Texas Hold ‘Em took more than a few dollars and many of my late nights in my twenties. When my wife met me, it was the only card game I’d even consider playing. Eventually, she wore me down and we threw more than a few hands of Spades and Snarples. These games were fun, but another card game never took over my Friday nights.
The routine Hold ‘Em nights were set aside for tending to babies, movies night in, and responsible money management. Cards lived a muted existence in the Dorian household until one night my wife burst through the door late from a girl’s night out and started whooping it up about Swoop.
The Rules of the Swoop Card Game
A Swoop card game requires four players. Technically, it can be done with fewer players but we’ve tried it, and it is lame. The max at one table should probably be eight. Any more than that and the game pace slows to a crawl.
Players can sit in any order and the dealer counts out 19 cards to each player. Each player then places four cards face down and then four additional cards face up. This leaves eleven cards in each player’s hand.
The goal is to get rid of all cards. Any player left holding a card at the end of the round receives points. Once someone reaches 300 points, the player with the lowest score is declared the winner. Alternative rules declare a winner after six rounds of play.
The Rules of Swoop
- The player to the left of the dealer goes first (or the dealer according to our friend Carmen). A player can play any card in the center. Generally, the first player will play either the highest card they are holding or the highest visible one that is in the deck in front of them. Aces are low.
- The subsequent player can play one of the three options:
- Card equal to the one previously played
- Card lower than the one previously played
- A Swoop (Joker or 10)
- If the player accumulates four of the same kind in the center deck (i.e. four 7s) or plays a Joker or 10, the deck is “Swooped!” and pushed to the side. The player who performed the Swoop then plays a new card.
- Play continues clockwise until one player has no cards left in their hand. This player wins the round.
- Cards that are remaining in a player’s hand are counted according to the chart below.
Swoop Card Game Point Value
|J, Q, K||10|
My crew and I represent the geriatric millennial crowd so we tend to keep score of paper. Generally, our crew favors playing until someone reaches 300, although the six-round limit can also be employed.
Swoop Card Game Tips and Tricks
The following tips have helped me win a few more games than I probably should.
- Swoop cards are generally overrated. I’ve won several hands with no Swoop cards and many with just a few Swoop Cards.
- What’s not overrated? Pairs. This allows for quick card divesture and ups your chance of swooping a pile.
- If you are lucky enough to draw four-of-a-kind, hang onto them until late in the game, particularly if they are low-number cards. This allows for you to potentially go from a hand of six or seven cards to completely out while hanging 100 or 200 plus points on your opponents in the process.
- Don’t worry about winning the most individual games. Individual games don’t always correlate with performance. Just make sure the aforementioned blow-up round doesn’t happen to you.
- Be careful about hanging onto your four card “pocket Swoop”. I once got caught with a four-of-a-kind Jacks and no Swoop Cards playing behind someone who had no face cards whatsoever.
- Keep low cards around for later use. For instance, if you have three aces, you don’t have to play them all at the same time.
- Pay attention to how many cards your opponents are holding. I’ve been caught a few times with a Swoop Card (+50 points) in my hand because I didn’t pay proper attention to who was about to go out.
Why Swoop is Great
The greatest card games have three elements in common:
- Players should be able to pick it up in a few hands.
- It should allow for some conversation.
- The “THAT DID NOT JUST HAPPEN!’ factor must be off the chains.
Most games excel at two of the three elements, but rarely all three. Go Fish never evoked a single strong emotion in me and despite my love for Texas Hold ‘Em, the intensity factor never allowed for a serious conversation.
Everyone who ever introduces a card game says “This one is easy to learn!” Yet few are. Swoop is that rare game that can be learned in one or two hands yet has brought me and my friends to our feet screaming at incredible flops.
So put down the cigar, sunglasses, and poker face to enjoy new horizons. You won’t regret it.