Cottage Classic: All hands on deck

family playing cards Photo by Lucky Business/Shutterstock

At the cottage, there are few hands more treasured than those that make up a deck of cards. Dog-eared and mis-matched, used as often for drinking games as for gin rummy, cottage decks aren’t exactly bridge-club approved, being far better suited to a rousing round of Go Fish than to the serious bidding practices of dedicated Hoylists.

It’s no exaggeration to say that our cottage games cupboard holds at least 500 cards, but I’m not sure that you’d be able to scrape together more than three, maybe four, decks of 52. Decks that match, at least. If you’re okay combining the “Scenes of Ireland” with the “Aloha Hawaii” leftovers the total might rise to five, but we’re still looking at quite a few homeless monarchs.

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The portable nature of cottage cards means they often get separated from their mates and end up in some unusual places. When, say, the errant Jack of Hearts accidentally gets blown off the dock into the lake or falls between the cracks of the porch boards, a spare joker must fill in, with a hastily drawn symbol splashed across its bicycle. Strategic card holding must then be employed to hide the identity of the pristine-looking newbie lurking among the weathered warriors.

The aged attributes of a cottage deck of cards do offer keen-eyed players some real advantages. For instance, if the card with the torn-off corner – known by all to be the evil Queen of Spades – is spotted in an opponent’s hand during a game of Crazy Eights, you can adjust your call accordingly, and avoid picking up five. At our cottage, this furtive i.d. technique is most useful during post-supper euchre showdowns, when all are on the lookout for table talk and a beat-up bower can signal to your partner the preferred call of suit. Strictly speaking, this cannot be classified as cheating, just doing your proper research.

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I suppose it wouldn’t cost much to pick up a new deck, but we resist. New cards wouldn’t sit so nicely in your hand, and would slide too far across the table when played. And, as they say, new   would be too good for the cottage. Isn’t that what bridge club is for?