As a perfect Nap is of such rarity we must content ourselves with
substitutes, and in this respect we may regard the following combinations
as good ordinary hands on which to declare for the full number of tricks:
a flush of fairly high cards, i.e., the five all of one suit; four
of one suit (headed with ace or king), and one high card of another suit;
or three high cards of one suit, with two high cards of a second suit.
It is dangerous to risk a Nap on a hand of three suits, unless it consists
of three high cards of one suit with two other aces; then it is often
possible to win the five tricks, by first exhausting the trumps, and
then playing the aces, which must win; but if one of the opponents starts
with four trumps, no matter how small, success is, of course, impossible.
If a player does not consider his cards good enough to permit of his
declaring for Nap--and it is fair to suppose that not once in a hundred
they will be absolutely safe--he has to decide what they are worth, and
declare accordingly. It is not often that four tricks are called, because
a hand good enough for four is usually regarded as sufficiently good
for Nap, on account of the additional stakes received by the player who
succeeds in making the whole of the tricks, which amount to a difference
of six points from each competitor, as for four tricks he receives four,
while for Nap he receives ten, paying only five, however, if he loses.
On the same principle as already shown in regard to a "perfect" Nap,
it will be understood that ace, king, queen, is the only certain
combination with which to secure three tricks, but these cards, again,
are seldom met with in a hand, and speculation is once more the principal
matter for consideration. Ace, knave, and ten of a suit is generally
good for three tricks, as the only possibility against such a combination
is that one of the other players holds king or queen of the same suit,
with a smaller trump to throw away when the ace is led. Three tricks are,
however, often called on much lower cards than ace, knave, ten, especially
when the other cards in the hand are of one suit, or are sufficiently high
to admit of the possibility of one of them securing a trick. The same line
of reasoning holds good in regard to a declaration of two tricks, the only
certainty in that case being ace and king.
It must not be considered, after these comments on the game, that there is
any great difficulty to surmount in acquiring a knowledge of Napoleon.
As we said at the commencement of our remarks no great skill is essential,
but considerable care is necessary to secure anything like success at the
game, the chief factor in which is so-called luck. It is impossible to
make tricks, or even declare an intention to try for them, unless one
receives a certain number of high cards. One may even go further, and
say that luck goes far beyond the actual cards dealt to each player, for
the best of hands often fail, and poor cards frequently achieve success;
whilst it happens, in numerous cases, that the playing of the cards
demonstrates that really weak hands would have secured success if the
holder had had the pluck, or impudence, we may term it, to declare more
than the value of the cards seemed to justify. On the other hand it
is often astonishing to find the number of high cards of a given suit
included among the fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five in the hands of the
players engaged in the game.
Taking all matters into consideration, it must be regarded as virtually
impossible to give any precise rules for deciding the number of tricks
to declare, and it is equally difficult to lay down any definite plan for
playing the cards to the tricks. We can only generalize for the information
of our readers, who must decide for themselves whether they will play an
adventurous game, with its greater risks, and greater possibilities of
success; or whether they will adopt a quieter and less speculative course,
standing to win or lose less on their own declarations.
It must always be borne in mind, however, that whichever course is pursued
it is only his own actions that can be governed by each player. One
may adopt a quiet, safe game, and risk little, while some or all of the
opponents may adopt the opposite extreme, and force all the competitors,
in a manner of speaking, to share in their risky speculations.
If the bold player wins, and we think the chances are in his favour,
the quieter ones, no matter how safe their own declarations may be,
must necessarily lose, and vice versa so that we have, not only the
numberless possible combinations of the cards to consider, but also the
temperament and position of those engaged in each game.
Care should be taken to remember, as far as possible, the cards thrown away
by the other players, when they cannot follow suit to any particular lead,
and it will be found in practice that much information can be derived
as to the character of the remaining cards from a careful study of the
hands during the progress of the play, and this knowledge is particularly
valuable when a player is left with two cards of equal, or nearly equal
value, and his chance of success depends upon his winning a trick with
one of them.
We shall now proceed to consider the various parts of the game, and the
variations that have been introduced into the method of playing it.