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How to play 3-5-8 (Sergeant Major) - game rules

3-5-8 (Sergeant Major) is an addictive card game with several varients. It is hugely popular in Europe, the Middle East, India and all over the world. Also, rumor has it that 3-5-8 is the favorite game of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom!

It is designed for 3 players, using a deck of 52 cards – from Ace to Two. The object is to have the highest score by collecting the proper number of tricks. In every deal, the players try to take 3, 5, or 8 tricks (hence the other name is 3-5-8). If players do not take enough tricks, they receive negative points. On the other hand, if they get more tricks than required – they receive positive points. Over the course 18 deals, there are 3 deals in which the aim is exactly the opposite – players have to take the least number of tricks. Consequently, negative points are given to those who take too many tricks, and positive points are given to those who take the least amount of tricks. The winner is the player with the highest score at the end.

Ways to play

There are six ways to play:

deal using (♠) as trump
deal using (♣) as trump
deal using (♥) as trump
deal using (♦) as trump

– In each of these deals, “The playmaker” chooses which suit is trump and every player should take as many tricks as possible

NT (No Trump) – in this deal, there is not a chosen trump suit and each player should take as much tricks as possible.
MT (Minimum Tricks) – in this deal, there is not a chosen trump suit and each player should collect as few tricks as possible.

“The playmaker” decides which variant to play each deal. The game consists of 18 deals, and each player gets 6 turns as the playmaker. The playmaker can choose whichever variant they want and it does not have to be in any particular order. However, they can only choose each variant once throughout the course of the game.

Players

In every deal, one player is "The dealer", one is "The playmaker", and one is "The third player". In each variant, (except MT), players should take at least the number of tricks that their role states.

• “The dealer”: 3 tricks
• “The third player”: 5 tricks
• “The playmaker”: 8 tricks

To make it easier, the number of tricks required is visible near the player’s avatar.

Only in the "MT" variant is the number of required tricks different than the other ways of playing. Hence, "The playmaker" should take, at most, 3 tricks, "The third player", not more than 5 tricks, and "The dealer", at most, 8 tricks.

To begin

Having selected “The dealer”, each player is dealt 16 cards. Four cards are put aside as a "kitty" for “The playmaker”, who is situated to the left of “The dealer” (each deal is played clockwise). On the basis of the first six cards dealt, “The playmaker” selects a variant (one of the 4 trump ways, NT or MT). Then, if the variant is correct, there is a card exchange (details below). “The playmaker” shows the kitty, throws away four cards, and starts the game.

Deal

The object of the deal is to take the right amount of tricks. Players are obliged to follow suit, but they do not have to play a higher card than the other players. However, if the player doesn't have any cards of the suit played, then they must play the trump (if they have it).

Scoring

After each deal, the points are added up. If a player has taken more tricks than they were supposed to, they score positive points. If they weren’t able to take enough tricks, they score negative points. For example, if the player who was supposed to take 8 tricks takes 9, – they score one positive point; if only 7 – then one negative point. With the MT (Minimum Tricks), everything is just the opposite – every additional trick means one negative point and every trick less than the player is supposed to take means one positive point.

The sum of points for all players in one deal is always 0.

Swapping cards

During the game, players can exchange cards. Swapping cards is allowed only under specific conditions and only during the trump rounds (in NT and MT, swapping cards is not allowed). Swapping is an extra reward (or punishment) for points from the previous deal. The player (or players), who got positive points can exchange cards with the player (or players) who got negative points. The player who previously got positive points can give the cards they want to swap to the player who previously got negative points. The latter is obliged to give the former the highest card of the suit they were given. If they don’t have a higher card, the same one must be returned. However, this does not apply to the trump cards. The number of cards that can be swapped is always the same as the number of positive points the player got in the previous deal. Two or three players are involved in swapping cards after each deal.

Swapping cards between three players can happen when every player scored positive or negative points (in the previous deal). If one player got positive points, and two players got negative points, the player who got positive points exchanges cards with both the players who got negative points. If two players got positive points, they both exchange cards with the player who got negative points. The player who goes first is always the player who needs to take the most tricks in the current deal.
Swapping cards between two players can happen when one of the players did not score positive or negative points in the previous deal, (in other words, if one player got the exact number of tricks required). In this case, only two players are involved in the exchange. The player who got positive points in the previous deal initiates the exchange.

THE END

Upon completing 18 rounds, the player with the highest score wins!