Card games specifically written for three are seldom found in traditional playing card games. The usual card game categories are games for two, games for two partnerships ( 2x2 = 4 ) or multi-player, whereby any number of players can take part (including three) but play in-solo. The idea in card play is for all competing agents ( be them individuals or teams ) attempt to achieve certain goals (perhaps declared upfront) within the play of the hand according to the rules of the game. Sometimes the goals of the agents are identical as in say Hearts (whereby the principal aim is to avoid taking tricks containing hearts) or Gin Rummy (whereby the goal is to collect cards that form sets or melds before knocking), or they may be asymmetrical as in Bridge whereby the declarer has to reach a stated target number of tricks with the use of a dummy and the defenders have to stop the declarer from doing so.
Trick taking games are a variety of playing card games that have captured the attention and interest of card players since a long time back and especially play well in partnership. Partnership play also affords the concept of signaling (the response through the choice of cards) to communicate between partners as a guide in the play. This is particularly the case that has given rise to the popularity of Bridge.
Often foursomes have formed regular clubs to play games like Bridge as a regular pastime. However, on occasions, a complete quartet is not available which is a source of frustration to all concerned. Usually too, Bridge is the only game that is played that provides the depth and partnership play that is very satisfying to bridge players all around the world.
Trick taking games for three offer the opportunity for both solo play as well as partnership play and are more readily available. Games that come to mind are Skat - the national game of Germany, Ninety-Nine, and Clumond. Of these the latter two are plain (simple) exact trick taking games that, in any hand has an optional declarer against which the remaining two players attempt to foil. The concept of exact trick taking games is that the goal is to achieve an exact number of tricks as opposed to a minimum number required to meet the target. Multi-player exact trick taking games also include games like Oh-Hell and are very fun to play. The element of having to duck unwanted tricks (as also in hearts) adds to the fun and enjoyment of the games and the skill required to hitting the targets persistently is a skill that is often underrated.
My recommendation for anyone who likes the ideas of exact trick taking, simplicity of play and scoring, solo and partnership play of cards is to try both Clumond and Ninety Nine with a group of friends sometime. Clumond is a recently invented game based on Ninety Nine and has been enjoyed by a small but ever growing following all over the world. The Four Tens Variant is the definitive version that I recommend to anyone.
Details of all card games can be found at the official card game site www.pagat.com