Games can be a delightful way to spend time together. Try your hand at a popular card game - Brag!

Background: A game for all. Mostly played by working class, the merchants and gentry also participated. Come to an ordinary and expect to see this one played. As to its popularity in England, just look at Mr. Hoyle’s books. His first book was on how to play Whist (1742). This was shortly followed by books on: Backgammon, Piquet, Quadrille and Brag! Like many games, simple to learn, tough to master.

Number of Players: 2–8
Equipment: Standard 52-card deck

The Play: This is really a cross of luck, poker and Twenty-One. When you ante up, you toss one stake into each of three pots. There are three ways to win. Cards rank from Ace (highest) to 2 (lowest). Nine cards are dealt, three at a time, beginning on the left (Eldest hand) and continuing clockwise. The last card dealt each person is dealt FACE UP. If 6 or more players are in the game, you will be unable to deal 9 cards, so go until you complete the players. (6 players–8 cards; 7 players–7 cards; 8 players–6 cards).

First Pot: The person who has the highest card showing wins the first stake or pot. If any are showing the Ace of Diamonds, that beats all others. In case of tie, the Elder hand wins, meaning the first person after the Dealer, going clockwise around the table who had the tie card wins the pot. Following this, the turned up card is discarded from all hands into the Stock (the remaining cards).

Second Pot: This is the Bragg. Each player looks at his cards for pairs. The highest PAIR will win the pot. (Three of a kind means nothing here, it’s pairs.) The Knave of Clubs is a wild card. That means it can be teamed with any card to make a pair of the other card. It can also be added to a pair to make 2 ½ of that “pair,” which beats all other pairs! Before the pairs are shown bets are made starting with the Eldest hand. Bets are made as in poker, with each player having the option of matching the raise, raising again, or folding. When all have had a chance, the pairs are laid down; highest pair takes the pot. The cards are discarded from the players’ hands and added to the Stock.

Third Pot: From the remaining cards in your hand, pick cards that will add up to as close to 31 without going over. Face cards count 10, Aces 11, all others their “pip” value, that is the number of pips displayed on the card. Closest to 31 gets pot. In case of tie, the Elder hand (first clockwise after the dealer) with best score wins.

Deal is passed to Eldest hand for subsequent plays.

Nelson, Walter. The Merry Gamester
Cotton, Charles. The Compleat Gamester
Carson, Jane. Colonial Virginians at Play
various card game Web sites

Reprinted from The Rappahannock Gazette, February 2008 edition.

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Last updated on March 16, 2021.

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