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Gambling: Skat

Skat was first played in 1811 at Altenburg, Germany, and in 1886 a group of players convened in the same city to codify a set of rules and regulations for the game. The American Skat league was organized in St. Louis, MO, in 1898, and since the time of its founding the organization has sponsored numerous championship tournaments in the United States.

Ten cards are dealt to each of the three active players, and two cards are dealt face down in the center of the table to comprise the skat. A hand may be played either as a trump declaration in which the player tries to take point cards totaling 61 points or as a nullo hand in which a player declares that he will take no tricks.

No matter what suit is named in a trump declaration, all jacks (called bowers in Skat) become the highest trump cards, giving the trump suit eleven cards and the others seven. The club jack is high, followed by the spade, heart, and diamond jacks in that order. Below the bowers, the trumps rank ace, ten, king, queen, nine, eight, and seven, which is also the rank of cards in the three other suits. But if a nullo bid is declared, there is no trump suit, and the cards rank in the normal order: ace (high), king, queen, jack, ten, nine, and so on.

In bidding, a player calls out numbers that represent the various potential scores in his hand. No suit is revealed, although each player who is contemplating a trump declaration bids with some suit in mind. Each suit has a unit value (clubs, twelve; spades, eleven; hearts, ten; diamonds, nine) that is multiplied by the number of consecutive top trumps held in hand plus one to determine a player's maximum bid.

For example, if a player held the jack of clubs and the jack of spades, his maximum bid in clubs would be 36. When a player does not have the highest trumps in his hand, his maximum bid is determined by multiplying the number of trump cards above his highest trump, plus one times the unit value of the suit.

Say, if a player wanted to name spades as the trump and held no trump cards above the spade ace, he would be without the four top trumps and would multiply five times eleven (the unit value of spades) to determine that his highest bid was 55. Instead of all players bidding consecutively around the table, only two players bid at a time. The holder of the second hand dealt bids to the holder of the first hand by naming some potential score in his own hand.

The player to whom the bid is made has two options: either he consents to meet a similar bid himself, or passes. A consenting bidder makes a higher bid, and the process is continued until the bidder is unwilling to make a higher bid, or the receiver passes.