How to Play the Card Game Pepper

By Dana Severson

The game of Pepper is much like many trick-taking games played today in that players bid their hands for the right to call trump, play their cards in hopes of taking tricks and earn points based on tricks taken. But one of the main differences in this game from the others you may play is the option to call either Little Pepper or Big Pepper. Both have the same goal—to take all the tricks available—but have different outcomes. With a bet of Big Pepper, you and your partner will win twice as many points, but could lose this same amount if you’re unable to hit your bid.

Reduce the size of your deck by removing the 8 through the 2 of each suit. For the game of Pepper, you’ll be playing with a deck of only 24 cards—A, K, Q, J, 10 and 9 of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades (see the Tips section for ranking order).

Decide teams by having partners sit on opposite sides of the table from one another.

Deal out the cards, starting with the person to the left of the dealer, until all players have a total of 6 cards in their hands.

Bid your hand, again starting with the person to the left of the dealer. Your bid is based on the number of tricks you believe you and your partner will be able to take if you are able to call trump. You have seven bids available to you—Big Pepper, Little Pepper, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1. Subsequent bids must be higher than the previous. You needn’t bid if you don’t have the hand and may choose to pass instead.

Call trump if you’ve won bid—highest bid at the table. You may call hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades or no trump.

Lay a card, starting with the player who called trump. You must follow suit when possible. Highest suited card takes the trick. If you are unable to follow suit, you may either throw off or play trump. Highest trump card will now take the trick. In both scenarios, the winner of this trick will lead the next card.

Score a single point for each trick, unless you’ve called trump and were not able to make your bid. If this happens, your team’s score is reduced by 6 points. In the case of a bid of Little Pepper, the team must take all six tricks to earn their 6 points. In the case of a bid of Big Pepper, the team must again take all six tricks, but will earn 12 points towards their overall score. Not making this bid reduces a team’s score by 12.

Win the game of Pepper by being the first team to reach 30 points.

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.