♦J and ♥J as Best Bower and Under Bower
|Card rank (highest first)||A K Q J 10 9 8 7|
|Euchre, Juckerspiel, Lanterloo, Reunion|
|Features: 2 Jacks as top trumps; 5-card hands|
Bester Bube, Bester Bauer, Bester Buur, Beste Boeren (Holland), Fünfkart, Fiefkarten, Fiefkaart, Fiefkort or Fiefander (Holstein), or Lenter (East Frisia) is an historical German card game for 3–6 players played with a Piquet pack. It is one of the Rams group of card games characterised by allowing players to drop out of the current game if they think they will be unable to win any tricks or a minimum number of tricks. It appears to be loosely related to Five-Card Loo.
The game is recorded in the 18th and 19th centuries in German and Dutch game anthologies and dictionaries, appearing as early as 1781 in a Low German dictionary where it is equated with Lenter-Spiel. In 1802 it is mentioned as a "people's card game" in a Holstein dialect dictionary, both as "Lenter" and "Besten Buur", and buuren is described as "playing the card game of besten Bauren [sic], in which the Spadenbuur or Pique Bauer ("Jack of Spades", also figuratively a foolish person) is the highest card which beats all the others." It is also recorded in 1808 in Das neue königliche l'Hombre as "Bester Bube" and Von Alvensleben includes it in his 1853 Encyclopädie der Spiele. It is still current in the 1905 ion of Meyer's Großes Konversations-Lexikon, but by 1950 it appears to have dropped out of favour, being then described by Culbertson and Hoyle as "an obsolete card game similar to Loo". The games scholar David Parlett includes it in his 2008 Book of Card Games, but agrees that it is "defunct".
It appears to be a regional game: Parlett suggests it was played in the south and west of Germany, but it is also recorded in north Germany, for example in the area of Celle in Lower Saxony and in Hamburg, where it also appears to have been known as Bester Buern or Bester Buur. Its rules are first recorded in Das neue königliche l'Hombre in 1808 and then appear in a book of the most common Dutch card games in 1821. The game was known in the East Frisian dialect as Lenter, which also referred to the possession of five trumps in the game or to the five top trumps. Lenter was equated to the English Lanterloo or Lanteraloo and the Dutch Lanterlu or Lanturlu, and Holsteinisches Idiotikon of 1800 also states that the Bower of Spades was the highest trump, indicating that in the earliest rules there was just one fixed top trump card, unlike the later rules which introduce 2 variable ones and more complex rules. In Holstein, the game was also called Fiefkaart or Fiefander.
Bester Bube may be related to Juckerspiel and hence Euchre; the last was described by Parlett as "characterised by the promotion of two Jacks to topmost position as Right and Left Bowers, a feature variously represented or paralleled in late 18th-early 19th century west German games such as Réunion, Bester Bube and Kontraspiel."
Bester Bube (pronounced "Boober") means "Best Jack" or "Best Bower" (the original names Bester Buur or Bester Bauer meant "best farmer") and is named after its highest card, originally the Jack of Spades, but later the trump Jack. The second highest trump is the jack of the same suit colour, the Unterbube ("Under Bower" or "Under Jack") or Nebenbube ("Side Bower" or "Side Jack").
In the trump suit, cards rank as follows: Best Bower, Under Bower, Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven; and, in the remaining suits: Ace, King, Queen, (Jack), Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven.
The dealer is chosen by the lot; the player drawing lowest card becoming the dealer. He pays five chips to the pot, shuffles the pack, offers it to the player on his left to cut and then deals five cards to each player, anticlockwise, in packets of 3, then 2. The next card is turned for trumps.
After the first deal and after reviewing their hands, players may choose to "play" or "pass" provided there is more than the dealer's ante of five chips in the pool. The first deal is a 'force' in which everyone must play.
Forehand, the player to the dealer's right, exchanges as many of his hand cards as he wishes with the talon. He is followed by the remaining players in anticlockwise order. This continues until everyone has had 2 opportunities to exchange or the talon is exhausted. The talon is then placed to one side.
The trump face-up belongs to the dealer who may exchange cards in the same way as the others before exchanging with the trump card. It is thus a major advantage to be the dealer.
Forehand must lead with the Best Bower or, if he does not hold it, any other trump card. Lacking both, he may play any card face down and announce "Trump!" If another player has the Best Bower, he must play it to the first trick, with the exception of rearhand (the dealer), who has the right to keep it in his hand cards provided he can win the trick with another trump.
The Under Bower (the one of the same suit colour as the trump Jack) must be played to the second trick. As before, the dealer may also hold this card back if he has it, but only if he can win the trick with another trump.
For the third, fourth and fifth tricks, players may play whatever card they want.
Players win one chip for each trick taken. If a player fails to win any tricks, he is bête and has to pay a penalty equivalent to the contents of the pot. All bêtes are paid in at once, but if the pool becomes too large, it may be agreed that they can be paid in successive deals. Players may pass if there is a bête in the pool, but all must play if it only holds the basic ante. The earliest rules suggest the bête increases each time in from 5 chips to 10, 15, 20 and so on.