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Spoil Five
Card Game Rules

Spoil Five is a plain trick taking game of Gaelic origin now over 400 years old. Often described as the national card game of Ireland, it is played widely there in pubs and homes. Spoil Five is characterized by a number of peculiarities. The Ace of Hearts is always the 3rd highest trump, and the black suits rank in reverse to the red suits as explained below. Spoil Five can be played by as few as two and as many as ten players but is usually played by five. The objective is either to win three of the five tricks or to prevent anyone else from doing so, thus spoiling their �game�.

The Cards

Standard deck of 52 cards. One of the distinguishing characteristics of games of the Spoil Five family is that that red suits rank differently to black suits and the A♥ is always the third highest trump, regardless of the trump suit. In each deal, one suit will be chosen as trumps. The rank of cards is different depending on the colour of the suit and whether it is trumps:

Therefore, in plain suits, cards rank:
♥ ♦ � K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, [A]
♠ ♣ � K, Q, J, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

And in the trump suit, cards rank:
♥ ♦ � 5, J, A♥, [A], K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2
♠ ♣ � 5, J, A♥, A, K, Q, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

The Pool

At each deal, each player puts up two counters to the pool, and for the privilege, the Dealer puts in a little more to tilt the pot.

The Deal

Deal and play are clockwise, and the deal proceeds to the left at the end of every hand. The dealer shuffles, and the last to cut should be the player to the dealer�s right. Beginning left of the dealer, each player is dealt five cards in batches of two and three. The next card is turned face up on top of the deck and establishes trumps. If any player holds the Ace of trumps, he/she may take the upturned card to his/her own hand. The player does this by saying �Rob�, and then discards an unwanted card from their own hand, face down beside the deck. The player then takes up the upturned card as play commences with the first lead. If it so happens that the Dealer turned the Ace, he/she may take it up by the same procedure. However, if you intend to take the upturned card, you must announce it before the lead to the first trick.


The objective is to win three of the five tricks, and thus win the pool. If you can�t do this, then your objective is to prevent anyone else from winning three tricks, in which case the pool is carried forward to the next hand and increases.

The Play

Left of the dealer leads first and thereafter the winner of the trick leads to the next.

The Rules

These Non-Standard Trick taking rules apply:

  • If trumps are led, then you must follow suit with a trump, if you can, unless the only trump you hold is one of the top three trumps � 5 , J or A♥, and the lead is lower than the one you hold. If the lead is higher � say a 5 and you hold the Jack � then you must follow with a trump. If you hold any lower trumps, then you must follow suit.
  • If a plain suit is led, and you can follow suit, then you may either do so or play a trump, whichever is preferred, but you may not discard from another plain suit.
  • 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.


If you have won the first three tricks, you may face your hand and claim the pool, thereby ending the hand. However, if you have won the first three tricks and you lead to the forth, you are undertaking to win all five tricks. This is called �jinking�. If successful, you win the pot, and the amount of your initial stake from each player. If you fail, you lose your claim on the pool and it carries forward to the next deal.


If the pool is won, then each player puts up a stake of two counters at the start of the next deal. If the pool is carried forward, each player puts in just one counter. The Dealer, however, still puts in the agreed sum to tilt the pot.


David Parlett (© 2012): Maw Spoil Five; Rules and Historical Background
Card Games Website: Twenty Five; Fifty Five; One Hundred & Ten
Card Game Tutorials - Spoil Five

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