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Pepper
card game rules

Pepper is a plain trick taking game closely related to Euchre. It is played widely in Ohio and Iowa, U.S.A. The game is thought to have derived from an older German game, Hasenpfeffer which means, “peppered hare”, and therefore the short name ‘Pepper’. Like all games of the Euchre group, the Jacks hold the special position of Bowers, and are elevated in rank above the Aces depending on the trump suit called. Pepper also allows for a call of ‘no-trumps’.

Pepper is suitable for two, three and four players. As it will be explained here, Pepper is a plain trick taking game for four players in two fixed partnerships. Partners sit opposite each other.

The Cards

Take a standard deck of English playing cards and remove all the cards 8’s and down. This will give you a deck of 24 cards; A, K, Q, J, 10, 9 in each suit.

Cards Rank

In any off-suit, cards rank:
A, K, Q, [J], 10, 9
And in the trump suit, cards rank:
J, J*, A, K, Q, 10, 9
where ‘J*’ is the “left bower”, the other Jack the same colour as the trump suit. Thus, if Hearts were trumps, for example, then the Jacks of Hearts would be the Right Bower, the highest ranking trump, and the Jack of Diamonds the Left Bower, the second highest trump, and then the Ace, King, Queen, Ten and Nine.

The Deal

Deal and play are clockwise, and the deal proceeds to the left at the end of each hand. Each player is dealt 6 cards, one at a time face down.

Bidding

Beginning with the player to the Dealer’s left, each player takes it in turn to either bid or pass. If the player bids, he/she announces the number of tricks he/she thinks they can win in combination with their partner, but does not indicate a suit. The possible bids number from one to five, and above that is also a bid to take all 6 tricks – a Little Pepper, and the highest bid of all – Big Pepper, which is a bid to take all 6 tricks with the stakes doubled.

Each bid must be higher than the one before. If a player passes, he/she cannot re-enter the bidding process. The auction continues for as many rounds as necessary until three players have passed. The highest bidder wins the auction and becomes the Maker. He/she names the trump suit and play begins. Pepper can also be played at ‘no-trumps’, in which case cards rank A, K, Q, J, 10 and 9.

The Play

Regardless of who dealt, the Maker leads first, and thereafter the winner of the trick leads to the next.

The Rules

Standard trick taking rules apply:

  • You must follow suit to the card led, if possible
  • If you can’t follow suit, you can play any card
  • The trick is won by the highest trump played to it. If no trumps are played, then the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led.

Outcome

If the Makers fulfill their contract by winning as many tricks as were bid, they score 1 point for each trick won. If they fail to make their contract they are set back 6 points, regardless of how many tricks they were supposed to win. A ‘Big Pepper’ bid pays 12 points to its Makers, if they are successful, and sets them back 12 points if they fail. The opponents score 1 point for each trick they take, regardless.

Game

Pepper is played over several hands to a grand total of 30 points. If both teams are over 30 points at the end of the hand, then the team with the higher score wins.

Variations – Pepper for two or three players

For the three player variation, a deck of 24 cards is used. Each player is dealt eight cards. Possible bids are from one to seven, a ‘Little Pepper’ of eight, and a ‘Big Pepper’ of eight. Like the standard version, stakes in the Big Pepper are doubled, with the maker either gaining 16 points for success, or losing 16 points for failure.

For the two player variation, a deck of 24 cards is used. Three hands of eight cards are dealt out between the two players, with one of the hands acting as a dummy. This hand remains face down during the play.

Other Variations of Euchre

Euchre – The Standard Rules
RailRoad Euchre – Four players in two fixed partnerships. Greater emphasis is place on going alone, so the scoring moves a lot faster.
Buck Euchre – a variation for four players where each player plays for themselves.
Call Ace Euchre – a variation for five players where each player plays for themselves.


L I N K S

Euchre Fun - Bid Euchre Pepper Card Game Rules
The Card Games Website - Pepper: Description by Jon Melton



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