Auction 2002
Auction 2002

The best way to introduce this latest version of Auction is to give just the first few pages of the rules. These are shown below, in a slightly abridged format. If you think the game sounds interesting and you want the complete rules, you can find them in my booklet Auction 2002 and Eleusis, available on my mail order page.

Recently (May, 2003) I reprinted the booklet and added some paragraphs about strategy. If you have a booklet from the first printing, you might be interested in these new paragraphs, so I’ve copied them to the bottom of this page. Some of the strategies are not obvious, though you may have already discovered them during your play.

Auction 2002

Auction first appeared in 1963 in my book Abbott’s New Card Games. It has been extensively revised since then.
     In Auction, you bid cards to obtain other cards. I believe it is the only card game to use this idea, though there are board games in which you bid play money for various items. In Mansfield Park (published in 1814) Jane Austen writes about a game called “Speculation” in which you bid real money to obtain cards. Speculation is no longer played. David Parlett has a discussion of it on his web site, because he was a games consultant for the movie Mansfield Park, and it is also in his book The Penguin Encyclopedia of Card Games.
     Although the basic concept in Auction is simple, the game does have a lot of rules. I hope that doesn’t put you off.
     Auction is for two to six players, but it works best for three, four, or five players.
     Two standard card decks plus four jokers (108 cards in all) are used to form the stock.

Card combinations: Auction is a “showdown” game. When a round (that is, a hand-of-play) ends, the player with the highest card combination wins the round. This gives the game some of the feel of poker. [A table not included here] lists the card combinations. The combinations were borrowed from both rummy and poker. One interesting thing to note is that, unlike poker, a straight in Auction is ranked higher than a flush. To help me rank these combinations, I wrote a small BASIC program to figure out how hard it is to get each combination. The program showed that in poker, which uses only one deck, it is harder to get a flush then a straight. In Auction, which uses two decks, it is harder to get a straight than a flush.
     It’s extremely rare for anyone to get an 8-of-a-kind or any of the combinations near the bottom of the list. However, these combinations are theoretically possible, so I included them to make the list complete.
     Besides determining who is the winner of a hand, these combinations are also used in the bidding for cards.

The deal: For each round, one of the players should be chosen as dealer. The dealer will carry out the chores of shuffling and dealing, but otherwise his role will be the same as the other players.
     To start the round, the dealer shuffles all the cards together and deals ten to each player. The remainder of the cards are placed face down to form the stock pile. The top card of this pile is turned face up and placed next to the stock pile. This is the first card that can be bid on. That first card also marks the start of a row of face-up cards—a row that will grow as the game progresses.

The auctions: Cards in the face-up row should overlap, but each should be visible. The card at the end of the row—that is, the card that is on top—is the one that is currently up for bid. If a player wins the bidding with a single card, he takes the top card of the face-up row and replaces it with the card he bid. If a player wins the bidding with a pair, then he takes the top card and the card directly under it. If a player wins with a bid of three-of-a-kind or a run-of-three, then he takes the top three cards of the pile. In general, whoever wins the auction takes a number of cards from the top of the row equal to the number of cards in his winning combination.
     Players do not take turns in the bidding. Any time a player wants a card, he simply calls out a bid. Another player might then make a higher bid. A player may drop out or rejoin the bidding whenever he wishes.

Here is an example of what an auction might sound like:

Susan: “I bid a 2.”

Jim: “I bid a 6.”

Susan: “I bid a pair.”

    Note: players can be as specific as they want. Susan could call her bid “a pair” or she could name the cards in her pair.

Jim: “I bid a pair of 10s.”

    Note: Jim has to be specific here, to indicate that his bid might be higher than Susan’s.

Susan: “My pair has two kings.”

Jim: “I bid three 8s.”

Ann: “I bid a flush.”

Susan: “I bid a flush with jack high.”

Ann: “My flush is also jack high and my second highest card is a 9.”

Susan: “That beats my flush.”

Charlie: “I bid a run of four.”

That’s the end of the sample pages. As I mentioned before, the complete rules are in Auction 2002 and Eleusis, which is available on my mail order page.

The following is the discussion of strategy I added to the latest printing of the booklet.

Strategy: A player usually divides his hand into two sections. One contains “promising” combinations which, if improved, might win the round. For example, 4-5-7-8 is promising, because if you can get the 6 you’ll have a run-of-5. These cards might be kept on the left side of the player’s hand. The other section contains single cards or minor combinations (like pairs) which are useful for bidding. These cards might be kept on the right side of the hand.
     For most of the auctions you’ll bid your minor combinations in order to improve your promising combinations. But here is a tricky maneuver you might try sometime: You can bid part of a promising combination if you think you can retrieve that part on the next auction. For example, suppose a 6 pops up and if you get it you’ll have your run-of-5. Someone has bid a pair of 4s for it and you top the bid with a pair of 7s (7-7). Unfortunately, the other player then bids three 4s. It’s hard for you to top that, but you could use the 7 from the possible run-of-5 and then bid three 7s. If you win the bid, your 7 would go on the layout, but on the next auction you might be able to get it back. Or maybe not. Anyway, it’s worth the try (and this maneuver also makes the game more interesting, which is one reason why I mention it here).
     Deciding whether to go out is tricky. If you’re in doubt, it’s best not to go out. Here is a help in judging your hand: early in a round of a four-player game, when there are about 10 cards on the layout, a 4-of-a-kind has only a 50-50 chance of winning the showdown. Later in the round, the 4-of-a-kind has very little chance of winning. So early in a round you should not consider going out unless you have better than 4-of-a-kind. However, if you have a great hand and you’re absolutely, positively sure of winning, then you should also not go out. Instead, stay in and let the layout grow to give you a better score. If the layout grows to a size where it will give you enough points to win not just this round but win the game, then go out.

Recent News:  The rules to Auction 2002 were presented in the April 2002 issue of Games magazine.

To a description of the booklet Auction 2002 and Eleusis

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