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Book review: The Jacks Book
Streetplay jacks discussion area

Jacks: Follow the bouncing ball
by babs@streetplay.com


Girls playing jacks
Click for bigger picture
This scene hasn't changed in a good long time (photo courtesy Workman Publishing, ©2000)
Eggs in the Basket, Toad in the Hole, Fivestones, Onesies, Abhadho. Who knew? When I was a kid it was just jacks. Never questioned it, just did it. Toss the jacks in the air, toss the ball in the air, and pick 'em all up systematically. Let's not forget my double-jointed friend Fran who sat frog-legged in a sit/kneel/squat, toes pointed at either corner of the room, tongue maybe out a little bit, as she deftly played.
 
The Rules
Bearing in mind that there are many variations on this theme, here are the basic rules of jacks as I played it growing up in Queens, New York.

The game is played outdoors on a smooth surface such as asphalt or concrete, or indoors on an uncarpeted floor. There are usually anywhere from two to six individual players. Equipment includes 15 jacks and one small ball. Two players sit face to face; more than two sit in a circle. Deciding who goes first is optional, everything from eenie-meenie-meinie-moe to throwing the jacks up in the air and trying to catch as many as possible with both hands together, thumb to thumb, palms down. Whoever catches the most jacks goes first. (This was usually the way we chose up because it was so much fun; in fact, it oftentimes became a pre-game game.)

Jacks technique
Click for bigger picture

Jacks pick-up technique (photo courtesy Workman Publishing, ©2000).
The player up gathers all of the jacks in one hand, gives them a gentle toss and scatters them onto the ground, anywhere inside the space encircled by her and her opponents. Following that, she tosses the ball into the air. The object of the game is to pick up the designated number of jacks with one hand and catch the ball on the first bounce in that same hand. It starts with one jack at a time (onesies), then two jacks (twosies), right on up till the player misses. She continues at that number on her next turn. Then the next player goes. The game continues until someone succeeds at picking up the ball and all of the jacks at once on a single bounce. Frankly, though, I don't recall ever seeing anyone get past tensies. The unofficial rule, based on personal experience, is that whoever gets to the highest number before everyone gets tired of playing is the winner!

Another fun thing to do with jacks: Spin them like little tops or dreidels.


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