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
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