How to play Twenty-Five: The Irish Card Game

How to play Twenty-Five: The Irish Card Game

Twenty-Five, affectionately known as the national card game of Ireland, captivates players with its swift gameplay and blend of luck and skill. Suitable for a cozy gathering at home or a lively game in rural pubs, it accommodates 2 to 10 players, making it versatile for various group sizes. Though its card rankings may initially appear complex, they quickly become intuitive with a bit of practice. Alongside the traditional game, variations such as 55, 110, or 220 introduce bidding elements, catering to players seeking additional challenges.

Understanding Twenty-Five

At its core, Twenty-Five is a modern iteration of historical games like Maw and Spoil Five, stripped of bidding complexities. It’s most engaging with 5 players, but there are options for pair or team play, ensuring flexibility in how the game unfolds.

Object of the Game

The goal is straightforward: be the first player or team to amass twenty-five points, with each trick won contributing five points. To a bridge player might seem like it would lead to a quick end – but Twenty-five deals only 5 cards per hand. Typically, achieving this objective of the game spans multiple deals.

Ranking Order of the Cards

Played with a standard 52-card deck, Twenty-Five’s unique twist lies in its card rankings, which vary based on suit color and whether a suit is designated as trumps. Key points include:

  • Trump Suit Rankings: Differ by suit, with the five of trumps reigning supreme, followed by the jack of trumps, and the ace of hearts always acting as a trump, irrespective of the designated trump suit. So in order of value:
  • Non-Trump Suit Rankings: Led by the king, followed by the queen, jack, and numeral cards, with a notable twist: high cards dominate in red suits, while low cards lead in black suits. The Ace behaves differently in some suits.

Here’s a good summary from Pagat Game Rules to help you keep track!

Trump suit:

  • Hearts: heart5, heartJ, heartA, heartK, heartQ, heart10, heart9, heart8, heart7, heart6, heart4, heart3, heart2
  • Diamonds: diamond5, diamondJ, heartA, diamondA, diamondK, diamondQ, diamond10, diamond9, diamond8, diamond7, diamond6, diamond4, diamond3, diamond2
  • Clubs: club5, clubJ, heartA, clubA, clubK, clubQ, club2, club3, club4, club6, club7, club8, club9, club10
  • Spades: spade5, spadeJ, heartA, spadeA, spadeK, spadeQ, spade2, spade3, spade4, spade6, spade7, spade8, spade9, spade10

Non-trump suit:

  • Hearts: heartK, heartQ, heartJ, heart10, heart9, heart8, heart7, heart6, heart5, heart4, heart3, heart2
  • Diamonds: diamondK, diamondQ, diamondJ, diamond10, diamond9, diamond8, diamond7, diamond6, diamond5, diamond4, diamond3, diamond2, diamondA
  • Clubs: clubK, clubQ, clubJ, clubA, club2, club3, club4, club5, club6, club7, club8, club9, club10
  • Spades: spadeK, spadeQ, spadeJ, spadeA, spade2, spade3, spade4, spade5, spade6, spade7, spade8, spade9, spade10

To summarise:

The highest trump is always the five of the trump suit.

The second highest trump is always the jack of the trump suit.

The third highest trump is always the ace of hearts, no matter what the trump suit is.

If the trump suit is not hearts, the fourth highest trump is the ace.

After the ace of trumps follow the King, Queen and numeral cards.

In a suit that is not trumps, the highest card is the King, followed by the Queen, Jack and numeral cards.

Among the numeral cards, the highest cards are best in the red suits, but the lowest cards are best in the black suits: players remember this as “highest in red, lowest in black”.

The ace of hearts is always a trump. The other aces, when their suit is not trumps, count as ordinary ones. Therefore the ace of diamonds is the lowest card of its suit when diamonds are not trumps. The black aces, when not trumps, rank between the jack and the two.

This system emphasizes strategic play, as players must adapt to the changing values of cards based on the trump suit. If I were playing this game for the first time, I’d totally have a ‘cheat sheet’ on hand.

Deal and Robbing

The deal is simple: the dealer shuffles, allows a cut, then distributes five cards to each player. The next card determines the trump suit for that hand. A unique element is “robbing” the trump: if you hold the ace of trumps, you may swap it with the revealed trump card, subtly influencing the game’s dynamics.

Gameplay Mechanics

The lead passes to the dealer’s left, with each trick’s winner setting the stage for the next. Players must follow suit or trump if unable; however, the game allows for strategic choices, such as electing not to trump even when able. The top three trumps enjoy a special privilege, adding a layer of complexity to decision-making during play.

Scoring

Scoring in Twenty-Five is straightforward: each trick won equals five points. The game concludes once a player or team reaches the twenty-five-point threshold, potentially ending mid-deal. This scoring system adds a brisk pace to gameplay, ensuring that each hand can dramatically alter the game’s outcome.

Help from the Internet

As with most card games these days, you can find many resources on the internet

Watch on You Tube – How to Play Twenty-five

Apple Store –  Play 25 Online

Complete rules and variations – Pagat card Game Rules

Twenty-Five is a game of  strategy and adaptable gameplay. Whether you’re gathering for a casual game night or seeking a competitive card game experience, Twenty-Five offers a unique blend of traditional card game elements with distinctive twists. Embrace the challenge, master the rankings, and join the ranks of Twenty-Five enthusiasts across Ireland and beyond.

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