Tag Archives: Spoons

Boardgames in the News: Playing Pig in Forbus, Tennessee

Pig (aka Spoons) is a simple little card game that uses a form of card drafting where players repeatedly pass a single card to the left and pick up a card from the right.  The game is fun and can be quite manic until the point that a player has four of a kind, when they put their finger on their nose (or grab a spoon from the centre of the table).  Everyone else copies and the last person to notice and put their finger on their nose (or get a spoon) is the loser, or “Pig”.  In Forbus, Tennessee, the game Pig is very different however, and taken much more seriously.  The Forbus Pig game is a partnership trick taking game, similar to Bridge, but is only played in the local area.  The “18th Annual World Pig Tournament” was won last weekend by Larry Padgett.

Larry Padgett winning the "18th Annual World Pig Tournament".
– Image from facebook.com

The interesting part of the Forbus Pig game is the bidding and card values.  Dealer is chosen by blind draw, and deals nine cards to each player.  The players then bid to name the “trump” suit.  Each player has only one bid per hand and must raise the current bid or pass.  The bids represent the number of points a player thinks their partnership can make in the hand, and the starting bid must be at least seven. Once the bidding has been concluded, the trump suit is named by the winner.  Players then discard all their non-trump (or “trash”) cards or a minimum of three cards, to ensure that everyone has six cards or fewer.  This hand is then “topped up” by the dealer to ensure that everyone has a hand of six cards.  Anyone discarding trumps must declare it and in general only the one trump (the deuce) is discarded and the Three will then score instead.

Bridge
– Image from innontheprom.co.uk

When play starts, the highest bidder leads.  Players forced to follow suit if they lead with a trump, but unlike Whist/Bridge do not have to follow if the lead is a trash (non-trump) card.  In each hand, the trump with the highest rank wins.  And this is where the game is clever:  the card ranks and card scores are not the same.  So, while the Ace is the highest ranking card, the Five (or “Pig”) is the highest scoring card, so a player can win a trick with a non-scoring card like the King and take the points provided by other, lower ranking cards.  In another idiosyncrasy, the Jack and Five (or “Pig”)of the suite in the same colour as the trump, the “Off Jack” or “Off Pig” suit also score.  The winner of the trick takes the cards and places them face down before providing the next lead. Non-trumps, or trash cards are deemed to have no rank, so if nobody plays a trump, the trick is won by the person who led.  Once all six tricks in the hand have been played, the scores are calculated.

Rank
Score
 
Rank
Score
Ace
1

Eight
0
King
0

Seven
0
Queen
0

Six
0
Jack (Main)
1

Five (Main Pig)
5
Jack (Off)
1

Five (Off Pig)
5
Joker
1

Four
0
Ten
1

Three
0
Nine
0

Two
1

In general, both teams score, so if one team scores ten and the other score six, both scores are added to the teams’ running totals.  The catch is that the team who won the bidding must exceed the amount they bid.  In other words, a team who bid and won with ten, must score ten or more, if they fail, their bid is subtracted from their running total.  The maximum number of points available is sixteen, but players who are confident can score “doubles” by bidding, for example, “double sixteen”.  In this case, if they achieve sixteen, they will score thirty-two.  Only bids of fourteen, fifteen and sixteen can be doubled and they are high risk, because of course players who fail to make their winning bids will lose that number of points and “double sixteen” is thirty-two.  This is a a lot of points to lose in a game which ends ends when one team finishes a hand with more than fifty-two points, or less than minus fifty-two with the team with the most winning.

Cards
– Image from aberryhousecarehome.co.uk

There are actually a lot of games like Pig that have a strong local tradition, but are not widely known, indeed the “official rules” for Forbus Pig are not easy to come by, even in these days of the internet.  Aside from the recent “18th Annual World Pig Tournament”, this particular game has been reported in the national media thanks to its influence on the local economy of the little town of Forbus in Tennessee.  Everyone in Forbus plays Pig, but its epicentre is the General Store.  There’s no money involved in Pig, but despite that, it is strangely compelling to watch and draws a sizeable crowd, making the Store the centre of the small community.

Forbus General Store
– Image from facebook.com