Nfld. & Labrador

Not a trick: The Rooms hosting classic 120s game nights

The game of 120s has deep roots in the province, with rules varying from one outport to another and a base of players in each and every generation.

Game dates back to 16th-century Europe, with rich history in N.L.

The Rooms has been hosting card nights, featuring the popular game of 120s, since January. The game has deep roots in the province. (CBC)

The game of 120s has deep roots in the province, with rules varying from one outport to another and a base of players in each and every generation.

Its roots in Newfoundland and Labrador's culture are being celebrated by The Rooms, as the centre is now teaching people how to play the game.

"The card game has been played around kitchen tables in Newfoundland for so many generations," programming director Joy Barfoot told CBC Radio's Weekend AM

"It's something our grandparents played, and even children watching picked it up along the way."

Joy Barfoot, program director at the Rooms, joins Heather Barrett in studio for a game of 120s. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

The Rooms hosted its first 120s night in January and is holding games on the last Wednesday of the month in May and June.

Some guests are seasoned veterans, having played the game for decades, while those who are new to the game can lean on volunteers to learn the ropes. 

Each player is dealt five cards face down, with three cards set aside in what is called the kitty. It opens with a round of bidding where players bid how many points they think their hand will score. Each round is called a trick, with each trick worth a maximum of 30 points.

Rules vary greatly, however, with different towns and families having their own twists and turns on the same basic principles of 120s.

If you want to come on down and have a game of cards, we'd love to see you- Joy Barfoot

"It spanned the generations," Barfoot said. "Almost everybody has learned to play a variation of the game."

The game's roots date back to the 16th century, being derived from an English game called Maw. The earliest written rules appeared in 1576 and may have originated in Scotland.

It has a very rich history in Eastern Canada, as well as northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

Over hundreds of years, and spanning thousands of kilometres, the game has endured. And Barfoot has a theory on why.

"I think it's the social interaction," she said. "The game is played with a little bit of luck, but there's a little bit of skill involved as well."

Anyone interested in playing is advised to call The Rooms and register beforehand. She said 20 people had already signed up for the next card night on May 31.

"If you want to come on down and have a game of cards, we'd love to see you."

With files from Weekend AM

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