Cooncan, by Robert Frederick Foster


For Two Players

The chief point in this form of the game is to watch the cards that are passed and buried in the discard, as it is useless to hold combinations that are blocked, and it is most important to know what cards are still to come that maw fit your opponent’s combinations. Toward the end of the draw from the pack, each player should know exactly what the other holds in his hand by the cards that have not appeared in the draw; but that requires close attention and an excellent memory.

Another strong point in the game is judiciouus forcing. A player cannot be forced to use a card unless he has upon the table the combination that it fits, but it is often necessary to judge whether the force will hurt him or help him. If he refuses the card himself, it is invariably good play to force him with it.

Let us call the players A and B, and suppose that A has upon the table a sequence of four spades to the 10, another of four clubs to the 9, and two cards in his hand. He draws the 5 of clubs and lays it on the discards, showing that be is not going to use it on his club sequence.

The only possible reason for this refusal must be that it would break up the two cards remaining in his hand. Suppose these are the 3 and 4 of hearts, or two aces. By forcing him to use the 5 of clubs and discard, be must lay out one of his hearts or one of his aces, whichever it is, and the other is deadwood. If he could have refused the club 5, he might have got a third to the two in his hand which would have enabled him to lay down a sequence of three hearts, or three aces, as the case might be.

By compelling a player who is waiting for a certain card in this way to break up the two he is holding, the card he discards may be the very one for which his adversary is waiting, because if the cards are still to come, they may just as well he in the hand of the other player as in thc pack. If A holds the 3 and 4 of hearts, and knows that no small hearts have shown in the draw so far, B may have the ace and deuce, or the 5 and 6, and by forcing a discard A may get eleven down himself.

One of the peculiarities of this game is that you can never get eleven cards down yourself and still hold a card that blocks your adversary, because you cannot get enough down unless you give up his card or show some way in which you can use it yourself. Some pretty plays come when the necessity of using a card that your opponent wants is foreseen, so that if you turn it and get the first say to it you spoil his game.

The result of the game often hinges on these blocking tactics. Suppose that A has eight cards down and holds two red eights, one of which will fit B’s sequence in hearts. If there is a third eight to come, A may get down a triplet of eights and win the game; but if there is no other eight to come, it is impossible for A to win the game, no matter what he draws to his combinations on the table, without giving B his 8 of hearts. At the same time, A may know from the cards passed that it is impossible for B to win without that 8 of hearts. Then it is a tableau.

It is important to remember that the player who draws the card from the top of the pack always has the first say to it, if both want the same card, which very often happens. Suppose A has a sequence in clubs from the 5 to the 8 which is blocked on one end, as the 9 of clubs was buried before the sequence was shown, but A can win the game if be gets the 4 of clubs for the other end.

B holds two red fours. If he is the one to draw the 4 of clubs, he lays down three fours and A is blocked at both ends of his club sequence. But if A draws it, he will use it and even if it does not put him eleven down, B is left with two dead cards on his hands, unless the 4 of spades is still to come and A does not get it or want it.

A good player should be able to judge his chances of winning or losing the game before he turns the first card. When his hand presents no reasonable hope of getting eleven cards down, he should play for a tableau, refusing to use anything, so that he shall not have to discard anything that might help his adversary. It is very important in playing for tableaus to remember what runs are blocked, the cards that would continue these runs being either buried in the discards or in your own hand.

Many attempts have been made to formulate a rule by which a person should know autotmatically, as it were, whether to play for a win or a tableau, the basis of calculation being the number of bad or disconnected cards in the hand, but all such rules may prove worthless in the face of fortunate drawing to sequences started on the table early.

Let us suppose that these are the cards in the hand of a player, A, who deter- mines to try for a win, the 3 of spades being the turned card, sometimes called the starter:

Ten of HeartsSix of HeartsThree of HeartsSeven of DiamondsThree of Diamonds
Eight of SpadesFive of SpadesFour of SpadesSeven of ClubsTwo of Clubs

The majority of players change this suit arrangement to one that shows what cards are connected, and what are useless, placing those selected for the discard at the left, This would bring the hand into the following order:

Six of HeartsTen of HeartsTwo of ClubsEight of SpadesSeven of Diamonds
Seven of ClubsFive of SpadesFour of SpadesThree of HeartsThree of Diamonds

This enables the player always to count the number of cards that he must get rid of in discards and shows him how many cards he can get down if he fills the combinations. In this hand there are four absolutely worthless cards, which can never by any possibility connect with anything. Those are the two high hearts, the deuce clubs and the spade 8. Should the spade sequence that would include the 4 and 5 start early, it might build up to the 8, and for that reason this card is placed as the last to be let go, the first discard being the heart 6. The reason for letting this go before the 10 is that it may block a heart sequence in the opponent’s hand by burying it early in the game.

Of the good cards, there is a chance for three sevens, for a sequence in spades, and for three trys. If we take these in ordor, to show how the discards run along, and suppose that A gets three sevens first, he will let go the heart 6. If he gets a card for his spade sequence next, he will let go the heart 10. If he gets the three treys next he will have nine cards down, and discard the club deuce, Now all he has left is the doubtful 8 of spades. If he has built up on spades to the 6 and catches the 7, he is game, because he can use the 8 and be eleven down.

Now for the play. The turn-up card suits A’s hand and he draws it toward him, laying upon the table beside it the 4 and 5 of spades to show how he uses the 3. It should be remarked that even if a player can lay down four or five in sequence, he should never do so unless he must show the cards to win, because as soon as the adversary sees the extent of a sequence he will keep blocking cards if he can. Just lay down the three necessary to show how you use the card you draw. Never lay down a sequence that is complete in your hand when dealt, but wait for discards to add to it, and then show nothing but the end to which the drawn card fits.

It is always better to play for sequences than for triplets, because of the length to which sequences may run. That is why A lays out three spades instead of three treys. If the trey of clubs is used by B, it will be better for A to discard his two red treys and keep his spade 8 to the end.

As soon as A discards the 6 of hearts, that card is at the disposal of the dealer, B. These are B’s cards:

Five of ClubsTen of DiamondsNine of DiamondsEight of DiamondsSix of Diamonds
Four of HeartsTwo of HeartsAce of HeartsAce of SpadesAce of Clubs

B could lay down a sequence of three to the 10 in diamonds and a triplet of aces at once, but that would disclose his hand to his adversary, and it is better to wait for the 7 of diamonds, The club 5 is the only dead card in this hand, as he might get the 3 of hearts. At the same time he makes a mental note of the fact that the heart sequence can never go beyond the 5, even if he gets that card, as the 6 of hearts is about to be buried, B being unable to use it.

B draws the diamond 2, which he passes, as it is of no use to him. A cannot use it either, and draws the heart 5, which he cannot use and passes. This makes his 2 and 4 of hearts very doubtful cards, and B makes a note of the fact that three in sequence is the limit of possibility in that suit.

B draws the heart 9 and passes it up. A draws the club 9 and passes. These cards mark the tens as useless to either player except as a triplet. B draws the club 8 and both pass it, showing that neither has anything in the high club sequence.

The next card to show is the club 3. A takes this and shows his two red treys. This shows B that his heart sequence is impossible, and he places the 2 and 4 of hearts at the left of the club 5 for discards. A discards the heart 10, B passes it and draws the spade 6, which he forces upon A by laying it at the end of his spade sequence instead of passing it up. This forces a discard from A.

A now begins to get a line on B’s cards. He has parsed several hearts and the high clubs. All he could have in spades would he the top of the sequence. Only one small diamond has shown in the draw, and A has the cards to break into a sequence in that suit right in the middle, so it is highly important for him to hold on to his sevens, in the hope of laying down the triplet.

As a feeler, to see if B has the spade 7 and 9, or the 9 and 10, A discards the spade 8. As soon as B passes it, A knows that B’s suit is diamonds and that he may have a triplet of aces of fours, perhaps four aces.

B draws the spade 7, which be cannot use, so be forces A with it, by placing it at the end of the spade sequence on the table. Fortunately for A, he is allowed to borrow from this sequence, so he takes the spade 7 and lays down three sevens, discarding the deuce of clubs. This gives him ten cards down and two chances to win the game. These are to get the deuce of spades, which he knows B cannot use unless he takes the deuce of clubs now for a triplet, and to get the 7 of hearts and make four sevens with another card that he knows B cannot use.

B might as well give A the game, as it is now impossible for B to win it. All he could lay down would be three diamonds and four aces, as his 6 of diamonds is now a dead card, A having used the 7, and the two small hearts are dead. As he holds neither the spade deuce nor the heart 7, those cards must come in the draw and as B cannot use them he must give them to A, putting him eleven down and game.

In this hand, both players started with a fair chance to win the game and both played to win it, Here is an example of playing for a tableau right from the start. The players are A and B, and B turns the heart 7. A holds these cards, with the first say:

Five of ClubsTwo of ClubsNine of DiamondsFour of DiamondsAce of Diamonds
Ten of SpadesSeven of SpadesSix of HeartsFive of HeartsThree of Hearts

It is impossible ever to lay down anything in this hand except the sequence in hearts, and the game is so arranged that a player cannot win in one suit. There is no connection between the cards in the three other suits and the only pair in the hand that could be made into a triplet would break up the heart sequence, therefore A’s game is to take nothing, show nothing, and endeavor to spoil his opponent’s game. This leads him to refuse the turned card. If his hearts were on the table, the dealer could force him with it, but not when they are held up.

Here are B’s cards:

Ace of HeartsThree of ClubsTen of HeartsNine of HeartsEight of Spades
Ten of DiamondsEight of DiamondsSeven of DiamondsSix of DiamondsSix of Spades

B has a chance for a long sequence in diamonds, or three in hearts or spades, or three tens. The only dead cards in the hand are the ace of hearts and the trey of clubs. B cannot use the 7 of hearts, but makes a mental note of the fact that his sequence in that suit must end with the 8, if he draws it.

B draws the spade 4, which he cannot use, and A also passes it, and they continue to draw in this manner, A refusing to take anything or to thaw anything. This gives B the refusal of every card in the pack, except those held by A, but in spite of this advantage, he cannot get eleven down.

What he did was to abandon the diamond suit and take the 6 of clubs when it came, laying three sixes. Two cards later the 5 of diamonds came, but he could not use it, as the 6 was in his triplet. He used the 8 of clubs for a triplet and finally got down three tens, being left with the 7 of diamonds in his hand, which he discarded when the 8 of hearts showed; only ten cards down and blocked.

Had he played differently and refused the 6 of clubs, waiting for the diamond sequence, be could have got down the 5 6 7 8, but A blocks him at both ends, with the 4 and 9. Instead of three eights, he could show the 8 9 10 of hearts, but this gives him only seven cards down.

Play this hand over and let A make the mistake of taking or showing anything, and he loses a game which it was impossible for him ever to win. If he takes the 7 of hearts the dealer can force him with the hearts right along by making him take every heart that shows, even giving him the 8 and 9, and using the 10 for his own triplet. Then, if A is not fortunate enough to keep the right card to the last, the spade 7, B will win the game in several ways. He might have a sequence in diamonds, four tens and three hearts, or a sequence in hearts, or four spades, three tens, and four diamonds in sequence.

Both the foregoing are comparatively simple hands, the latter especially requiring nothing but patience, but in many cases there arc a great variety of conditions presented to the judgement of the player, and several roads to the end, among which the player must make his choice without much to guide him.

Let us suppose that B deals, turns the 5 of hearts and that A holds these cards:

Eight of HeartsSeven of HeartsSix of HeartsFour of HeartsKing of Diamonds
Seven of DiamondsFive of DiamondsFive of ClubsThree of ClubsTwo of Clubs

This is what one might call an ideal hand, its only defect being the necessity to choose what to keep and what to throw away in the inevitable discards.

A can use the 5 of hearts in three different ways. As no player is obliged to show more than three cards, even if he has a sequence of much greater length, good players always show as little as possible, so that the opponent, not knowing what cards are wanted, may unwittingly discard them.

The 5 of hearts might be taken in and laid with the 4 and 6, holding up the 7 and 8, or the 6 and 7 might be shown, holding hack the 4 and 8. The 5 might be taken and shown as part of a triplet, but that would destroy the player’s chances to complete the sequence in diamonds with the 6 if he drew it.

The best play is to use the 5 of hearts with the 6 and 7, concealing the 4 and 8, so that if the opponent should discard the 3 or the 9, hoping to bury it before A drew the connecting link, which is a very common artifice, A could pick up the discard and use it. The best discard for A would he the 10 of diamonds, as it does not connect with anything in the hand.

Let us suppose that the dealer, B, holds these cards:

Ten of SpadesNine of SpadesTen of HeartsNine of HeartsFour of Diamonds
Eight of ClubsSeven of ClubsSix of ClubsFour of ClubsAce of Hearts

If B takes the 10 of diamonds, he must show his own tens on the table, and that at once makes the nines useless except as a triplet. If be has to discard the heart 9, A may use it, but if he keeps it and draws the 8 himself, be can cut A’s sequence in hearts just that much shorter. The reader will see here how much simpler matters would be for B if A had laid down all his hearts.

As it is always better to play for sequences than for triplets in this game, B refuses the 10 of diamonds and draws from the pack, getting the spade 7, which be cannot use. He notes that his spade sequence is blocked at the 8. A does not want the 7 and draws, getting the spade 8.

B takes this card when A passes it, showing the 10 and 9. This uncovers the spade 7 again, but that card cannot be touched, as it was refused by both players. If the discards are turned face down, as they should be, it will emphasize the fact that they are buried.

The only useless card in B’s band is the heart ace, as he can make three fours if he gets the five of clubs and releases the 4 of clubs. As soon as he discards the heart ace and A refuses it, B knows that A has not the connecting links with the heart 5.

The next card drawn is the 3 of hearts, which A uses, showing the connecting 4. This shows B that the deuce of hearts is still in the pack, or the ace would have been used to bold the trey. A discards the club deuce, as the 4 will fit equally well with the 3 and 5, and the sequence can be continued much further in the direction of the 5 than in the direction of the deuce.

The next card is the club 9. B takes it, showing the 8 and 7, hut concealing the 6. His best discard is the heart 10, which he knows A cannot use, as B holds the connecting 9 himself. A draws the spade 4 and B takes it, showing three fours and discarding the heart 9. This layout effectually kills A’s clubs. A takes the heart 9 and connects up with the 8.

A now has apparently no hope except for three fives, hut he might get three treys by borrowing from the heart sequence. His really dead card is the diamond 7. If he could get the deuce of hearts, he could split the heart sequence and lay down three fives. The next card is the spade 5, which A takes, discarding the club trey.

There being no use for further concealment, as A has all his cards down, B puts down the 6 of clubs and each in, turn draws a card, to see who will get out first, as it is now a matter of chance.

There is only one card that will win for A, and that is the deuce of hearts, because the 10 of hearts was buried before the 9 was shown. By that simple discard B saved the game.

B cannot get another 4, because A has it on the table. The spade 7 is buried and A has the club 5, blocking the suit at that end, but the 10 of clubs is still to come.

The result therefore, turns on which card comes first, the 10 of clubs or the deuce of hearts, as neither player can use the other’s card and all other chances for the game are buried in the discards.

This is a portion of a full-text reproduction of Robert Frederick Foster's book "Cooncan (Conquián): A Game of Cards Also Called Rum", which was published in 1913, by Frederick A. Stokes Company, and is now in the public domain. The text of the book was OCR'd from a vintage copy of the book, and is provided as an educational resource for Rummy players, researchers, and students of the game. Any grammatical or typographical errors are an artifact of this process, and should not be attributed to the author.

Cooncan, by Robert Frederick Foster - Table of Contents