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Play French Tarot

Tarot is the second most popular card game in France, played with a special tarot deck consisting of 78 cards.

How to play

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French Tarot

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French Tarot game info

French Tarot, also known as Jeu de Tarot, is a trick-taking card game. It is the second most popular card game in France, after Belote, and it is also known in French-speaking Canada.

French Tarot is played with 4 players, using a Tarot deck with 78 cards. The game is played counter-clockwise. A hand takes around 15 minutes to play. The random chance involved in the game is medium. The main skills required for playing French Tarot are card counting, tactics and strategy.

How to play French Tarot

Players

French Tarot is played with four players, but variations for three and five players exist as well.

Deck and cards

Jeu de Tarot is played with a Tarot deck consisting of 78 cards. This deck consists of:

A regular suit consist of the following 14 cards, ranked as follows from highest to lowest: King (Roi) - Queen (Dame) - Knight (Cavalier) - Jack (Valet) - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1.

The trump suit consist of 21 cards, numbered from 21 (highest) to 1 (lowest).

Three cards in the Tarot deck are referred to as Ends (Bouts or Oudlers in French): 1 of trump (Petit in French), 21 of trump and the Excuse.

Each card is worth a certain amount of points:

The total of all card points in the tarot deck is 91.

Deal

Each player receives 18 cards, 3 at a time. The dealing direction is counter-clockwise. The dealer also puts six cards in the middle of the table, face-down. These six cards are called the dog (chien in French), kitty, talon or nest.

Bidding

The bidding starts with the player to the right of the dealer. Each player in turn can decide to make a bid, or pass. Each player only has one chance to bid. If someone already made a bid, a player can only bid higher, or pass.

There are four possible bids, ordered from lowest to highest:

A player can also announce a slam (chelem in French), which means winning all tricks.

The player who does the highest bid is called the taker. The three other players form a team for this round and play against the taker. They are called the defense.

Handful (poignée)

Before playing their first card, players can declare a handful (poignée in French) if they have enough trumps:

Declaring a handful is not mandatory. The points for a handful go to the winner of the round, so not always the player who does the declaration.

Gameplay

The player to the right of the dealer starts playing.

Following suit is mandatory. If the first card played is the Excuse, the next card determines the suit to follow. If unable to follow suit a player must trump. Whenever playing a trump a player must beat the highest trump in the trick if possible. If a player cannot follow suit and doesn’t have a trump, he can play any card he wants.

Instead of following suit or trumping, a player can play the Excuse. It never wins the trick, unless it is played to the last trick and the side playing it is doing a slam. Playing the Excuse earns 4 points, and the side who takes the trick earns 0.5 points. Except in the last trick, when the winner of the trick takes 4.5 points.

The winner of a trick is determined like in other trick-taking games. If a trump card was played, the highest trump card wins the trick. Otherwise the highest card of the lead suit wins the trick. The winning player can start the next trick.

Scoring

At the end of the round, the winner of the bidding counts the value of the cards in the trick he won, and the cards in the aside (when playing petit or guard) or the dog (when playing guard without).

The amount of points needed to win is determined by the number of ends (oudlers) in the won tricks and cards in the aside or dog:

The score is calculated with the following formula: (25 + E + P) * M + H + S

The scoring in Tarot is zero-sum, so when the taker wins the contract with a certain amount of points, the opponents each lose this amount and the taker earns three times this amount. When the taker doesn't win the contract, the opponents each win the amount of points and the taker loses three times the amount of points.

Game end

The game ends after a certain amount of rounds, in our version this amount can be chosen to be 3, 5 or 7. The player with the highest amount of points at the end of the game wins the game.