Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis explaiins how to play 500 the ATF way.



   DO YOU PLAY 500?



Do you want to know one, two, or even all three cards in kitty before you pick it up?

Do you never want to trump a partner's ace again?

Do you know you do not have to short-suit yourself when discarding kitty?

Did you know you can be sure of getting 9 no trumps against the joker?

Did you know that you could get 10 no trumps yourself even though you hold no aces or the joker in your hand? 

Do you accept that if both teams are plus 490 when bidding commences, then one side is going to go down next hand?

                                               AND MUCH MORE!

   Then study the information in this web site

Last Updated February 14, 2021

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Copyright 1996-2005 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.


Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis, Inventor of many games.  For the game of 500, explaining a totally new concept in how to play.



This web site has been published to allow you to learn and understand a method of playing the card game 500, fine tuned by Bryce Francis over a period of 25 years, after he was introduced to the principle of calling aces before strength.

Bryce spent the bulk of his days in New Zealand and retired to Mrlbourne Australia.  He asked for the web site to be established in the hope that others might enjoy his approach to the game. 

He also published a book about this way of playing 500.  ThisPhoto taken outside his house in Woori Yallock, Melbourne web site captures only the core essence contained in the book.

Before playing ATF500 (According to Francis) on line, you should read and understand the entire content of this website.

Last Updated February 14, 2021

Copyright Symbol
Copyright 1996-2005 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.


Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis, Inventor of many games.  For the game of 500, explaining a totally new concept in how to play.




We are sad to report that Bryce Francis, the author of this website, passed away on 3rd September 2020.

Last Updated February 14, 2021

Copyright Symbol
Copyright 1996-2005 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.


Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis explaiins how to play 500 the ATF way.



  Written for Four handed 500

There are many forms of 500, and these notes are prepared basically for four players.  


The name of the game is derived from its objective. A game is completed when one team or pair of players reach 500 points by attaining a call which gives a total score of 500 or more, or fails to attain a call which reduces their score to minus 500 points or more, Thus the object of the game is to reach 500 first, or force your opponents down to or past minus 500.


Points are gained in two ways. First by attaining any call which the team manages to achieve, and second by taking "tricks" against the calling team. Points are only lost by failure to attain a stated call. Regardless of how many tricks you take, you may only score the value of the call you are trying to achieve, and you cannot lose more than the value of that call. The only exception is that if you are left on a call less than 8 clubs, and manage to take all 10 tricks, you score 250 for that hand. Once you reach plus 500 or more you are said to have gone out the front door. Falling to minus 500 or more is known as going out the back door.



Six spades is worth 40 points, six clubs 60, six diamonds 80, six hearts 100, and six no trumps 120. Seven spades is worth 140, seven clubs 160, seven diamonds 180, seven hearts 200, and seven no trumps 220. Eight spades is worth 240, eight clubs 260, eight diamonds 280, eight hearts 300, and eight no trumps 320. Nine spades is worth 340, nine clubs 360, nine diamonds 380, nine hearts 400, and nine no trumps 420. Ten spades is worth 440, ten clubs 460, ten diamonds 480, ten hearts 500, and ten no trumps 520. You score ten points for every trick you take while in opposition to a calling team, but you cannot add to a score of plus 490 except by completing a successful bid.


  6 7 8 9 10
Spades 40 140 240 340 440
Clubs 60 160 260 360 460
Diamonds 80 180 280 380 480
Hearts 100 200 300 400 500
No Trumps 120 220 320 420 520

You score 10 points for every trick you take while in opposition to a team which has won the bidding, and you can score right up to, but not past  490. You cannot get to 500 except by completing a successful bid.


A "hand" 500 consists of 10 cards, and each hand is played as ten "tricks". A trick is won by the player who plays the highest card in any suit which is led, or by the player who being unable to follow the suit led, plays the highest "trump". You must follow the suit led while you have cards of that suit in your hand. If you do not have cards of the suit led, you must either discard cards from other suits, or if the hand is not being played as "no trumps", you may play a trump card. Trumps are determined by the last bidders call. The last bidder in the calling of the hand determines by his last call whether the hand is played in any of the four suit calls or as no trumps.


When playing in no trumps, the cards are valued as ace high, then king, queen, jack, ten, down to four.

When spades are trumps, the joker is the top trump, then the jack of spades, the jack of clubs. ace, king, queen, ten down to five of spades.

When clubs are trumps, the joker is the top trump, then the jack of clubs, the jack of spades, ace, king, queen, ten down to the five of clubs.

When diamonds are trumps, the joker is the top trump, then the jack of diamonds, the jack of hearts, ace, king, queen, ten down to the four of diamonds.

When hearts are trumps, the joker is the top trump, then the jack of hearts, the jack of diamonds, ace, king, queen, ten down to the four of hearts.

Note the special treatment of the jacks in suit calls. The jack of the suit which is trumps is known as the right bower, and the other jack of the same colour as the trump suit is known as the left bower. Jacks in the other colour suit to trumps have their normal no trump ranking. Take special care to notice then that when hearts or diamonds are trumps there are thirteen trump cards. When either of the black suits are trumps there are twelve trump cards.


The most commonly accepted practice is that the joker can only be used as a trump card if the player holding the joker cannot follow a suit led. However a player may use the joker to call it any suit and lead it at any time. Put in another way, if an ace is led to which you hold the king, you must follow the suit led, even if the king is the only card you hold in that suit. However if you hold the joker, you may call it any suit you nominate, and lead it even though you hold other cards in that suit.


In four handed 500 you must first determine who are partners. It is not good to get into the habit of always playing with the same partner, so it is suggested that you cut for partners, and rotate partners as you continue to play. If you give one point to each partner of a winning team as games are won, you will finish up with one player as overall winner for the night. 

If you play regularly with the same players over a period of time, keep on recording points to see who is the top player. This will add to the effort you make, and means that you try that much harder to play accurate 500. It also means you never give away a game without playing as hard as you can for it, and you will think twice before committing suicide and over bidding a call you cannot really afford, unless of course you know your opponents call will win the game for them if you allow them to pick up kitty. Partners sit opposite each other.


Make sure the cards are well shuffled between hands. Select the first dealer by draw, and alternate dealer in a clockwise manner for every new set of hands dealt. The accepted method of dealing is to commence dealing to the player on dealers left, then clockwise, three cards to each player, one into the "kitty", then four to each player and one into kitty, then three more to each player, and the last card into kitty.

To save time I suggest you use two packs with different patterns on the backs. One partnership uses one of these packs, and the other uses the other one of course. The pack not being dealt is placed in front of the next dealer, so you will always see who is next dealer. This person will often get the opportunity to deal the next round of cards, on the table in front of him or her, face down of course, and they can be passed ot the appropriate player as soon as the last hand has been played. This saves you both the shuffling and the dealing time.


Check that you have ten cards. Sort your cards into groups of suits. Get into the habit of keeping your cards in descending order from left to right or vice versa. Try to separate the red and black suits, so that two suits of the same colour do not merge with each other.

You will not know when you pick up your cards what suit your jacks may become bowers, so put your jacks with what looks the strongest suit, as this will help you evaluate your call. In the event that the hand is played in another suit, you can either shift the jack, or jacks, into a more appropriate position, or just be careful to remember if it is out of position in your hand. If an opponent sees you shift a card in your hand after kitty has been picked up, he will probably recognise that as a jack being shifted, and this may help them attain their call.


Some players consider that they have a right to ask for a redeal if their hand holds no court cards, that is no joker, or any ace, king, queen or jack. I can find no logic to support this practice. The worse your hand is the better your partners may be. You have to learn to take the strong and weak hands without showing excitement or disappointment. In the long run your hands will balance out. Hands without court cards can be good supporting hands especially when they contain say five or more of the same suit, and that is the suit your partner wants to go. And it can also cause the downfall of your opponents call.

Cards below the Jack, i.e. 4's up to 10's, are usually referred to as "rags".


There are many various "local" rules for playing 500, and you must establish that all players are going to play by the same set of rules. When calling, the most commonly accepted rules are adhered to in the calling system outlined later. These are... If only one call is made by one player, the other three players having passed, the hand must be played at that single call. However if more than one person calls which is normal, any player may change his call at any time provided he is always escalating the bid. 

Any player changing the suit of any call he makes at any time gives all players the right to re-enter the bidding. Any player left with the bid after the other three finally pass may escalate the call, and if it is escalated in the same suit, no other player may re-enter the bidding. 

You have to be on your guard for players who call less than they can get, knowing that the scoreboard says you can leave them, and then call higher in that suit to lock you out and win the game. Be careful also of calls where getting all 10 tricks gives 250 points, which may be enough to win a game.


The player on the left of the dealer has first bid. Calling is clockwise. If a player does not want to make a bid he must say "pass". The successful bidder is the one with the highest bid, and the other three players pass. The highest bid therefore determines the suit the hand will be played in. Remember all bids must be for a higher points value than the previous bid.


Last Updated April 7, 2011


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Copyright 1996-2005 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.



Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis, Inventor of many games.  For the game of 500, explaining a totally new concept in how to play.



A few simple explanations to help understand the terms used in this web site.

Back Door: Minus 500 points or more. This means the game has been lost.
Bargaining Power: The number of points between your present score and minus 490. If your present score is +100 you have bargaining power of 590 points. 
Bid: After each new deal of cards, and starting with the player on the dealers left, each player may bid, with a minimum of six, a number and a suit, (or no-trumps), which will indicate either aces or strength held. A player who does not wish to make a bid may pass.
Bowers: When a hand is not being played in no-trumps, two of the jacks change value thus:-

  • When hearts are trumps, the jack of hearts becomes the right bower, the jack of diamonds becomes the left bower.
  • When diamonds are trumps, the jack of diamonds becomes the right bower, the jack of hearts becomes the left bower. 
  • When clubs are trumps, the jack of clubs becomes the right bower, the jack of spades becomes the left bower.
  • When spades are trumps, the jack of spades becomes the right bower, the jack of clubs becomes the left bower.
  • The cards in each suit rank joker high, right bower, left bower, ace, king, queen, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four.
  • Jacks in black suits have their normal ranking below the queen when a red suit is trumps.
  • Jacks in red suits have their normal ranking below the queen when a black suit is trumps.

Contract: The level of the last bid made after a new deal of cards, and the minimum target of the pair of players who made that bid. 
Court Card: The joker, aces, kings, queens, and jacks are known as court cards.
Dealer: The person who deals the cards to each player. The first dealer may be determined by any acceptable method, and the next dealer is the player on the left of the last person who dealt.
Discard: When a player cannot follow the suit led, he should play a card of low value, preferably not being held to support a king or queen. This card is called a discard. After picking up kitty, and before leading the first card of a new hand, this player also must discard three cards to reduce the number of cards in his/her hand to ten.
Finesse: A finesse is said to be played when a card less in value than a higher value card in the same hand is played. There has to be an element of risk involved before a finesse play can occur.
Front door: Plus 500 points or more. This constitutes a game win.
Hand: The ten cards dealt to each player. The conclusion of play of those ten cards.
Jump Bid: A jump bid is one which elevates the bidding by at least one more trick than is normally necessary. It indicates a lack of aces or joker, and is usually a strength bid. 
Kitty: The three cards dealt into the centre of the table face down. It is picked up by the last successful bidder, who combines it in his/her hand, and discards the three least wanted cards, to reduce his hand back to ten cards. Sometimes known as the “Widow”.
Lead: A player has the lead, if he was the final bidder in the contract, or won the last trick played.
No-trump: When a hand is played in no trumps, no suit has the power to trump any suit led. There are no bowers. The person who either leads the highest card in that trick, or plays the highest card in the suit led takes each trick. The joker may be played as the sole trump, but only if he cannot follow the suit led. He is not obliged to play it at the first opportunity.
Offsuit: The three suits which are not the trump suit in the hand being played.
Rags: All cards which are not court cards are known as rags.
Strength: A hand has strength when the cards in it suggest it has good trick taking potential in one or more suits. Strength in a suit suggests that it holds a majority of cards in that suit. Declaration of strength in a hand may depend on the score. The higher the present scores, the more the bidding of strength hands is necessary.
Suit: There are four suits, hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.
Trick: Each individual group of four cards played. A trick is won by the player who plays either the highest value card of the suit led, or by the highest trump card played in those four cards. 
Trump: Trumps are decided by the last bid. They can be any one of the four suits. A trump card of any value outranks any card in one of the other three suits. Thus the ace of hearts will lose to the five of clubs if clubs are trumps. You may not play a trump card on a lead if you hold any card in the suit led.

Last Updated April 7, 2011

Copyright Symbol
Copyright 1996-2000 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.


Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis, Inventor of many games.  For the game of 500, explaining a totally new concept in how to play.


     Checklist of correct playing procedures.

  1. Check you have ten cards.
  2. Sort your hand properly into suit groups.
  3. Check what the score is, and then make sure you bid correctly.
  4. Listen and interpret all bids.
  5. If you have picked up kitty, make sure you reject exactly three cards, and…
  • Short suit your hand in one or more suits if possible, BUT
  • Hold cards to lead to partners aces.
  • Hold at least one rag to a king in the suit in which your partner holds the ace.
  • Hold at least two rags to a queen in the suit in which your partner holds the ace.
  1. If playing with a suit as trumps.
  • (a) Lead trumps first to run your opposition out of them. Only lead to your partners non trump ace first if you want him to lead a trump back, so you may try a finesse play.
  • Count the number of trumps as they are played.
  • Never lead trumps when only you and your partner hold trump cards.
  • If you know one of your opponents has one or more trumps left, and they are higher value cards than you hold, do not lead trumps. Let you opponents use them as trumps, and keep yours in reserve.
  • If your partner is out of trumps and you suspect your opponents both have one or more, you are better to lead a losing trump, as you may get two opposing trumps to fall, at the cost of only one of yours.
  1. If your partner leads to your ace, and you hold the king as well, play the king, not the ace. This way he knows you still hold the ace.
  2. If you hold the king and queen of the same suit, and the ace has not been played, it is better to lead the king to make the queen, than the queen to make the king. If your partner has the ace, and you lead the queen he may play the ace to take a trick which he need not take. If you lead the king, he is not going to play the ace on that.
  3. As a general rule the second player should play low, and the third player play high.
  4. In no-trump calls lead all your long strong suit first if you have such a suit. This makes discarding for your opponents difficult.
  5. In no-trumps, in spite of rule 10, do not put your partner in the position of having to discard aces you may wish to lead to later. He may throw the wrong one.
  6. In no-trump calls, if you have no long strong suit, and gaps in suits you wish to make tricks in, lead small losing cards first to clear up the middle cards in those suits. Keep your aces back to regain the lead later without having to use the joker. In other words, in difficult no-trump calls, play to lose tricks early in those suits. If you lead the aces you open up those suits for your opponents.
  7. If your partner leads to your ace in no-trumps, and you do not wish to run off other winners you have yet, always lead back to your partner in the suit he led to you.
  8. Never try to beat the correct calling system while your partner is still in the bidding. You will be confusing your partner more than your opponents.
  9. Be alert to all the bids, no matter how bad your hand is. The most unexpected things can happen.
  10. If you are left with the calling responsibility, and your opposition are bidding a game winning score, never pass until
  • You are absolutely sure you have them stopped, or
  • You know that you cannot possibly attain the call you go, and you will lose the game if left on that bid.
  1. Try to deduce from the bidding where all four aces and the joker are for every new hand dealt.
  2. It is better to miss bidding a strong hand and risk losing a game (but not a hand), if your opponents bid does not win them the game.
  3. Ask for a redeal if you see any cards during dealing.
  4. Use your “bargaining power” to the utmost. A game is not lost until someone wins it by calling, and the next hand or two can change the whole game.
  5. Never comment on your hand until after a hand is played. At best, post mortems are not effective game winners.
  6. Never grumble about your cards. Every bad hand you are dealt will be matched with an equally good one later on. Luck in the deal strangely seems to go in runs, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
  7. Never forget you are half a partnership. You are not just playing your own hand. Your partner needs your input. If your hand is poor, the odds are your partners is strong.
  8. Never leave your partner on his first bid of an ace if he has been the only bidder so far. The only exception would be if to bid would take you out the back door, and your opponents are threatening to win this game this hand. If you have nothing to bid, just go 7 in the suit he bid. He will know this is a bid to keep him in the bidding.
  9. Concentrate entirely on the game. There is no room for idle chatter if you are playing serious cards. If you must talk, do it before you start, or after you finish playing.
  10. It is not difficult to get a nine or even a ten call with four aces against you.
  11. Nine no-trumps without the joker is not difficult if you have the four aces on your side, and at least good support in most suits or a long strong suit.
  12. Be particularly careful to stay in the bidding when your opponents bid does not take them out the front door, but a larger call in the same suit will. You cannot re-enter the bidding if your opponents do not change the suit of their bid.
  13. You are better to go down a small bid, than let your opposition call a successful large bid.
  14. If you hold the Joker, right and left bowers, and your partner has bid that ace, your first lead MUST be a small card to your partners ace. This rule holds good even if you do not hold the joker.
  15. Never trump your partners trick, unless you must have the lead to clean out opposition trumps.
  16. Recognise finesse play, where you endeavour to take a trick with a lower card than the best you have. There must be an element of risk before a finesse can happen.
  17. If you hold the joker, and your opposition have called no-trumps, delay playing the joker as long as possible, unless by playing the joker you know you can take enough tricks to defeat their bid.
  18. Be aware that not all bids which sound like bids to go down, are in fact bids to go down.
  19. Be alert to the fact that either an accidental or intentional attainment of all ten tricks is worth 250 points. From a score of 250, eight spades will not win a game, but if they fluke all ten tricks, it is all over.
  20. Do not lead trumps to the bidding team, unless you are strong enough to run them out.
  21. Be careful not to display the three cards you reject after picking up kitty.
  22. It is usual and wise to clean your opponents out of trumps before you try to make tricks in offsuit. Thus you normally lead to or with the joker. Then the right and/or left bower.
  23. If you hold the right bower and know the joker is against you, it is still better to lead the bower to get the joker out of the way.
  24. If you hold the joker, and right and left bowers, and your partner had the ace, lead to the ace first, since your partner may hold it bare.
  25. Always try to hold one or two trumps when you get to the stage of playing in the offsuit area. If you lead off all the trumps and lose the lead, you may not get it back again.
  26. If your offsuit is an ace and two low cards of that suit, you stand a much better chance of making two tricks by leading the lowest card first, trumping in and then lead the ace. The other rag is often good for another trick.


Last Updated April 7, 2011

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Copyright 1996-2000 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.


Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis, Inventor of many games.  For the game of 500, explaining a totally new concept in how to play.




Most players have been taught to call a hand according to its potential to take tricks, rather than call individual cards in any suit. If the hand looks strong in say diamonds, it has been usual to open the bidding with a six diamond call, or maybe even seven or more if the hand is very strong. This is done with the mistaken view that definite information is being conveyed to your partner. 

This type of calling results in all sorts of problems and guessing games. It often prevents your partner telling you anything positive. Strangely enough most players have been taught to call the joker, by calling six no trumps if you hold that card, and this regardless of any other strengths in that hand. 

However we do understand that players who call that way are at least letting their partner, and might I add, the opposition, know that they have the joker. Why definite information should begin and end with the joker remains to me a complete mystery. The joker is just another card, and important though it is the only thing it will do for sure is to stop the opposition from successfully getting a 10 call. You can get nine no trumps quite easily even though the joker is against you. You must have the joker on your side if you are to get all 10 tricks. 

Communication is the purpose of calling and I will shortly outline how you can do it very well.


Last Updated April 7, 2011

Copyright Symbol
Copyright 1996-2005 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.


Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis explaiins how to play 500 the ATF way.


  Written for Four handed 500

There are many forms of 500, and these notes are prepared basically for four players.  

How you should call

You may find this different but it works much better.  Begin by calling ACES.

The basic idea behind any call is to get the most points out of the pair of hands involved in that call. You must COMMUNICATE!!!. Communication must be POSITIVE. This method of calling requires calling the aces first, and your suit strengths later. Each caller must call the lowest ACE, or the joker when it is his turn to call and he or she has no aces to call. If the first caller holds the ace of spades, his first call is six spades, even if that is the only black card in his hand. A first call of six spades says to all players that that player has the ace of spades. It gives no indication of any other card in the hand. It certainly cannot be taken to indicate a strength in spades. It is just the ace.

A first caller therefore making a bid of six clubs has now said TWO things. One negative and one positive. It says " I have the ace of CLUBS, but NOT the ace of spades", for he would have been obliged to call that first. A first caller calling six diamonds is clearly now saying three things. No ace of spades, no ace of clubs, but yes I have the ace of diamonds. So a first bidder calling six hearts is saying four things. He holds the ace of hearts, but not one of the other three aces. It follows that an opening bid of six no trumps by the first caller is saying five things, no aces but I have the joker. In other words by making one call this player has conveyed to all the others five "Bits" of information.

It is rather unusual for the calls to follow such a simple routine as six spades, six clubs, six diamonds, six hearts, six no trumps. It does happen, but only on rare occasions. It is much more normal for the calls to happen in an entirely different sequence. Let us say that the first caller has called six hearts. It is not now possible for the next caller to commence calling his aces below a seven call. If he has the joker, he MUST call six no trumps, and it must be clearly understood that this discloses to all players where the joker is. So it follows that if the call immediately following a six hearts call is seven spades, this is saying just as clearly, no joker but the ace of spades. A seven club call would have meant, no joker, no ace of spades, but the ace of clubs. Again not a strength call. A seven diamond call would mean no joker, no black aces, but yes I have the ace of diamonds. A seven heart call following a six heart call can only indicate strength in hearts, as it says no joker, and no other ace. This is the first indication we have had that a hand is to be called on its trick taking potential rather than on an ace.

As a general guideline, players should have no hesitation in communicating (bidding) aces at a seven bid. Once you get used to it, you will find that you will make these bids without giving too much thought to the potential of the hand for taking tricks in any given suit. You will simply be calling aces.  When it comes to bidding aces at eight or more, and the scoreline is not hampering your bids, you will need to feel that either the bid you are making, or a higher one in another suit, is attainable. I would certainly be wary of calling red aces at eight, when being left on it means that you have to go up to a nine bid in a black suit, to have a chance of success. Calling black aces at eight still leaves you the option of going to an eight red bid, and so is a lot safer.

When assessing the potential of a hand, I am sure it is usual and proper to presume that kitty may give you another trick, but of course it will not always be so. You must still be sure that all your bids are within your "bargaining power", unless your opponents are threatening to go out this hand. You are then in a do or die situation, and you just have to bid these aces at unpalatable levels.

Calling your aces MAY have to continue through eight, nine or even ten bids, depending on the scoreline of the game. It is not always safe to have your partner know that a specific ace is on your side if you pick up kitty, as there are times he has to know that particular ace is not in kitty. These situations arise when the scores for both sides are high, and you are in a situation where someone is in a "calling to go down" position. More about that later.

In general terms, avoid calling aces at such a high level that you will be embarrassed by being left on that call. If you take a few moments to consider what all the calls have communicated, you will realise that your partner will know that either you have that ace or it is in kitty! The bigger the points difference between any two successive calls, the more "bits" of information are being conveyed. If you are left calling an ace at eight and you know you cannot sustain that call as trumps, change up to a more likely looking suit, particularly when your partner has given you a strength call in an available suit. Do not change up if it means you are going from a "safe to go down" call to an "unsafe to go down call".


There has been much discussion of late on the Giffin website as to whether or not there are times when it is important to advise that you possess the joker before disclosing that you may have other aces. This has been my own thought for many years, but have been advised by friends that it may be complicated for some to cope with. However I feel quite strongly that when the score is critical it is often essential that your partner knows you have the joker right from the start. I consider the score to be critical when both sides are 250 or more. From this score even an accidental 10 bid can give you 500 and a win. It happened for me recently when my score was 250. Normal bidding would enable you to call aces, kings and queens starting bids after the joker was bid at 6, now at 7, 8, 9 and sometimes even 10. The joker of course takes only one trick, but that trick means your opponents cannot safely bid a 10 bid. Bids are often forced to this level if you are playing ATF properly, and possession of the joker, and your partner's knowledge that you have it is essential.

Jump Bids

A "jump" bid occurs every time the call is put up one stage higher than it would call to disclose an ace. For instance, if the first caller bids seven spades, he is no longer communicating the ace, for if he held that card he would have called it at six. It therefore follows that a first caller calling seven spades is now clearly saying to all players that he has strength in spades, but no aces or joker....six bits of information. Similarly a first call of seven clubs is saying seven things, as in addition to the last six bits, he has now said no potential strength in spades. 

Following this through seven diamonds says no aces, joker, no strength in either black suit....eight things. Likewise a first call of seven hearts says some potential in hearts, but no aces, joker, strength in black suits, or in diamonds. A seven no trump bid as an opening bid is very rare. It means that the player holds four kings, but no joker or aces. A hand containing no aces or joker, but 5 strong spades and 5 strong hearts should make a jump bid in the black suit, leaving the way open to escalate the call to the red suit if you are left on the call, without having to lift the call from seven to eight. 

What constitutes a jump bid can vary considerably according to the score at the time. For a first caller five good trumps could be considered enough to make a jump bid, especially if the offsuit is reasonable. Three "rags" to a bower, or one rag to both bowers with a critical score line may justify a jump bid, even though it may only convey to your partner that you could stop a ten call against you in that suit. Where the scores of both sides are say in the range of minus 100 to plus anything, jump bids can be made freely, but they must be made with caution when your score is in a low minus level. You should never make a jump bid when its point value if lost will lose you the game, unless your opponents score is getting close to 500. Where both scores are high pluses, jump calls MUST be made on hands with some suggestion of strength.

The pass bid

This is a bid none of us like making, but we often have to pass because of the cards we are dealt. It is most important that players understand exactly what they are saying when they PASS. You are saying eleven things to your partner. Yes 11 things.

If you pass on your first bid you need to know what you have told your partner, but more particularly your partner needs to know the full implications of that bid. So let me spell it out for you.

Pass means that you have none of the four aces, and you do not have the joker. That is 5 things. It also means you have no strength in any suit, or you could have bid it at a jump bid at 7. So that is another 4 things.

You also have no potential strength in no trumps, or you could have bid 7 no trumps. Since I am often asked what do I consider a 7 no trump bid I will say if you have the four kings, or a hand mostly of court cards but no aces or joker. Another 1 thing. That makes 10.

What is the 11th thing?

You are telling your partner that you will not be taking any further interest in this round of bidding. You are also telling him that he is now responsible for making whatever bid that is necessary to keep you in the game. This is most important. I guess that is really 12 things you have told him.

Once your partner has passed like that, you are not obliged to bid the truth of what you hold because you know that he has a rubbish hand and there is no point in you bidding what you hold or do not hold to let your opponents know what you hold. You should bid to confuse them and his partner must not be influenced by what he bids. Sometimes tell the truth, but more often tell lies.

The most important aspect of bidding Pass comes when the scores are high and your opponents are threatening to win immediately. Your partner must realise that it is his responsibility to stay in the bidding until either your opponents make a bid which he alone has got stopped, or the bidding is so high that there is no way, given the best of kitty, that he can lose that bid and stay above minus 500.

The same situation arises whenever you pass. You are handing over responsibility to your partner to make the bids necessary to keep you in the game.

There can be exceptions as usual! If the scores are perhaps modest plus scores and there is no apparent threat of a win you need to be on the alert if your opponents have stopped bidding early and when your partner the calls no trumps and starts bidding aces at 8 you may be able to support those aces with kings and queens to get game winning scores, by bidding those kings and queens and jacks at 8, 9 or even 10. This can force opponents to make huge losing bids. You do not have the assurance that his bids have been meant to bring the opponents back in rather than to inform you. You can get a "feel" for it. Just keep an eye on the scoreboard.

The following calls

Players who follow a jump bid follow the normal pattern of calling the aces as outlined already. So a call of seven clubs, following a jump bid of seven spades, definitely says the ace of clubs. A seven heart call in similar circumstances discloses the ace of hearts, and also says that that player does not have the ace of clubs or the ace of diamonds. Jump bids may follow jump bids. Thus a first call of seven spades followed by a call of eight clubs, will indicate a strong hand in clubs, but no aces or joker. 

Jump bids which follow jump bids must of necessity start with at least an eight call, and could easily start at nine. Of course the hand will have to be strong, or may have to be made in an emergency when one side or the other is going to have to go down to save the game. The golden rule is that the higher the score of your opponents, the more important is the need to jump bid. A jump bid may fall in any sequence in the bidding. Thus a call of six clubs, followed by a call of seven diamonds by the next caller, means just the same as it did before. No aces or joker, but something in diamonds. Likewise a call of seven clubs following a bid of six clubs says no aces or joker, but something in clubs. The ace of a suit which has already been jump bid can still be called by bidding it in its correct sequence. 

Thus an eight diamond call, following a first call of seven diamonds is communicating the ace of diamonds. Never make a jump bid higher than is necessary to indicate that the call is a jump bid. You may think that because you hold a sure eight diamond call, you might as well go straight to that call. This means that if your partner has to tell you of his ace or aces he has to go to a nine call, and he may find his hand too weak to support that call. So keep your jump bids at minimum level, allow your partner calling space to tell you of his aces, and make your own discarding decisions easier when you pick up kitty.

I want Control

Situations will arise, especially when both teams are on high plus scores, when drastic action is required urgently by one player, usually the one who holds the joker. He or she will make a bid which is suddenly so high that his partner will realise that this bidder wants control of the bidding. A "control" bid would normally be made beyond the level of a normal "jump" bid, so it is clearly a special bid. It would be normal for this bid to be pitched at such a level that any further bid by their opponents would not be attainable by them. They will normally be forced to bid to go down to save the game. You can expect a "control" bid early in the bidding rather than after the bidding has developed. It could happen, especially after an opponent has made a jump bid, say in a red suit, which suggests he cannot defend a game winning "control" bid in a black suit. Unless both opponents are sure they have this "control" bid stopped, one or other of them will be forced to a bid they cannot achieve. There is usually an element of threat of loss of game if the bid is not responded to. There is also a good element of bluff. If you are outbid by a bid you do not have stopped for sure, then you will be forced to a bid you cannot achieve. There is a real skill in knowing where to pitch this bid, which only playing experience will teach you. The "control" bidders partner should never re-enter the bidding, but leave the "control" bidder in charge of the situation.

Calling Kings and Queens

It is often possible to communicate kings, queens and sometimes jacks by the same calling process. These situations arise most frequently when the joker is on your side, and especially when you are clearly headed for a no trump bid. In the following sequence of calls....six hearts, six no trumps (your partner), seven spades, seven clubs, pass, seven diamonds, pass, a next call of seven no trumps would clearly indicate the king of diamonds. 

The reason for this is because the fourth caller knows from the calls that the ace of spades and the ace of hearts are against the no trump call. His partner having called only the ace of diamonds and joker, will know that you are supporting the diamonds in no trumps. If the fourth caller has not got the king of diamonds, but has strength in diamonds he wants to call, he would call eight diamonds indicating diamonds but not the king. Thus eight spades would mean strength in spades, or eight clubs as strength in clubs. 

So watch out for opportunities to call kings, and in the same manner queens, after your partner has given you a joker call, and has indicated he has aces to which you hold kings, or queens and jacks to which he holds ace and king. Basically it is quite simple. If your partner has called the joker, and then calls the ace of hearts at seven, if you hold the king of hearts call seven no trumps, but if you want hearts as a suit go to eight hearts, and your partner will know you do not have the king. Exactly the same situations arise to talk about the queens and jacks, but naturally your calls are now at the nine and ten level. No problems with that as you see your no trump bids build successfully. You will realise that you can call support of kings to your partners aces in more than one suit. Make sure the opportunity is given in calling to make these supportive calls by not taking each call beyond its next logical step, or the calls may get too high for proper calling to continue. 

Just take it step by step. Only practice will teach you how to do this successfully.

When not to call Aces

It is certainly desirable not to call aces when your score is so low that to have to call an ace beyond what the scoreboard says you can afford to lose is like committing suicide. You may have to do that if you are in an instant do or die position, but avoid it if is not necessary. Sometimes not calling aces because the scoreboard says you cannot afford it may mean you do not get the best result from that hand. This is unfortunate but sometimes necessary. Low scores often inhibit calling hands to their full potential. It is better to quietly work your way back up to a safer score than to give the game away by rash calling.

Reading the Calls

So we get to the point that we have something positive to communicate,,,,aces or the joker when we have them, or suit when we do not have those key cards, and suit we want to go after we have communicated the key cards. The real value of this method of calling however, lies in the fact that by listening to the calls being made, you can deduce a lot of information. Consider the following situation. You have dealt and the calling has been six hearts, six no trumps, seven diamonds, and it is now your turn to call. 

It is clear from your opponents calls that they do not hold either of the black aces, and if your hand is not otherwise strong, and the scores are such that to call both those aces at eight, (assuming you hold them both) would be too risky, you may safely pass. This is because your partner would already realise that those two aces are either in your hand or one or other or both in kitty. So he may safely call on knowing that he can rely on these cards being on his side. Knowing where the key cards are is absolutely vital when it comes to rejecting cards after picking up kitty. You will never have to trump when a suit is led that you know your partner holds the ace. Just discard an unwanted card. You can safely keep solo offsuit cards to lead to your partners aces. It makes all the difference between calling the true value of your joint hands, and you will find that calling often gets to the eight, nine and ten level and you can be more certain of getting those high calls. 

I have dealt and examined hundreds of hands and found that there is nearly always at least an eight call attainable by one side or the other, and this calling system is aimed at letting you find out where it is. Be careful to remember from ALL the calls made what key cards your partner has, either from his having called them, or your opponents calls having denied them. It also helps you to know that while your partner is holding one or more suits covered, you can keep cover on others. This is particularly important when defending against strong no trump calls.

One Most Important Exception

It is very important to remember that the first call your partner calls, unless it is a jump bid, only indicates one card in his hand. For instance he may have started the calling at six spades. So you know he has the ace of spades. You must realise that he may also have the joker, six diamonds including the right and left bower, and two rags of clubs. Clearly he does not want to play the hand in spades, but in diamonds, at least eight diamonds. Naturally he would like to hear you calling the ace of clubs, making his hand now a nine call. Suppose the next player passes. It is now your turn to call and you have no aces and no strength. In normal circumstances you would pass, but if you do so the fourth player may very well pass leaving your partner on his six spade call which he needs like a hole in the head! So what can you call that neither gives false information, yet enables him to stay in the call. 

To call an ace you do not have, could lead to an overcall by your partner for a trick he wrongly thought you had. To jump call to something else may again lead him to interpret your call incorrectly. You cannot call no trumps as you do not have the joker. What must be called is seven of whatever suit your partner called first, in this case seven spades. Your partner must recognise this as a "convention" call which tells him you have nothing but have kept him in the calling. He is now free to call his hand to the level he feels he can get. The situation is entirely different if your partner opens the bidding with a jump bid. Since this is now an indication of strength in a suit, you may safely leave him as first caller as at least he has some strength in that suit.

There has also been discussion on the Giffin website forum about not leaving your partner on an ace bid, and the need to make a bid no matter what to allow him to change his bid. Some players are recommending that you bid 7 spades just to keep him in there. I disagree with this because if you make a 7 spade bid after your partner opened the bidding with any bid higher than 6 spades you are telling him you have the ace of spades. So while you are trying to keep him alive to bid again you are, in ATF, telling him you have an ace on which he may well finish up making a large bid, which he could well lose. So I recommend you just put him up one in the suit he bid at 6, and you are no longer at risk of misinforming him. ATF 500 likes to remove as many maybe's as possible.

Another Exception

If you pass on your first opportunity to call, your partner is now on his own, so he may and most often should depart from the calling of aces and joker. You have obviously got a weak hand, and there is little or no point in your partner calling to give valuable information to your opponents. So your partner should call to confuse the opposition and to block out communication of your opponents. He will deliberately call cards he does not have. He may also be clever enough to use his calls to extract information from his opponents. 

Let us suppose both teams are plus 470 at the beginning of a new hand. You pass, bad luck, you have nothing to communicate. Your partner has a strong hand, and must find out where the joker is. The second caller opens the bidding with a jump bid. He has therefore not got the joker! Your partner should now, regardless of what is in his hand, call seven hearts. Now it is the fourth players call. He must call the joker if he has it, to let his partner know where it is, as from his partners call he knows that his partner is vulnerable to a big no trump call from your partner. So now if his next call is eight of anything, and not seven no trumps, then he has not got the joker! It is of course in kitty, and only your partner is certain where it is. His call of seven hearts forced that information from the opposition. Similarly he could have put his opponents in the position of disclosing say the ace of clubs by calling eight spades. 

There are great skills in pitching calls to gain valuable information. If you have passed on your first call, be very wary of believing your partners calls. He is most likely not telling the truth. Only often enough to keep your opponents on their toes. There may be times when your partner may be the only one left in the call, and he may continue to escalate the call slowly. It is possible in this event that he has a strong hand, most likely in no trumps, and he may still be trying to find out if you have just one king that is vital to him. So no matter how bad your hand is, you may find you have one card which really matters to your partner. Keep alert to his calls.

Deducing what is in Kitty

Under this method of calling it is often possible to deduce whether any of the aces or joker are in kitty. Unfortunately this does not apply to any other than those five cards. Often only one player is in a position to know what key cards are in kitty. In the following sequence of calling the dealer has privileged information. Assume the score of both sides is high and absolutely accurate information is essential. You have dealt, and your opposition commence the bid with a seven spade call. Looking at your hand you find that it is potentially strong, but lacks ace of spades and ace of diamonds. Your partner passes, and the next caller says eight clubs. Both your opposition players have made jump bids, You hold the ace of clubs, and the ace of hearts and the joker. The missing two aces must be in kitty! 

Here is another sequence of calls. You are dealer, and the calls are six diamonds, pass, seven clubs. Looking at your hand you have joker and ace of hearts, and a strong king high run of spades. Once again you know from the call that neither of your opponents have the ace of spades, so it must be in kitty. Your opponents know that they do not have the ace of spades but are not aware you do not hold it. The odds are that you do. It is always advisable for all players to locate which hands hold which aces. It is quite astounding how much alive a hand can come once you discover that a couple of aces, or the joker are in kitty.

Follow the System

What has already been stated may lead you to think that the element of bluff has been taken out of 500, but this is certainly not so. While both partners are still in the calling, you MUST follow the set pattern of calling. Incorrect calling will certainly mislead your opponents, but much worse it will mislead your partner. If your partner has passed at his first opportunity to call, or drops out at an early stage, his hand must be weak. To carry on calling your aces and joker to him, would only be giving information to your opponents. So if you either wish to remain in the calling, or are obliged to because of the score, it is far better to tell lies with your calling than to tell the truth, bearing in mind that if you are left with a call you do not want, you can change up to a suit which is better for you. 

Your best policy is often to call a call one below where you are wanting to go. For instance, if you intend to finish with an eight diamond call, you may be able to block out communication by jumping to an eight club call, changing to eight diamonds if you get left on it, and taking them down on any eight red call they make if they carry on calling. Unless your hand is very weak it will often pay you to pass, or make a low false call, and listen to what your opposition call. From this you may well discover that the key cards you lack are in kitty, so you profit from their calls. If your hand is weak, and your partners is weak as well, you may have to make very high jump bids to stop your opposition communicating. 

The really important thing is this. There are times when it really hurts to pass, or have to make a jump bid, as by so doing you are saying a lot about your hand. To tell other than the truth is to risk deluding your partner into a sense of false security, or worse to oblige him to make a large unnecessary sacrifice call. Here is another series of calls which illustrate this point. As first caller you call six spades, the next player seven spades, your partner seven clubs, and the dealer eight spades. Now if the dealer really had either red ace or joker and supporting spades he might think he can fool you by not calling them, and going to his eight spade call. 

The reason why this call is dangerous is that his partner has now been told that the joker and all four aces are against him, and he may easily be panicked into a very large lock out call to stop you and your partner communicating. If the player whose partner has made a jump bid does hold key cards and is in a position to force you to an untenable call, and wants to be sneaky about disclosure, he should make a large enough bid to let his partner know he wants control of the hand. In general terms it is much better to follow the system than to try to beat it.

You must Practice

It is necessary to devote many hours to practicing these calls before you can hope to achieve perfectly accurate information. You will find that you are constantly calling to higher levels than you may be used to, but you will find that because you are no longer playing guessing games, bigger calls are more readily attainable. It is simple to see that once you know where the aces are you can call higher with confidence. I do not propose to go into further detail about this method of calling, as there are many other facets of the game which are all part of this philosophy.

Know the score before you call

All players MUST KNOW THE EXACT SCORE, at the beginning of every new hand. You need to be aware of how many points you need to get to 500, and what is the largest score you can afford to lose. You also need this same information about your opponents score. Your scorer should announce the score as each new hand is being dealt, and you must know without asking, the value of the calls which answer the questions above. You should be aware of the risk factor of making calls beyond what the score tells you that you can afford, especially when your opponents are not threatening a win next hand.

Every trick is important

When you are defending against any call, remember that you score ten for every trick you take. Never just concede a hand to your opponents, but play every hand to its conclusion. The major reason for this is often overlooked. Let us say that you have a hand that you are sure you can get eight diamonds. If your score is plus 210, you cannot win the game with an eight diamond call, so you may stretch to nine in an attempt to win, with disastrous consequences. If you were 220 the eight would win for you, so a single trick taken some hands ago, could be the difference between a win and a loss. It is just the same when you are having to call to go down. You will not lose a game immediately if you are 310 down, and fail to make a bid of seven diamonds. But if you were 320 down, you would lose the game if you lost the call.

980 points to play with

I am going to presume that if you have gone to the trouble to track down these notes, you already realise that you must get the very best result possible from every hand. Also it means that you are not going to give a game away just because the other team have all the cards.


There is hardly a game played where some sort of sacrifice play is not used. Chess and draughts abound with good sacrifices. In Aussie rules football the ball is not always moving toward the goal. In rugby there is the quick kick backwards to the touch line. Golfers know that if the direct line to the flag is blocked by an obstruction they may have to chip sideways or even away from the hole. How often in soccer do you see the ball returned to the defenders own goalie, the wrong end of the field to score goals. But it allows regrouping and preparation to launch a new attack. A bowler often gives away a few runs to lure a batsman into a false sense of security. 

In 500 the early deliberate loss of no trump tricks is frequently necessary if you are going to make your bid. There is no limit on the INTELLIGENT use of sacrifice bids, and play. In 500 we must think of our greater playing field. Think about the scoreboard as if it represented a soccer field. 0 represents the centre of the field, plus 500 the goal you are aiming at, and minus 500 the goal you are defending. The area behind 0, the minus scores, are part of your playing field. Players of 500 would perhaps not be so unwilling to get into minus scores if the game was called 1000, scores to begin at 500 each. There is for some a psychological barrier about that minus before your score. 


Calling to go down. Yes! - DOWN

The only way to get a complete game over in one hand is for one side to call 10 hearts, or ten no trumps. Thank goodness it does not happen too often. Under this system of calling however, it will happen more often if you fail to take the necessary steps early. If your opponents have all the good cards and you allow them to communicate, you may be too late to stop them. Now assume a game where the scores are WE plus 450, and THEY plus 460. No side should ever be permitted to win this game next hand. I will repeat that. No side should ever be permitted to win this game next hand. 

The player on your left has dealt. Your partner passes. He has said ten different things!!! No aces, no joker, no strength in any suit, and no no-trump support. The second caller calls six clubs. He has the ace but not the ace of spades. You have a hand with only one court card, say a solitary unsupported queen. Obviously your opponents have got all the goodies, well at least they will have if they pick up kitty. What are you to do now. If you pass you can see that unless you can intervene they will easily make a call, as indeed they already have, that will put them out. And if they really wanted to keep on calling they would easily discover their ten no trump potential. Just to allow one of them to call the joker may be fatal. 

So you have to make a call and you have to make it big enough to lock out communication. The very minimum call I would make with that hand would be nine no trumps, and pray that my bluff would work. In the "school" where I played most of my 500, it would not work. Nothing short of a ten no trump call would have been safe, and I would have had not the slightest hesitation in making that bid. In fact, we all got a bit cheeky, and standard procedure for this call would have been to pick up kitty, which we always understood was a ten no trump call, without the need to say anything. 

The rule is that in these circumstances, the weaker your hand is, the higher must be your call, and its limit is only determined by what you can afford to call without losing the game that hand. Of course we are going to lose 520 points, so our score as we go into the next hand is minus 70, and my partner and I would make a mental note that our next limit call to go down is now reduced nine no trumps. We would not hesitate to make that call. After that we will run out of what we call "bargaining power", and hope our cards will improve next hand. It is quite astounding how often games can be won from what looks like a hopeless situation. I do not acknowledge there is a hopeless situation in 500, just opportunities to get back into the game. In just three more hands the scores could be, and often are, reversed.

Continuation ...

Last Updated April 7, 2011


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Copyright 1996-2007 to Bryce Francis
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Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis explaiins how to play 500 the ATF way.



  Written for Four handed 500

There are many forms of 500, and these notes are prepared basically for four players.  

Other tactical calls

There are many other times when calling to go down makes good sense. The most frequent opportunities occur when your opposition is well down, your partner has passed, and you are weak also. Assume your partner has passed as first caller. Next call is six spades, and you find you have nothing much in your hand. You know that your opposition hold all the cards, and given a chance may well call and get a very large call, perhaps even ten no trumps. Your first call must be selected with great care. 

Bid the SCORE which places your opponents in the invidious position of having to make any calls above what the scoreboard says is safe. Don't worry about the cards you hold. Call the points necessary to lock out all but dangerous calls against you. Be careful not to make a call which will put you out the front door, as your opponents may be forced to call in sheer desperation. For example in the above situation the scores were, WE plus 220, and THEY minus 220, your best call would be eight clubs, 260 points. 

Failure of your opponents to get any score over that would threaten them with loss of game, and they should not panic because 260 points, (if you did manage to get them), would not win you the game. Assuming you are left with the call, and even with a good kitty, you only manage three tricks. The scores will now read, WE minus 40, and THEY minus 150. Had you allowed their calling to develop, and they had called to 10 no trumps, the score would have been WE plus 220, and THEY plus 300. 

Now the tables are completely turned, and your next call may have to be a very big one to go down in the face of strong opposition. I believe that the important thing in any call is that the result of the hand when played should be as advantageous to your side as possible. I believe the difference between the scores is more important than what those scores are. So if you can get away with an eight spade losing call when the alternative was a successful nine diamond call against you, then you are considerably better off. 


Calling this way is easier!!

Under the old method of calling, a player holding eight or nine rags and one lone ace will almost always pass, even when first caller. It should by now be clear that this hand is an automatic six call, and probably at seven if that is the lowest it can be called. You must never overlook the potential of BOTH hands. 

Often the one ace you hold is the very card your partner wants to know about. You will find that if you are first caller, you have an instant call if you have an ace. If your hand has no aces or joker, but a strength in any suit, you have an instant seven bid. Following calls by other players should also occur without much delay, but calling may slow down when you then get into higher level calls, as it does take a little time to digest and consider what those calls mean, particularly in relation to the location of key cards which have not been called. 

If you have to pass early then you really do have a weak hand. I do not believe that calls should ever be repeated for the benefit of someone not paying attention. If you cannot remember then that is your own fault. I would not be so demanding if a telephone call interrupts the bidding, or some other dramatic event takes place.

When the bidding ceases

The player who makes the last bid has the right to pick up kitty, and add to his hand those cards he wants from it, and rejecting from it the three cards they no longer require. Pick up all three cards in kitty in one pick up, not three. Put them into your hand with the cards already there. Then make decision about what cards to reject. 

There is a real skill in determining what are the correct cards to reject, but there are some basic rules to follow. Always try to hold one card of the suit or suits your partner has called, the ace or aces in. You no longer have to short suit in these suits. Try to keep at least one support card to a king, and two to a queen. With these provisoes, try to short suit yourself so you can trump when the opportunity arises. A lone king in your hand is usually a wasted card, so avoid one if possible. Similarly one saver to a queen is not enough. 


By remembering what aces your partner has, you can keep kings in those suits. They are each worth 100 more points. Only experience will tell you what is right and what is wrong, and there will be occasions where you just have to take risks. There will also be occasions when you are forced to reject cards you would like to hold. 


Except if you have eleven of them!!. Never comment on kitty after you have picked it up, at least until after the hand has been played. After you have rejected the three discards, you have the lead. Play is then in a clockwise direction.

Some basic advice

  1. No matter how weak or strong your hand is, keep alert to all the calls. Remember them, and interpret their full implications.
  2. Try to locate all four aces and the joker every time you start a new hand.
  3. It is not too difficult to get a nine and sometimes even a ten call, even though the four aces are against you.
  4. It is often quite easy to get nine no trumps even with the joker against you.
  5. Never pass until you are certain you have the opposition down on a call which will give them the game.
  6. Never make a call which will put you out the back door, unless you are quite sure your opponents will win the game if you do not call.
  7. You are always better off to go down a small call, than to let your opposition get a large one.
  8. Beware of leaving your opponents on a call which does not put them out, but which if escalated in that same suit will do so. You are then unable to re-enter the bidding.
  9. Your best lockout call is often in your weakest suit!
  10. Never be afraid to make a call to go down.

Good playing practices

It is usual and wise to clean your opposition out of trumps before you try to make tricks in offsuit. Thus you normally lead to or with the joker. Then the right and left bower. If you hold the right bower and know the joker is against you it is still better to lead the bower to get the joker out of the way. If you hold joker, and right and left bowers, and your partner has the ace, lead a small card to that ace, since your partner may hold it bare. 

The same holds good if you have both bowers and no joker. Always count the trumps as they are played, so you know how many are left. If there is only one trump out against you and it is a higher one than you hold, never lead to get rid of that trump. No point in wasting your trump. Hold it to get the lead back after the higher trump has gone. Unless you must have to lead to exhaust opponents trumps, never take a trick which your partner has already won, or which you know he will win if you do not trump in. 

Always try to hold one or two trumps when you get to the stage of playing in the off suit area. If you lead off all the trumps and lose the lead, you may not get it back again. Never lead trumps when only you and your partner have them left. 

You only bleed your partner. If your offsuit is an ace and two low cards of that suit, you stand a better chance of making two tricks by leading the lowest card first, trumping in, then lead the ace, and the other rag may be good. As a general principle it is unwise to lead aces until trumps have been accounted for. In special circumstances you may lead early to your partners ace of offsuit, risking having it trumped. 

He must lead a trump back so you can have a chance of making an extra trick by a finesse.

How to get your no trump calls

If you have a long strong suit always lead off that suit first as you will force your opponents to make possible discarding errors. If you have all or most of the suits covered, but lack strength in the middle range in those suits, play rags (small cards) to force out the possible losers early. The lead will have to come back to you later, as you still hold the aces, and you can get the lead back without having to waste the joker.

If you hold a king with only one support card, and you know the ace is against you, never lead the rag. Your small card may not draw the ace, and you may not make the king. Always wait for the ace to be led so your king becomes a winner.

The only time it is safe to lead a king, when you do not have the ace, is when you also have the queen. Then the queen is good after the ace takes your king. If you hold king and queen, never lead the queen first because your partner may have the ace, and use it to take your queen which is a winner.


Discarding against the lead

When you have to discard because you cannot follow suit, endeavour to hold rags to your partners aces, so you have a strong lead in the event that you take a trick. Try to keep at least one support card to a king, two in no trumps, and two to a queen, three in no trumps. There are many occasions when you are forced to discard cards you really want to keep. When you get into this situation, make a decision to reject all cards in one suit, rather than some cards from each suit. If you are defending against a no trump call and hold a strong run in a suit, as well as three rags to a jack in another, discard the strong suit, as it is unlikely to be led at you, except perhaps by your partner.

Misere calls

Some players like to introduce misere calls into the bidding. I think it is destructive of good 500 and can spoil the game. So I have a strong preference not to allow it to enter in this bidding process. A misere call is worth 250 points, and can be beaten by any eight call. In misere the player opts to take no tricks, and his partner's hand is not disclosed or played. An open misere call is worth 500 points but can be overcalled by any ten call. Again it is a contract to take no tricks, but the caller's hand is displayed on the table, and played from there. The partner does not participate. Misere hands are usually but not necessarily weak hands. One partner holding a weak misere hand may destroy his own partners call, and with a strong one in one well covered suit, may deprive his partner of a very large call.


Last Updated April 7, 2011


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Copyright 1996-2007 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.



Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis, Inventor of many games.  For the game of 500, explaining a totally new concept in how to play.




There is a very good version of two handed 500, which is quite exciting. At least two versions of three handed, one of five handed, and six handed 500 as well.


Two Handed 500

The best game is still played with 43 cards. The two players sit adjacent to each other in say a South, and West position. Ghost players occupy the North and East positions. Deal three cards face down to each human player, then five cards face down in a line to the ghost players opposite each human player. 

Deal the next card into Kitty, then four cards face down to each human player. Now deal five cards face up, placing one card on top of the five cards which were dealt face down, and then another five cards face up on the other five face down cards. Another card goes into Kitty, then three more face down cards to each human player, and the last card into Kitty as usual. 

Players then pick up their cards, and make their calls based on those cards, and the five cards they can see in their partners hand which is on the table opposite to where they are sitting. Highest bidder picks up Kitty, discards three cards and then leads as usual. Each human player plays the cards of his ghost partner when it is the normal turn of that hand to play. 


As those cards are played after each player has played on the card led, the card which was under the top card is now turned over and comes into play for the next lead. There is of course no opportunity for aces and joker to be called, as very often the first call is the only call. For two players who really enjoy 500 this form of the game provides many incredible results. 

You may attain ten no trump calls with hands which start off looking so weak you would prefer not to call at all. You may lose a call which you thought was impossible to lose. The opportunities which arise to cross-trump, and to finesse high cards are never ending. All the principles of using your bargaining power, and making crafty calls to go down, or to trap an unwary opponent apply in this game as well. 

It really is a very good game.

Three Handed 500

You can play with a normal pack of cards as for four handed 500 dealing as usual with the player making the highest bid having the spare hand turned face up opposite him or her and being played by the person with the last bid in it's proper turn to play. I prefer however to reduce the pack to the top 33 cards and deal three hands. Players calling first should always call a bid they are happy to be left on, but all other bids may be bluff calls until someone is the highest bidder. 

This game is very hard to win if all players play it hard. Not only is one player calling with only one third of the cards, but the other two can and will gang up on the third player if it suits them to do so. As an instance of this consider that player A is 400 up, and B and C are 200 down. Clearly player A can easily go out with a low call. Under these situations B and C should ensure that one of them calls, even beyond the safe limit of that hand. 

The remaining low score player must then play for him, rather than taking him down and leaving A to win. To play for him means throwing the right bower away on the joker, and discarding high cards instead of small ones. Or not playing aces when this would take the trick. It is quite remarkable what can be achieved if this sort of assistance is given. 

Properly played by three players who are all dedicated winners, a single game of 500 can be a long affair.

Five Handed 500

Played with 53 cards and with the final bidder able to call for his partner by nominating a specific card holder to be his partner. You may not call on the Joker, or any trump card. You can elect to go alone. If you have called on a partner both players go up or down depending on whether the call was successful. The score is kept for each player. 

There are occasions in this game when the final bidder may not discover who his partner is until the last card is played, even if he had led to that card early, only to have it trumped by another player. This game is strictly for laughs, and I confess that I have played it so rarely that I have never tried to play it According to Francis. Perhaps it could work like that!

Six Handed 500

This game needs the special pack of 63 cards produced for this purpose, though you could use a normal pack, and include the 2's, 3's and black fours from the original pack, and add four 2's, four 3's and the two red 4's from another pack, even if the back of the cards is different. If you do that then a player who played say the five of hearts would be bettered by a second player playing another five of hearts on top of it.

It is possible to play either as three partnerships of two players, or two partnerships of three players the latter being a much better balanced game. Again I have never played this way but I see no reason why it should not be played exactly as suggested in the text of these notes. It should be a very good game and I suspect that it could become as addictive as the 500 we enjoy. Another good feature would be that you can vary the mix of players through six people more than with a group of four.

I have had many requests from players wanting to buy 6 handed packs. 

Six handed packs of 500 cards are normally available from any good stationers shop in Australia. We have found that you should be able to get them from Kardwell International, Box 607, Orient, New York 11957, Phone 516 323 3880, and Fax 516 323 3904. We think they are also available from Wooden Horse Books, address is

In Australia and New Zealand these packs are readily available from your local stationer, marketed  under the brand name Queens Slipper, as an addition to the normal 53 card packs. I consider the rules in these packs as being totally unsuitable, so give them a miss.


Last Updated April 7, 2011

Copyright Symbol
Copyright 1996-2005 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.


Last Updated April 7, 2011

Copyright Symbol
Copyright 1996-2005 to Bryce Francis
Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission of Bryce is prohibited.  All images, articles, and content material are copyright.  Use of any material without permission is an offence.