Rules of “Plute” (or “Pleut”), a 6-player, 7-point Pitch Variant
Thanks to Darren Smith for the description and rules!
Players: Plute is played with 6 players in two teams, sitting in alternating positions around the table.
Cards and Rank: A standard American 52-card deck plus two jokers, Ace high. The two jokers are considered the lowest cards in the trump suit – below the Deuce – and may be marked as “high” and “low”, or more commonly the joker played first in a hand is the high joker. The Jack that is the same color as the trump suit (“Off-Jack”) ranks between the trump-suit Jack and the trump-suit 10.
Deal: All 54 cards are dealt clockwise, 9 per person, and can be dealt in groups of three or fewer. The turn to deal rotates clockwise after each hand.
Scoring: As in other 7-point Pitch variants, the scoring cards/achievements are High (Ace of trump suit), Low (Deuce of trump suit – the point is claimed by whoever holds the card and cannot be “captured”), Jack (Jack of trump suit), Off-Jack (Jack that is the same color as the trump suit), High Joker, Low Joker, and Game. Game is calculated with a separate point system where cards 10 and higher of any suit count toward Game with the following values: Ace-4, King-3, Queen-2, Jack-1, 10-10. Since all cards are played, the total available in each hand is 80 and the total needed to win the Game point is 41 or higher.
In addition to the per-hand scoring, there is an overall score kept between the two teams that reflects the number of times that team made, or failed to make, a bid. The overall game ends when one team either makes their bid on a total of three hands (and thereby wins), or fails to make their bid (“goes set”) on a total of three hands (and thereby loses). This tally can be kept using matchsticks, with a whole stick representing a made bid and a half-stick representing a failed bid.
There is one other condition in which the overall game can be won, and this is called a Plute or “pluting” the other team: if, in a hand, one team manages to take all nine tricks. This is difficult to achieve as it requires that team to have many and highly ranked trump cards as well as highly ranked cards of other suits, and to be strategic in their use of low trump cards to take tricks in the mid to late stages of the hand. A Plute ends the game with the pluting team the winners, regardless of the bid success/failure tally to that point.
Bidding: Bidding proceeds only once around the table, clockwise, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. The minimum bid is 4, and a bid of 7 ends the bidding immediately. If no bids are made up to the dealer’s turn, the dealer must bid 4. There is no Plute bid and a Plute does not require a bid of 7 having been made. Because the point for Low is earned by the holder of the Deuce of the trump suit and cannot be won in a trick, it is very risky for a player who does not hold the Deuce of their intended trump suit to bid 7, as there is only a 2-in-5 chance that one of their partners holds that card.
Play: The winning bidder begins play with a card of his/her chosen trump suit. The card may be a joker, at which point the player must declare the trump suit (though this is not recommended strategy). Play proceeds clockwise with each player trying to play a card that will either help their team make a bid or prevent the other team from making a bid, depending on which team won the bidding. Each trick is won by the highest trump card played, or if there are no trumps in it then by the highest card in the suit led. The Off-Jack and jokers are considered trump cards. The winner of each trick leads the next, and may lead any card. Players are required to follow suit if the suit led is the trump suit (including jokers and the Off-Jack). If a suit other than trump is led, players are required to follow suit unless they choose to play a trump card. They do not have to be out of that suit in order to play trump, but they do have to be out of that suit in order to play a non-trump card of a different suit. (This can be an issue when, for instance, a player is trying to contribute a non-trump 10 to a trick about to be taken by a partner.)
A hand can be stopped before all cards are played if it is clear both that the team that won the bid either has made their bid or cannot make their bid, and that at least one trick has been taken by each team and therefore the possibility of a Plute does not exist. The margin by which they made or failed to make their bid is not important for scoring.
A Note on Strategy:
Because any substantive, game-related, verbal communication with partners during a hand is prohibited, there are some legal techniques to communicate with partners non-verbally through card play choices. For instance, take a scenario in which a player that won the bid is playing a series of high trump cards at the beginning of the game to try to collect points from opposing players forced to play jokers or other point cards. If one of their partners runs out of trump, that partner is now free to play any card from their hand on one of these tricks on which trump was led. They may choose to try to indicate to their partner that they have an Ace of a particular non-trump suit by throwing on a small card of that suit. If the winning bidder picks up on that message, they may choose to lead that suit once they stop leading with trump, knowing that their partner can still win the trick with an Ace (provided that an opponent does not trump in). Making good use of the strengths of partners’ hands (without actually knowing for certain what is in them) can be critical to achieving a Plute.