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What’s going on here then?

Every week until Christmas, Midweek will visit one of the groups listed on our events pages. This week, Lucy Cooper dropped in on fans of the card game 500 at Carterton’s Courthouse Community Hub.

Just after 1pm on a bright, sunny Wednesday, 19 card players take their places for an afternoon of 500 in the elegant cool of Carterton’s Courthouse.

The players quickly settle into four groups – two tables of four players, one of six and one of five [quite an awkward number of players for a game of 500, apparently].

The bubble of convivial chit-chat is soon joined by the gentle slap, slap, slap of the Realm 500 brand of playing cards being dealt onto the soft, padded card tables and the games get underway.

The game’s objective is to be the first team to score 500. After the cards have been dealt, players make bids comprising tricks, trumps and no-trumps.

It’s one of those games that looks complicated [the scoring system in particular seems quite involved] but once you’ve got the basics, you are away.

Like a lot of games, 500 has its own lexicon. “I’m away”, “I’ll try six hearts”, “seven spades”, “I call for the ace of hearts”, “I’ll go eights”, are all part of the language.

According to some online sources, 500 is Australia’s national card game, though it was invented in America.

Unlike the pav, Phar Lap and lamingtons, Midweek couldn’t find any hint that Australia had pinched 500 from New Zealand as well as the States.

The Carterton card club has been meeting for over 20 years and plays every week except between Christmas and New Year.

There are nearly 30 members and club day generally draws a good crowd.

For $4 a session, players are guaranteed a good game of cards, friendly banter and a cup of tea.

One of the founding members of the club, Jenny, was “bought up with the game”, her parents being “champion players”, and her teammates, Joy, Marilyn and Lesley, acknowledged she was a “very, very good” player.

Joy, with 12 years of 500 at the club under her belt, is also an experienced player and has been an important mentor to Marilyn.

According to some players, to win the game requires a healthy dose of luck.

“If you don’t get the cards, you can’t play.”

Many, like Marilyn, come for the company: “I love the playing, but it is the social side.”

New players are always welcome and will find a wealth of 500 knowledge in the group to get newbies started or help hone the skills of old hands.

Marilyn has even invented a holder to help players like Maureen, who has had a stroke and has limited use of her left arm, hold her cards.

Made out of two CDs sandwiched together and covered in green felt, it holds the cards snuggly and securely.

Kiwi ingenuity at its best.

500 card club meets every Wednesday at the Carterton Courthouse 1pm-4pm. For more information contact Val Bedingfield 027 44 38412.

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