St. Monica's residents playing Sheepshead card game


“What do you mean there are only 32 cards in this game, sixes and lower you don’t use? Aces aren’t the highest ranking card?! A total of 120 points. Call an ace, but aces, you said, aren’t high, wait, they’re worth the most points… What do you mean queens are high, then jacks. Kings are not real important, but they get more points than queens, how can that be? Whadda mean order of ranking, clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds. But, you said diamonds were trump, unless we play in Wausau then clubs rule, what the heck does that mean? Never disgrace the two black ladies, huh? Tricks, 31 points for Schneider, 61 points to make game, if you’re the picker; but 30 and 60 if you’re not the picker, picker of what? What’s the blind again. I don’t understand…3 handed, 4 handed, 5 handed, dealer sits, call a partner. Jack of diamonds, versus ace? 5, 10, 15 or 10, 20, 30. Double on the bump, doubler, lester, crack, re-crack, blitz, mauerer, schmear, granny hand…eeeek.”

Sheepshead, (Schafkopt to those of us with old timers still playing) the card game. This, in my world, is an addictive card game many of us learned at age 4 and 5 watching our parents and grandparents play. (The roots are from Germany, so it is considered an ethnic game, but we’ll teach anyone). It is loud and rambunctious at times, not dignified like bridge; or silent like poker. It is a great, tactile game of chance and skill. It is a sacred event in my family household, where normal concerns like jobs, kids, car payments, petty rivalries, and all other human concerns are blissfully placed on the back burner. (We really don’t care what you do in our family as long as you can play a good game of Sheepshead). 3-6 hours can be spent playing cards. We prefer 6 handed, then the dealer can break for refreshments… but I digress.

When I first came to St. Monica’s I was delighted to find that we have some great Sheepshead players. Wednesday morning is Sheepshead time, usually from 9:15 to 11:15. Many residents stroll by this card table to find out what all the commotion is about. Sometimes, it sounds like a real argument is brewing. But no, anyone knowing Sheepshead knows the hand just played is being discussed, often at great length. That’s half the fun. We are fortunate to have a couple of great guys who come in and play cards with our residents. They both schedule their vacation time around this event, how’s that for dedication! Anxious to get in on the action, stop by St. Monica’s and speak with me, Joanie, and I’ll help get you started, though I like to call an ace myself.

by Joan Windis