Introduction to the Rules of Tarot

Written by Abha Vardhan (2019)

Tarot is a trick-taking strategic card game, which is played in various parts of Europe. It became popular in France around the sixteenth century.

The game is usually played with four players. The winner of the game is the player who earns the most points at the end of a round.

So, let’s discover the rules of a four-player Tarot Card game.

The Basics of Tarot Cards

Tarot is an interesting card game. The basic things you need to play are:

  • The deck consisting of 78 cards.
  • Four players.

The tarot card game is played with a total of 78 cards. The deck includes four standard suits that are comprised of Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds, and Spades. These four suits include fourteen cards in the following ranking: King, Queen, Knight, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1. In this suit, the highest value card is the King and the lowest value card is 1.

Along with these four suits of 14 cards (56 Cards), there are 21 trumps (or atouts), which are numbered from 1 to 21 where 1 is considered low and 21 high.

The last card is the ‘excuse’ or the ‘fool’ card which works a bit like a joker. This card has a star marked in the corners. It is a card with great value but cannot win a fold.

What Are Oudlers (or Bouts)?

The ‘bouts’ or ‘oudlers’ are 3 cards - the trumps 1, 21 and the excuse. These cards hold great significance when playing Tarot. Trump number 1 is usually referred to as ‘Petit.’ It is worth noting that the 21 trump card is the strongest.

The Goal of the Tarot Card Game

The principle of the tarot game is to collect sufficient points to win the hands by using effective strategies and tricks.

Players can get help from the bouts or oudlers because the number of points the player needs to win is dependent on the oudlers he has in his tricks. Each oudler is worth 5 points. This means that if you have 3 oudlers, you already have 15 points and you need only 36 points to win.

Dealing of Tarot Cards

Each player draws a card and the one with the weakest card is nominated to distribute. This player deals the cards 3 by 3 in an anti-clockwise direction. The dealer must also put away 6 cards and form the ‘dog’.  He is not allowed to deal the first 3 and the last 3 cards from the deck to the dog. After the dealing is done, each player receives 18 cards.

The Bets (Or Auctions) Of Tarot

After receiving their cards, each player takes a close look at their cards. Then, the bidding starts with the player sitting on the right of the card distributor. The player has the option to either ‘pass’ or ‘bet higher’ than the earlier bidder.

Read below to know about the lowest and the highest bids.

  • Small: It is the lowest bid that pays nothing more than 25 points.

 

  • Guard: It is a bid with a stronger hand and can help the player succeed. The bet is multiplied by 2 in case of victory or defeat.

 

  • A Guard without the dog: The dog is added directly into the taker’s score pile and he does not look at the dog and the guard until the end of the hand. The bet is multiplied by 4 in the case of victory or defeat.

 

  • A Guard against the dog: The dog is added directly to the score pile of the opposing team and nobody gets to see it until the end of the hand. The bet is multiplied by 6 in the case of victory or defeat.

If no players bid, the dealer then redistributes the cards.

The Main Course of Tarot

Now, let's begin with the main part of playing the tarot card game. The player sitting to the left of the dealer starts the game. He throws a card and other players must throw a card based on the first card.  If the card thrown is the trump, the next player can play a trump card of higher value, any other trump card or any other card.

If the card thrown by the player is not the trump, then the other players can play a card of the starting suit, a trump card of a higher value, any other trump card, or any other card.

The player who throws the trump card of the highest value, or when there is no trump, the card of the highest value of the initial suit wins the trick.

The excuse is always kept by the player who owns it. The player can throw the excuse card whenever they want, but this card cannot be used to win the trick since it has no direct value when played. It only wins the trick when played during the last trick and the side playing it has not won every trick.

How To Count Points In Tarot Card Game?

The round comes to an end when the last trick is played. The players count their number of oudlers and the value of all cards in their scoring pile. The opponents also pool their tricks and count their card points to determine the winner. The total value of points in the tarot deck is 91.

Now let's see the value of the cards:

  • The Oudler is worth 4.5 points.
  • The King is worth 4.5 points.
  • The Queen is worth 3.5 points.
  • The Knight is worth 2.5 points.
  • The Jack is worth 1.5 points.
  • Two ordinary cards are worth 0.5 points.

In order to win, the player is required to have a certain number of points according to the number of Oudlers he has:

  • With no oudlers, the player is required to make 56 points in order to win.
  • With 1 oudler, the player is required to make 51 points in order to win.
  • With 2 oudlers, the player is required to make 41 points in order to win.
  • With 3 oudlers, the player is required to make 36 points in order to win.

When calculating scores, you just need to do the addition of your card points in the stack of your won cards. If you are losing, you need to round down fractions or just round up.

You need to use the given formula in order to evaluate your points: (25 + <Difference> + <Petit Au Bout Bonus>) X <Bid Multiplier>

  • Difference: This is the difference between the total of your card points in your stack of won cards and the least card points you needed.
     
  • Petit Au Bout Bonus: This is worth 10 points when the player has won 1 trump in the last trick. However, it is minus 10 when the opposing team has won the last trick with 1 trump.
     
  • Bid Multiplier:  It is dependent on the bid made by the player. It is worth 1 point for Small, 2 for Guard, 4 for a Guard Without and 6 for a Guard Against.

    If you have the minimum card points, then the rest of the three players give you three times the number of the game points you have won. But if you have not won the minimum points, you need to give the value of your game points to the other three players.

Points are either taken by the player from the rest of the three opponents or lost by the player to them. The rest of the players always win or lose equally. For instance, if one of the three players won petit au bout, all three get the advantage.

What is Grand Slam?

In order to achieve a grand slam, you must win all the tricks in the round. The player who announces the slam while placing the bid will gain 400 points and he will have the right to begin the first trick.

The slam, which is not announced either by the player or the opponents, will offer 200 points.

If the team announced the slam before starting the game and leads to the first trick, but fails then they will have to bear the penalty and 200 points will be deducted.

Know About Petit Slam

The player must win at least three tricks in the round. If this slam is not announced, it offers 150 points. However, an announced slam offers 300 points to the player. It also deducts 150 points if the player fails to take three tricks in a round.

Enjoy The Tarot Card Game!

Tarot is a trick-taking card game where cards have some point values. After the game is over, each player will have a stack of cards they have won in tricks or received in other ways. The winner is decided by counting the cards.

Commonly, the tarot card game is played among four players. However, with the popularity of this game, several versions of the game have emerged and it can be played among two, three and five players as well.

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