Envite is a trick-taking game for four to as many as twelve players in teams. Although it includes a round of bidding, the result of this doesn’t affect the trump suit—it merely sets the stakes for the hand. Each team has a captain that is solely responsible for speaking for their teammates. To communicate with the captain, the players must send secret signals, and hope their opponents don’t catch on!
Envite plays like a more elaborate version of the mainland Spanish game of Truc, blending in the practice of secret signals found in Mus. Envite was created in Spain’s Canary Islands. It is still widely played there, with tournaments common during local holidays.
Object of Envite
The object of Envite is to successfully capture two of the three tricks on each hand, thus scoring points (stones). When a team reaches twelve or more points, they win the game. Traditionally, a match of three games is played, with the team winning two out of three winning the match.
Envite is normally played with a Spanish 40-card deck. If all you’ve got on hand is a standard English-style 52-card deck, like a pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you can make an equivalent deck pretty easily. Just remove all the 8s, 9s, and 10s. What’s left over will be a 40-card deck made up of face cards and 2s through 7s in each of the four suits.
You’ll also need something to keep score with. Players in the Canary Islands typically use a “hard score” method. If you wish to do so too, you’ll need 22 chips, stones, or tokens of some kind. You can also use pencil and paper if that works better for you.
Divide up into two teams through whatever means is convenient, like random-card draw or mutual agreement. Each team should also designate a captain that will speak for the team in matters of bidding. (This can also be done randomly, if needed to avoid arguments!) Players should be seated so that as the turn proceeds around the table, players of alternating teams take their turn.
If playing with an odd number of players, one team’s captain will control a “dummy” hand. Establish this spot the same as if a real player were sitting there. It will receive a hand and play in turn just like any other player.
Evite is normally played with a series of signals that players can use to indicate to their captain what is in their hand. The signals used are the same for both teams. A key Evite skill is learning how to pass the signals to the captain without the opponents noticing. Which signals are allowed and what they mean should be agreed upon before the game starts.
Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. After the hands have been dealt, turn up the next card of the deck and place it in the middle of the table. The suit of this card will become the trump suit for the ensuing hand. The remainder of the stub takes no part in play.
In Envite, the trump suit is enlarged as more players are added to the game:
- Four players (two per side): (high) 2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Five or six players (three per side): (high) 3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Seven or eight players (four per side): (high) 5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Nine or ten players (five per side): (high) 2♦-5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
- Eleven or twelve players (six per side): (high) A♦-2♦-5♦-3♣-Q♣-J♦-2-K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3 (low)
In non-trump suits, the cards rank in more or less their usual order, with the ace inserted between the jack and the 7, for a full ranking of (high) K-Q-J-A-7-6-5-4-3-2 (low). Note that if you’re playing with more than four players, the cards that are added to the trump suit do not count as belonging to the suit printed on the card. They are part of whichever suit the trump is for that hand.
The bidding process in Envite is more like a negotiation between the two captains. While it’s going on, the players on each team are furtively signaling their captain as to what they hold, hoping to feed them information that can help them decide how strong their team’s position is.
By default, winning a hand is worth two stones (points). If neither captain acts, the hand simply proceeds at this stake. However, either captain may challenge the other to increase the stake to four stones. If the challenged captain declines, then the challenging team automatically wins the hand at a value of two stones. The captain may also accept playing the hand for four stones, or may raise the stakes further to seven stones.
If the stake is raised to seven stones, the other captain may then, as before, forfeit the hand (with the other team scoring four stones), agree to play at a stake of seven stones, or raise further to nine. The next raise after this is a raise to make the ensuing hand determine the winner of the whole game.
Play of the hand
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s right, who leads a card to the first trick. Each player in turn, continuing to the right, must play a card of the same suit, if able. If they cannot, they may play any card, including a trump. The highest card of the suit led, or the highest trump if any were played, wins the trick. The player that won the trick then leads to the next one.
Leading with a trump is called trawling. When a player trawls, all players must play a trump if they are able. If any player doesn’t have a trump to play, their team immediately loses the hand. Their opponents score the value of the hand as determined in the bidding, plus a two-stone bonus.
Otherwise, game play continues until one team scores two tricks. Whichever team does so wins the hand, and scores the value of the hand. The deal then passes to the right, and another hand is played.
When a team’s score reaches eleven points, any points in excess of eleven are ignored. (That is, if a team were to have a score of, say, eight stones, and then win a hand valued at four stones, their score would become eleven; the extra point is ignored.) This team is said to be lying down. Special rules apply when a team is lying down, because only one more stone is needed to win the game.
When a team is lying down, the normal bidding procedure doesn’t happen. Instead, the captain of the team that is lying down chooses whether or not to forfeit the hand. If they forfeit, the opponents score one stone. Should the lying-down team play the hand and lose, the opponents score three stones. When a lying-down team wins a hand, they win the game.
If both teams are lying down, the hand is played no matter what, and the winner of the hand wins the game.
Traditionally, Envite is played in best-of-three matches. Whoever wins two out of the three games wins the overall match.
Omi (also known as Oombi) is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships played in the island nation of Sri Lanka. Like in Court Piece, the trump suit is decided in the middle of the deal—you have to choose a trump before having your entire hand! Other than that, though, Omi is a simple game that plays much like many other trick-taking games. To win, a partnership just has to take more tricks than their opponents.
Object of Omi
The object of Omi is to score the most points by collecting tricks.
Omi is played with 32 cards from a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and set aside all of the 6s through 2s. Your deck will then be left with aces through 7s in each of the four suits.
Determine who’s partners with who in whatever way you like. You can just decide however you want, get some random method like a high-card draw to decide for you. However you decide, partners should sit across from each other. This should be done so that the turns will alternate as you go around the table.
Traditionally, the discarded low cards (6s–2s) are used as scoring tokens. Separate them into two batches by color (red and black). Designate one player on each partnership to hold all of the out-of-play cards of one color. As a partnership scores points, the member of the opposing partnership that holds cards gives one score card for each point to the player on that partnership that did not start with any score cards. Thus, one partnership will be starting with black cards and receiving red cards from their opponents as they score points, and their opponents will start with the red cards and get black cards from their opponents.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The player to the dealer’s left, the declarer, then decides on the trump suit, using only these four cards. They cannot consult their partner for advice! Once the trump suit has been named, deal each player four more cards. Players will each have an eight-card hand.
The declarer goes first. They lead any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays a card from their hand to the trick until all four have played. Players have to follow suit if they are able. Otherwise, they can play any card, including a trump. Whoever played the highest trump wins the trick; if there are no trumps played, the highest card of the suit led wins. The winning player collects the four cards making up the trick and puts them in a won-tricks pile they share with their partner, being sure to keep tricks won later separate by placing them at right angles to the previous trick. Whichever player wins the trick leads to the next one.
Game play continues like this until all eight tricks have been played. At that point, each partnership counts the number of tricks they collected, and score as follows:
- All eight tricks: Three points.
- Five to seven tricks: Two points for the dealer’s team, or one for the declarer’s team.
- Tied at four tricks: No points are scored for the hand, but the winner of the next hand scores one extra point.
Court Piece (one of many names it is known by in India) or Rang (as it is known in Pakistan), is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Court Piece features an unusually tough requirement for scoring points, called courts. A partnership has to collect more tricks than their opponents for seven hands in a row to score! This is not quite as difficult as it seems, though—when a team wins a hand, they have the advantage of choosing the trump suit on the next hand. This makes it more likely that a partnership will be able to rack up a streak of wins.
Object of Court Piece
The object of Court Piece is to score more courts than your opponents. Courts are primarily scored in two ways:
- By taking seven or more tricks on seven consecutive hands.
- By taking the first seven tricks on one hand.
Court Piece uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. As per usual, we suggest, using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You’ll also want something like a piece of scratch paper for recording the score and the number of hands each team has won.
Partnerships can be determined by some random method, or simply deciding who wants to be partners with who. Players should sit between their opponents, with their partner across from them. Thus, as the turn proceeds around the table, it will alternate between players. The first dealer should also be determined, randomly.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The player to the dealer’s left examines their cards and, without consulting with their partner, chooses a suit to be trump. Then, deal the rest of the deck out, so that all players have thirteen cards.
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left leading to the first trick. Each player in turn plays one card to the trick. If a player has a card of the suit led, they must play it; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump. When all four players have contributed a card to the trick, whoever played the highest trump wins the trick. If nobody played a trump, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.
Captured tricks are removed from the table and neatly stacked in front of one of the partners of the side that took the trick. (Both partners share a won-trick pile.) Tricks should be kept separate, such as by placing them at right angles, so the number of tricks taken can clearly be discerned. When a player wins a trick, they then lead to the next one.
Court Piece has special procedures for handling a revoke (i.e. when a player fails to follow suit). If a player revokes, but realizes their mistake before the trick has been played out, they may call attention to it and play an appropriate card instead. Everyone that played after the revoking player may then change the card they played. The trick is awarded, and play continues as usual.
If it is discovered over the course of the hand that a player revoked on a previous trick, the revoking partnership forfeits the hand, which ends immediately. The opponents score a court. If the dealer’s side revoked, the previous dealer’s partner deals the next hand; if the dealer’s opponents revoked, the deal passes to the left.
Aside from a revoke, the first opportunity to score a court occurs after the seventh trick has been played. If one side has captured all of the first seven tricks, they score a court. Customarily, the hand is abandoned at this point, and the next hand is dealt. If the winners choose to, however, they may play on with the hope of collecting all thirteen tricks. This feat is very rarely achieved, but if it is, it scores 52 courts for the side that did it! There is no penalty for trying and failing to capture all of the tricks.
If the two teams split the first seven tricks between them, the hand is played out, ending after all thirteen tricks have been played. Each partnership counts up the number of tricks they took and compares them. Whichever side took more tricks wins the hand.
A running tally of how many consecutive hands the presently-dominant side has won is kept on the score sheet. If the same team that won the first hand also wins the second, the count increases from one to two, and if they win again it increases to three, and so on. If their opponents manage to break the streak by winning a hand themselves, however, the counter resets, with that side starting over with a tally of one.
Should a team reach a streak of seven consecutive hands won, they score a court. The counter is then reset to zero.
Passing the deal
After a hand ends, one player on the losing team deals the next hand. This grants the winning partnership the advantage of getting to declare trumps on the upcoming hand. If the outgoing dealer’s team won the hand, the deal simply passes to the left. If the dealer’s team lost the hand but the opponents did not score a court, the same player deals again. When a court is scored, the deal passes to the outgoing dealer’s partner.
Tresette is an Italian trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Much like in Pinochle, players also score points for melds that they find in their hands. Melds in Tresette are much more simple, however, because they can only include aces, 2s, and 3s. These cards, along with the face cards, are the only cards that count when collected in tricks.
Object of Tresette
The object of Tresette is to be the first partnership to score 31 or more points. Points are scored by taking certain cards in tricks and by forming melds consisting of aces, 2s, and 3s.
Tresette uses the 40-card Italian deck. (This is the same deck used to play Seven and a Half, Scopa and Briscola, among others.) To create the requisite deck, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove the 10s, 9s, and 8s. Now you’ll have a deck that has ten cards in each suit (ace through 7, and the three face cards). You’ll also want something to keep score with—pencil and paper works great.
Tresette is traditionally played in a counter-clockwise fashion (to the right). For the sake of simplicity, we’ve reversed the directions so that it proceeds to the left, like most normal card games. If your players want some added authenticity to their Tresette game, you can reverse it back. It really makes no difference.
Determine partnerships by any convenient method, such as by drawing cards or just mutual agreement. Players should sit next to each other, so that as the turn proceeds around the table, it alternates between partnerships.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, ten cards to each player.
Tresette uses an extremely odd card ranking. Aces are high, but 3s and 2s are ranked even higher than the aces. If that’s not enough, the jacks outrank the queens! What’s left is in the usual order. That gives a full card ranking of (high) 3, 2, A, K, J, Q, 7, 6, 5, 4 (low).
There are two types of melds in Tresette, and they both involve only the aces, 2s, and 3s. The first is three or four of a kind. (Again, just aces, 2s, and 3s count—three of a kind in any other suit gets you nothing!) The second, called a nap, consists of 3-2-A of the same suit.
If a player holds a meld at the beginning of the hand, they declare it by stating “Good play”. They do not reveal the meld, and multiple players may declare melds. Upon winning their first trick, a player that declared a meld announces the type of the meld or melds they hold, such as “four 2s”, or “three aces and a nap”.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Play is the same as it is in most every trick-taking game, but we’ll give you the rundown anyway. Each player in turn plays a card. They must follow suit if able, and if not, they can play whatever they want. After all four have played, whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and leads to the next one. Each partnership maintains a won-tricks pile, shared between the two partners, in which they store the cards from tricks that they’ve won.
Unlike in most other card games, in Tresette, you can share information about your holdings and what you want your partner to do. However, anything you say is public knowledge; your opponents are in on it too! When you lead to a trick, you can ask your partner to “play their best” card of that suit. If you’re playing to a trick led by someone else, you can announce how many cards you hold of the suit led. You can also announce, at any time, if you hold two, one, or zero cards in a suit (but not which suit it is).
Play continues until all ten tricks have been played. The hand is then scored. Each partnership first scores one point for each card in their melds. That is, for each four-of-a-kind melded, they score four points, and they score three for every other meld. Each team then counts the number of 2s, 3s, and face cards that they captured in tricks. For every three of these cards captured, they score one point. Any remainder is disregarded. For each ace that the partnership collected, they score one point. Finally, the partnership that took the last trick also scores one point.
Porrazo (also sometimes called Porosso, Parosso, or Parear) is a fishing game of Mexican origin for two to five players. (Four players may play either in partnerships or singly.) Like the most well-known fishing game, Cassino, game play centers around playing cards to the table and then capturing them with cards from the hand of the same rank. However, in Porrazo, there are all manner of available bonuses for playing the right card at the right time.
Porrazo first appeared in American game books around the turn of the twentieth century. It experienced a couple of decades of popularity before being quietly dropped from the books and fading into obscurity in the 1920s.
Object of Porrazo
The object of Porrazo is to be the first player or partnership to score 61 points. Points are scored chiefly by forming pairs of cards between the cards on the table and the cards in your hand.
To play Porrazo, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Hopefully, you’ve got a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards you can press into service for the occasion. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Because of the frequent scoring and the target score of 61 points, using a Cribbage board for scoring is a natural fit (see how to keep score with a Cribbage board). If you don’t have a Cribbage board, or you’re playing with more than three individual players (since most Cribbage boards have three scoring tracks at most), you’ll probably have to use pencil and paper or something like that.
Shuffle and deal three cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Rondas and rondines
Before any cards are played, the players look at their cards and may declare any pairs or three-of-a-kinds that they may have. A pair is declared as a ronda and a three-of-a-kind as a rondine. The ranks of the rondas and rondines are not declared. The hand is then played out, and the player with the highest ronda or rondine scores a bonus, as follows:
A rondine always outranks a ronda. That is, three aces, the lowest rondine, outranks a pair of kings, the highest ronda. Only the highest declaration scores a bonus; the others score nothing. Any ties go to whichever player is first in turn order, going clockwise from the dealer. The ronda/rondine bonus is not scored until the set of three cards is played out. This means it’s possible the game may end before the bonus is scored.
Play of the hand
After any declarations have been made, the player to the dealer’s left goes first. On their turn, a player must play one card, face-up, to the table. If there are any cards already on the table of the same rank, the player captures one card of that rank, and they place the captured card along with the card that they played in a face-down won-cards pile in front of them. (If there is a pair of cards on the board and a player holds a third card of that rank, they capture only one of the table cards, not both.)
A player can also capture a sequence of two or more consecutive cards if the card that they play to the table matches the lowest card of the sequence. For example, if a 7, 8, 9, and 10 are all on the table, a player may capture them all by playing a 7. For the purposes of sequences, aces are considered consecutive to kings, so if the table contained Q-K-A-2, it would be a sequence that could be captured by a jack.
If a player can make no captures, the card they play simply remains on the table. That card can then be captured by any player on a later turn. (Depending on the card being played, the card may score for being played in place, as described below.)
When the players have exhausted their hands, the dealer replenishes them by dealing three more cards to each player from the stock. Any cards already on the table stay there, and play continues.
Occasionally, a player may be able to capture all of the cards off the table in one fell swoop. This is called a limpia. The simplest limpia occurs when there is one card on the table, and the player captures it by pairing. If there are more cards than that, the only way a limpia can happen is if they all form a sequence.
A player making a limpia immediately scores the same point value as a ronda of the last rank of the sequence captured in the limpia (or the rank of the card captured, if only one card was involved). Note that the last rank is not necessarily the highest rank. For example, if a sequence of K-A-2-3-4 is captured as a limpia, it would only score one point. This is because the 4 is the last rank in the sequence. The fact that a king is involved, despite its higher rank, is irrelevant.
Playing in place
If a player places an ace through 4 on the table without capturing anything, and the pip value of that card matches the number of cards on the table, that card is said to be played in place. That is, a card is played in place if it is an ace played to an empty table, a 2 as the second card on the table, a 3 as the third card on the table, or a 4 as the fourth card on the table. A 5 or above cannot be played in place. Playing a card in place scores the player the pip value of the card.
If a card could both be played in place or capture a card, a player can choose to forgo the capture in order to play it in place. This is the only situation in which a player is not compelled to take a capture.
Once per hand, after dealing three cards to the players, the dealer may deal a tendido (layout). This can occur after the first three cards have been dealt, or after any time the dealer replenishes the player’s hands. When the dealer chooses to deal their tendido, they deal two pairs of cards, face up in a horizontal row, to the table. The two cards in each pair may be swapped, but cards cannot be crossed between the two pairs.
The dealer counts from left to right or right to left, as desired, to find any cards that appear in their “correct” places in the tendido: an ace in the first position, a 2 in the second, etc. If any cards have been so dealt, the dealer scores the pip value of the card. Also, if any pairs, three- or four-of-a-kinds have been formed within all of the cards now on the table, the dealer may score for them. The points scored equal the same as a ronda or rondine of the appropriate rank. Four-of-a-kinds score twice as much as a rondine of that rank.
The cards of the tendido remain on the table after being scored and can be captured just like any other card on the table.
If a player places a card on the table without capturing anything, and the next player in turn plays a card of the same rank, it is called a porrazo. If the next player plays a third card of this same rank, then this is a counter-porrazo. If a porrazo is allowed to stand, that player immediately scores the same value as a ronda of the appropriate rank and captures the card, as normal. Should a player counter-porrazo, the original porrazo does not score, the counter-porrazo scores the same value as a rondine of the appropriate rank, and the player captures both the non-capturing card and the card played for the porrazo.
After a counter-porrazo has been played, the next player may be able to play the fourth card of that rank. This is called a san benito and scores the player the entire game! Therefore, especially in a two-player game, it may be better to simply let a porrazo stand rather than countering it and risking the san benito. (One can sometimes use players’ ronda declarations to deduce whether a san benito may be possible.)
A porrazo (or a counter-porrazo or san benito) must take place with cards all from the same deal. That is, if the players run out of cards and new cards are dealt, it interrupts the sequence of play, and any porrazo cannot be declared using cards from before the hands were replenished.
Ending the hand
If playing with an even number of players, the deck will, at some point, be exhausted. If playing with an odd number of players, there will be three odd cards left in the deck. These three cards are placed face up on the table immediately after the last three-card hands are dealt to the players. They do not count as a tendido for the dealer.
After the players’ hands are exhausted, on the dealer’s last turn, they automatically capture all of the cards remaining on the table. This does not count as a limpia, even if they would have been able to legitimately capture it as one.
Each player or partnership counts the number of cards in their captured-cards pile. Whoever has the highest number of captured cards wins the hand. They score the difference between the number of cards they captured and that of their next-closest opponent.
The deal passes to the left, and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or more points. Play immediately ceases—even if it happens in the middle of a hand—and that player is the winner.
Botifarra is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Unlike many trick-taking games, Botifarra includes a number of rules restricting which cards can be played when. As a result, players are able to deduce information about what their opponents may hold.
The game originates from the disputed region of Catalonia (currently a province in the northeast corner of Spain, but which declared its independence in October 2017). The game is popular enough that organized duplicate-style tournaments are played there.
In Catalonia, Botifarra is traditionally played counter-clockwise (all action proceeding to the right). The description below is written to follow the clockwise fashion most card games follow. If you wish to play it the traditional way, just reverse the directions.
Object of Botifarra
The object of Botifarra is to be the first partnership to reach 101 or more points. Points are scored by collecting face cards, aces and 9s in tricks.
Botifarra is typically played with a 48-card Spanish deck. To make an equivalent deck from the 52-card English deck, like a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 10s. You also need something to keep score with, such as paper and pencil.
Determine partnerships by whatever method is convenient, either randomly or by mutual agreement. (Players often choose to play three games per session, so that each player may play one game partnered with each of the other players.) As is typical, players should be seated across from their partner. This ensures that the turn of play alternates between partnerships as it proceeds around the table.
Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player (dealing out the entire pack).
In Botifarra, the highest card is the 9. All other cards rank in their usual order. The full rank of cards, therefore, is (high) 9, A, K, Q, J, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).
Determining trumps and doubling
Unlike in most other trick-taking games with trumps, there is no bidding or random trump selection in Botifarra. The dealer simply chooses a trump suit for the hand, or botifarra, which is to select no trumps. The dealer may also elect to pass the right to choose to their partner. (They cannot then pass the decision back to the dealer.)
After a trump suit has been chosen, the dealer’s opponents may choose to double, thereby doubling the points scored by the winner of the hand. If the hand is doubled, the dealer’s partnership may redouble, multiplying the value of the hand by four. The opponents can then reredouble, increasing the multiplier to eight. (This is the highest multiplier possible.) Players get the opportunity to speak in turn order from the last player to make a declaration.
A botifarra bid automatically doubles the value of the game, so
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays one card to the trick. Once all four players have played a card, the highest trump played, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick.
Botifarra has a number of unique restrictions on which card you can play. First, of course, you must always follow suit if you can. Secondly, you must head the trick if you are able. The only exception to this is when the trick is currently being won by your partner. When this is the case, subject to suit-following rules, you may play any card worth points (9s, aces, or face cards). If you wish to play a card worth no points, it must be the lowest card you hold of the suit you’re playing in. (Because of this rule, your opponents are able to determine that any other cards that you hold of that suit must be higher.)
Once a player wins a trick, they place it face-down in a shared won-tricks pile located in front of either them or their partner. Tricks should be kept distinct from one another somehow, such as by putting them at right angles to the previous trick. Whichever player won the trick leads to the next one.
Once all twelve tricks have been played, the players count up the value of their tricks captured, as follows:
- Tricks taken: 1 point each
- 9s: 5 points each
- Aces: 4 points each
- Kings: 3 points each
- Queens: 2 point each
- Jacks: 1 point each
The maximum trick score possible on one hand is 72 points. Whichever partnership scores more subtracts 36 from the value of their tricks to arrive at their score for the hand. This score is multiplied as decided before the hand and recorded on the scoresheet. (If the partnerships tie at 36 points each, neither team scores.)
Samba is an expansion upon Canasta that adds more cards and more melds! In Samba, you can meld sequences of the same suit, a feature found in most rummy games but absent in Canasta. The number of cards available is bigger in Samba, too—it’s played with a triple deck, compared to the double deck used in Canasta! Like Canasta, it is a partnership game for four players.
Samba was borne of the Canasta craze of the early 1950s, and, for a time, was a fad itself. Some playing card manufacturers cashed in on the trend by selling prepackaged triple decks of cards, marketed for use in Samba.
Object of Samba
The object of Samba is to be the first partnership to reach the lofty score of 10,000 points. Points are scored by forming melds: combinations of three or more cards of the same rank, or three or more cards of the same suit in sequence. Special attention is given to expanding these melds to their maximum size of seven cards.
Samba uses a gargantuan deck of cards for a non-casino game: 162 cards in all. To form this monster, shuffle together three decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards with the same back design, being sure to include the jokers. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well, but anything that can accommodate a five-digit score should work.
Figure out who’s partners with who by whatever method you want. Each player should sit across from their partner, so that as the turn of play progresses clockwise around the table, it alternates between teams.
Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Place the deck in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up and place it next to the stock. This turned-up card is the first card in the discard pile.
Card ranks and scoring
The following are the scores and special properties of all of the cards in the game:
- Red 3s: Red 3s serve as bonus cards. When a player gets one, they simply lay them out in front of them, and a new card is drawn to replace the 3. 100 points each. If you collect all six, they score 1,000 for the whole set. If a partnership fails to form two seven-card melds of any type before the end of the hand, however, red 3s score negative instead of positive.
- Jokers: Jokers are wild. 50 points each.
- 2s: 2s are also wild. 20 points each.
- Aces: 20 points each.
- Ks–8s: 10 points each.
- 7s–4s: 5 points each.
- Black 3s: Can only be melded at the end of the hand, and prevent the discard pile from being taken when one is the upcard. 5 points.
Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.
Play of the hand
The player on the dealer’s left goes first. A player begins their turn by drawing. They always have the option of drawing one card from the stock. However, if the top card of the discard pile can, by itself, be legally added to a meld that the player’s team already holds, or they hold two other natural cards of the same rank to form a new meld with, they can take the entire discard pile into their hand. (There is one caveat to this, explained below in “Freezing the discard pile”.) Note that you cannot take just the top card or any portion of the discard pile—it’s gotta be the whole thing. While this seems like an odd choice to make in a game where you’re trying to eventually run out of cards, a big discard pile usually has ample opportunities for forming and expanding melds.
After a player has drawn, they may meld as much as they are able and want to. (If a player takes the discard pile, they must immediately meld the top card of that discard pile.) In general, a player can lay down new melds, as well as add to existing ones. There are a few restrictions on melding, though, as described below. When a player is satisfied with their melds for that turn, they discard one card, and the turn passes to their opponent on the left.
There are two types of meld in Samba, the set and the sequence, the latter of which is also called an escalera (Spanish for ladder). A set consists of three to seven cards of the same rank. An escalera is made up of three to seven cards of the same suit, in consecutive order. For the purposes of escaleras, aces rank high, and the cards proceed in their usual order down to the 4. (Black 3s cannot be used in escaleras.)
Note that the discard pile cannot be taken in order to form a new escalera. The discard pile can be taken if its top card would be able to extend the escalera without any other cards from the hand being used.
When a player forms a meld, they may play it on their turn, placing it face up on the table. Melds should be kept fanned out, and clearly separate from each other. Each partnership shares melds, and each player can add to their partner’s melds as well as those they’ve already played. A partnership can have multiple sets of the same rank, or multiple escaleras of the same suit. A player may combine two existing sets into one big set, although they cannot divide a larger set into smaller ones. (Escaleras may not be merged or split.)
Jokers and 2s are both wild cards, and can substitute for any other card in a set. Any given set may not contain more than two wild cards. Wild cards can only be used in sets; they are prohibited in escaleras. A meld that contains no wilds is said to be natural or clean, while one containing at least one wild is mixed or dirty.
The initial meld
Players are required to meet a point threshold the first time their partnership melds, depending on their score at the beginning of the hand. The player may use as many melds as they need to in order to exceed this threshold. Once a partnership has made their initial meld, they are no longer subject to any minimum meld value.
The initial meld values are:
*A minimum of 15 exists only by virtue of no valid meld having a score below this.
Canastas and sambas
Melds are capped at a maximum size of seven cards. A set reaching this size is called a canasta, and a seven-card escalera is called a samba. To indicate this, the meld is squared up into a pile. Natural canastas are indicated with a red card on top, mixed canastas with a black card on top, and sambas are turned face down. No more cards can be added to a canasta or samba.
Freezing the discard pile
Should a red 3 or wild card end up in the discard pile, either by being the initial upcard, or (in the case of wild cards) by being intentionally discarded there, the discard pile is considered frozen. The offending card is placed at right angles to the pile, causing it to stick out when further cards are placed on top of it. When the discard pile is frozen, it may only be taken if its top card can be used to form a new meld with two or more natural cards of the same rank from the hand (i.e. you cannot take a frozen discard pile to add to an existing meld). A discard pile topped by a wild card can never be taken.
Depletion of the stock
It is rare that the stock is depleted before someone goes out. Nevertheless, if it does happen, the game simply continues without a stock; play continues with players taking the discard pile, melding if able, and discarding, until a player goes out as normal, or is unable to take the discard pile, at which point the hand ends and is scored as usual.
If, however, the final card of the stock is a red 3, special rules apply. The player taking the 3 declares it as usual, then does any melding possible, after which play stops. This player is not entitled to discard.
In order to go out, a partnership must have formed at least two seven-card melds (canastas or sambas). At this point, a player may go out by disposing of their remaining cards, either by forming new melds, adding to existing ones, or discarding.
Before going out, a player may ask their partner “May I go out?” This is done to avoid having a high total value of cards held by the partner charged against the partnership at the end of the hand. The answer the partner gives is binding. The only answer permitted is “Yes” or “No”—if any further information is given, the opposing partnership is entitled to answer the question “May I go out?” for the offending partnership. In that case, their answer is binding, with results that can end up being pretty hilarious.
After a player has gone out, the hand is scored. Each team scores the value of the cards it has melded, and the value of cards held in hand is deducted against the partnership’s score (except for any undeclared red 3s, which are handled as discussed in “Penalties” below). The following bonuses, if applicable, are also scored:
- Natural canastas and sambas: 500 points each.
- Mixed canastas and sambas: 300 points each.
- Red 3s: 100 points each, unless all six are held, in which case they are 166⅔ points each (for a total of 1,000). If a partnership has not completed at least two seven-card melds, they score –100 for each red 3, or –1,000 for all six.
- Going out: 200 points.
After all of the above has been accounted for, if neither partnership has reached 10,000 points, all cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. If one or both partnerships has exceeded a score of 10,000, the partnership with the higher score at that point wins the game.
Throughout the game, various penalties can occur, as set out below:
- Undeclared red 3s at end of hand: –500 points each.
- Attempting to go out anyway when a partner says no: –100 points.
- Not being able to go out after having asked “May I go out?”: –100 points.
- Taking the upcard when unable to use it: –50 points.
Burraco is a Rummy game much like Canasta. It is best played by four players in partnerships. Burraco adds several interesting features to Canasta, such as an extra hand each team must play before going out and the ability to meld runs rather than just sets of the same rank.
The Canasta branch of the Rummy family originates in South America. Burraco is most likely an evolution of one of several similarly-named games played there. At some point, it migrated across the Atlantic to Italy, where it really hit its stride. Burraco is incredibly popular there, played in tournaments with an official governing body!
Object of Burraco
The object of Burraco is to score 2,000 points before your opponent by forming melds of three or more cards of the same rank, and burracos, which are melds of seven or more cards of the same rank.
To play, you’ll need to shuffle together two decks (preferably of the same back design and color) of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, including the jokers. This will give you a 108-card deck. You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper. If you’re really confident in your math skills, go ahead and use a pen. You might impress someone.
Determine partnerships by whatever method works for your group. Dealing out four cards and the two highs versus the two lows is a good way of doing it if you want a random method. Of course, if you can just agree on partnerships, so much the better. You could go further at this point and come up with team uniforms, mascots, and chants too, but that would be sort of silly. In any case, each player should sit opposite of their partner, so that as the turn goes around the table it alternates between partnerships.
Shuffle. The player to the dealer’s right cuts the deck. The dealer takes the bottom part of the deck and deals eleven cards to each player. Meanwhile, the player who cut retains the top part of the deck and, dealing from the bottom of the stack, makes two piles of eleven cards each. These two piles are called the pozzetti. Stack the pozzetti, putting them at right angles to one another to keep them separate. Place the bottom part of the deck atop the top part, completing the cut and forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up, forming the discard pile.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may draw either the top card of the stock or take the entire discard pile into their hand. Once that is done, they may lay down any melds they have. Then, they end their turn by discarding.
It should be noted that when you draw from the discard, you take the entire pile, not just the top card. Also, unlike in Canasta, there is no requirement that you have to be able to immediately use the top card of the discard—you can take the discard pile whenever you want! There is one restriction: if there is only one card in the discard pile and you take it, you cannot discard this card on the same turn. This is to prevent a player from presenting the same card their opponent on their right discarded to their opponent on their left. (Note that if you have the other card of the same rank and suit as the card you just drew, discarding the other card is totally fine!)
There are two types of meld in Burraco. The first is the set, which is three or more cards of the same rank. The second is the run or sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit (cards rank in their usual order). As players form melds, they may lay them down face up on the table. Each player shares melds with their partner, and can add on to melds laid down by either player on any previous turn. A player may meld as many cards as they want on any single turn.
Aces may be played either high or low in sequences, but a meld cannot have more than one ace in it (i.e. you cannot have an ace at each end of the sequence). You can have more than one sequence of a given suit, but you cannot merge two melds that happen to grow to the same endpoints into one big meld. You also cannot divide one run into smaller melds.
Each partnership can only have one set for each rank. You cannot have a set of jokers or 2s.
Jokers and 2s are considered wild cards. Each meld can only contain one wild card (one joker or one 2, not one of each). In a meld, a wild card can take the place of any natural card.
In runs, a 2 can also be used as its natural value (e.g. in a run of ). 2s are not counted as wild cards when they are used in such a way. For example, 2-3-4♥-★ contains just one wild card—the joker. If there is no other wild card in a meld, a 2 used as its natural value can be pressed into service as a wild card. With a meld of 2-3-4♥, a player could add the 6♥ by changing the 2 into a wild (i.e. form 3-4-2-6♥, with the 2 standing in for the 5♥).
A wild card must always be placed at the low end of a run if it is not being used for one of the inside cards. For example, 7♠-★-9♠ is a valid meld, but 7-8♠-★ is not (it should be corrected to ★-7-8♠). If a player wishes to later extend the sequence upward using the joker, move the joker to the high end position. For example, if a player holds the 10♠ with a meld on the table of ★-7-8♠, they can move the joker to the end to make 7-8♠-★-10♠. This rule is to prevent a player from conveying to their partner which direction they want the run extended in.
If a player obtains a natural card that is already represented in one of their runs as a wild card, the player can place that card into the meld. For example, with a meld of 7-8♠-★-10♠, a player could replace the joker if they pick up a 9♠. The resulting meld would be ★-7-8-9-10♠. The melded wild card then moves to its usual position at the low end of the sequence. Note that you cannot replace one wild card with another wild card (e.g. to force a wild 2 into becoming a natural card).
Any meld of seven or more cards is called a burraco. If a burraco has no wild cards, it is called a clean burraco. Otherwise, it is a dirty burraco. A clean burraco is worth more points at the end of the hand than a dirty one.
Traditionally, a burraco is indicated by turning the end card at right angles to the rest of the cards. Clean burrachi are denoted by turning a second card in addition to the first.
Taking a pozzetto
When a player runs completely out of cards, they are able to take one of the pozzetti from the center of the table. If they take the pozzetto in the middle of a turn (i.e. before they discard), they simply pick it up and continue on with their turn. When a player discards their last card instead, they take the pozzetto but keep it face down in front of them until their next turn. This is to keep them from passing any information about their holdings to their partner.
After one player has taken a pozzetto, the other one is reserved for their opponents. The first player of the opposing partnership to run out of cards takes that pozzetto. Once a partnership has taken care of their pozzetti, when either player runs out of cards, they must be able to close instead.
Ending the hand
A player can close, ending the hand, as long as the following conditions are met:
- That partnership has already picked up their pozzetto. (It is not necessary for the player who took the pozzetto to be the one that goes out.)
- That side has at least one burraco.
- They end their final turn with a discard. That is, they cannot meld all of their cards without discarding.
- The final discard cannot be a wild card.
The hand also ends automatically if the stock is drawn down to two cards. After the player who drew the third-from-last card completes their turn, game play stops.
One other way the hand can end is with a stalemate. This is when the discard pile only has one card in it, and each of the players takes a turn where they simply draw the preceding player’s discard. After four turns (a complete orbit) of this, the hand ends.
After the hand ends for any reason, each partnership totals the values of the cards in their melds, then subtracts the values of the cards left in their hands. Card values are as follows:
- Jokers: 30 points each.
- 2s: 20 points each.
- Aces: 15 points each.
- Ks–8s: 10 points each.
- 7s–3s: 5 points each.
Additionally, each partnership scores the following bonuses, if applicable:
- Clean burrachi: 200 points each.
- Dirty burrachi: 100 points each.
- Closing: 100 points. If neither team actually closed (due to stock depletion or stalemate), neither gets this bonus.
If a partnership failed to pick up their pozzetto, they take a –100 point penalty. The only exception is if a player got their pozzetto but never got to look at it; in this case the pozzetto is treated like the player’s hand and scored appropriately.
Game play continues until one partnership exceeds a score of 2,000 points. Whichever team has the higher score at that point is the winner.
Tute is a trick-taking game most often played with four players in partnerships. Originating in Italy as Tutti (meaning all), it spread to Spain, where it became one of the country’s most popular games. In Tute, only aces, 3s, and face cards matter—none of the lower cards carry any sort of point value!
Object of Tute
The object of Tute is to score the highest number of points in cards taken in tricks. Players may also score points by holding K-Q combinations and by taking the last trick.
Tute is played with the Spanish 40-card deck. To form such a deck from a standard 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, simply remove the 8s, 9s, and 10s. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck with aces, face cards, and 7s through 2s in each of the four suits. (In the Spanish deck, the face cards are King, Knight and Knave; these are functionally equivalent to the English deck’s king, queen, and jack.) It may also be helpful for having something to compute scores—a calculator or pencil-and-paper will do.
Determine partnerships by whatever method is preferred—either some way of determining it randomly, or through plain mutual agreement. Players should sit across from their partner, so that as the turn of play proceeds around the table, players alternate in taking turns.
Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player, which distributes the entire deck. Reveal the last card dealt (which belongs to the dealer). The suit of this card becomes the trump suit for the hand. (The dealer adds this card to their hand as usual after everyone is aware of the trump suit.)
In Tute, the cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, with one exception. The 3 is elevated to rank just below the ace. That means that the full rank of cards is (high) A, 3, K, Q, J, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2 (low).
All of the face cards, aces, and 3s also carry a point value. Aces are worth eleven points, 3s are worth ten points, kings four, queens three, and jacks two. The number cards other than 3s are worth nothing in terms of points.
Tute is played counter-clockwise, so the player to the dealer’s right leads to the first trick. Continuing around to the right, each player in turn plays a card to the trick. Players must always follow suit, if possible. Additionally, they must head the trick if they can. That means that if the player can follow suit, they must; if they can’t follow suit and they can trump, they must do so (and overtrump if possible). Only if a player has no cards of the suit led or the trump suit can they play a card from one of the other two suits.
After all four players have contributed a card, the player who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. That player collects all four cards and places them into a won-tricks pile in front of them called a baza. (Each player shares a baza with their partner.) The individual player that won the first trick then leads to the second one.
After a player wins a trick, but before leading to the next one, they may make a declaration for any marriages they hold. The two possible declarations are las cuarenta (the 40) for holding the king and queen of trumps, and las veinte (the 20) for holding the king and queen of any other suit. When making a declaration, the player must reveal the two cards. If a player has multiple such combinations, they may only declare them one at a time (they must declare any additional marriages after winning a later trick).
If a player holds las cuarenta, it must be the first declaration made; once las veinte has been declared, las cuarenta may no longer be declared. Of course, upon declaring las veinte, if the player holds any additional veintes they can still be declared on later tricks.
Holding all four kings is a special combination called a tute. If a player holds a tute, they may declare it as usual after winning a trick. Making such a declaration instantly wins the hand for the player holding the kings.
After all ten tricks have been played, each team looks through their baza and totals up the point value of the cards they have collected in tricks. To this they add:
- 40 points for las cuarenta
- 20 points for each veinte
- 10 points for taking the last trick
Whichever partnership has the higher total score wins the hand.
Mus is a betting game for four players in partnerships. Players draw and discard until they reach a hand they’re happy with, and then the betting begins. But there’s not just one “best” hand—there’s four rounds of betting, each with wildly different criteria for how the best hand is determined, and one hand can’t be the best in all four categories!
Mus most likely originated in the Basque country, a region spanning the border between France and Spain. From there, the game spread throughout both of those countries. From Spain, Mus was carried to other Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.
Object of Mus
The object of Mus is to be the first partnership to reach a score of 40 points. This is done by, through drawing, forming hands that compete well in a number of different categories.
Mus is traditionally played with a Spanish deck of 40 cards. To recreate such a deck from an English-style 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 8s, 9s, and 10s. This will leave you with a 40-card deck consisting of face cards, 7s–2s, and aces in each of the four suits.
To keep score, you will need 22 counters of some kind, such as stones, beads, beans, marbles, or poker chips. These counters are kept in a pool in the center of the table. Uniquely, the value of each counter differs depending on who holds it! When a point is scored, one of the partners designated to do so draws a counter from the central pool. Upon reaching a score of five, this player returns four counters to the pool and passes the fifth to their partner. Thus, each counter this second player holds represents five points. When the second player has seven counters (representing a score of 35), they declare this and return them to the pool, putting their opponents on notice that they only need to score five more points to win.
Mus is traditionally played with a series of signals that players can use to indicate their holdings to their partner. These signals are the same for both teams. Part of the skill of the game is to figure out how to pass the signals to your partner without the opponents intercepting them. Which signals mean what, and what signals are allowed, should be discussed prior to game play.
As is usual with partnership games, partners should be seated across from one another, with an opponent on either side. The turn should alternate between partnerships as it passes around the table.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Mus is most widely played “with eight aces and eight kings”. To achieve this, the 3s are considered equivalent to kings, and the 2s are considered equal to aces. They are treated exactly the same as if they were the same rank (to the point that K-3 is considered a pair). Cards otherwise rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Unlike in most games, game play is always conducted to the right.
Mus or no mus
The player to the dealer’s right goes first. They examine their hand and determine if they would like to exchange some of their cards for new ones for the stock. If they do, they say “mus”. The next player to the right must then make the same determination, and so on.
If all four players agree to a mus, then they discard one to four cards, face down, and the dealer gives them replacements from the stock. Then, another round of declaring “mus” or “no mus” takes place. (If the stock is depleted, shuffle the discards to form a new stock.) This continues until a player calls “no mus”. The game then proceeds to the betting rounds.
There are four rounds of betting, each of which has different criteria for winning. The betting rounds are always conducted in the same order, and follow the same procedure. Betting in each round begins with the player to the dealer’s right. They may make an opening bid of at least two counters, or pass. If they pass, the next player to the right has the same option, and so on. Once a player makes an opening bid, the opponent to their right may:
- See: agree to the bid, the amount of which will be won by whoever has the best cards for the category bid on.
- Raise: accept the opening bid and propose an increased bet.
- Fold. decline the proposed opening bid. The side that didn’t fold immediately collects the previously-accepted bid amount, regardless of who actually has the better cards.
If all players fold to an opening bid, the “previously accepted” bid is only one counter. If all four players pass with no opening bid being made, the round is contested with a stake of one counter going to the partnership with better cards.
There is one additional, special bid called órdago. If your opponent accepts a bid of órdago, the entire game is decided by the outcome of the current round of betting. The hands are immediately revealed, and whoever has the best cards for that round wins the entire game.
It is important to note that all bids are for the partnership, not the players. You may well have an awful hand, but find yourself betting a high number of counters because you know, either through previous bidding or signals, that your partner is a lock to win the round.
After each round of betting, the players proceed to the next one. The hands are kept concealed until all four rounds are concluded (except when a bid of órdago is accepted).
The four rounds of betting are, in order:
- Grande: Betting on who has the highest hand. Hands are compared by their highest card. If there is a tie, the second-highest is used to break it, then the third-highest, and finally the lowest.
- Chica: Betting on who has the lowest hand. Hands are compared the same as in Grande, but comparing by the lowest card, then second-lowest, etc.
- Pares: Betting on who has the best pairs. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they even have any pairs. If at least one person answers yes, the betting round takes place. Unlike the previous two rounds, the player with the best combination is entitled to a bonus, in addition to the agreed-upon stake. Possible combinations, from highest to lowest, are:
- Duples: Two pair, like K-3-4-4 or 7-7-2-2. Duples are compared by their higher pair, then their lower one. Three-counter bonus.
- Medias: Three of a kind, with one unmatched card, like 5-5-5-Q or A-A-2-6. The rank of the three-of-a-kind is compared first, then the kicker. Two-counter bonus.
- Par simple: One pair, like K-3-7-A or J-J-6-4. The rank of the pair is compared first, then the higher kicker, then the lower kicker. One-counter bonus.
- Juego: Each player totals the value of their hand, with aces (including 2s) worth one, face cards (including 3s) worth ten, and all other cards worth their face value. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they have a hand worth 31 or more points. If at least one does, the hands will be compared for best juego. A hand value of 31 is the best, and entitles its holder to a 3-counter bonus if it wins. Second is a value of 32, then 40, and then in descending order down to 33 (all of which are worth a 2-counter bonus if it wins).
- Punto: Only if nobody holds a juego is the Punto round played. This is simply betting on the highest hand value (30 being best, since 31 and above would be a juego, and 4 being worst). The holder of the best hand scores a one-counter bonus on top of the agreed-upon bet.
In any case, if two hands are exactly identical, whoever comes first in turn order wins.
After all four rounds of betting take place, the hands are revealed and compared. Payouts on rounds where betting actually occurred (or all four players passed) are done in exactly the same order as the betting rounds (Grande, Chica, Pares, Juego/punto).
If a partnership reaches a score of 40, stop immediately—they win the game, even if one of the other rounds would have allowed their opponents to surpass them. If nobody has a score of 40 after all four rounds have been scored, the deal passes to the right and another hand is played.