Original Card Games by David Parlett



Making a silk purse of a pig's ear (or vice versa)

Players 4 (version for 3)   Cards 52   Type Point-tricks
Traditionally, any trick you win in a card game belongs to you alone, whether you want it or not. But what would happen if you could exercise a strategic decision to give it to someone else - your partner, say, or even an opponent? This question resulted in Tantony, one of my earliest games (it appeared in the 1977 book) and I still find it challenging to play successfully. As to the title, bestowed on it by Paul Chown, "Tantony" is a corruption of "St Anthony", the patron saint of swineherds, who is usually depicted as accompanied by a pig. A "Tantony pig" is a runt - that is, the smallest one of a litter.
Four, in fixed partnerships. There is also a "split partnership" version where you each play for yourself in the long run, and an adaptation for three players.
52, ranking AKQJ1098765432 in each suit.
A game is four deals, but only the first of them is actually dealt to. At the end of each hand, each player finishes up with 13 cards won in tricks, and uses them to play to the next hand. Very thorough shuffling is essential before the first deal. Whoever cuts the lowest card starts the game by dealing 13 cards to each player, in ones.
To win the highest value of scoring cards in the tricks you take for yourself or are given by somebody else.
Dealer's left-hand opponent leads to the first of 13 tricks played at no trump. You must follow suit if you can, but may play any card if you can't. The trick is taken by the highest card of the suit led (called the sow, or, if nobody follows suit, the hog). The scoring value of a trick is the value of the lowest card it contains of the suit led (the runt). For this purpose numerals Two to Ten count at face value, followed by Jack = 15, Queen = 20, King = 25, Ace = 30.
Annie leads spade 6, Benny plays spade 10, Connie spade Queen, Denny spade 2. Denny's Two is the runt and Connie's "sow Queen" wins a trick worth 2 points. If no one had been able to follow suit to Annie's lead, her Six would have been a hog and she would have won a trick worth 6. In Tantony, therefore, the grand coup is to lead a hog Ace for a trick worth 30.
Placing the trick
When you win a trick, you don't necessarily keep it. What you actually win is the right to either keep it yourself or give it to somebody else. Usually, you will want to keep a high-counting trick yourself or give it to your partner, and foist a low-counting trick on an opponent. The only restriction on your choice is that during the course of the hand each player must win or be given exactly three tricks. Therefore you cannot give it to anyone (including yourself) who already has their quota of three.
Getting a trick
When you get a trick, whether by winning it yourself or being given it by another player, you square it up and place it face up in front of you with the runt (the lowest card of the suit led) on top to indicate its scoring value. You then lead to the next trick, even if the trick you got was won by somebody else and given to you. Won tricks must be left squared up and undisturbed for the rest of the game. No one may examine a trick to see which cards have been played to it other than the one on top.
Last trick
When twelve tricks have been played and placed, everyone will have one card left for the thirteenth. Whoever won or was given the twelfth trick leads as usual, but everyone plays their last card face up on the table before them, not all together in the middle. Whoever plays the highest card of the suit led exchanges it for the lowest card of the suit led - unless, of course, nobody follows suit, in which case the highest is also the runt. The runt is left face up in front of its winner, and will count towards the winner's score, and and the others are turned face down.
Each partnership scores the total point-value of all their runts (faced cards). One side will have six of these and the other seven including the runt of the last trick, known as the Tantony card.
With scoring completed, everybody gathers up their three tricks and, with the addition of the odd card they played to the last trick, re-forms them into a new hand of thirteen. The first trick of the next hand is led by the left-hand opponent of the person who led first in the previous hand.
A game is normally four hands, with each player in turn having led to the first trick. However, a game ends in an earlier "sudden death" win if one side has reached 60 at the end of the first hand, 120 at the end of the second, or 180 at the end of the third. In any of these cases the winning side wins a double game or stake, as it also does for reaching 240 at the end of the fourth deal.
1. Don't be surprised to find skewed distributions of suits in the second, third and fourth hands. It's not unknown for a player to start a new hand with ten or more cards of a suit.
2. The average value of a trick is about 5 or 6, so if you win a trick worth less than 6 it would seem natural to give it to an opponent. However, bear in mind that whoever gets the trick will lead to the next. Sometimes, therefore, you will keep a cheap trick yourself, or give it to your partner, in the hope of being able to lead a high-counting hog.
3. The player with the best memory has a great advantage!
Also a non-partnership version (play for yourself)

If you prefer to play everyone for themselves, rather than in fixed partnerships, you can (of course) play as described above and simply record the results as four individual scores. More interesting, however, is to play on a "split partnership" basis - which simply means that at the end of four deals, you score the value of tricks taken by yourself plus the value of those taken by the player on your left. This gives you, as in the parent game, two players to donate high-scoring tricks to, and two (the player opposite and the one on your right) on whom to foist low-scoring tricks. (You can equally well play that your "half-partner" is the player on your right rather than on your left. In this particular game it makes no significant difference.)


Deal three players 12 cards each, in twos, from a 36-card pack lacking ranks Seven to Ten inclusive. Numerals 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 count at face value, followed by Jack 10, Queen 15, King 20, Ace 25.

Play twelve tricks as described above, except that each player must finish with exactly four tricks, and there will be no odd runt left at the end. Each player scores the total value of their four runts, then consolidates their four tricks into a new hand for the next round, which is led to by the winner of the last trick.

Game is 300 points.

In this version the average value of each card is 10 points. In practice, the average value of a won trick is about 7.5 points.

(By adding the Tens, you can keep the same pack for playing Trigami, another good trickster for three.)

Copyright © renewed 2017 by David Parlett