Setback (game)

Setback (game)

Setback (also known as Pitch) is a trick-taking game somewhat similar to Spades.

Game play

Object of the game

The object of Setback is to accumulate a predefined number of points (typically 11, 15 or 21) over the course of several hands.

uit Ranking

The trump suit (determined by the highest bidder) is the highest suit. All other suits are equal.

Card Ranking

Setback is played with a single standard deck of playing cards.The rank order is A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.

*** In two-player games cards 3, 4 and 5 are often removedbecause they lack points which count towards the game, and allowsmore face cards to be dealt to the two players. This creates abetter game instead of having hands full of worthless cards.

*** In eight-player games the 3 cards are usually removedbecause they lack points which count towards the game, and allowsall the cards to be dealt to the players.

The Deal

The starting dealer is selected by whatever means seems appropriate at the time, and continues clockwise from that point on. Six cards are dealt to each player (typically in groups of 2 or 3) face down and starting to the dealers left.

A variation from rural West Virginia has an extra hand dealt (face down), which is called "the widow." The player who wins the auction gets to add the widow to his or her hand and then discards six cards to bring the hand back to six cards. The person who has the widow does not get to draw any more cards than are contained in the original hand plus the widow, minus the six discards. It is only after discards and fill-ins that "trump" is announced.

Number of Players

Setback is generally played with four individual players, however there are variations in which 2-8 players may play, sometimes in teams of 2-4 people.

The Bid

Bidding begins to the dealers left. Each player bases his bid on the number of points he thinks he can win during the hand. There is only one round of bidding and minimum is two.*** The player making the highest bid chooses trump and leads the first trick. In some variations, the dealer can take the highest bid out on the table. If no bids are made the dealer is "forced" to make an automatic two bid. The winning bidder must make his bid or he loses a number of points equal to the bid (gets set back).

*** In some 6 and 8 player games, bidding can begin with one, but this is typically a "throw away" bid.

The Draw

In one version of the game, after trump has been selected, each player may discard up to four cards, at which point the dealer will deal enough cards to each person to bring their total number of cards back up to six,

In another version there is no draw and you must play the hand you were dealt.

A variation that can be used with either version is that if all of a player's cards are from 3-9 it is considered a "coke hand" and all players' cards are redealt or that player is given another draw of six cards. However, the player then cannot bid that trick, unless they are the dealer with a force bid.


The hand then proceeds in a manner similar to other trick-based games. The player who made the winning bet begins play by leading a card, and play proceeds clockwise about the table. A player must play a card of the same suit as that which was led, or if he has none of that suit, may play any card. The trick is won by the player who played the card of the highest rank in the suit that was led, or if trump was played during the trick, by the player who played the highest trump. Each trick is led by the player who won the previous trick. Play continues until all cards have been played, for a total of six tricks.

Variation- In another variation players can throw trump in at any time. A player who has a card of the suit led must either follow suit or trump. Players may play trump on any trick, even if they can follow suit.

The Points

There are typically four points, known as High, Low, Jack and Game. Some variations include a fifth point known as the Jick.

HighLowJackJick (optional)Game
The "High" point is won by playing the highest trump card.The "Low" point is won by winning the trick when the lowest trump card is played.The "Jack" point is won by winning the trick when the Jack of the trump suite is played.The "Jick" point is won by winning the trick when the Jick is played.
The Jick is defined as the Jack of the same-color non-trump suit, and may also be referred to as the "Off Jack". In other words, if Hearts is trump then the Jack of the Diamonds is the Jick.
The Jick is also considered a trump card so the Jack of Diamonds would be considered a Heart valued greater than a ten but less than a Jack.
The "Game" point is awarded to the player or team who accumulated the most points for game over the course of the hand.
The points for game are counted from the cards won during the hand.
10s = 10
Aces = 4
Kings = 3
Queens = 2
Jacks = 1


9 Card

All players are dealt nine cards. Once a player has won bidding, they announce the trump suit, and all players discard all non-trump cards. (In the rare event that a player has seven or more trump cards, they must discard enough trump cards of their choice to get down to six.) In the same order that cards were originally dealt, the dealer then distributes the remaining cards to players so that all players have six cards. (A common option is allow the dealer to look at the remaining cards and choose which ones to use to fill his hand.) Occasionally, there are not enough cards left for the dealer to fill his hand. In this case, he must choose which cards to use from the discard pile. From here, play proceeds as above, although strategy is somewhat different because in this version, all trump cards are in play on every hand.


A variation of the game adds two point cards to the deck, a joker and "off joker" (in this case the "Jick" described above may also be called the "Off Jack"). This requires a deck of cards with two jokers, and the word "off" will be written on the face of one of the jokers. In this variation, the point cards in order are High, Jack, Off-Jack, Joker, Off-Joker, and Low; the joker and off-joker have a value of one towards the game point.

Nines and Fives

A variation called Nine-Five changes the bidding of the game as well as the point system. The nine and five of trump are now worth nine and five points respectively. Because of this the bidding is changed to the minimum being 9 and the maximum being 18 (hotshot). Bidding continues around to all the players until all the player pass. If you are dealt a 9, as well as any other card of the same suit, you must bid 9. Also, 9 cards are dealt, which is then reduced back to 6 once trump is called. The caller of trump may look at all of the discarded cards and choose his hand from them. Trump need not be led. Bidding "hotshot" makes the game sudden death; if you succeed and collect all 18 points in the round, you win the entire game, but if you lose the game is over. You may bid "hotshot" at any round of the game.

ix and a half

Players are each dealt nine cards. After bidding is finished, each player discards three of their nine cards before trump is announced. No player receives new cards, leaving each player with six total cards.

External links

* [ Play online at]
* [ Freeverse software for Pitch/Setback]

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