All Fours is also known as Seven Up and High-Low-Jack. It is very similar to Whist (Diagram Group 96). In some ways, All Fours is an easier game than Whist. During the Colonial era, it was a popular game for people who were new to playing cards, and unlike Whist could be played in a noisier atmosphere because it required less concentration (Daniels 180). Pitch is a later variation of All Fours (The Key 98).
The rules given here are from The Way to Play by the Diagram Group, p. 96 with some further information from The Key to Hoyle's Games, pp. 98-99, Hoyle's Rules of Games ed. by Morehead and Mott-Smith, pp. 40-42, The Everything Games Book by Lesley Bolton, p. 103, and The Encyclopedia of Games ed. by Brian Burns, pp. 63-64.
Players: Usually 2, although 3 is also possible or 4 if divided into two teams of two people
Object: To win tricks and be the first to earn 7 points.
The Deck: An ordinary 52 card deck (no jokers).
Other Equipment: Pencil and paper for keeping score.
The Deal: Begin by dealing six cards to each player. The cards are dealt in groups of three at a time. After the cards are dealt, the dealer turns the card on top of the deck face up. The suit of this card becomes the trump suit, and if it is a jack, the dealer gets 1 point. (Jacks are special in this game, so keep an eye out for them.)
The Trump Suit: The trump suit is important for winning tricks in the game and adding points to your final score. The person sitting to the left of the dealer has an opportunity to say whether or not the trump suit is acceptable (see the tip below for how to judge whether it's acceptable or not). If he agrees to play with that trump suit, he says, "Stand." Then, the game proceeds. If he is not satisfied with the trump suit, he says, "I beg." Then, the dealer has the option to change the trump suit if he wishes. If the dealer is not satisfied with the trump suit either, he says, "Refuse" (Morehead and Mott-Smith 40-41).
How do you know whether or not you want to keep the trump suit?
Consider the cards in your hand. Cards in the trump suit are worth points at the end, and the more cards of the trump suit in your hand, the easier it will be for you to win more tricks and earn more points. It particularly helps if you have very low values in the trump suit (especially the 2) or the highest values in the trump suit (10, J, Q, K, and A). If you do not have any cards in the trump suit, you will want to object to the current suit, if you have the chance. If you don't have the chance to object, and others are satisfied with the trump suit, you'll have to play through the hand anyway. There will still be opportunities for you to win tricks, so all is not lost, but you are at a disadvantage.
To change the trump suit, the dealer puts the card that was used to choose the last trump suit aside, deals three more cards to each player, and turns over the next card on top of the deck to see its suit. If the suit of this card is different from the previous trump suit, it will be the new trump suit. If it is a jack, the dealer also receives 1 point, just like before. However, if the suit of this card turns out to be the same as the previous trump suit, the dealer follows the procedure for choosing a new suit again, dealing three more cards to each player and turning the next card over. The dealer can keep doing this until he gets a card with a different suit to be the trump suit. Once a new trump suit is chosen, the players discard cards from their hands until they have only six again and begin playing. If the players are still not satisfied with the new trump, they turn in all of their cards, and the dealer deals the hand again (The Key 98).
However, the dealer does not have to change the trump suit if he doesn't want to. If he wants to keep the current trump suit, he tells the player who objected to the trump suit to "Take one." The player who objected then receives 1 point, and the game continues. (If the player who objected already has 6 points from previous hands of the game, and one more point would make him the winner, skip giving him this extra point (Morehead and Mott-Smith 42).)
Tricks: After the trump suit is chosen, each player lays one card face up on the table, starting with the player on the dealer's left and continuing clockwise. These cards are the trick, and players are competing to win them. The winner of each trick will be based on the values and suits of the cards they lay down. The first player to lay down a card may choose any card of any suit. This first card determines the leading suit for the trick. The other players must either lay down a card in the leading suit or a card in the trump suit, if they have one. Unlike in Whist (for those who have read that section) and similar games, players are allowed to lay down trump cards even if they have still have a card of the leading suit (Morehead and Mott-Smith 41). (This is against the rules in other trick-winning games, and one of the things that makes All Fours a little easier.) If they don't have cards of either the leading suit or the trump suit, they should lay down a card that they don't mind discarding (low-value cards that are unlikely to win a trick).
Revoking: If a player has a card in the leading suit or trump suit, he is obligated to play one or the other. If he does not even though he has one in his hand, it is called "revoking." A player who revokes has a chance to correct the mistake before the next trick begins. If the player does not correct the mistake and someone else points it out, that player loses 1 point from his score. If one of the cards in the trick was the jack of the trump suit, he loses 2 points (Morehead and Mott-Smith 42).
Winning Tricks: When all of the players have placed a card face-up on the table, it's time to study the cards to determine who has won the trick. There are two rules for choosing the winner, and they must be followed in order:
Once a trick has been won, the winner gathers the trick cards and places them in a pile face-down on the table, to be counted at the end of the hand (Burns 64). The winner of the trick will lead the next trick, laying down the first card. The players continue to play a sequence of tricks until all of the cards in the players' hands have been played.
As you play and win tricks, there are certain cards that you want to keep track of, particularly the highest and lowest values played in the trump suit. These are important to note for scoring purposes and earn points for the people who played them, not necessarily for the people who win them.
Scoring: After the round is over, all the players turn the tricks they've won face up again to determine the points they're earned. The points are awarded for the values of cards in the tricks rather than for the number of tricks won. (Although the more tricks you win, the more likely you are to have cards that will earn you points.) Cards that earn points are:
Note: If only one card in the trump suit was dealt during the hand, it counts as both the highest and lowest trump at the same time and is worth 2 points for the person who had it in his hand (Morehead and Mott-Smith 41).
The Winner: The winner is the first player to earn 7 points. Since only 4 points are awarded during each hand, there will be multiple hands in a game. At the end of a hand, if more than one player has 7 points, use the order of earning points (high, low, jack, and game) to determine who won. (Ex. If someone got his 7th point for having the "high" card, that person wins ahead of the others. A player who won his 7th point for the "low" card beats those who got their 7th points for "jack" or "game.")