bidding 30-for-60 would get 60 points should they win all the tricks and drop 30 points (as normal) should they lose tricks.
- Slam: Basically the same as 30-for-60, but the player would get 120 points for winning all tricks and lose 60 if they fail to win all the tricks. A player may Slam at any time after looking at their five cards.
One-Hundred and Ten
One-Hundred and Ten (110) is similar to the Merrimack Valley variant of Forty-Fives. In it, an extra hand is dealt, face down, by the dealer into the centre of the table. No trump card is turned. Once all hands have been dealt the "bidding" begins with the player to the dealer's left, and proceeds in turn around the table. Each player must bid a minimum of fifteen points and five more points than the previous highest bidder, or pass. An exception to this rule is the dealer, who can appropriate (match) the highest bid and force the other players to either raise his bid or pass. Bidding continues to circulate around the table until all players have "passed" (i.e. the same player can bid, be raised, and raise again in turn).
When bidding has concluded the highest bidder declares which suit will be trumps. He then takes the hand dealt face down in the centre of the table and chooses his best five cards from the combination of the two hands. Meanwhile the remaining players are entitled to draw up to three cards from the deck, first discarding from their own hand. When all players have obtained their hand the winning bidder has the option of playing first or requiring the player to his left to play first. If a player has the Ace of trumps the player may turn over the cards remaining in the deck stub, one at a time, until a trump card is turned, then he may discard his weakest card in favour of the trump card, or choose not to.
A bonus of five points (bonus trick) is awarded to the player who plays the highest card during the course of the round, thus the maximum amount that can be bid or obtained in 30. If the bidder obtains or exceeds his bid his score increases by that amount, if he fails to reach his bid his score is reduced by the amount of the bid. All other players often co-operate (without collusion) to prevent the bidder from reaching his bid, though selfish interests can supersede this.
A player cannot progress beyond 105 unless he is the bidder. If a player wins tricks during another players bid, which would otherwise increase his score beyond 105, those scores do not count, nor are they assigned to any of the other players. This encourages the remaining players to bid against a player who is approaching one hundred and ten, so that he will rarely be able to win the bid cheaply. Scores can reduce below zero, it is common to set a cut off point (often minus 80) at which a player is removed from the game.
The first player to reach 110 wins the game.