Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pepper is four or six player game which is similar to Euchre but adds the excitment of bidding for tricks. It has been passed down from generation to generation and many different varations of the game have developed. This version of the game is popular from Tillsonburg to Restoule.

Rules of Pepper (Four Players)

Setting up

You will need two decks of playing cards. Only the Ace, Kings, Queens, and Jacks are separated to form a 32 card deck. (There are two cards of each rank for all four suits) Alternatively, you can purchase a Pinochle deck which contains two cards of each rank from nine to Ace instead of buying two regular decks.

Some of the basics include:
  • The deal rotates clockwise for every hand. 
  • Eight cards are dealt to each player.
  • The four players form two teams. In six-handed, the six players also form two teams of three people.
  • The partners in the teams sit across from each other at the card table. For six-handed a longer table is needed so four people can sit along the length of the table with the other two players sitting at the ends.

When a suit is named trump, any card of that suit outranks any card of a non-trump suit. The highest-ranking card in pepper is the Jack of the trump suit (called 'The Right Bower' or 'Right') then the other Jack of the same color (the "next" suit), (called 'The Left Bower' or 'Left'). The cards are ranked, in descending order, J (of trump suit) J (same color as trump suit) A, K, Q, 10, and 9.
The remaining cards rank in the usual order (the jacks are not "special") and the cards of those suits rank from high to low as A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9.
Assume a hand is dealt and that spades are named as trump. In this event, the trump cards are as follows, from highest-ranking to lowest:

Jack of spades (right bower)
Jack of spades (right bower)
Jack of clubs (left bower)
Jack of clubs (left bower)
Ace of spades
Ace of spades
King of spades
King of spades
Queen of spades
Queen of spades

In the case of no-trump, there are no bowers or trump, so aces are high.


Players bid in Pepper. A bid consist of a number of tricks and a suit or no-trump (e.g. five hearts, three no-trump). In the case of no-trump, there is no trump and there are no bowers, so aces become the high card. When a team wins the bid, they must take that number of tricks or more to successfully win the hand. In the case a team does not take the number of tricks they bid, the number of tricks they bid is deducted from their score.

After the deal, the first person to the left of the dealer has the opportunity to make the first bid or pass. The minimum bid is three tricks. Each subsequent bidder must bid higher or pass. When a bidder feels they can take all the tricks, they may bid a pepper. A pepper bid is played without the help of the player's partners. A player may swap one of his cards for one of his partner's cards. This type of pepper is worth 12 points. A pepper bid without a card from your partner is worth 18 points. Subsequent players may still bid over a pepper by declaring a double pepper. A double pepper is exactly the same as a pepper, but the points are doubled (24 points). A triple pepper is very rare and is worth 36 points. A quadruple pepper is theoretically possible (I have never seen one) and is worth 48 points. In the event that the first pepper is bid without a card from his or her partner, any double, triple or quadruple pepper would also need to be done without a card. The points would be 18 for a pepper without cards, 36 for a double pepper without cards, 54 for a triple pepper without cards and 72 for a quadruple pepper without cards. For an unsuccessful pepper the point value for the hand is deducted from the teams' score.

Playing and Winning Tricks

The player who wins the bid begins play by leading a card. Play continues in clockwise order; each player must follow suit if they have a card of the suit led. The left bower is considered a member of the trump suit and not a member of its native suit.

The player who played the highest trump wins the trick. In the case where two identical cards are played on the same hand, the first one laid wins the trick.  If no trump were played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. Players who play neither the suit led nor trump cannot win the trick. The player that won the trick collects the played cards from the table and then leads the next trick.
After all eight tricks have been played, the hand is scored.


Each team begins at zero. The first team to successfully complete a bid that takes the team to 42 or higher wins the game. Once a team reaches 42, they no longer collect points. They must stay there until they successfully make a bid, or lose a bid and go back by that number of tricks. The "back door" is negative 13, or 13 in the hole. Once a team reaches the back door, they lose the game.

Teams recieve one point for every trick they make regardless of whether they made the bid or not. The only time a team does not recieve points for the tricks they take is when they make a bid and do not get the number of tricks required. In this case the number of tricks bid is deducted from their score.

Six-Handed Pepper:

  • In six-handed pepper, nines and tens are added to the deck to give a total of 48 cards.
  • There are two teams with three people on each team.
  • When a pepper bid is made, two cards may be swapped with partners (one from each partner)