Checks is a card game I have invented that is for two players. It is a card accumulating style game with a twist. In games such as Spades you are simply trying to take tricks, make your team's contract, and strategically avoid (or give) bags. However, in Checks the goals and objectives are a bit different. It's not only the quantity of "tricks" (the term simply means "piles" in this game) you take that matters, but also the quality too! In our exciting original card game, the game-play goes quickly and once you get the hang of it you won't want to stop playing. With a tense countdown finale at the end of the game, you will be sweating the outcome right down to the last "Check".
We'll now cover the basic rules of the game, with examples of how to play and some even some strategy tips along the way. If you take your time to work through the rules until you grasp the concepts explained here, playing the game will become second nature in no time. Let's get started!
The game begins with the dealer dealing out a game board as shown above. The players can draw high cards to determine who deals first or just agree between themselves. Regardless, the deal will change after each game with the winner becoming the dealer next time around. The dealer starts by dealing out one complete half-trick (this is just what I call a three-card pile) face-down first to their opponent, and then to themselves. This continues on, alternating dealing out three-card piles face-down from their left-to-right first to the opponent and then themselves until their are six half-tricks in front of each player as shown above.
Then the dealer proceeds to deal out, left-to-right as usual, six face-up cards between the half-trick stacks. These are the community cards the two players will be trying to win. These piles will also be added to during the course of the game, making them more and more attractive for either player to win. Once the dealer's done dealing out the hands you should have a game board that looks something like the one above. For demonstration purposes, we'll call the bottom row of half-tricks the Dealer's, and the top row will be called the Opponent's.
Now the players are ready to start a game. Both should pick up their first half-trick, which is the first three-card pile on their left (this is indicated above by "opponent start" and "dealer start"). These cards should be kept secret from the other player. Then the player opposite the dealer, here simply called the opponent, goes first and must make their play. As the game progresses you will both play out your half-tricks in one way or another and move onto the other half-tricks until all the cards in both hands are played out. But before we discuss how to continue from here, let's go over some details concerning the value of the cards and how "Checks" are won.
During the Game
The object of the game is to win the most "Checks" (cards) by "Point Matching" the upcards in the middle of the table and thereby winning them and any cards that happen to be beneath them. When you "Point Match" you not only win these upcards, but you also win the cards in your own hand. We'll go into more detail about this shortly, but first let's see how to determine your "Point Total".
Each hand the player holds at any give time has a specific "Point Total" that is easily arrived at. To determine the Point Total of your initial half-trick, you must simply add together all the cards in your hand. For example, you pick up your initial half-trick and it is K54. Using the Card Value chart above, we see that a King counts as zero and the 5 and 4 count as their face value. Therefore, your Point Total is 5+4+0, or 9. If it happens that when you add your cards together and they total ten or more, you just use the last digit of that total. For example, say your opponent has a half-trick of 589. They add up their card totals and arrive at 22. Using the last digit of that number, we see their Point Total for the half-trick is 2. This applies to all hands totalling over ten. Again,the last digit determines the Point Total. Here's an important rule to keep in mind:
You must count all the cards currently in your hand to arrive at your current Point Total. You may not just add one or two cards together when you hold more than that number of cards in your hand. If you have three cards left, your Point Total combines all three cards, and with two cards left in your hand the Point Total combines both cards. One card left in a hand of course just totals its own value as listed above.
Let's use the last example hand from above, 589, to show how to score some Checks! Your opponent adds up his hand and arrives at a "Point Total" of 2 as above. They then look down at the face-up community cards between the two players and notice that there is a two there, the 2. They can now, at their option, "Cash Their Checks". When a player "Cashes", they are claiming not only the upcard they have "Point Matched" (in this case your 2 Point Total matches the 2 Upcard), but also any cards found below it as well as any cards left in their own hand. Remember though, a player does not have to Cash just because they can. It is at their option. As we will see, sometimes it is more beneficial to wait at certain times in the game. But let's just say that your opponent wants to Cash right now.
To do so, they would turn their card pile over face-up to show that the Point Total is a valid match to the targeted face-up community card (make sure to watch some opponents closely, especially those who are poor at math) so that they can claim their Checks (cards). Once the Point Total of the hand is shown to indeed match the upcard, the player then scoops up the upcard and any other cards that happen to be under it (more on how this will occur below) and places them in a pile to the side along with all the cards in their initial hand. In this case, your opponent would show you their hand, 589, pick up the 2 and place it, along with all of their hand (the 5,8 and 9) into a pile off to the side of the table. They have just Cashed and would have a pile of four Checks. It then becomes the next players turn to make a play. This goes back and forth until the game is over. Here's another important rule to also remember:
Once cards are Cashed, they cannot be returned into play. They stay in your Checks pile until the game is finished and it is time to count them up and determine the winner. DO NOT return these cards into play!
It will happen often that you will total up your three-card half-trick and won't be able to find a Point Match with any of the community board upcards. Since you cannot just "Pass" (you can't skip your turn), you must make a play. The requirement here is that you have to play one card, any card you choose, from your hand face-up onto any of the upcards already in the middle of the board. Wherever you choose to play your card, it then becomes the new upcard for that pile for both players to play for. Let's use the Dealers example hand from above to illustrate this principle.
Your hand is K54 and it's your turn to play (for demonstration purposes). The Point Total for your hand is 9, but alas there are no Nines face-up on the board. Now what? You must choose one card (and not more than one) from your hand (but this can be any of the three cards you're holding now) and play it face-up onto any of the face-up cards currently out there. So you would have to choose between your King, Five or Four and place one of them face-up onto either the Ace-Five-Queen-Deuce-King or Seven (since they are the current community upcards on the board). So if you chose to play your King onto the Ace upcard as your play, the King would then be the new upcard for the pile with the Ace being below it. Your turn would then be over, and your opponent would begin theirs again, and so on. If someone can now win this King-headed community pile with a Zero Point Total, they would not only win the Cards in their hand plus the King, you'd also win the Ace since it was in the same pile.
But when a player has had to play a card out from their half-trick like this, on their next turn they will have a new Point Total to play with. They will now simply add their two remaining cards together to get their new point total. Let's say you chose to play the 5 (from the K-5-4 example hand above) onto one of the upcards. On your next turn, your new Point Total would be 4 (K+4=4). You can now use that total to claim any "4" headed community upcard piles that may have been created by the other player if you wish, etc. If you get down to just one card in your hands, then that card is your current Point Total. For example, say you've had to play out two cards over the last two turns and you just have an Ace left. Your Point Total for the turn would be 1, since that is what an Ace is worth, etc.
The same rules apply as above concerning two-card totals that add up to ten or more. Just use the last digit to determine the Point Total. Also, whenever you have played out a card from your hand onto an upcard in the middle of the board, that card now becomes the new upcard for the stack and for both players. Since you can each play out any card you like to any stack, some stacks can be built up very high over the course of the game and some can remain only one-card stacks. This is all part of the strategy of the game and can make certain stacks full of "Checks" and therefore very attractive to try and win!
Now you might be wondering about what to do with all those other cards you have face-down in front of you. When you have Cashed your cards as above, you will no longer have any cards left in your current hand to play with. This can also happen if you choose not to (or just cannot) Cash and have to play out one, two or all three of your cards onto the upcards in the middle of the board. At this point, once you have played or Cashed out all the cards in your current hand, you can now pick up the next half-trick (from the left) in your row and begin to make a play next turn using the new cards.
The reasons playing out cards (instead of using them to win checks) may become disadventageous are pretty clear. You are putting your own potential Checks into play, and the opponent may then be able to win them, adding to their total Checks. That's not always good! Regardless, you will sometimes have no choice and will have to play out a card and hope you can win it back to put in your own pile of Checks.
Whenever a player Cashes, they will be taking up all the board upcards from the appropriate pile on the board as well as any cards they hold in their own hand at that moment. At this point, the player removing (cashing) any community card stacks from the up-card board will be required to immediately fill the newly emptied space on the community board. The player that removes any cards from the center of the board (the community upcards in play) must then turn the next card over from the deck and place it into the newly open slot so that there will be six community upcards on the board again. The next player can then begin their turn.
This holds true for both players, until there are no cards left in the deck to be turned over. If the deck runs out of cards, then the turn simply passes to the next player if they still have any cards left to play, and continues to alternate back and forth as usual. A player DOES NOT play any of the cards from their hand to fill an empty spot on the board! Once the deck has been exhausted, the remaining upcards are the only ones that can be used (you can't create more upcards from a hand, only the deck).
The gameplay goes on as above until both players have played or Cashed out all their cards. If one player finishes up while the other still has several cards, the player with cards remaining must continue making legal plays in succession until they have played or Cashed out the rest of their cards also, even if this just means they have to play out their remaining cards one-by-one until they don't have any left. At this point, it is time to count up the Total Checks each player has won and declare a winner.
As stated in the card value chart above, once cards are Cashed they will all simply be counted as "one" when it comes time to total up the Checks (regardless of what the cards were previously valued at). This means that even though your stack of accumulated Checks will contain all sorts of face-value, zero value and one value cards, once they become "Checks" they are all just counted as "ones".
The dealer should count out their Checks first. Placing the Checks they have won down one-by-one, they count out the total so both players know how many Checks they have accumulated. For example, if they have 24 cards in their stack, they count them out and score 24 points (one for each Check). Then their opponent does the same. Whoever has collected the most Checks wins. If there happens to be a tie, then the game is unfortunately declared a draw (this shouldn't usually happen). The winner of the game then becomes the dealer (even if they were just the dealer last game), the board is re-dealt and a new game is started.
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