Understand the Rules of Pilotta

Written by: Abha Vardhan

Belote, initially known as belotte is a trick-and-meld card game that originated in 1920. It is one of the most popular games in France today. The original card game allowed for only two players; however, later the game was modified to allow for three players. The latest version of the Belote card game, also referred to as belote coinchée or just coinche, requires the partnership of four players.

You can only really enjoy Belote after you have understood its simple rules. Let’s go through the basic rules of this fascinating card game.

How are the Cards Dealt?

Belote card game is played with 32 cards and usually with four players. The game is played in a clockwise direction. The cards include Kings, Queens, Jacks, Aces, Tens, Nines, Eights, and Sevens. The cards also have all four suites which are Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades.

There is no need to shuffle the card pack in Belote. The player on the left side of the dealer cuts the pack. Each player gets eight cards in total. There is also a sequence in which the cards are dealt to the players. First, three cards are dealt to the players. After that, the dealer deals two cards. At this stage, each player has five cards. Now, one card is placed face up in the middle of the table. This card is considered as the colour of the trump. The players are allowed to place their bids. Once done, three more cards are dealt to each player.

Bidding

Bidding helps to decide the contract of the game. The contracts are as follows:

  • Trump Colour: In this version, one of the colours is chosen as the trump colour, and the others are considered as equal. The ranking of the cards of trump colour is in a descending order such as Jack, Nine, Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Eight, Seven. The cards of the other colours are categorized as Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, Nine, Eight, Seven. It’s worth noting that a card from a trump colour rules any card from a non-trump colour, in spite of its position. 
  • No Trumps: In this version, none of the colours are dominant. All colours are considered trump colours; however, the strength of the cards is in the order of Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, Nine, Eight, Seven. The aim of the game is to respond to the played colour.
  • All Trumps: In this version, none of the colours are dominant and all colours are regarded as trump colours. This means that the card ranking of each colour is Jack, Nine, Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Eight, Seven. Thus, playing cards of the same colour are compulsory along with raising, irrespective of which team has the highest cards.

The player to the right of the dealer can now choose to ‘take’ or ‘pass’ the trump card. If the player chooses not to take the card, the opportunity is given to the next player to ‘take’ or ‘pass’ and the game continues in the same way. In the first round, if any one of the four players decides to take the trump card, the game starts. However, if all the players choose to pass the trump card, another round is played. The first player may propose another card suit as trumps, different from the card on the table.

If he doesn’t propose anything, the opportunity is given to the next player to choose another card suit. Once any of the four players have chosen the trump suit, the game can start. However, if none of the players chooses any card in the second round too, the cards are collected again and the next player in rotation deals.

As soon as the player chooses to take the card, either in the first or the second round, the bidding ends. The taker gets the face-up card (it can be a trump or not) and the game begins. He then receives only two more cards while the other players receive three more cards. The cards are dealt in a rotation and begin with the player on the dealer’s right and ending with the dealer. All players now have eight cards in total.

What Should You Know About Bids and Contracts?

If you want to do well in Belote you should be familiar with the contracts and bids.

The usual bidding or contracts are:

  • Clubs
  • Diamonds
  • Hearts
  • Spades
  • No trumps
  • All trumps

The highest possible bid is ‘All Trumps.’ After that comes the Spades. Hearts is superior to Diamond. Diamond is superior to Spade. The lowest bid is of Clubs.

Each player has other options such as:

  • Double (Coinchée, or Contré): A player may bid ‘Double.’ The player who declares it intends to win the game by defeating their opponent at their own bid. In this case, the result, in the end, is doubled.
  • Re-Double (Re-contra): This option can only be declared when there is a ‘Double.’ If declared the end results are quadrupled in this instance.

Basic Rules to Play Belote

When playing Belote, it is important to keep in mind that you have to always respond to the colour required, if you own it. For instance, if one of the players has placed hearts, you need to respond with a heart card. However, if you don’t have the right card, you can play with any other card you want to give.

In a colour card game, if you don’t have the needed colour, you must use the trump colour to win the hand. When you have played the trump card, and you own a higher card, you should overtrump it. Let’s say, the player ahead of you played Jack of the trumps, then you must give a higher card such as Ace.

If you are playing a No Trump game, you can consider keeping your higher card safe. Let’s say, the player ahead of you plays a Queen of Spades, you can consider playing a low-ranking card such as nine if you are sure that you are winning the hand.

Understand the Declarations

Declarations are certain sets of cards included in players' hands, which give them additional points. It is imperative to announce the declaration at the beginning of the game. The different types of declarations are as follows:

Square or ‘Carré’ in French: These include four cards of the same rank such as:

  • Four Jacks: It is the highest declaration and holds a value of 200 points.
  • Four Nines: It holds a value of 150 points.
  • Four of Aces, Kings, Queens or Tens: They hold a value of 100 points. It is important to note that Four Sevens and Four Eights are not counted.

Sequences: Include a sequence from three to five cards of the same suit. The cards can be any fraction of the following arrangement: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven.

  • A sequence of three cards: It holds a value of 20 points.
  • A sequence of four cards: It holds a value of 50 points.
  • A sequence of five cards: It holds a value of 100 points.

Sequences of more than five are counted as one sequence of five. Also, if the sequence is of eight cards, it is counted as a sequence of one five cards, and another of three cards.

Belote and Re-Belote: A belote and re-belote is the grouping of a Trump King and a Trump Queen. It holds a value of 20 points.

Important Note: Declarations are not acceptable or counted in a 'Not Trump' game.

Understand the Scoring

After the game has ended, each team calculates the points they collected from winning hands. Every card has a definite value except Jacks and Nines.

  • For Trump colour and Non-Trump colour, the value of Aces is 11 points, the value of King is 4 points, the value of Queen is 3 points, the value of Tens is 10 points, and the value of both Sevens and Eights is 0 points.
  • For Trump colour, the value of Nines is 14 points and for Non-Trump colour, the value of Nines is 0 points.
  • For Trump colour, the value of Jacks is 20 points and for Non-Trump colour, the value of Jacks is 2 points.

In order to win the game, the player who has announced declaration should have scored more points than the other players. The player who wins the last game is awarded 10 points extra. Besides, declarations are also joined with the score.

  • Inside or Committed: If the team who has placed the bid in the game does not have sufficient points, they are referred to as ‘inside’ or ‘committed.’ It signifies that all of their points are given to the opposing team.
  • Kaput: if the team is unsuccessful in winning any hand, the other team gets an extra 90 points.

The total score for a game of “All Trumps” is 258 and for a “Not Trump” game is 162. The winning team is the one who has scored half or more of these points.

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