How To Play Ninety-Nine

How to play Ninety-Nine Ninety-Nine is a simple adding type card game but can also involve a surprising amount of strategy. Each player's objective is to avoid allowing the ongoing count to exceed a total of 99. Many of the cards in the deck have special properties when played and the correct play of these cards can result in an unpredictable finish. This game is played equally by both children and adults.

This game is usually played using one standard 52 card deck, although for games featuring many players, multiple such decks can be shuffled together to create one large deck. The basic game is designed to be played by three to ten players.

A variety of methods can be used to determine player seating positions and the first dealer, with the most common being drawing for high card. In this method, each player draws a card from the shuffled deck. The player drawing the highest card has first selection of seats, the player drawing the second has the next choice and so on until everyone is seated at the table. The player who draws the highest card of all becomes the first dealer. If two or more players draw cards of the exact same rank, these players draw additional cards to determine the ranking between each other. The ranking of the cards in the deck, for purposes of this draw is as follows; Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. After the first hand, the deal rotates in a clockwise rotation around the table from player to player.

Once all players are seated, the determined dealer then reshuffles the deck and offers it to the player to his right to cut. After the cut, the dealer then begins dealing the cards one by one, in a clockwise rotation, starting at the player to his immediate right. He continues dealing these face-down cards until each player has a total of three cards. On the first deal of the hand, the dealer then distributes three tokens, counters or chips to each player. The players would then place these chips in a row in front of themselves at the table. Each such token is considered one "life" for that player. The dealer then places the remainder of the deck face down in the center of the table as the stock pile. The player to the immediate left of the dealer has the first play of the hand.

On his turn a player selects any card from his hand to play to the center of the table. After playing the card, the player would then verbally announce the current total ongoing count for the hand. During actual play of the hand, there is no real concept of relative card ranking, although most cards do have an additive value with which they increase the current play total. Certain cards in the deck also cause special effects on the current count. The following chart shows the value or effect of each card found in the deck:
CardEffect of Card
AceAdds either one or eleven to the current count, at the option of the player of the card.
2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8,Adds the current value marked on the card to the current ongoing count.
4Adds 0 to the current total and reverses the current rotation of play.
9Adds zero to the current count. This can be thought of as a pass for the player who plays the card.
10Subtracts 10 from the current ongoing count. If the current total, before play of the cards is less than 10, the count is reset to 0.
Jack, QueenAdds ten to the current ongoing count.
KingImmediately sets the count to 99, regardless of what the current value of the count was before play of the card.
Example hand of Ninety-Nine
Example play during one hand of Ninety-Nine. Notice how the total first slowly climbs, then more drastically climbs towards 99.
After playing a card, the player then draws one card from the face down stock to end his turn. If a player fails to draw a card, he may not draw an extra card on his next turn and must continue the hand with one fewer cards. If a player has no card in hand which would prevent him from forcing the count over 99, he must place one of his chips (or lives) in the center of the table. The hand ends and the cards are all gathered and shuffled for the next hand. At the start of each hand the count is reset to 0. If a player uses his last chip he must then drop from the game. The game continues until only one player remains who still retains chips, at which time this player is declared the winner of the game.

Variations and Optional Rules

Other special cards used in some variants of Ninety-Nine Different Special Cards: Many variants of this game differ only in the inclusion or modification of some of the special cards in the deck. The following are some of the most common of these modifications:
Add a Rule: A variant of Ninety-Nine sometimes encountered is the option to allow the winner of each game to add a new rule which is to be adopted for the next game. Thus, whichever player is the last remaining with a token during the game is allowed to create a special rule for use in the next game. The rule can be anything, but must apply equally to all players. In other words, a newly created rule may never cause specific restrictions or requirements on individual players or position seated at the card table. These rules usually center on changing the effects or value added to the current count. There is an almost endless selection of such rules a player can add. Just a few examples are below:

Multi-Deck: For larger numbers of players (usually over 7), players will often create a larger deck, consisting of two standard decks shuffled together. This does not effect play of the game in any manner other than just having a larger deck to accommodate more players.

Joker Ninety-Nine: Players will sometimes add two Jokers to the normal deck used for this game. When Jokers are added, the effect of the Joker is set to immediately set the current value of the count to 99 regardless of the previous value of the count. When the Jokers are added, the count change for a King is also changed. In this variant, a King played during the hand adds zero to the current count.
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