Q. Why play TwentyNine, what makes it such a fun game?
A. While most card games are either significantly skill-based, e.g., contract bridge, or significantly luck-based, e.g., poker, TwentyNine probably has the best mix of both worlds. That's what makes the game so much fun.
You do need skills to succeed in the game, but you also need to take risks. For example, while bidding is done after getting all cards (13 out of 13) in hand in contract bridge, in TwentyNine, you have to bid based on only half of the cards (4 out of 8) in hand! TwentyNine also has many interesting scenarios that can change the dynamics of a game in the blink of an eye. For example, a team's target might go down or up by up to 4 points, simply because they or their opponent had K and Q of the trump card suit.
But don't for once think it's all about luck - you must know what you are doing! You have to know when to give points in a lead (e.g., if your team is likely to win the lead) and when not to, when to hold a card (e.g., if you are likely to win a lead later with the card) and when to get rid of a card (e.g., if getting rid of it now allows you to use Trump card next time the same suit is played).
You also need to know your partner. And above all, read your opponents - e.g., when they are calling with a strong hand vs. when they are calling just to raise your bid.
All these factors make TwentyNine an incredibly fun game.
And one last point, don't be all shy and quiet in a TwentyNine game! Players can't instruct partners how to play, or give away any information that they are not allowed to share, but otherwise, a typical TwentyNine game is full of joyful conversations, adorable bragging, and even friendly jokes at the other team's expense! Remember, you are playing for FUN!
Q. What are some of the common techniques or practices in TwentyNine?
A. Some of the common techniques or practices are summarized below.
Shuffle lightly: TwentyNine is more fun when the cards are somewhat unevenly distributed among the players (having strong cards of a suit, not having some suits at all etc.), which is why cards should not be shuffled heavily before dealing. Most TwentyNine players split the pile of 32 cards only a few times before asking one of the players from the opponent team to cut the pile (cutting is the process of splitting the pile into 2 and putting the lower pile on top of the upper pile. This is done right before dealing - to nullify any effort by the dealer to cheat). Only on rare occasions, when the players feel that the deck is too unevenly distributed, the dealer does a heavy shuffle - like the ones seen in contract bridge.
Know when to call and when to pass: If your opponents are at 5 red but you are far from a red/black set, it's time to call, even if your hand is not strong and you might lose the round. It's just a strategy to survive one more round and wait for a good hand! In the reverse scenario, when you are at black 5, but the opponents are far from a red/black set, time to pass until you have a really good hand. Other than these extremes, use your judgment and experience to decide whether to call or pass. Generally if you have more than 2 cards of a suit at the beginning, most people would go till 19 or even beyond depending on the strength of the cards (be sure to make this suit your Trump Card Suit). If you have 2 Jacks in the first four cards, you might consider passing and calling double. If you have two strong suits in the first four cards, go for Trump by the 7th card option. It's also a better choice if you have no particular strong suit and had to keep the call. On the flip side, if someone calls 18 or beyond and used Trump by the 7th card option, consider calling double if you have a Jack in hand. If you have marriage (also known as pair) in the first four cards, it's often okay to go up to 19 or 20 or even beyond, depending on what other support cards you have, since marriage would reduce your target by 4. A typical winning bid generally stays between 17 and 19, anything beyond that requires quite strong hand, e.g., multiple strong suits, strong trump card suit or marriage. Calls beyond 23 are very difficult to defend, and a call of 16 often means the cards were distributed too evenly.
Single Hand calls require carefully assessing your risk cards. For example, if you have CJ,C9,CA,CQ,DJ,D9,SJ,SA - you are definitely safe with Dice, most certainly safe with Clubs, but the most concerning one would be SA. If someone has S9 and one more card of Spade, and decide to hold on to these two till the end, you will lose the round. But with such a strong hand, most players would call a Single Hand. One good sequence of play might be CJ,DJ,SJ,C9,D9,CA,CQ,SA with the hope that if your opponent got S9, they will already have played it before the 8th lead. If you choose to see your partner's hand after playing your first lead, you can also adjust your strategy depending on what cards he/she got. If you are lucky and he/she go S9, you would make CQ your 8th lead. On the other hand, if you are playing against a Single Hand call, your best bet is to notice what your partner is playing and try to make sure that the two of you hold your highest card of two different suits. That maximizes your chance to win.
Give points when your team is likely to win the lead: If your partner is likely to win a lead, e.g., he/she played a Jack of a suit that hasn't been played in the round yet, give as many points as you can. If you have a 9 of that suit, play that (unless you know this could be the trump card and you could win another trick with it for sure). In contrast, give as little points as possible when your opponents are likely to win the lead.
Hold strong cards if you are likely or need to win a lead with it later: Don't give away your Jacks (unless you also have a 9 of the same suit.) just because your partner is winning a lead and you don't have a card of the lead-suit. Consider if keeping it in your hand is a better option - may be your Jack could win a lead on its won and earn more points. Another example is if your partner called 20 or more and played a Jack in the very first lead, it's likely the Trump Card Suit. So it might be worth keeping the 9 of the suit if you have it in your hand with one or more of that suit. If it is actually a Trump Card, it would be able to win a trick on its own.
Get rid of a suit if you might win a lead of that suit later by using Trump Card: If your partner is winning a lead and you don't have the any card of the lead-suit, no need to use Trump card. Give points or just get rid of a card from another suit if that will make your hand free of that suit. Now your partner can play that suit in the next lead, and you can win the lead by using Trump card! The same technique applies, if your opponent is winning the lead, you dont' have the lead-suit in hand but there isn't enough point worth using a trump card either.
Make your opponent weaker in Trump Card: If your hand is strong in Trump Card Suit, play those to take out all the Trump cards from your opponent. That will give you advantage in the next leads.
Make use of side-offs: Side-off of a suit is a situation where a player does not have any card of that suit. If you have many cards of a suit, and your opponent is out of Trump Card, and it's your turn to start the lead, play that suit - as you are sure to win the lead! On the other hand, if you predict that your partner has Trump card, but has some side off, and it's your turn to start the lead, play that suit to give him/her a chance to win the lead by using Trump card.
Count points, not just the number of tricks: Number of points is more important that number of tricks you win, so always keep track of points.
Try to count all cards played, but at least be sure to keep count the Trump Card Suit: It's best if you can remember all cards that are played in a round, but that may be too much for most people. You must try to at least keep track of the Trump Card Suit.
Use your judgment, take chances where it makes sense: Use your judgment and experience to decide your move. For example, it's generally unlikely for a suit to be evenly distributed among four players and for that reason a 9 winning a second lead of a suit is rare. But if you happen to have Jack and 9 of a suit, played the Jack, your opponents gave cards of the suit with no point but your partner gave a card of a different suit you need to think deeper about this. This means that out of the remaining 5 cards of the suit, you have 9, and the rest of the cards are with your opponent. It's very likely that both of them still have the suit, and they won't be able to use Trump card if you played 9. Go ahead - take your chance and play the 9 of that suit!