Maw or 25 is an ancient Irish card game that, according to the Northern Arizona University website, has been played since the 1500s. The number of players varies from three to nine. Players can form teams with the people across the table from them, and in nine-player games there can be three teams of three. The game is generally over in a few deals, making it a very fast-paced game.
Players choose a dealer. The role of dealer shifts to the left after each hand. The dealer shuffles the cards. The player to the right of the dealer can cut the deck if desired. The dealer starts by dealing five cards to each player. He deals two cards the first time and then three cards the next. He can switch it up to three and two if he likes, however. He then turns up the first card on the deck of cards. This card sets the trump suit.
Robbing the Trump Card
Players who hold the ace of the trump suit can rob the trump card from the top of the deck. Play any card you would rather not have next to the deck of cards and replace it with the trump card. This can only be done on your first turn and only before you make your first play. You can then no longer rob the trump. Anyone who holds the ace can rob the trump, including the dealer, but you do not have to do so.
Rules of Play
The player to the left of the dealer starts. She plays whatever card she likes to start. The player to her left lays another card of the same suit, and play continues until every player has laid a card. Players can win the hand by having the highest card in the suit or by laying a trump card. Trump cards automatically beat any suit card, with higher trump cards beating lower trump cards. Once a trump card has been played, the remaining players must play trumps if they can, as the trump suit becomes the new suit of the hand. Players can lay a trump card at any point, even if they have an appropriate suit card. Players don’t have to lay a trump card if they can’t follow suit. They can lay any card they like, simply to get rid of a weak card. Players don’t have to play the top three trumps--which are the five, jack and ace cards in that order--unless they want to play them. They can play a card of another suit, if they like. The winner of the hand starts the next hand.
Scoring and Winning
Players or teams score five points for each hand won. Winning a hand is often called a "trick." The game ends when someone earns 25 points. The game must stop immediately when somebody earns 25 points, even if the hand isn’t over yet. Multiple games are usually played and players often bet money on each game, with the winner of each game winning the pot. However, players can decide to score one point per game and stop at a predetermined number of points.
- playing cards image by Warren Millar from Fotolia.com