Card Playing & Other Games of Chance

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Card Playing & Other Games of Chance

Several years PC (Pre-covid) (…and yes, I invented that acronym), there was a steadily growing movement to revive the Saturn tradition of playing dice at the Back Table on Thursdays. Dice and other card games are the perfect game to play at Saturn. You walk in on any Thursday and join a group at the back table, or bring your own friends and game to the club. There is drama, intrigue, laughter, and usually enough people at the table that you don’t actually have to pay attention the whole time.

But when we say playing The Dice Game or a card game is “a Saturn tradition”, what does that really mean? Tradition comes from the Latin word “tradere” which means to transmit, to hand over. Traditions must all start somewhere, be carried on by someone or some group, live mysterious lives, potentially evolve, and then meet up with us in the present day. Here in the present we use traditions for three events - the first as an excuse to do something we already love to do (argue that the Bills will make the Super Bowl - it’s tradition!), motivate ourselves to do something we dislike (Spring Cleaning - it’s tradition...) or the last, provide weary adults with a vague response to use on small children when they ask a hard question (Wasn’t King Arthur from Wales? Well, my dear, by tradition Arthur was a Romano-British King).

Unlike many other mysterious traditions which can be neither proven or disproven, we can prove that card games and “games of chance” have been around since the very beginning of Saturn. You would think all card games were created equal, but in the beginning some card games were all the rage (Whist) and some card games were “strictly prohibited” (poker and games of chance). In case you aren’t a late 1800s card games expert, Whist is a four-player game where two play against two - basically the forerunner of Bridge. Whist was so popular that George Goodyear argues in One Hundred Years it was a principal objective for founding the club.  This game was so vital, to George’s point, that the club Registrar was required in the 1887 by-laws to maintain “true and accurate record of all the games of Whist played and shall post on the bulletin board from time to time a statement of such games”.

The 1886 Faculty meeting minutes took pains to note that several members were disciplined for violating the constitution and playing poker. Poker was “a rare occurrence” the minutes stress. It took one year, and several more constitutional amendment attempts after this 1886 Faculty meeting to pass an amendment to allow Hearts to be played. Once the amendment passed, poker was still frowned upon - perhaps because the players were observed as being “noisy”. Imagine!

By the time Saturn moved into today’s clubhouse in 1922, Bridge was game de jour. Tournaments were hosted against the Garrett Club and other Inter-Club Bridge Leagues from the twenties all the way to 1960. January 20, 1960 was of course the Saturn Club beat the Buffalo Club at such an event. In the thirties to the fifties, Bridge was played three days a week starting at 2:30pm and then in full force by 4:30pm. The sixties saw a decline in all but the most ardent Bridge players. Cribbage then had its moment, Backgammon, Gin Rummy and Dominoes as well.

But Dice was always different. Dice and other gambling games have usually been outlawed in the club constitution, but a modified version became popular around the seventies to determine who would buy a round of drinks for a table. Rolling for drinks wasn’t unique to Saturn, but actually quite popular among clubs in the United States. Saturn, though, developed club-specific rules that were influenced by the chance visit of several members of the Genesee Valley Club of Rochester.

But first, an overview of the general atmosphere today and some tips & tricks:
  1. Show up around 7:00 PM to the Back Table in the Grill.
  2. Rules are simpler than they seem - you’ll get as much help as you want.
  3. You can play as short or as long as you like - no rules on the number of rounds you must play. People come in and out as they like.
  4. Expect 10+ players. In the pre-pandemic heyday, perhaps up to 25 people. 
  5. You can come watch and hangout - spectators encouraged. 
  6. It can get loud - this is a very social event, cheering & general banter are normal.
  7. Guests welcome (unlucky guests especially encouraged to attend). 
Who is a typical player? Anyone! Dice is popular across all groups at the club. 

Dice Rules, as recounted by Champion Player Ms. Vinereanu:
  1. You play with 5 dice 
  2. Object of the game is to get lowest combined score of the dice 
  3. 3s are 0s (so they lowest possible score would be all 5 dice having 3s, which would be a score of 0.)
  4. All other numbers are the face value  (i.e., 1 = 1 point; 2 = 2 points, etc.)
  5. You have three tries (“rolls”) to get the lowest score 
  6. You can decide however many dice to reroll in the second & third rolls. (i.e., you roll 5-4-6-1-1 on the first roll, you can/should pick up the 5,4, & 6 to re-roll on the second roll.)
  7. You can change your mind later & reroll a die you kept from an earlier round. (So, from above example, if on the third roll you decide to pick up the 1’s (one or both) to try to get lower than 1, you can do that.)

Posted: 8/25/2021 12:01:17 PM by Elizabeth Graves | with 0 comments

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Welcome to the Saturn Club's blog. Here you will find stories about our club, our members, and more! These stories will cover a wide range of topics that represent what our members and staff find interesting, even if it is not directly about the Club.
The Saturn Club
The History of the Grill Room
Special Food & Beverage Nights at Saturn
Good Food & Great Company: A Story of the Monday Back Table
Fall Sports at Saturn
Card Playing & Other Games of Chance

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