Card fans in Nova Scotia have a favorite trick-catching game they call Auction Forty-Fives. A bidding version of the original Forty-Fives card game, it’s played all over Canada, but is incredibly popular among Nova Scotia’s Irish communities.
Oddly enough, the name Forty-Fives (45s) has no meaning in the more popular Auction Forty-Fives variant. That name was originally chosen because 45 is the target score in the older non-bidding game. In this version, the target score is 120, which is why some people refer to it as One Hundred Twenty. Whatever you want to call it, it’s an exciting card game, with some very intricate rules!
How to Play Canadian Auction Forty-Fives
Auction Forty-Fives rules are a bit complex. Most players need a fair amount of practice before memorizing them all. Once you do, it’s extremely fun to play. You’ll need exactly 4 or 6 players, each segmented into two groups of partnerships (2-vs-2, or 3-vs-3, in alternating seats), and a standard 52-card deck (no jokers).
The object of the game is for teams to catch tricks, and at the same time, prevent their opponents from catching tricks. Points are scored by both the bidding and defending teams, based on the number of tricks caught. The first team to reach 120 points wins.
Rank of Cards
This is the trickiest part of all Auction Forty-Fives rules, so pay close attention. The rank of cards does not follow traditional values. Here’s a few important facts:
As trump, the 5 is highest, then Jack, then Ace of Hearts.
The Ace of Hearts is always a trump, no matter what trump suit is called.
The 2-10 in Red suits (hearts and diamonds) rank normally (10 high, 2 low). If not trump, the Ace follows the 2.
The 2-10 in Black suits (clubs and spades) rank in reverse (2 high, 10 low). If not trump, the Ace precedes the 2.
Therefore, Trump suits rank as follows, highest to lowest:
Hearts: 5, J, A, K, Q, 10, 9,. 8, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2
Diamonds: 5, J, A♥, A♦, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2
Clubs: 5, J, A♥, A♣, K, Q, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Spades: 5, J, A♥, A♠, K, Q, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Suits that are not Trump will rank in this manner (highest to lowest):
Hearts: K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Diamonds: K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A
Clubs or Spades: K, Q, J, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
The dealer of the first hand is chosen at random (deal proceeds clockwise after). This player will shuffle and then deal the cards in clockwise order. Cards are dealt in batches of “3 then 2”, or “2 then 3”, until each player has 5 cards.
The Bid / Auction
Starting with the player left of the dealer, each player will have a chance to bid. Bids are placed in increments of 5, up to 30.
Important Notes: Trump is not declared during bidding, and any team with 100+ points is not allowed to bid less than 20.
Every trick captured is worth 5 points, and the highest trump (in play) worth an extra 5 (total 30).
Each bid must be higher than the previous bid, except the dealer, who has the option of saying “I Hold”. This means the dealer is bidding an equal amount to the previous bidder. All other players who have not passed may continue bidding until the highest possible bid of 30 is made (dealer can say ‘I Hold’ to steal this bid), or all other players have passed, thus the last to bid wins the auction.
The winning bidder must now name the trump suit.
Much like 5 Card Draw Poker, all players may now discard any number of cards they wish from their hand. The dealer will replace the number of cards discarded, one player at a time, from the remaining deck. Afterwards, all players should again have 5 cards.
Playing Auction Forty-Fives
The player seated left of the winning bidder will lead to the first trick. He may play any card from his hand. All other players must follow the suit that is led, if possible, or play any other card if not possible (with a few exceptions; see below). The highest trump played will win the trick, or if no trump is played, the highest ranking card of the suit led wins. The player who wins the trick will lead the next trick, and so on, until all tricks are captured.
Exceptions to ‘following suit’ include:
A player can choose to trump a trick, even if they can follow suit.
A player can “reneg” on following trump suit if 1) they would otherwise be forced to play one of the three highest trumps (5, J, A♥), and only if 2) they aren’t reneging against a higher trump.
For example, if the 7-trump is played, and you only have the 5, J and/or A♥ as trump (nothing lower), you can choose to play any other card instead. If, however, the J-trump is played, you can reneg on playing the higher 5-trump, but not the lower A♥. If you have a lower trump, you must play it.
Taking Score – How to Win Auction Forty-Fives
At the end of each hand, score is taken. Each trick caught is worth 5 points. The highest trump played is also 5 points.
Bidding Team’s Score: If the bidding team succeeds in capturing their bid, they will receive all points captured. If the bidding team does not succeed, the amount bid is scored as negative (points deducted). If the bidding team captures all 5 tricks, they receive double score, 60 points.
Defending Team Score: The defending team will always score the amount of points they captured, irrespective of what the bidding team scores. Note that the defending team will not receive double points for capturing all tricks.
The first team to reach 120 points wins the game!
Want to mix things up? Check out our list of Popular Auction Forty-Fives Rule Variations. You may also be interested in learning the History of Forty-Fives, and Tips and Strategies to Win Auction Forty-Fives.
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