High Low Jack, also known as Hi Low Jack and Pitch, is played with a standard 52-card deck. Partnership, the most commonly played version of the game, places players in teams of two that score points collectively. Varieties include Cutthroat, in which each player scores points individually, and Nine Card, which deals three extra cards and awards points for both the trump five and highest spade in play.
Each player receives six cards, with the deal rotating clockwise. One round of bidding follows the deal, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer and continuing around. Bids of two, three, four and "smudge" are permissible, and a bid must be higher than the previous bid. The dealer may bid the same as the highest bidder, which is known as stealing the bid. If the first three players make no bid, the dealer must bid at least two.
The player who makes the highest bid is the "pitcher," who declares the trump suit and leads the first round of play.
One point is given for each of the four tricks possible to win in each game. High is won by having the highest card played in the trump suit. Low is awarded to the team that wins the trick containing the lowest trump card in play. Jack goes to the team that wins the trick in which the trump jack is played; if the jack is not dealt this point is not awarded. The game point is given for the team that has the higher total value of cards in its tricks. Each ace is worth four, king is worth three, queen is worth two, jack is worth one and each ten is worth ten. If each team has the same total, no game point is awarded.
Each team that makes its bid receives the number of points they earned. To receive five points you must have bid "smudge." A team that bids four and wins all six tricks including the trump jack without bidding smudge only scores four points. If a team doesn’t earn its bid, that number is subtracted from the score. An unsuccessful "smudge" bid results in a loss of five points.
A team needs to score 21 points to win the round; however, they can win at the end of the hand where they declared the highest bid and successfully gained the proposed number of tricks. It is possible for the winning team to have less points than the losing team, though they must still have at least 21 points. This occurs when the losing team accrued points during a game in which they did not make the highest bid.
- "Hoyle's Encyclopedia of Games"; by Walter P. Gibson; 1974.
Heather Richards is a freelance web writer in Rhode Island. Richards has managed non-profits serving senior citizens and individuals with developmental disabilities for 12 years. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Public Administration from UNC Pembroke.