Suaro: The Card Game

The official rules, version 1


  • The Game
  • Overview
  • Preparation
  • The Deal
  • Bidding
  • Playing the Hand
  • Scoring
  • Winning
  • Shotgun Suaro

The Game

Suaro (pronounced like Saguaro) is a card game for two players. It is similar in nature to trick-taking card games such as Bridge, Euchre, Spades, or Hearts. Thus, unlike other two-player games, a moderately high degree of skill is required. While not as good as similar four-player games, Suaro is a great game for just two people.

Suaro was created in 1998 by Jason Short and Matt Bourland.


In Suaro, after the cards are dealt a bidding sequence (similar to Bridge) takes place to determine who has the bid for the hand and how many tricks they must take. The player who is willing to bid highest has the contract for that hand, and must try to fulfill the contract by taking as many tricks as the contract requires. When the hand is played out, the player with the contract attempts to take that many tricks, while the other player attempts to take enough tricks to stop them.


Suaro is played with a deck of twenty-eight cards, comprising the eight through ace of each suit: 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. Aces are high.

Designate one player as the "red" player and the other as the "black" player. This is used in determining bidding order (it is much easier to remember than an alternating order).

The Deal

Nine cards are dealt to each player. The remaining ten cards are placed to the side, with the top card of this stack being turned face-up (this is the Up-Card. The nine face-down cards are called the kitty. Players should generally alternate dealing from hand to hand.


Each player looks at their hand (and may continue looking for the rest of the hand), and then bidding begins. The player of the color of the up-card (see above) bids first.

The bid consists of any one of

  • The most common bid is a number/suit bid. This consist of a number plus a suit. The number indicates the number of tricks the bidder expects to take, from 5 through 9. No bid of less than five can be made. The suit indicates what suit is trump (explained below). Trumps include spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs, no-trump (high), and no-trump (low). Additionally, each number/suit bid must be higher than the previous bid (explained below). For example, you might bid 5 diamonds to indicate you plan on winning 5 tricks with diamonds as trump.
  • A pass. You pass when you do not wish to make any other bid.
  • A "double" or "redouble" bid. A double must immediately follow a number/suit bid, and doubles whatever points are earned on the hand if it is played at that number and suit. A redouble may only be made immediately after a double, and redoubles (multiplies the base value by four) whatever points are earned on the hand if it is played at that number and suit. If a new number/suit bid is made after a double or redouble, the double/redouble is cancelled. For example, if my opponent bids 9 hearts and I have the ace of hearts (a sure winner), I will "double" him.
As mentioned above, each number/suit bid must be higher than the previous bid. A bid is higher than another bid if either The bidding is over when the first pass (not including the very first bid) is made. At that point, the "declarer" is the player who made the highest and most recent number/suit bid, and the "defender" is the other player. If both players passed, the hand is redealt.

For example, the bidding might go:

  • pass - pass
    (hand is redealt)
  • five clubs - five hearts - six clubs - six hearts - pass
    (player 2 has the bid at six hearts)
  • five low - five clubs - five diamonds - five hearts - five spades - five notrump - pass
    (player 2 has the bid at five notrump)
  • nine spades - double - pass
    (player 1 has the bid at nine spades, doubled)
  • eight clubs - eight hearts - double - redouble - pass
    (player 2 has the bid at eight hearts, redoubled)
  • nine diamonds - double - nine hearts - pass
    (player 1 has the bid at nine hearts)

Playing the Hand

The hand is played out in a series of nine "tricks". In each trick, the player who won the previous trick ("leader") leads a card from their hand, and the other player ("responder") plays a card from their hand on the trick. The responder must "follow suit" whenever possible: they must play a card of the same suit that was led. If they do not have a card of that suit, they may play any card. The defender leads on the first trick.

The way tricks are won depends on what the trump is.

  • If a suit (spades, diamonds, hearts, clubs) is trump, then any card of that trump suit will win a trick so long as no higher card of the trump suit has been played. If no trump card was played, then the winning card is the highest card of the suit that was led.
  • If "high" is called, then the play is the same, but without a trump suit. This winning card is the highest card of the suit that was led.
  • If "low" is called, then the winning card is the lowest card in the suit that was led (there is no trump suit).
Another way of phrasing this is
  • The highest card of the suit that was led will win the trick unless the bid is "low", in which case is it is the lower card that wins.
  • A card of the trump suit will beat any card of a different suit.
Players should keep track of who wins each trick. After all nine tricks have been played out, the hand is over.


Each hand, one player scores points. If the bid is made, the declarer will score points; if the bid is set, the defender will score points.

The bid is "made" if the declarer won at least as many tricks as the bid indicated. Each trick after that is an "overtrick". For example, if the declarer bids 5 hearts and takes 7 tricks, the bid was made and there were 2 overtricks. If the bid is not made, then the declarer is "set".

The base score value is determined as follows:

  • If the bid is not made, the defender gets as many points as the bid. For instance, if the declarer bids 6 spades and only takes 4 tricks, the defender gets 6 points.
  • If the bid is made, then the declarer gets points. The number of points is equal to the number of the bid minus the number of overtricks. For example, if the bid is 5 hearts and the declarer takes 7 tricks, then 3 points are earned.
If the bid was doubled, then the base number of points earned (as determined above) is doubled. On a redouble, the base number of points earned is multiplied by four. For example, if the declarer bids 7 clubs/doubled and takes 9 tricks, then the declarer gets 10 points. If the declarer bids 9 diamonds/redoubled and takes 7 tricks, then they are "set" and the defender gets 36 points.


Games are played to a certain number of points, determined beforehand. A typical game will be played to 50 points; longer games might be played to 100. Once one player has that many points, the game is over and that player has won. Since only one player may earn points on each hand, and it is impossible to lose points, keeping track of the score is simple.

Shotgun Suaro

Shotgun Suaro is a slightly more complicated variation of Suaro. In fact, Shotgun is the standard method of play, but it is recommended that this rule not be introduced to beginners initially.

The sole difference is that, in shotgun suaro, you may bid on the kitty. Recall that, out of 28 total cards, 9 were dealt to each player, one was left face up, and the remaining 9 (the equivalent of one hand) comprised the kitty.

A bid on the kitty is just that: instead of bidding on your own hand (as in, "five hearts"), you may bid on the kitty (as in, "kitty five hearts"). If you win such a bid, you pick up the kitty and place your original hand, face up, in its place. A kitty bid is equivalent to a normal bid in terms of height. That is, a kitty bid is no higher than a similar normal bid, nor is the normal bid higher than the kitty bid. Thus, a bid of "kitty five spades" may not be overbid with "five spades", nor may a bid of "five spades" be overbid by "kitty five spades".

After a kitty bid, bidding continues as normal.