An tAon Hart.jpg
Ace of Hearts (Irish language deck), always a trump in Forty-fives
Alternative namesForty-Five, Forte Fives, Auction Forty-Fives, 45 à bitter, Auction 120s, 120, Growl, Spoil Five, Maw and Strong Fives
Skills requiredStrategy
Age range7+
Card rank (highest first)See below
Playing time20 min.
Random chanceMedium
Related games
Spoil Five, Maw

Forty-Fives (also known as Forty-Five, Forte Fives, Forty-Fives, Auction Forty-Fives, Auction 120s, 120, Growl, Spoil Five, Maw and Strong Fives) is a trick-taking card game that originated in Ireland. The game is popular in many communities throughout Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island) as well as the Gaspé Coast in Québec. Forty-fives is also played in parts of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire in New England, United States, as well as in the South Island of New Zealand.

There are several regional variations in game play. Traditional Forty Fives goes to a score of 45 points, hence the name of the game. In the Auction Forty Fives variant the score goes to 120 points and requires bidding. In many areas outside of Canada, Auction Forty Fives is simply referred to as Forty Fives. Although the number 45 has no relevance to Auction Forty Fives, the name persisted. Auction Forty Fives is closely related to the game One-hundred and ten.


Early history[]

Forty-Fives is a descendant of the Irish game Spoil Five, which in turn is a descendant of a game that King James VI of Scotland popularized in the 17th century called Maw. Scottish emigrants to Atlantic Canada may explain the reason for the popularity of the game there.[1] Maw was first seen being played in 1511 and the earliest written rules of 1576, the incomplete "Groom Porter's lawes at Mawe," may have originated from Scotland.[2] James VI was recorded playing "Maye" at Kinneil House at Christmas 1588.[3]

Recent history[]

In the 1920s, French Canadian economic migrants who moved south into Massachusetts and New Hampshire in New England introduced the game, where it continues to be popular, sometimes under the French name quarante-cinq. In this region the game is most popular in southern New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley of northeastern Massachusetts.[4] Forty fives tournaments are becoming increasingly popular there. For example, the New England Academy of Forty-Fives holds occasional tournaments in Plaistow, New Hampshire, and Methuen, located in the Merrimack Valley, recently held a Forty-Fives tournament. At the community level a popular pastime on Dog Beach in Newbury, Massachusetts is to play auction Forty-Fives, at low tide during green head season.

In New Brunswick Forty-Fives was a popular evening pastime at lumber camps during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as with men congregating at general stores. The Auction Forty-Fives variant is popular through the province at community "card parties". For example, in the greater Harvey Station, New Brunswick area (GHA) biweekly card parties are popular with cottagers and local residents alike during the Spring-Fall months at the Lodges of the Ladies’ Orange Benevolent Association (L.O.B.A) Tweedside. In the GHA there are also weekly gatherings at the 50+ Hall, Prince William.

On Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia notably in Richmond County, there are 45-Card-Games in almost all communities. This may involve tens or hundreds of people depending on the size of the jackpot. Generally 25 games are played in an evening, couples only, usually lasting about two hours. Winning teams rotate around the room, while the losers remain stationary. Winners always deal first. Each couple has a small cue card with the numbers 1 through 25, wins are punched out with a hole punch. Usually there are three winners for the evening, the teams with the highest number of games. Ties may be broken by splitting the prize, cutting the deck for low card win, or playing off. If one party wants to play-off, others either do so or forfeit; splitting must be unanimous. Thus, if two couples have 18 games, a third couple 16 games and a fourth and fifth couple 15 games, then the third couple is automatically the second-place winner. First and third place prizes are either split, or the deck is cut, or there is a play-off. Sometimes there is a cookie jar, where a couple can attempt to win eight or ten randomly chosen games. Sometimes there is a consolation-like boobie prize for the team with the fewest games.

Forty-fives is popularly played on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Regular 45's Tournaments are held as a fun night out in locations like Workingman's clubs and RSA buildings. Serious competition tournaments are held yearly. There was a large percentage of Irish immigrants on the West Coast, normally around a third of immigrants to this region of New Zealand in colonial times, and the game of 45s originated from among these immigrants.

Forty-five is still played in many places in Ireland, with tournaments called 45 Card Drives being played.

Card ranks[]

Cards are valued in the following order, depending on trump suit, where A is the Ace of Hearts. If no trump card is played during the trick, the value is awarded according to the off-suit rules listed below. In the absence of a trump card, the winning suit is always the suit led. The rank of cards depends on a number of factors, the foremost being what suit is trump. A basic way it is commonly thought of is "red is high, black is low."

General game play for Traditional Forty Fives - 45 point[]

General game play for Forty Fives - 120 point[]

General game play for Auction Forty Fives[]

  1. Heads Up: Two players, one on one.
  2. Cut-throat: Three players, in this game after a player wins the bet and calls the Trump, the other two players form a temporary unspoken truce to try to 'Shoot' the bidder. Players who do not honor this truce are seen as selfish and called 'Nickel Grabbers' (each 'Trick' is worth 5 points). Five-Way Cut-throat: Similar to normal 3 man cut throat. In this game it is much harder to make your bid as it tends to be 4 vs. 1 and the bidder is often shot.
  3. Partners: Either four or six players, with partners sitting opposite. Partners points are pooled towards overall score, and towards bid.


One-Hundred and Ten[]

One-Hundred and Ten (110) is similar to the Merrimack Valley variant of Forty-Fives. In it, an extra hand is dealt, face down, by the dealer into the centre of the table. No trump card is turned. Once all hands have been dealt the "bidding" begins with the player to the dealer's left, and proceeds in turn around the table. Each player must bid a minimum of fifteen points and five more points than the previous highest bidder, or pass. An exception to this rule is the dealer, who can appropriate (match) the highest bid and force the other players to either raise his bid or pass. Bidding continues to circulate around the table until all players have "passed" (i.e. the same player can bid, be raised, and raise again in turn).

When bidding has concluded the highest bidder declares which suit will be trumps. He then takes the hand dealt face down in the centre of the table and chooses his best five cards from the combination of the two hands. Meanwhile, the remaining players are entitled to draw up to three cards from the deck, first discarding from their own hand. When all players have obtained their hand the winning bidder has the option of playing first or requiring the player to his left to play first. If a player has the Ace of trumps the player may turn over the cards remaining in the deck stub, one at a time, until a trump card is turned, then he may discard his weakest card in favour of the trump card, or choose not to.

A bonus of five points (bonus trick) is awarded to the player who plays the highest card during the course of the round, thus the maximum amount that can be bid or obtained in 30. If the bidder obtains or exceeds his bid his score increases by that amount, if he fails to reach his bid his score is reduced by the amount of the bid. All other players often co-operate (without collusion) to prevent the bidder from reaching his bid, though selfish interests can supersede this.

A player cannot progress beyond 105 unless he is the bidder. If a player wins tricks during another players bid, which would otherwise increase his score beyond 105, those scores do not count, nor are they assigned to any of the other players. This encourages the remaining players to bid against a player who is approaching one hundred and ten, so that he will rarely be able to win the bid cheaply. Scores can reduce below zero, it is common to set a cut off point (often minus 80) at which a player is removed from the game.

The first player to reach 110 wins the game.

Several variations of 110 exist. These include the removal of the Ace of trumps rule, the use of jokers (usually valued just below the jack (knave) of trumps), the bell rule (where a successful call of 30 yields 60 points) and various reneging variations.

Cultural depictions[]

See also[]

External links[]


  1. ^ Chambers, Robert, The Book of Days: a Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in connection with the Calendar, vol.2 (1832), p.779
  2. ^ "Elizabethan Card Games". Retrieved 2014-05-06.
  3. ^ Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol.9 (1915), pp.653-6.
  4. ^ "Whos Plays the Most?". Retrieved 2014-05-06.
  5. ^ RADDALL, THOMAS H. (14 January 2018). "THE NYMPH AND THE LAMP" – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Taylor, Alice (27 October 2014). "Do You Remember?". The O'Brien Press – via Google Books.