3-5-8 is a 3 player "trick taking" card game, in the Whist group. It is also known as "Sergeant Major" or "8-5-3".
Cards are ranked from Ace (high) down to 2 (low).
If you enjoy the strategy of "shooting the moon" in the card game Hearts, you may find 3-5-8 similarly entertaining. In 3-5-8, you will be trying to take as many tricks as you can.
Tips: try working through the Tutorial before playing a game! And try playing a few games with robots, before playing with humans. This will help you become familiar with the mechanics of the game.
The objective is to be the first player to take 12 tricks in a round.
A random player is chosen to be the dealer.
Each player is dealt a hand of 16 cards from a standard deck of 52 cards. The remaining 4 cards form a "kitty" and are placed to one side.
Players are assigned a target number of tricks that they must take. The dealer's target is 8, the player to the left of the dealer has a target of 5, and the player right of the dealer has a target of 3.
The dealer picks a "trump" suit: clubs, spades, hearts, or diamonds. Cards with the trump suit outrank cards of all other suits.
Next, the dealer chooses 4 cards to discard, and then takes the cards from the kitty.
The player who is left of the dealer leads the trick by playing a card first. Turns are taken in clockwise order, each player "following suit" by playing a card of the same suit as the first card, if possible.
Once everyone has played a card, the pile of 3 cards are taken by the person who played the highest card with the same suit as the lead card. This is known as "winning a trick".
If a player does not have a card with the same suit of the lead card, they may play any card. Cards with the trump suit are special - they override the rank of other cards. If a card in the trump suit is played on the trick, then the highest trump suit card will win the trick.
The trick winner starts the next trick.
When all cards have been played, the deal moves clockwise, and a new set of cards are dealt to each player.
If a player did not take their target number of tricks in the previous round, then they are said to have "undertricked." Players who have met more than their target number of tricks are called "overtrickers," and are given an advantage.
- If there is only one overtricker, this player chooses cards from their hand to exchange with the undertricker (or undertrickers, if the two other players took fewer tricks than their target). The number of cards to give to each undertricker is computed by the undertricker's target minus the number of tricks that they took. For example, if the undertricker's target was 8, but they only took 5, then the overtricker gets to trade 3 cards with them.
- If there are two overtrickers, then each of the overtrickers exchanges cards with the undertricker. The player who has the largest target for the current hand is given an advantage; they are the first to trade cards. In this case, the number of cards exchanged is the difference between the number of tricks taken by that overtricker, and their target for the previous hand. For example, if they had a target of 3 tricks, but took 5, then they choose 2 cards to exchange with the undertricker.
- After cards are handed from the overtricker to the undertricker, the undertricker is forced to return the highest card (or cards) in their hand that are of the same suit as those cards that were given to them. For example, if the undertricker is given the 2 of clubs, and they have the Ace of clubs, then they must pass the Ace of clubs back to the overtricker!
Discard and PlayAfter the exchange, the dealer calls trump, discards four cards, and takes the four cards from the kitty.
If the dealer undertricked, they will have exchanged one or more high cards with an overtricker. If they find higher cards in the kitty that are of the same suit as those exchanged with an overtricker, they must show the overtricker those cards that are higher in rank than those that were traded.
After showing any such cards, play begins. The first card is played by the person who is left of the dealer, as before.
The first player to take 12 tricks (or more) during a round wins!
- If you are dealt a lot of trump cards, it can make sense to discard cards of another suit in order to create a void in that suit. You may be able to play trump cards immediately, in this case.
- It is usually not wise to discard high cards, in particular the Ace, since it would be unusual for a player to be able to trump the first card of a suit that is played.
- It is often useful to play your Aces first. But be careful - they might get trumped if another player has a void in the suit of your Ace!
- Keep in mind that you probably cannot win just by playing a lot of trump cards, unless you are very lucky. Plan on using cards of other suits strategically.
- It is sometimes possible to bleed out trump cards early on. In this case, if you hold enough high cards of other suits, you may be able to take many tricks because your cards can't be trumped.
- Points are not carried over from one round of cards to the next, so it may seem like it doesn't matter what your current score is, if you cannot take 12 tricks and win. However, you should always try to take as many tricks as you can, especially more tricks than your target number. This can give you an advantage in the following round, when you'll be able to trade your low cards for high ones.
3-5-8 was reportedly popular among members of Britain's Royal Air Force, where it was commonly called "Sergeant Major."