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Made famous by Jane Austen in her classic novel “Mansfield Park”, the game of Speculation is a fairly simple one.

Object of Speculation

The object of the game is for a player to hold the highest trump card once all players’ cards are exposed. The card rank in a game of Speculation goes from Ace down to two.

How to Play Speculation

Speculation requires several players, a standard deck of playing cards and chips for each player. The game begins with all players holding a preset number of chips, and each contributes one to the “pot”.

The dealer then issues three cards to each player, and then lays the next card in the deck face up on the table. This establishes the trump suit. Should this be an Ace, the dealer wins the round. Should it be a high card, the next player may offer to purchase the card from the dealer and the two can make a deal.

Next, each player clockwise from the dealer’s (or the trump purchaser’s) left will turn over their own top card. This goes from player to player until all have revealed their card. Should a player turn up a trump higher than one showing, that player may offer it for sale to other players.

Play continues in the clockwise progression, skipping the holder of the highest trump. At any time during this part of play, any player can offer to buy any other player’s remaining cards (those that are face down).

Why would they want to do this?

This is usually a strategic move on the part of the player with the highest trump card in their possession. This prevents anyone else from obtaining a trump of higher rank.

Winning a Game of Speculation

The game concludes once all players’ cards have been shown; or when someone reveals an Ace; or should the highest trump remain the highest trump. Victory is rewarded with the entire pot.

Alternative Versions of Speculation

This is the basic version of the game, but there are two additional features that some players will use during their game. The first is to penalize a player who turns over a five or a jack of any suit. This person must add a chip to the pot. This applies even if they have already faced a penalty from an earlier turn of a five of jack.

The other variant is to deal a spare hand at the beginning of the game. The dealer simply lays three cards to their side, and when the game has concluded, the contents of this mystery are revealed. Should this hand contain a higher trump than the winning hand, the pot does not go to the original winner, but is added to the next hand.

Speculation was a very popular card game through the 1800s, but fell out of favor at some point after that. It seems to take some of its rules and variants from other domestic card games of the same period. It appeared in many other fictional works and non-fiction books about games, but is rarely played today. This is unfortunate because it makes for a fun and exciting game.