Game invented by David Parlett ©

Rules written by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: Need a great card game for three players? Ninety-Nine is a fantastic choice. The game elegantly explores a concept of trick-taking where the idea isn't to win the most tricks, nor to win valuable cards in tricks. Instead your goal is to win the exact number of tricks you predict you can win.

International games expert David Parlett has probably invented a hundred card games. Ninety-Nine is his best. Since its invention around 1970, the game has increasingly popped up in game books.

Players: From two to five can play this game, but it's best known for its playability with three persons. That's the version we'll describe first.

Cards: Remove all cards below the 6 from a standard 52-card deck.

This gives you 36 cards. From high to low they rank: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6.

Deal: Highest cut of the deck deals first. In subsequent hands, deal and first play passes to the left. Deal 12 cards to each player.

The trump suit for the first hand is always Diamonds. (How to determine the trump suit for subsequent deals will be described later.)

Objective: To predict exactly how many tricks you will win. And then to win that exact number.

Bidding: Each player secretly makes his bid by discarding three cards face-down on the table. Other players can not see these three secret "bid cards."

You specify your bid by the suits of the three bid cards. Specifically:

  • Every Diamond discarded represents 0 tricks bid
  • Every Spade discarded represents 1 trick bid
  • Every Heart discarded represents 2 tricks bid
  • Every Club discarded represents 3 tricks bid

Example: a player discards the 7 of Diamonds, the 6 of Spades, and the 10 of Clubs. His bid is 0 + 1 + 3 = 4 tricks. His goal in the hand is to win exactly four tricks.

Note that only the suit of each discarded bid card matters. Their ranks are entirely irrelevant.

After discarding, each player has 9 cards left. Thus he has 9 tricks to play, from which he must win the exact number of tricks he predicted in his secret bid.

Premium Bids: After everyone discards their secret bid cards, players can express their desire to make a premium bid. If successful in attaining his premium bid, a player scores additional premium bonus points.

The two alllowable premiums bids are:

Declare - The player turns his secret bid cards face-up and exposes them to the other players prior to playing the hand.


Reveal - The player turns his secret bid cards face-up and exposes them to the other players. And the player then lays his hand down on the table face-up. Then he plays the entire deal with both his bid cards and his hand exposed.

Only one player in the deal gets to play a premium bid. If more than one player state their desire to do this, a Reveal takes precedence over a Declare. If there is a tie, the player to Dealer's left has top priority, then the other non-Dealer, then the Dealer.

Play: The player to the dealer's left leads any card to the first trick. Others must follow suit if they can. If they're unable to follow suit they may play any card.

The highest trump wins the trick (if any trump is played). Otherwise the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The trick winner then leads any card to the next trick.

Scoring: Each player scores 1 point per trick won, regardless of whether they made their exact bid.

If a player made his exact bid, he turns over and exposes his face-down "bid cards" to prove it. He then scores a bonus that depends on how many other players made their exact bid as well:

Number Who Made Their Bid:Points for Each Successful Bidder:
 3 players  10
 2 players  20
 1 player  30

For any player who successfully made their exact bid, there is an additional bonus of 30 points for doing so while Declaring, or an additional bonus of 60 points for succeeding while Revealing. Remember, only one player can attempt a Declare or Reveal in a deal.

Winning Game: The player with the highest cumulative score after playing 9 deals (or any multiple thereof) wins Game. Or, play that each game is 100 points and the grand winner is the first to win three games.

Determining Trump: The trump suit for the first deal (hand) played is always Diamonds. For subsequent hands, the trump suit is determined by how many players successfully made their exact bid in the prior deal:

 Number Who Made Their Bid:Trump Suit is:
 3 players  Clubs
 2 players  Hearts
 1 player  Spades
 no one  Diamonds

Ninety-Nine for Four Players: For four playing individually, retain all above rules with these modifications:

  • Use a 52 card deck plus one Joker (53 cards total).
  • Deal 13 cards to each player. Turn up the 53rd card to determine the trump suit. Play without a trump suit if it is a 9 or a Joker. The Joker (if not turned up for trump), assumes the identity of the turn-up trump card for the purposes of trick-play.
  • Discard three cards to determine your secret bid. A bid of three Diamonds represents a bid of 0 or 10. You succeed in making this bid if you win either 0 or 10 tricks in the deal.
  • If all players succeed or all players fail in their bids, all players score 0 points (beyond trick points) for the deal. If one player succeeds in making his exact bid he scores 30 points, if two players succeed each scores 20 points, and if three players succeed each scores 10 points.
  • Play and scoring for Declares and Reveals remain unchanged.


Sources: Mr. Parlett has documented Ninety-Nine in his several card books. He offers many rule variants to the game, and versions for various numbers of participants. The rules here reflect those from his website current at the time of writing.

License: Feel free to print, copy, and distribute these rules, so long as you retain this paragraph. Written by Howard Fosdick © 2023, distributed under Creative Commons License BY-ND.      HOME