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Black Maria: Rules, Strategies, and How to Play for Money

Black Maria is a card game of the Hearts type, well-known, especially from the Windows operating system. Black Maria is a very old game, played for several centuries. The rules of the game are simple. We will show you how to play it, including for money.

How to Play

If you know the Hearts card game, Black Maria will be a breeze for you. The games are similar in some aspects and different in others. The goal of the game is to take as few tricks as possible, containing cards with penalty points. Which cards are those? Any heart card is worth 1 penalty point, the Ace of spades is worth 7 points, the King of spades is worth 10 points, and the Queen of spades is worth 13 points.

Card(s) Penalty
1 point
7 points
10 points
13 points

Black Maria is a card game for three players. It is played with a deck of 52 cards, from which the Two of diamonds is removed. Each player is then dealt 17 cards. Simply the entire deck is distributed evenly among the players without the Two of diamonds.

Black Maria

Figure 1: Black Maria (source: Craiyon)

Course of the Game

After dealing, each player selects three cards they want to get rid of and passes them face down (i.e., hidden) to the opponent on their right. In this aspect, Black Maria is similar to Hearts, where the ritual is longer (first cards are passed to the opponent on the left, then on the right, then the opposite, and in the 4th round, each player keeps all their cards). Once the players arrange the cards and examine them, the game can begin.

The player to the left of the dealer starts the game. Now and later, it is important that other players must always follow the suit that was first led. If a player doesn't have a card of the given suit, they can play any card. It is usually a good opportunity to get rid of some penalty cards (pass them to opponents). The player who plays the highest card in the suit that was first led takes the trick. This player then leads in the next round.

It should be noted that while players are obliged to follow the suit, there is no obligation to overtake. For example, if someone plays the Ten of clubs, and another player has in their hand (besides cards of other suits) the Nine of clubs and the Ace of clubs, they must play a club card, but they can choose whether it will be the Nine or the Ace. They don't have to overtake the Ten with the Ace, they can play the Nine to avoid taking the trick.

End of the Game and Determining the Winner

After each round, players count and record the penalty points. The game continues until one of the players reaches or exceeds the limit of 100 penalty points. Then the game ends, and the player with the fewest penalty points wins.

Playing for Money

How to play the Black Maria card game for money? For example, players agree that 1 penalty point is 10 cents or any other amount. After the end of the round, i.e., playing out all the cards, players count how many penalty points they have and contribute that amount of cents to the bank.

Once the entire game ends, i.e., when one player reaches or exceeds 100 points, the winner is determined, and the bank is divided. This can be done in the style of winner takes all, or in a ratio of 70:30, i.e., the first player takes 70% of the bank, the second player takes 30% of the bank, and the third player, the last one, gets nothing.

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Based on the original Czech article: Karetní hra Černá Marie.