Definitions

crawls on all fours

All-Fours

All-Fours is a card game known in America as Old Sledge, or Seven Up. It is usually played by two players, although there is a 4 player variant, with the full pack of fifty-two cards, which rank in play as at Whist, the ace being the highest, and the two the lowest. The game is to seven points with two players and 14 points when played with four players.

The game is very popular in Blackburn, in Lancashire, England, where it is traditionally played in pubs . Even at the present time it is still organised into pub teams who play on Sunday nights. Nobody is quite sure how long this game has been played in Blackburn, but it has been a fixture in pubs there for a long time.

The English folk-song "A Game of Cards" makes sexual innuendo out of a game of all-fours. The song has been recorded by Maddy Prior and June Tabor on their 1976 Silly Sisters album, and by Kate Rusby on her 2005 The Girl Who Couldn't Fly album.

The game has also been exported to the island nation of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, where the four player variant is considered the de-facto "National" card game.

There are four different items which count towards the score, whence the name All-Fours. Such items are as follows:

High.--The highest trump out, scoring one to the original holder.

Low.--The lowest trump out, scoring one to the original holder.

Jack.--The knave of trumps, scoring three to the dealer, if turned up; if otherwise, one to the winner of the trick to which it falls. If the knave of trumps is taken by the team which has not played it, 3 points are accrued instead of one. In Trinidad, this is termed "Hang jack" The jack of trumps is not always available in every game.

Game.--Scoring one to the ultimate holder of the more valuable cards in the tricks won by him, according to the following scale:

  • For each ten (trump or otherwise) 10
  • For each ace 4
  • For each king 3
  • For each queen 2
  • For each knave 1

In the case of the players being equal in this particular, or of neither party holding any card which counts towards Game, the elder hand scores the point.

Method of Playing

The players cut for deal, the highest card having the preference. (This is the old-fashioned rule, but at the present day the Whist rule of "lowest card deals" is frequently followed.) The dealer gives six cards to each, turning up the thirteenth as trump, (with four players this is the 25th card). If the elder hand is dissatisfied with his cards, he may say, "I beg," in which case the dealer is bound either to allow him (by the phrase, "Take one") to score one point, or to give each player three more cards from the pack, turning up that next following by way of fresh trump card. If this should be of the same suit as the original trump, the dealer is bound to give three more cards to each, again turning up the seventh, until a new suit does actually turn up. If the turn-up card is a knave (jack), the dealer scores three. If an ace is turned the dealer scores one, if a 6, the dealer scores two pints. If, by reason of the elder hand "begging," there is a further deal, and the dealer a second time turns up a knave, he again scores three. The elder hand leads any card he pleases. His antagonist must follow suit or trump, his right to do the latter not being affected by his holding cards of the suit led. If, however, having a card of the suit led, he neither follows suit nor trumps, he becomes liable to the penalty of a revoke.

The player of the highest card of the suit led, or a trump, wins the trick, which is turned down as at Whist, and the hand progresses through the six tricks. In scoring, the order of precedence is (1) High, (2) Low, (3) Jack, (4) Game; subject, as we have seen, to the contingency of "Jack" having been the turn-up card, the point for this being scored before the hand is played.

The play is mainly directed toward capturing the Jack, and such cards as may score towards Game.

Some players score a point whenever the adversary does not follow suit or trump. Some, again, make it the rule that each player must count his score without looking at his tricks, under penalty of losing one or more points, as may be agreed, in the event of a miscalculation.

Historically, the lowest court playing card was termed the "knave", not the "Jack". However, due to the influence of the All-fours game, the knaves were increasingly referred to as "Jacks". When indices were added to playing cards, the lowest court card was abbreviated as "J" (Jack) in Anglo-American cards because "Kn" (Knave) was too similar to "K" (King), and from then on the lowest court card in such decks has been referred to as the "Jack". Historically, All-Fours was a card game played by the lower classes, and thus even the term "Jack" was at one time considered vulgar.

Other meanings

  • The expression on "all fours" sometimes refers to a crouched position of being on hands and knees, or bending down to touch the floor or ground with both hands while still standing (also see Adho Mukha Svanasana).

See also

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