Piquet

Piquet is a two-player trick-taking game, regarded as one of the most skillful two-player card games in existence. It is one of the oldest card games still being actively played, with references to it in literature dating back to the year 1535. By 1650, Piquet’s rules had evolved to pretty much the form we know today.

Object of Piquet

The object of Piquet is to score the most points (ideally over 100) over the course of six hands.

Setup

Piquet uses a special stripped deck, called a Piquet deck. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 2s through 6s. You’ll be left with a 32-card deck, with 7s through aces in all four suits. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. You will also need pencil and paper to keep score with.

As the dealer has a distinct disadvantage in Piquet, and there is advantage to dealing first (because the player who deals first does not deal the sixth hand), the dealer of the first hand should be determined randomly. One player should cut the deck, and the other player claim one of the two halves of the deck; whoever have the highest bottom card on their half of the deck will deal first. Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player. The remaining eight cards form the talon.

Game play

The exchange

Before game play begins, players exchange cards with the talon in hopes of bettering their hand. The non-dealer exchanges first, and may discard up to five cards and draw back up to twelve cards. Players must exchange at least one card. If the non-dealer elects to exchange fewer than five cards, they are allowed to look at the cards they did not draw and place them back on the talon in the same order (e.g. if the non-dealer only exchanges three cards, they may look at the top two cards of the talon).

After the non-dealer has exchanged, it is the dealer’s turn to exchange. As with the non-dealer, the dealer must exchange at least one card, and may exchange up to five, assuming that there are five cards remaining in the talon. (The non-dealer’s discards are not recycled so the dealer may draw). If there are any cards left in the talon after the exchange, the dealer may, at their option, reveal the remaining cards to both players.

Carte blanche

A hand with no face cards prior to the exchange is called carte blanche (French for “white card”, probably because of the comparatively large amounts of open space on number cards). A player may declare carte blanche prior to the exchange to score 10 points. When carte blanche is declared, it must be revealed to the opponent.

If the dealer has carte blanche, they simply turn their cards face up after the non-dealer exchanges cards. If the non-dealer has it, they draw the number cards they wish to exchange from the talon and set them aside without looking, the dealer makes their exchange as normal, and then the hand is exposed and the dealer makes their exchange thereafter.

Declarations

After the exchange, players may declare certain combinations in their hands. As this reveals information about the hand to the opponent, a player may choose not to make a declaration (known as sinking the declaration), especially if they believe their opponent’s declaration to be higher, although once the opportunity has passed for the declaration, it cannot be made later if more information becomes available. Declarations always follow the format of the non-dealer declaring first, to which the dealer replies “Good,” if they are unable or unwilling to beat it, or offering a counter-declaration if they wish to. If they have an equal declaration, they say “equal”, upon which more information is exchanged to determine who, if anyone, has the better holding in that category. Players may request that their opponent reveal the relevant cards to support any declaration made that scores point or ties, in order to verify it, though in practice this is rarely done because of the relative ease in determining what cards a player holds based on their declarations.

The first declaration to be made is for “point”, which is the greatest number of cards in one suit. One point is scored for each card in the suit. Should the two players each hold the same number of cards in their longest suit, the dealer replies “How much?” and the value of the cards is computed, with aces counting as eleven, face cards as ten, and all other cards at face value. If the value ties, then neither player scores. (Note that the card values are used only for comparing declarations; the player who claims point still only scores one game point for each card held.)

The next declaration is for sequences (three or more cards of the same suit in sequence). Possible declarations are:

Name of declaration Cards Point value
Tierce 3 3
Quart* 4 4
Quint 5 15
Sixième 6 16
Septième 7 17
Huitième 8 18

*Quart is pronounced “cart”. Note that, if desired, the traditional French names may be dispensed with and quoted merely as a “run of 3”, or whatever.

Only the player with the longest sequence can score for sequences, but once it’s been determined who that player is, they may score for every sequence they hold. If two competing sequences tie in length, they are compared by their highest card (with the higher of the two scoring higher); if these tie, neither player scores.

The third and final declaration to be made is for sets (three or four of a kind, 10s or better). Four of a kinds outrank three of a kinds, and sets of the same length are compared based on rank. As before, the player with the highest set may score for any additional sets they hold, and the opponent scores nothing.

Play of the hand

If a player’s opponent has scored nothing, and the player has scored 30 or more points before the start of actual play (i.e. through declarations only), they score a 60-point bonus for repique. If a player’s opponent has scored nothing, and the player, having not scored for repique, scores 30 or more points during the hand, they score a 30-point bonus for pique.

The non-dealer leads to the first trick. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. If they are unable to, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile in front of the player. Players may look through the captured-trick piles at any time. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The player that won the trick leads to the next one.

Players score one point every time they lead a card, and one point for each trick taken. When one player takes seven tricks, they score ten points for “the cards” (these points can count toward a pique). If a player manages to take all twelve tricks, they score an extra 30 points for capot (which cannot be counted toward a pique, although they score 40 points together with the ten for the cards).

Scoring

Score in Piquet is usually kept verbally, with each player calling out a running total of their points for the hand as they score. The total hand scores are written down on the score sheet at the conclusion of each hand.

After the sixth hand, the player with the higher score is the winner. The margin of the win is then calculated by subtracting the loser’s score from the winner’s score and adding 100. Example: if a game was won 128 to 119, the margin would be 109 (128–119+100). However, if the loser failed to score at least 100 points (an act which is known as crossing the Rubicon), regardless of whether the winner did the same, the two scores are added to 100 to produce the margin. Example: if a game was won 117 to 96, the margin would be 313 (117+96+100).

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