Ziginette is an Italian gambling and banking game for any number of players, although it might get a little bit hectic with more than about eight. Card expert John Scarne described Ziginette in the mid-twentieth century as “the biggest money card game in Italy”, and noted that it was also popular among Italian-Americans. Ziginette was likely the basis for the similar American gambling game Skin.
Unlike most banking games, Ziginette has no inherent house edge. When casinos spread the game, they would take a 10% cut of the banker’s wins, thus ensuring they profit by running the game. Without this cut, neither the banker nor the players have an advantage.
Object of Ziginette
The object of Ziginette is to win money when the dealer matches their card before you match yours.
Ziginette is played with the 40-card Italian deck. (This deck is also used to play Seven and a Half, Scopa and Briscola.) To form such a deck, take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove the 10s, 9s, and 8s. What remains will be a deck that has ten cards in each suit (ace through 7, and the three face cards). You will also need something to bet with. Because of the all of the winning and losing that will be taking place, using chips is highly recommended. If Blackjack dealing equipment is available, such as a shoe and a discard rack, it might be useful, but is not required.
Determine the first dealer-banker by some random method, such as a high card draw. Before dealing the first hand, the banker must announce what the minimum and maximum bets will be. These limits must be an amount they’re comfortable with losing, because they will be responsible for paying out all winning bets.
Shuffle and deal two board cards face up to the center of the table. Then, deal a third card face up in front of the banker. If any of these three cards form a pair, it is called a playette. In this case, the cards are returned to the deck, which is shuffled before redealing.
The players may now place a bet on either of the board cards available to them. If they wish, they can bet on both cards, on just one, or neither.
Once the players have had an adequate time to make their bets, the banker deals a fourth card, face up. If it doesn’t match any of the cards previously dealt, it simply becomes another board card. Players may place wagers on it just like the others. However, if the new card matches one of the board cards, the banker collects all of the bets placed on the board card of that rank. When a card is matched in this way, it is removed from the board. The other two cards of that rank simply become dead and are discarded upon being dealt. This continues, with the banker dealing new cards and collecting losing bets.
When the banker deals a card matching their own, the hand ends. The banker must pay out every wager currently on the board at even money. The deal then passes to the player on the losing banker’s right.
In the event that all of the cards on the board are matched before the dealer’s, or that there are no bets left on the board and the players are unwilling to place new ones, the hand ends. In this situation, the banker has the option to deal another hand. If they do, they may adjust the betting limits prior to dealing. They may also elect to pass the bank to the next player, the same as if they had ended the hand by losing.