Take me out to the old

The diamond tension at the old ball game
is never, ever who will have the win.
That’s for the TV crowd, always so tame.
No. Live is where danger is a shoo-in
with action. Where a foul or in play ball
can maim, arouse passion, win a side bet
and you can jump, lawfully scream up a squall.
Not safe, left out, grounded or dead. Not yet.


Bassarah (part 2)

More Complications to Bassarah

Let’s say that sometime later, when its your turn to deal, the table has built up and you have the following cards on it: AD 5C 6H 4H 2S QC. Your opponent removes the Q with his QS. Luckily you have a 6. You can actually make three sets of 6 from the table: the A and 5, the 6, and the 4 and 2. So you get all the cards and a triple bassarah!

Another, though admittedly rare, possibility is that a J or the 7D is left on the table somehow. This cannot have been at the beginning of a round since the wild cards would have been removed to the bottom of the deck. But it is still possible: if you’ve just cleared the table with a J or 7D or a bassarah and your opponent only has one card left and it’s a J then he’s forced to discard it. Since there’s no cards to take it must be left on the table. If, during the next hand, you are lucky enough to be dealt a J or the 7D then you have a wild bassarah which is worth 3 times a regular bassarah. This also applies if you’re picking up a 7D as a bassarah with J.

The end of a round is when the dealer has dealt the last 8 cards. If there were any wild cards at the beginning you should be able to figure out in whose hand they are. So let’s say you play on and after the last card there are still some cards on the table. The last player to have removed anything from the table must claim them and add them to her or his pile. After counting scores, you switch dealers, shuffle well (you don’t want all the pairs to be together or that will result in a boring game) and deal (again 2 to the opponent, 2 to the table, 2 to the dealer and repeat once.)


As I wrote in my first post, the larger deck (compare sizes on the table to make it easy) wins the cards or the 30 points. In the event of what looks like equal heights, you may be forced to count. If there’s a tie then no points are awarded for the cards. Each bassarah is indicated by turning up a card face up and putting it at the bottom of your pile (it will be counted in the cards too) sticking out as far as your bragging rights permit. Double, Triple or the incredibly rare Quadruple bassarahs are counted with 2, 3 or 4 cards. After each round the 30 points for the cards and ten points each for each bassarah is counted up for each player. Once a player reaches 150 points with more than a 10 point lead the game is over.


As your proficiency increases you’ll learn that this game lends itself to being very fast paced. This makes the game a little more interesting and satisfyingly quick. One newbie pitfall is to forget about the 7D. If you do and you use it like a normal 7 (OK for a bassarah but rarely a good idea otherwise) or discard it onto the table it is treated like a normal 7 and you simply lost your chance. And you’d better hope your opponent can’t maneuver the 7D to be alone on the table and use a J for a triple bassarah (on the other hand that may be your plan too!)

Bassarah a Card Game for Two (part 1)

I have no idea whether I’m spelling Bassarah correctly: it’s pronounced like the fish plus ‘a’ as in rad plus ‘rah’ as in Sarah. I learned this card game for two on many nights during the summer of 1979. I spent that summer on a great program called the Junior Conservationist’s Award Program with a terrific group of guys. Our leader was a student at the University of Waterloo’s Man and the Environment program named Bob Pickering. I learned this game from him.


Use a standard 52-card deck.
Jacks and the 7 of diamonds (7D) are wild.
Winner is the first to 150 points but they must win by at least 20.
There are 2 goals: to gain the most cards in your pile (30 points) and to get as many bassarahs (10 points each) as you can.

High card deals.
Dealer deals well-shuffled cards in two’s in the following sequence:
2 face down to the opponent, 2 face down to yourself, 2 face up in the centre of the table, 2 face down to the opponent, 2 face down to yourself, 2 face up in the centre of the table. Cards for the table are lined up in a single perpendicular row halfway between the players. If, while turning up these table cards on the initial deal (only), a wild card is revealed it is immediately put to the bottom of the deck and replaced with the top card from the deck.
This is a counting game with all but the face cards. Aces are worth one, all other number cards are worth their own number except for the 7D which is the greatest card. It can be ANY card. Jacks can remove all the cards from the table. Queens and Kings are merely themselves and have no numerical value.
The opponent plays first. You can use any one of the cards in your hand to remove a like value from the table and start adding to your pile. If you have, for example, 7C KS QH JD in your hand and the table has 2H 6C 5C QD then your best move is to take the 2 and the 5 with your 7 and so you’d have 3 cards in your pile. Let’s say the dealer takes the 6 with his 6H. Then the only card left on the table is the Q and, as luck (or I the magic internet card shark) would have it, you’ve got a Q. If you take the Q you’ve cleared the table with a matching card and that is a ‘bassarah’ and worth 10 points. The dealer has to put a card on the table. If he puts down a K you’ll get another bassarah. Let’s say he does and you do. Then he puts down the AH. All you have left is the jack and so you clear the board BUT you didn’t clear it with a matching card so it isn’t a bassarah but you’ve just made an opportunity for one with the next deal.
The dealer plays his last card which is the 4C and then deals another round. This time (since it’s not the start) the opponent gets 2, he gets 2, opponent 2 and dealer 2. You’re always dealt a hand of 4 cards and this time you have 5D 7D 9H 10D. You put your K down and the dealer then puts down the QS. You then put your 9 down and he takes everything with a jack. You can’t give up your wild card so you have to put down the 5. He puts done a 3. You’ve got a bassarah since the 7D can be any card including an 8 (or a Q or K or even a Jack).

I’ll continue with more info about the game tomorrow.

Gary Gygax passes on the dice

Gary Gygax died yesterday morning at his home in Wisconsin. This is sad news for me. Gary was the co-inventor of D&D a much derided (usually unfairly and ignorantly) but highly influential role-playing game that was a large part of my free time when I was a teenager. I loved this game as it was a great outlet for an active imagination. I wish, in fact, that I was free to still play it. It takes up a great deal of time and effort to organize but the freedom to explore a new world, new character and untold other newnesses is limitless. The world has sadly become too impatient and cynical for D&D but I can always hope that something as good will come along at some time.