The game of forty-fives (45s) is most commonly known in the Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island & Newfoundland and Labrador) of Canada.

45s is known by a few other names, formally as Auction 45s and also as Auction 120s and 120s. The name is derived from "the four 5s"; as the 5 of trump is the best card in play. Auction refers to the bidding process at the beginning of each hand and 120 refers to the score at which the game is won.


The Rules


The game is normally played with 4 or 6 players, in teams of two (those sitting opposite each other are on a team). The teams do not "table talk" or see each others hands but their points are kept as a total and strategy develops around that fact.


Game Play


Each player receives 5 cards, dealt in a group of 3, followed by a group of two. There is also a "kitty" of four cards from which the winning bidder can draw. The dealer deals 3 cards to the person to his left and to each subsequent player (including himself), then 2 to the kitty and 2 more to each player as well as two more to the kitty.


The Auction (bidding)

Each "trick" is worth 5 points, except the trick involving the best card in play which is worth 10 points. Thus, with 5 cards each, the total points for each hand is 30. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player bids (or passes) in multiples of 5 starting at a minimum of 15. A player bids the number of points they assume they (and their partner) can win in the hand. A player may pass or bid higher than the bid currently on the table.

When the bid reaches the dealer, he may choose to "hold" it. If the bid stands at 20, and the deal holds it, he is exercising his privilege of bidding 20 as well. The high bidder and the dealer may then auction up until one gives up.

example: Player 1 bids 15. Player 2 passes. Player 3 bids 20. The dealer holds the bid. Player 3 bids 25. The dealer, not wanting to bid 25, allows Player 3 to take the bid at 25.

The high bidder must now call which suit will be "trump" and then gets to pick through the kitty for any better cards that may be within in.

If someone bids 30, which means they must take all of the tricks, this is called a 30 for 60 bid. This means that if they manage to take all of the tricks, they add 60 points to their score as opposed to 30. If they loose their bid they still only loose 30.

If a player/team is "in the hole" (has less then 0 points), then they may bid up past a 30 bid to a "60 for 120 bid".

Additionally, if a bidder has a poor hand but has won the bid, he may choose to discard his entire hand and then take the kitty before declaring trump.



After the winner of the bid calls the suit, players may discard. A player may discard any, all or none of his cards. Normally a player discards all of their non-trump, but this can vary depending on individual strategy.

Once players have discarded, the dealer fills each hand back up to 5, dealing no more than 3 cards at a time, as above.


Ordinal Value of Cards


Note that the ace of hearts is always trump.


The lower valued cards are worth the same in the hierarchy whether they are trump or non-trump. Though their value varies based on their colour. The "rule of thumb" is "highest in red, lowest in black," that is to say that the 2 of clubs is the best non-face club, and the 10 of diamonds is the best non-face diamond.

To simplify, here is the breakdown from best to worst for each suit:


Playing a hand

The person to the left of the winning bidder plays the first card and then the person to his left plays until it reaches the winning bidder. The best card laid takes the trick.

- trump beats any other card regardless of value.
-if no trump is played, then the suit of the first card laid is considered trump for determining the winner of that round

The winner of each round leads, then each player lays a card in turn, going clockwise (to the left).

If the player/team who took the bid doesn't get points equal or great to their bid then they are "set". This means that, regardless of the points earned in the hand, the bidding player/team has the value of their bid deducted from their score.

The non bidding player/team gains any points from the tricks they manage in the hand. This is unless they are past 100 points, at which time you have to "take the bid to count", that is to say once you pass 100, you must be the winning bidder in order to increase your score.


Following Suit

If trump is the first card laid, all other players must also play trump if they have any trump in their hand. The exception to this is the 5 of trump which can be "reneged" against all other trump cards and the Jack of trump which can be reneged against all other trump except for the 5.

If trump isn't lead, then the suit does not have to be followed. Any player can play the card of their choice. A common strategy is for the person leading in the first hand to play a low value non-trump card but for another player to play trump before the person who has taken the bid in order to force him or her to play trump to take the trick.


Winning or Losing

The first player/team to 120 wins the game. If a player/team falls below -200 they automatically loose the game.


I hope that you have found these rules helpful, if you know of any variants I've not listed or see any errors, please let me know. I can be reached by email at jord@jord.ca.

Note: If you wish to post these rules on your site, it took me a long time to compile them so please have the courtesy to ask and to give me credit. Thanks.