This is an Indian card game that looks a lot like a variant of an Italian game, Scopa, but the influence could easily be the other way around. Note this is also commonly known as ‘seep’, but our family’s theory is that it’s a bastardised version of ‘sweep’.
The game is usually played by 4 players, in two teams, with partners sitting opposite to each other. It is played using the standard deck of 52 cards. It can also be played with a two player variant I’ll explain below.
Aim of the Game
Get as many points as you can through picking up cards which are worth points. First team to lead by 500 (or, more commonly, whatever other limitation you wish to put on it, e.g. time) wins.
- All cards of Spades ( ♠ ) have points corresponding to their face value – e.g., the King of Spades is worth 13 points, Queen 12, Jack 11, the 10 of Spades is worth 10 points, etc.
- All Aces are worth a point – for all suits.
- The 10 of Diamonds ( ♦ ) is worth 2 points. 1
- Whichever team has the most cards at the end gets 4 points 2
- Sweeps are worth 50 points (the mechanism for a sweep is explained below)
This makes for a total of 100 points per round (90 points from the spades + 4 points from the aces + 2 points from the 10 of Diamonds + 4 points from the most cards).
With 4 players, the teams are made up of players sitting opposite each other, like in Bridge or 500. This ensures play alternates between teams.
The method of play is the establishment and picking of “houses” – piles of two or more cards which add up to a ‘high-value’ card. The smallest such house is 9, and the biggest is King (13).
A player can only create a house if he has a card of the value of the house in hand, as that is necessary to pick up the house later and collect points.
Picking cards – whether individually or for a house – locks in the points from the cards for the team.
Establishing a house (“ghar”): This is usually done by adding a card to an existing one “on the floor” – The floor is where the gameplay occurs. For example, to establish a house of 9, with a 4 on the floor, you can throw down a 5. To establish a Jack (11) house, you would need to throw down a 7 on top of the 4, etc.
Only one unique value house can exist at any one time – so the two teams cannot have houses of the same value on the floor.
Gameplay begins: the dealer deals 4 cards to the player on his right, and 4 cards on the floor. The player to the right of the dealer picks up his cards and must bid for a house on the basis of the first four cards in their hand. If the player is unable to make a bid for a house, for instance if the player does not have any cards above 9, the round must be redealt.
If the player has made a bid, the four cards in the middle are turned up. The player who has made a bid must now either create a house by adding a card to the ones on the floor, or picking up a sum of cards to the value of the called amount (not usual, but desirable if this locks in significant points). If neither creating a house or picking up cards to that value is possible, the player must throw down their bid card to the floor.
The rest of the pack is now dealt, in groups of four. Play then continues as normal to the right of the bidding player.
Normal play affords a player a few actions:
- Establish a house
- Adding to a house
- Breaking a house
- Cementing a house
- Picking up a card
- Throwing a loose card
- Picking up a house
Creating a house: when there are loose cards, the player can add a card from their hand to one (or more) on the floor and add this to an existing house. Simple arithmetic applies here – a 5 on the floor can be combined with a 4 for a 9 house, 5 for a 10 house, 6 for a Jack house, 7 for a Queen house, or 8 for a King house.
Note that this should only be done to houses which have either been established by yourself, your teammate, or one where you have the house’s value card in hand.
Breaking a house: Houses can be broken. If house of value 9, for example, has been established by your opponent, and you have a Jack and a 2 in hand, you can lay your 2 on the house to “break” the house and establish your own. This now becomes a house of Jack/11 – if you already have one on the floor, the broken house is added to the existing pile. Houses cannot be broken when they have been ‘cemented’ – see below.
Adding to a house / cementing a house (“pukka”): Houses can be cemented or fixed by laying a second “layer” of cards adding up to that value, or by laying a card of the exact value on top of an existing house. This latter action can only occur where you have at least two cards of the same value in your hand, as you still need a card to pick up the house later. Note that this can occur more than once, and is not restricted to the establishing team – an opponent cementing a house you’ve created indicates that they have another card still in hand capable of picking up the house.
Picking up a card: Any loose card can be picked up by a pair of that card. This is usually useful where one of the pair is a low (i.e. less than 8) Spade, as it locks away points.
Throwing a loose card: A loose card can be thrown at any time. When a player cannot perform any of the other actions available, they must throw a card from their hand. This card is loose on the floor and can be used by other players.
Picking up a house: When points have been tied up in a house, or there are many houses on the floor, it is (usually!) wise to pick up a house. A house can be picked by a player during his turn by playing the card with the number of the house, e.g. a house of 12 can be picked by a Queen. When picked, a house is placed face down in front of the player.
Picking up a house is usually left as late as possible, in order to extend the run of cards being added to a house – remember, points are awarded for the number of cards picked up.
Picking up also has a special situation, the Sweep.
The Sweep (or “seep”): if a player is able to pick up all remaining cards on the floor in one go, the player has “swept” it clean, and that player’s team is awarded 50 points as a bonus.
This typically arises where one house is left on the floor and the next player has the card of the remaining house, or occasionally where no houses are left after a pick-up and the loose cards on the floor all add up to the value of card in the next players hand.
Sweeps are kept in front of the player with the card used to pick up the sweep face-up, or recorded elsewhere on a scoring sheet.
Sweeps mid-game are particularly dangerous, as this forces the opponent to throw a loose card; if the next player has its pair, a second sweep occurs, and the pattern can continue disastrously.
The end-game of the last card usually has teams picking up the remaining houses. The last team to pick up (usually the dealer) receives any loose cards also remaining, and the last pick up is not considered a sweep.
Players count their points, remembering to add 50 for any sweeps. The losing team deals the next round, and play continues until one side reaches the target (500 point lead).
Two Player Variant
Two players can play this game, in a slightly modified form. Four hands are still dealt, but two are kept closed. Play goes as normal until the first 12 cards have been processed, and then play continues with the next hand – the last loose cards are not picked up, but rather serve as the seed for the next round.
As the players are forced to pick up any piles before the second hand comes into play, the transition from one round to the next leaves the two-player game particularly vulnerable to sweeps.
If you’d like to refer to other sites –
- I first found the rules elsewhere, but added & updated with discussions with family members.
- Anonymous Pensive has a similar write-up, but offers some different points on scoring.
- John McLeod has taken this write up and extended it, including the Pakistani variation on scoring.
- A number of commenters have pointed out that according to them, the 10 of Diamonds is worth 6 points. This isn’t how I’ve played, but to achieve this you would have to disregard the rule of 4 points to the team that picks up the most cards. ↩
- See previous footnote – I think this is a better rule because it ties floor control with points. ↩