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Sergeant Major (also called 8-5-3 or 9-5-2) is a trick-taking card game for 3 players, using a standard 52-card deck.

Game play

In a given hand, players are dealt 16 cards each. Trick targets are assigned as follows: The dealer needs 8 (or 9) tricks, the second player needs 5 tricks, and the last player needs 3 (or 2) tricks. The dealer calls trump, then discards any 4 cards and takes the remaining 4 cards (kitty). The player to the left of the dealer leads, and standard trick-taking rules apply. Players must follow suit if they can; the player who wins the trick leads the next trick.


Players try to take as many tricks as possible. At the end of the hand, each player's score goes up or down according to the number of tricks taken, over or under that player's target. The player to the left of the dealer becomes the dealer for the next hand.

Card exchange

In addition, the score for a given hand influences the next hand as follows. After the cards are dealt and before trump is called, players who scored more than their target can pull cards from players who scored less than their target. For example, if player A scored +2 and player B scored -2, player A will pass 2 cards (face down) to player B, who must pass back their highest card(s) in the suits of the passed cards (also face down). It's possible that a card given will be passed back, if player B has no higher card in that suit. If two players are entitled to pull cards, the player with the highest target for the hand goes first.

Game End

Ending conditions vary. Some people play a fixed number of hands. Other variations are that a player must win 12 tricks in a hand (regardless of their target), or that a player must win 5 more than their target.