Quarter Schneider's Page

a site devoted to sheepshead lore, tips, commentary, and other wastes of time





Ten Commandments of Sheepshead

Other Sites of Interest


Card Symbols


The following are terms that are either unique to sheepshead or have a particular meaning in sheepshead. I welcome your suggestions for additional terms.

Ace-Mauer: A particular type of mauer; see "Mauer."

Bare: A trump or trumps with no lower trump in the hand to "protect" it against trump leads. Having the queen of spades bare is one of the most frustrating hands in the game, because invariably the queen of clubs gets led and you have to give up the spade (or "cough it up," see below). That has given rise to one of the more enjoyable plays in the game, when you are on the gun with the queen of spades bare and are not the partner. If you're in the mood, you lead the queen of spades in the hope that the picker will think you are the partner and let you have it. When it works, you look like a genius. If, on the other hand, the queen of clubs is in one of your partners' hands, you look like an idiot unless for some reason they lay off the first trick. I'm not convinced the queen lead is in fact the best play, but I've never been able to resist it. And, actually, it's worked out most of the time.

Behind: Sitting to the left of someone, so that you play after them unless you're leading..

Blind: The two cards dealt to the center of the table which the picker takes after announcing the intention to pick; the picker then places two cards from his hand back into the "bury" (q.v.). Also called "kitty," but this usage is rare.

Blitzers: A common variant rule which allows someone with two queens of the same color (i.e., black or red) can show them to the table and double the stakes (a "blitz"). Having all four queens is a "double blitz," and is a double-double (a quadrupling of the stakes). I dislike this rule because, other than the rare event in which the picker shows the two reds for a blitz, then someone behind them cracks with the two blacks (a "blitz-crack," heartily enjoyed by the non-picking side, and which I have had the good fortune to be on the right side of), in most cases if you have two queens, you will win, so why should you be allowed to double the stakes--or quadruple when you have the top four trump? Nonetheless, compulsive gamblers seem to favor this rule.

Boss: Highest card left in trump or a suit. If the black queens have been played, the queen of hearts is boss. When you bury the ace of a fail suit, the ten is boss.

Burn Out: To force trump out of an opposing player or players' hand(s) by leading trump. If you have two queens and a nine of diamonds, you can burn out someone with two jacks bare.

Bury: Used as both a verb, to describe the act of the picker setting aside two cards before play begins ("Hurry up and bury, we don't have all night"), and as a noun, to describe the two buried cards themselves ("What was your bury?" "An ace and a ten, thank God.").

Call-Ace: Shorthand for "Call an Ace," the common variant in which the ace of a selected fail suit determines the partner.

Case: Adjective meaning "last card of a suit." Example: when the black queens and the queen of diamonds have been played, the queen of hearts is "case" or "the case queen." Although I originally heard this word as a poker term, it can also apply to sheepshead: "I thought we weren't going to make it, but it turned out my partner had the case queen."

Clash: When two cards of relatively equal strength, held in different hands on the same side, fall on the same trick. For example, it often happens that everyone will save their queens, and then the last trick will have two or more queens on it. Clashing is not a good thing; good players will anticipate when their queen may clash with a teammate's, and will find a way to take an earlier trick.

Cough Up: Having to play a high trump underneath a higher trump because you don't have a lower trump to play (or, in common usage, to "protect" the higher card). If you have the queen of hearts and the eight of diamonds, if someone leads the two black queens, they'll force you to "cough up" your queen. No one likes coughing up.

Crack: After a picker takes the blind (or, if you are playing call ace, after the called suit is named), anyone not the partner may "crack" by striking the table with their knuckles. This doubles the bet, and signals to the other players that (1) that you are not the partner; and (2) you have a strong hand that you believe can beat the picker. The picker or his partner can then "recrack," doubling the bet again. Some maniacs allow even further cracking and recracking (I have heard a re-recrack called a "reverse"), but this is only for the overly testosteroned or the overly intoxicated. Cracking is also called "rapping" in some locations. Only an idiot or novice would bluff a crack, but, regrettably, I have seen it done.

Cut: To have no cards of a fail suit, e.g., if you have no hearts, you are "cutting" hearts. Also a verb: "I could have snuck home my ace of spades but the guy to my left cut it with the ace of diamonds."

Double on the Bump: The common practice of doubling the stakes when the picker loses. A cruel but enjoyable rule.

Fail: Non-trump (i.e., hearts, clubs, spades). Fail perhaps get their name from the fact that they usually fail to take a trick. Both a noun and an adjective: Usage (adjective): "We would have won, but that idiot picker thought he'd bring home his fail ten." Usage (noun): "I got nothing in the blind but more fail."

Game: 61 points for the picker. I have heard this word used as a term for points generally, as in "How much game did we get?" or "There was good game on that trick." I believe this usage comes from the related game of Schmear, where "game" is one of several methods for obtaining bid points.

Get Home: An expression for winning a trump with a large pointer like an ace or ten, or playing the ace or ten a trick that your partner takes. You thus "get home" the points. See also "sneak home."

Granny: A hand so good anyone could play it. Although I use this term, I've always felt it is unfair to grannies, most of whom are far better than average players. It's usually Grampa you've got to watch out for, especially after a few beers.

Gut Shot: A deer-hunting term (whose meaning in that context is better left undefined) meaning an unusual or unexpected bit of luck. Having two queens and getting two more in the blind is a gut shot. Usually limited to the appearance of a card as opposed to more general luck, probably because the term comes from poker, where a gut shot is drawing the precise card needed to complete a hand such as a flush or straight. Thus, picking a partner who happens to be on the gun and can lead trump is not described as a gut shot.

Hand Like a Foot: A bad hand, obviously. Only one usage: "I've got a hand like a foot."

Hand of Death: A term invented by my good friend Judd Genda for a hand where the highest cards are the queen of spades and the queen of diamonds. This is the hand of death because there are two trump over your top two queens, and if these queens are sitting behind you, i.e., to your left, the hand is no better than the Red Death (q.v.).

JD: Shorthand for the variant in which jack of diamonds determines the partner.

Lay-Down: A hand having all the highest cards, which allows you to lay your hand down because you have all the remaining tricks.

Leading Long: leading from the fail of which you have the most cards. This is the usual play for the non-picking side: it makes it more likely that your partners will be able to cut the lead with trump, putting pressure on the picker.

Loner: A hand in which the picker chooses to have no partner, doubling his or her possible return. You generally need at least five trump and three queens for a loner.

Long Suit: The fail suit in which you have the most cards. One leads long in front of a picker (or other opponent who you fear has trump) in the hope that, given that you have several cards in the suit, someone behind them will have no cards in the suit and will trump over any card played by the opponent.

Mauer: A person who passes on a picking hand is called a "mauer," German for "wall," and is the lowest type of scum to play sheepshead - which, come to think of it, is saying a lot. Almost everyone will have a hand now and then where they just don't feel luck is on their side, so an occasional mauer is permitted even by otherwise good players. A true mauer, however, is the type of weasel that would rather pass and then put the screws to some brave soul who picks (figuring those who passed ahead of them must have bad hands, ergo there is a better chance of trump in the blind) than picking themselves. Particularly where the game is "double on the bump" (q.v.) this technique will make you few friends. (This is of limited value as a deterrent, however, because mauers usually don't have friends to begin with.) Courteous mauers on tables where table talk is allowed announce the fact that they are mauering. This doesn't make them less of a mauer but at least sometimes prevents an otherwise deserved physical beating. It should be noted that some players are also "ace-mauers," meaning that in a call-ace game, they will pass with a good hand containing a fail ace, hoping they will be picked and slaughter the weak side. There is only one cure for mauering, which I recommend to all mauers: First, take three weeks off and play no sheepshead at all. Then kill yourself.

No-Schneider: Failing to get 31 as a picker, or 30 points on the weak side.

On the Gun: The player who leads on the first hand. Being on the gun can be an advantage for the picker because trump can be led to burn out the other players; on the other hand, being on the gun also means that there are four players who can crack you.

Over/Over: A common situation where, with two cards remaining, your highest trump is higher than another player's highest trump, and your second highest trump is lower than the other player's highest trump but higher than his lower trump. Assuming rational play, what this means is that if you play after the other player, you should get both tricks, while if you lead into him, you will only get one.

The Pillars: A theory put forth by relative newcomer to the game Robert Procter, who believes there are three "pillars" of sheepshead: your hand, the blind, and the partner's hand. Robert's theory is that any one of the pillars, if strong enough, can allow you to win a hand. It must be noted that, in actually practice, the "pillars" theorysuffers from the problem faced by many theories, namely that it is a load of crap.

Pointers: Aces and tens, the high-point cards. Also called "counters." Sometimes these terms are used to refer to any card with a point value, i.e., aces, tens, and face cards.

Red Death: A hand whose highest cards are the two red queens. If you don't know why this hand is called the red death, pick on it sometime and you'll find out. There are two trump over you at the table, and although you should get some tricks you can also get burned. Still, I firmly believe that only mauers pass on the red death with two other trump, and even one additional trump should allow you to pick on the gun or on the end, especially with points to bury.

Rocks: See "Stones."

Schmear: Cards with a point value played in the anticipation that a partner will take the trick and thus the points. Some people seem to refer only to the high-point cards (tens and aces) as schmear, but I believe any card with points may properly be termed schmear so long as it was the highest point card available. Many a hand has been won because someone had the brains to throw a queen and keep a jack so that their team gets the extra point.

Schneider: As we all know, thirty-one points for the picker, thirty points for the weak side. I have heard this shortened to "Schneids" or "Schnitz." See also "Schwartz" and "No-Schneider."

Schwartz: The failure for the picking team to get 31 points. I confess I have never heard this term used by persons I play with; the preferred term is "No-Schneider."

Sending a boy to do a man's job: Playing a small trump that is probably not high enough to take the trick. When someone goes over you, they will say you "sent a boy."

Sneak Home: An expression for winning a trick with the ten or ace of trump, usually with the last card played on the trick. The player thus "sneaks home" this point card that otherwise might fall to an opponent's higher trump. Sneaking home is best attempted when you are the last or near-last on the trick; otherwise an opponent will go over your fat pointer and take it home for themselves. Successfully sneaking home an ace or ten traditionally evokes groans from opponents. Incidentally, the past tense is always "snuck home," never "sneaked home." See also "get home."

Stones: Bad cards in the blind. If you get the seven and eight of spades in your blind, you just got stones. Often used as an apology (or excuse) to your partner: "Sorry, I got a couple of stones in the blind." Also called "rocks."

Table Talk: Any discussion of one's hand, or speculation as to what is in someone else's hand, during play. Broadly construed, any discussion of the play while a hand is in progress. Personally, I prefer that there be no table talk whatsoever. Years ago, I played Hearts with a group with a single rule: any discussion of the game, in any form, was immediately punished by the talker having to pay everyone as if they had lost the game, and then a new hand started. This rule is surprisingly easy to enforce, and one quickly gets used to talking about anything but the cards played. However, sheepshead players have widely-varying tolerances for table talk. Table talk quickly gets out of hand, leading to running commentary and even "bluff" table talk, implying you have cards you don't. Sometimes gets so ridiculous that, if a player isn't talking about how good their hand is, you know they're loaded. This is usually annoying, but I have to admit it is amusing when a player bluffs table talk and some other poor sucker believes them.

Tweener: A marginal hand that may or may not be good enough to pick on.

Weak Side: A general term for the three-player, non-picking side in a five-handed game. So called because they generally lose, I suppose

Card Symbols