A dictionary of ZLAM! terms which will help you understand how the game is played and basic strategy.
AGE – Age refers to the count of the first three base cards initially dealt to each player; the smaller the count, the younger the age. The youngest would be three ZLAM! cards, called a “Seed”, or essentially a count of zero and is the best possible starting position. Three five’s is called a “Fork” and is the worst possible starting hand. In team/partner play the age of the initial cards should be used to help strategize. All hands age as play progresses and good strategy requires monitoring the age of all stacks on the table as play proceeds.
AT RISK – A player places a stack “At Risk” when the stack count is at nine and the player wants to improve their score by keeping a stack open in hopes of drawing additional ZLAM! cards or receiving them from a teammate. The player is risking that they will not draw, or another opponent will not pass them, a card that would knock them out. Any card drawn or passed to them that they cannot play without a stack going over a count of nine eliminates them from the game. Once a stack is At Risk the following can result:
STRIKE OUT – The stack is shut without any points.
SINGLE, DOUBLE, TRIPLE – One, two or three ZLAM! card(s) were added accordingly.
HOME RUN – Four ZLAM! cards are added to a stack and closed. This is unlikely but can be done with team strategy.
BASE CARDS and BASE – The first three cards dealt to each player that forms the base of the stacks to be built upon. The three cards together form a Base.
CLOCK – The Clock is the frequency of the number cards. Too many #1 cards and the play of a Game is too slow; too many # 5 cards and the play is too fast. Half of the 60 card deck is either #3 or ZLAM! cards so the chance of scoring nine points is favored and the speed of play is kept brisk.
CLOSE A STACK or CLOSED STACK – Closing a stack is turning over a stack of cards when a count of nine is reached. These cards are not revealed again until the play of a Game is complete and the scores are tallied. Your memory of cards in closed stacks is an important part of ZLAM! strategy.
COUNT – The Count is the addition of numbered cards in a stack. A player wants their count to be 9. Don’t confuse the count of a stack with points. Points are the actual points earned after stacks that were turned over during play are tallied up after each Game.
DEAL – For each Game the deck should be shuffled at least three times. Any cuts should be made by the player to the left and the first card dealt goes to the player on the right. The dealer deals one face up card to each player, then a second and then a third. The dealer should not deal three cards at a time to one person. The remaining deck is placed face down in the middle of the table or in a shoe if multiple decks are used for games with six or more players.
DECK – The ZLAM! Deck has 60 cards. There are three colored suits of 15 cards each and 15 ZLAM! cards. The colored suits are Red, Blue and Yellow. In each color suit there are: two #1 cards, three #2 cards, five #3 cards , three #4 cards, and two #5 cards. The ratio of the cards is significant in strategy, tempo and ease of accomplishing the goal of getting stacks to add to a count of nine. There are 15 ZLAM! cards which have no count value while building stacks but are worth one point when scored or two points if all the colors in a stack are the same.
FORK – The oldest or worst base a player can be dealt, three fives.
FOUL – A Foul is a miss play of a card, either a miss deal or placing a card on a stack that would cause it to go over a count of nine, or any other violation of play. See Table Rules.
GAME – ZLAM! play is similar to tennis. Each time a person deals and points are totaled that is a Game. When each player has had a chance to deal a game a Set is complete. Any number of Sets makes a Match. So if four players are competing, there will be four Games with each player dealing once and after the four Games a Set is complete.
GAME PLAY – Players draw cards from the top down deck either playing the card on one of their stacks or passing it to another player. As players are forced out of the Game, eventually there will be one player left to finish out playing solitaire. Once that player is out, points are totaled and the Game is complete. When each player has had a chance to deal a Game a Set is complete. So if there are four players, each player will deal a Game and when four Games are dealt a Set is complete.
GRAND ZLAM! – When one player turns over, or closes, all three stacks, that player has scored a Grand ZLAM! and scores four bonus points. If the cards in each individual stack are the same color suit the player scores eight points for a Perfect Game. The stacks don’t need to all be the same color, just the same color within each stack.
MISINFORMATION – ZLAM! encourages open play and conversation, there is no penalty for giving misinformation about the cards that are out to play, or yet to be played, to an opponent.
NULL SUIT – All 15 ZLAM! Cards have no value when played on a stack to reach nine points and are referred to as the Null Suit. They score one point when tallied at the end of play or two if in a stack with the same color suit.
OPEN STACK – A stack that is open for play and has not been closed.
PASS – When a player draws a card they can keep it for themselves or pass it to another player and force them to play the card on one of their stacks. If the player who received the card cannot play it on one of their stacks they are out of that Game.
PERFECT GAME – Turn over, or close, all three stacks with the cards in each stack all the same color. All three stacks don’t need to be the same color, just the same within each stack. Eight bonus points on top of the double points scored for each stack point total. A Perfect Game is very rare but possible in well strategized team play.
SACRIFICE – In partner play a strategy where a player intentionally takes a card from a teammate that puts them out of that game but leaves the teammate with the better cards alive with a chance for more points. No bonuses can be eared by team sacrifices. A sacrifice is also used when a player realizes that he/she may be shut out with the next play. This type of sacrifice prevents an opponent from scoring a Shutout Bonus.
SEED – The youngest or best base a player can be dealt, three ZLAM! cards.
SET – Once all players have dealt a Game a Set is complete. Any number of Sets make up a Match. Play goes from Games to Sets to Matches (just like in Tennis) and if applicable Matches make up a Tournament.
SHUTOUT – When a player passes off a card to an opponent who cannot play the card on any of their three, unclosed stacks it’s a shutout. The player that gave the card receives four bonus points. Shut out points cannot be given to team members, only opponents.
SOLITAIRE – When all players except one have finished play in a game the remaining player draws cards alone until they cannot play any further. This is the solitaire end of play in each Game. ZLAM! can also be played alone and a solitaire Game of 12 points and above is considered excellent.
STACKS – The three piles of cards in front of each player are their stacks. An “Open Stack” is one being built to a count of 9 and a “Closed Stack” is one which has been turned over to count for points at the end of the Game.
TABLE RULES – The agreed upon rules of play for any Match. Players may agree to any rules outside of the official ZLAM! rules they see fit for their Match or tournament. Rules can cover mis-deals, illegal play of a card to a stack that would cause it to go over a count of nine, etc. The simplicity of ZLAM! allows for myriad variations and enhancements. In Tournament Play an independent referee should decide the Table Rules and oversee play.
TAKE – The receiving of a card given by another player. The player must then play the card on any open stack without it going over a count of nine. If they cannot they are out of that Game.
TALLY – The addition of points following play of a game. The cards in any stacks turned over are scored one point for each card including ZLAM! cards. If the cards are all the same color suit the stack score is doubled. Any bonus points scored during gameplay should be added to stack points for a total game score. During gameplay points may be scored with a: Grand Zlam, Perfect Game, Shut Out and Perfect Shut Out. Points for these should be kept as play of a game proceeds and added to totals at the end of the game.