Gambling during Elizabethan was a normal pastime. Included here is a compilation of a number of card games that were played during the time period in question. If you are interested in a source for Elizabethan era playing cards contact me.

 Another source for card games is at the link maintained by John McLeod.

Games for Individual Players


This card game is reported to be Gaelic in origin. Supposedly it was a favorite of James VI of Scotland. The earliest record of the game comes from Ireland in 1551. The earliest rules are from Scotland, 1576.

 Two to ten players may enter the game. All players bet an even amount to enter. The object of the game is to win either three or five tricks or to prevent another player from doing so. The winner of three tricks wins the pot. If there is no winner, another bet is wagered and added to the pot before the next hand. If a player wins the first three tricks they automatically win the pot. If they play to the forth trick they must win the rest of the tricks to win the pot. In this case normally the players must put in extra money. If the player does not take the final two tricks they are penalized. Normally by matching the pot.

 To start play, each player is dealt five cards from a normal 52 card deck. The top card of the remaining is turned up to determine trump. The cards in the trump suit rank five, then jack, then ace of hearts regardless of the trump suit. Then ace of trump (if not hearts), king and queen. Now, depending on the color of the trump suit the remaining cards will be ranked different. For red they are ranked 10 down to 2 and for black they are ranked 2 to 10. Non trump cards are similarly ranked.

 Play commences with the person to the dealers left. This person plays a card and all the other players take turns playing a card of the same suit if they have it. If they do not have the suit they may play a trump. If no trump then any card. They need not play the 5 & jack of trump or the ace of hearts if they do not desire. Lesser trump must be played if the player is void in a suit.

 At times the rules will change slightly. All changed rules must be stated by the dealer before dealing and betting commences.

One & Thirty

this card game dates back to at least 1440.  During that year Bernadine of Sienne mentioned the game in an anti-gaming sermon.  This is one of a number of games dating from the 15th to the 17th Centuries that are ancestors to modern Blackjack.  The game was popular in both Spain and Ireland.

The game is for two or more players.  Each player is dealt three cards, face down.  The dealer starts the deal to the player on his left.  Starting with the eldest hand (the player to the left of the dealer), a card may be discarded face up by each player.  It is replaced by the top card on the deck or the previous card on the discard pile.  The player that comes closest to 31 with three cards in the same suit is the winner.  Play continues by discarding one card at a time until a player knocks twice on the table.  After the knock the players get one last discard.  The hands are then shown and the hand closest to 31 wins.  A player who hits 31 exactly wins automatically and does not have to wait for the knock or make a knock.  Ties are redealt.

Scoring is as follows: aces are 11, face cards are 10 and the rest are their face value.  A three of a kind (different suits) is worth 30 & 1/2 points.


This game was first mentioned in "The World of Wordes" by Florio in 1611.  Like One & Thirty it is an ancestor to Blackjack.  Up to 8 players may play.  The dealer deals three cards to each player.  The first two cards are face down and the third face up.  It must be noted that the cards are dealt three at a time and not one to each player in order to make three.  The play is made in two parts.

Part One - The Bone: The player with the highest face up card wins the bone.  The bone is one coin or the previously agreed upon wager for the bone paid by each other player.  In the case of a tie the player with the elder hand wins.  Aces are high and the Ace of Diamonds or Bone Ace wins all.

Part Two: The player with the hand closest to 31 without going over wins.  Aces are eleven points, face cards 10 and the other cards have their face value.

Team Games

Ruff and Honors

This game was first mentioned in 1522 by Bernadine of Sienna in a sermon as "ye Tryumphe." It was actually two slightly different games. In Ruff, 52 cards are used, with 12 cards being dealt to each player. The top card of the remaining four is turned over to determine the trump suit. In Honors, 48 cards are used. All of the twos are discarded. The final card dealt to the dealer is turned over to determine trump.

 The two games are played in a similar fashion. Play proceeds until nine points are scored by a team. Four players play the game. After the cards are dealt and trump is determined, the player with the ace of trump declares "I have the honor" and then asks her/his partner "Have ye?" If the team has three of the four honor cards (ace, king, queen, jack) they score one point. If they have all four they score 2 points.

 Play begins with the person to the dealers left. The player leads a card and all other players follow suit if possible. A player who cannot follow suit may play any card. The trick is won by the highest played card (trump or highest played in suit lead).

 The winner of each trick leads the next. Scoring for tricks taken is one point for every trick taken over six tricks. At least two hands must be played to win the game since the most points that may be scored in a single hand are 8.