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Tall Card

In Shindig, Book, Jayne, and Simon are playing a kind of poker-like card game where the stakes are various kinds of household duties, like "garbage", "dishes" and "septic vat".

Simon: Tall card ... plum. Plums are tall.
Book: I'll take ... two.
Simon: Two. No tall card claim.

Jayne takes three and

Simon: Three. Dealer forced to claim the tall.

A moment later he folds and

Simon: Tall card's around my neck like a weight.

So... what's this game they're playing?

In the Shindig DVD commentary, writer Jane Espenson says that the rules of Tall Card were once posted on FOX's official Firefly website. However, what was actually posted was merely a script excerpt in which the characters play the game. There is no sign that the official rules ever appeared online, and when asked, Adam Baldwin couldn't remember being taught any.

Until someone can ask Ms. Espenson for her rules, we do have this unofficial set created by the late Browncoat extraordinaire, Lux Lucre:

Long Pai (Dragon Cards) follows Draw Poker rules unless otherwise stated.
6 suits (Plum, Peach, Orange, Apple, Apricot, Banana) of 12 cards (72 cards).
1-8 spots, Ace can be high or low.
Face Cards: Tortoise, Unicorn, Phoenix, Dragon (The Ssu-ling "Heavenly Beasts" of Chinese myth)
In addition to the 72 regular rectangular cards there are 6 round cards called "Tall cards" one for each of the 6 suits.
The Dealer shuffles the regular cards and the player to the right of the Dealer shuffles the Tall cards.
The Tall card for that hand is revealed after everyone antes up. After the first round of betting, players can discard and draw up to 3 cards OR the face up Tall card can be claimed by a player instead of a discard/draw.
Claiming the Tall card allows the cards in one's hand, that are of the same suit as the Tall card, to become wild in rank. If the option goes around and the Tall is not claimed, the Dealer is forced to claim the Tall.
Another round of betting takes place and surviving players still in the game reveal their hands with the highest ranked hand taking the pot.
(One interesting thing to note is that "5 of a kind" is a possible hand in Long Pai, since there are more than 4 suits.)

If you use the above card deck (72 cards, etc.), the probabilities of receiving certain hands change, so the new hand rank for the above deck should be:

Royal Flush, 5 of a Kind, Straight Flush, Flush, 4 of a Kind, Full House, Straight, 3 of a Kind, Two Pair, One pair...(descending order)

Notice the only real changes from the normal poker rank is that it is much harder to receive a Flush, and the addition of 5 of a Kind.


Looking for a Tall Card Deck?
I drew up a tall card deck for a game I'm running. I needed something that wouldn't use up all my printer ink. Thought I'd share.
I'm not finished with all the verbage on the site yet, but the cards are posted. Just print them out on card stock, or on sticky paper and stick them to a suitable backing. sites)

This is a different set of rules I developed with my fiance. The rules mimic draw poker with the exception of how the Tall Card affects the game:

Everyone antes up. (throws one chip of lowest value in the pot) Dealer gives 5 cards to each player.

First round of betting.

  • As per normal poker betting, it starts with the person to the dealer’s left and proceeds clockwise.
  • Your options are:
    • Pass—If no one has placed a bet you can choose not to do so either. If everyone passes no betting ocurrs.
    • Bet—Put chips in the pot, everyone else must match this bet to stay in
    • Check—Match the current bet and stay in the game.
    • Raise—Meet the current bet and add more chips as well. If someone does this betting continues going around until someone has met the new raised bet.
    • Fold—Drop out of the game instead of putting in money.

Tall card is revealed:

  • The tall card is a circular card that displays a suit. That suit is then Tall.
    • The Tall suit is trumps, meaning it beats any equal hand, as Aces would in traditional poker. For example if Coins are Tall and I have 2 pair with 5 of Coins high, and you have Two-Pair without a Coin (or with a lower coin) then I win.

Players draw new cards:

  • As in traditional Poker you may draw up to four new cards. However *instead* of drawing you may choose to "Claim the Tall"
    • If you claim the tall then all cards of that suit in your hand count as their face value or one number higher at your discretion. (If I have a 5 of blossoms and four of coins with the Tall Coin card, I have a pair of 5s (in trumps). If no one claims the tall, the dealer is forced to claim it instead of drawing. If the Dealer has folded, no one is forced to claim it.

Last round of betting.

As in normal poker the hand precedence is:

Pair, Two-Pair, Three of a Kind, Full House, Straight, Flush, Four of a Kind, Straight Flush, Five of a Kind


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Page last modified on December 19, 2006, at 11:37 AM MST