French Tarot.


Games are played with Tarot cards in various countries of Europe, but nowhere is it as popular as in France. You will find nightclubs, tournaments (such as replicate events) and a formal figure, the Fdration Franaise de Tarot. The next description is partly based on donations from Craig Kaplan, Michel Braunwarth and Eric Betito.

The Players.

Tarot is a trick-taking sport in which the partnerships differ from hand to hand. It is most frequently played by four players, and this variant is clarified first. However it is also common for five to play, and it is likewise feasible for three; the necessary alterations will be clarified at the end.

The Cards.

The deck includes 78 cards.

In addition to the four standard matches there is a excess suit of twenty-one atouts (trumps) numbered from 21 (high) to 1 (low).

In the end, there is a special card called the excuse, or the fool, marked by a star in the corner.

Three cards, also the 1 of trump (called the petit ), the 21 of trump and the excuse are especially essential in the sport and are known as bouts ("ends") or sometimes in novels as oudlers.

Not merely are the bouts worth points, but having them in your tricks also lowers the total number of points you want to win.

In North America, French Tarot cards can be obtained from TaroBear’s Lair.

Values of those cards.

In each hand one player, the taker (le preneur) plays against the other three in partnership. The taker’s objective is to accumulate sufficient card points to win the hand by taking tricks.

For every card in every trick taken, you get the next card points:

Bouts (21, 1, excuse): 4.5 points each Kings: 4.5 points each Queens: 3.5 points each Knights: 2.5 points each Jacks: 1.5 points each Other cards: 0.5 points each.

It’s easiest to rely on them in pairs, grouping each court card bout with a 0.5 point card – so for instance a queen and a pip card collectively are worth 4 points. The total of the card points is 91.

The number of points the taker Should acquire depends on the number of spells the taker has in his tricks:

With 3 bouts the taker requires at least 36 card points to acquire; With 2 bouts the taker requires at least 41 card points to acquire; With 1 bout the taker requires at least 51 card points to triumph; With 0 spells the taker requires at least 56 card points to triumph.

The Offer.

The first dealer is chosen randomly – then the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand (the whole game is played ). The player opposite the dealer shuffles and the player to the left of the dealer cuts.

In a hand, 18 cards are dealt to each player, in packets of 3. During the bargain, six cards are dealt face down to the middle of the table to shape the talon or chien ("le chien" literally means "the dog", but maybe a better British equivalent is "kitty", because this word is employed in other card games for a bunch of cards put aside during the bargain ). The chien cards are dealt singly at any time during the deal, at the selection of the trader, except that the first three and the last three cards of the deck can’t be dealt with the chien.

A player who’s dealt only the 1 of trumps and no others (counting the excuse as a trump) immediately admits this and also the hand is cancelled – the cards are thrown in and the next dealer deals.

The Bids.

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Each player, beginning with the player to the dealer’s correct and continuing , has only one chance to bid on the hand, or pass. If a person bids, subsequent players have the choice of bidding higher or passing.

Petite (Small) – also known in many of the publications as prise (take) You may use the chien cards to improve your hand (see below) and you then attempt to take enough card tips in tricks to win. Garde sans le chien (Guard with no kitty) No one looks at the chien, but the card points in it count as a portion of their taker’s tricks. Garde contre le chien (shield against the kitty) No one looks at the chien and it is counted as a member of the tricks of the competitions of the taker.

The maximum bidding player becomes the taker. The remaining three players form a temporary group, trying to stop the bidder from earning enough card points.

In Petite or Garde, the Chairman turns the six cards of the chien face up for all to watch and then takes them into his hand. Then he discards down face any six cards which shouldn’t include trumps, kings or the excuse. In the (very rare) case that the taker can’t mind this rule, he can discard trumps (but not bouts); any trumps discarded must be shown on the other players. The cards discarded from the Chairman count as a portion of the tricks.

The drama of the cards.

When the drop is complete, the cards have been played. The player to the dealer’s right contributes to the first trick.

The winner of a trick contributes to the next.

You have to follow suit if it’s possible, and in case you don’t have any cards of the suit which was directed you must play a trump. If trumps are directed, the other players must of course follow trumps if they can.

There is a further limitation: whenever you have to play with a trump (either because trumps were directed or because you’ve got no cards of the suit which was led), you must if possible play a trump which is greater than the maximum trump so far played to the trick. If you are unable to try it, you are free to play any trump, but you must still play a trump, though you can’t win the trick with it.

Playing the excuse.

The excuse is the exception to the above rules. If you hold the excuse you may play with it to any trick you choose – no matter of what has been led and whether you’ve got that suit or not. With one rare exception (see below), the excuse cannot acquire the trick – the trick will be won as normal by the maximum trump, or in the absence of trumps by the maximum card of the suit led.

It’s legal to lead the excuse, and also in this case the second player to the trick can play any card, and also this second card defines what match has to be followed.

Provided that the excuse is played prior to the last trick, the group that played the excuse keeps it in their trick pile, though they could have missed the trick to which it was played. If the trick is in fact won by the opponents of the player of the excuse, the trick will be one card short; to compensate for this, the group that played the excuse must transfer one card from their trick stack to the winners of the trick. This will be a 0.5 point cardif they do not have such a card in their own tricks, they can wait until they take a trick containing a 0.5 point card and then transfer it then.

If the excuse is played in the last trick, the excuse is accepted by the team who wins the trick. ( Note: that was the rule given by most novels, at least until the 1990’s, but the official rules of the Fdration Franaise de Tarot (FFT) are marginally different. They say that when the Excuse is played to the last trick it changes . So in line with the FFT rule, if an opponent of the bidder plays the Excuse to the last trick, the declarer catches the Excuse even when he does not win the trick.)

There is only one extremely rare case in which the excuse can win a trick: if one group has won every trick except the last one, and then leads the excuse to the last trick the excuse wins.


There are a few bonuses. The scores for these bonuses are not card points, so they do not help you to acquire your bid.


This is a bonus That’s scored if a player declares He has 10 or more trumps:

10 trumps: 20 points (Single Poigne) 13 trumps: 30 points (Double Poigne) 15 trumps: 40 points (Triple Poigne)

To announce a poigne, the holder has to show the proper amount of trumps before playing to the first trick. The trumps must be sorted so that the other players may easily see what’s there. The excuse can be counted as a trump in a poigne, however when the excuse is displayed, this indicates that the player doesn’t have any trumps hidden. The bonus is counted for the team who wins the hand, so if you announce a poigne and lose, you have given the bonus points to another side. It is not compulsory to announce a poigne when you’ve got one; if you maintain 10 or more trumps but are not confident that your side will win you may be wiser not to mention it.

Petit au bout.

This really is a bonus which occurs if the 1 of trump is played in the last trick. In this case the team that takes the last trick wins the bonus (10 points).


Chelem (= Slam) is a bonus for taking all the tricks. The score is determined by whether it was announced beforehand:

Chelem annonc: the group (the Chairman normally) declares chelem before the start of the drama, and contributes to the first trick. The bonus is 400 points if they succeed in winning every trick and -200 points punishment when they fail). Chelem non annonc: the group wins all the tricks without having announced it.

If one side has won all the tricks except the past, and then leads the excuse to the last trick, the excuse wins. This rule, which probably comes up about once a lifetime, allows a chelem to be produced by a player with the excuse. When making a chelem together with the excuse this way, it counts as petit au bout if you win the 1 of trumps in the 2nd last trick.

The scoring.

At the end of the hand, the taker counts his card points and the opposing team pool their tricks and count their card points. The six chien cards have been inserted to the taker’s hints, unless the bid was "Garde contre le chien", in which case the chien cards have been added to the opponents’ tricks. The taker wins when he has sufficient card points, depending on the amount of spells in his tricks.

The Number of points won or lost from the taker is calculated as follows:

25 points to the game plus the difference between the card points the taker actually won and the minimal number of points he desired ( pt ). That the petit au bout bonus is added or subtracted if applicable ( pb )

This amount is multiplied by a variable ( mu ) determined by the bid:

These bonuses are then added or subtracted if they apply; they are not influenced by the multiplier:

The calculation of the score, expressed as a formula, is: (( 25 pt pb ) * mu ) pg ch.

The calculated points are either won by the Chairman from all 3 opponents or lost by the Chairman to all three opponents. The competitions always win lose evenly: like if one of them wins petit au bout they all benefit.

Hand #1: A bids garde and has 56 card points with 2 bouts. Every other player gives (25 15) * 2 = 80 points to A.

Hand #2: B bids garde, has 49 card points with 3 bouts and takes the last trick with the 1 of trump.

C gives (25 1 10) * 2 = 72 points to each other player.

Hand #4: C calls garde with 3 spells, and carries 41 card points, but another team catches his 1 of trumps in the last trick. C only includes two bouts in tricks so his goal score becomes 41. Every other player gives (25 0 – 10) * 2 = 30 points to C.

Every other player gives (25 4) * 2 20 = 78 points to D.

Note: to create the addition simpler, some players choose to round all the scores to the nearest 5 or 10 points.

Tarot for Three gamers.

The game is basically the same as with four players. Every player is dealt 24 cards, in packets of 4. Because the hands are bigger the amount of trumps required for a poigne is raised: solitary 13; double 15; triple 18.

Because the tricks include an odd number of cards, there’ll at times be a strange half card point when counting. This is curved in favour of their Chairman if he wins, and in favour of those competitions if he loses. If the taker is half a point short of the goal, the bid is lost by a single card point.

Tarot for Five gamers.

Every player is dealt 15 cards, so that there are only 3 cards in the chien. The amount of trumps needed for a poigne is reduced: single 8; double 10; triple 13. Half card points have been treated as in the 3 player game.

Before exposing the talon, the Chairman calls a warrior and the player with that card plays as the partner of their taker; another 3 players play as a team against them. If the taker has all four championships, he may call a queen. The holder of the known king shouldn’t state anything to give away the fact that he has it. The identity of the taker’s partner is only disclosed when the called king is played, even though it could be suspected earlier from the simple fact that the holder of the king will attempt to aid the taker. If the known king (or queen) is proven to be in the chien or in the hand of the taker, then the taker plays against four competitions.

A lot of people play that if the taker has a partner, the taker receives or pays twice, while the partner and the 3 opponents pay or get separately. Other people play that the taker and partner split the gain or loss evenly between them, which is more awkward, because it may result in fractional scores. If the taker plays alone, the Chairman ‘s win or loss will of course be four times that of each competitor.

Note on Poigne.

No matter the number of players, you can remember the minimal number of trumps required for a Poigne as follows: you’ve got a Poigne if more than half of those cards in your hand are trumps.


Other variants for five players:

This variant is very rarely played. The trader doesn’t participate in the hand but copes to another four players who play as in the four game. If everyone passes the same trader redeals until somebody bids.

In the five player game with phoning a warrior, a few people play that you are not allowed to lead the suit of the known king in the first trick, except that if the holder of the king happens to be about direct , the king itself could be directed.

Variations in the bidding.

There was a bid involving petite and garde called pousse; the terms are the same but the score is different – a few players still permit this. On the other hand a few play without petite, so that the cheapest bid is garde.

Petit imprenable.

Some play that a player dealt the petit (1 of trumps) alone (i.e. not holding any trumps or the excuse) does not have to offset the hand, but alternatively can declare "petit imprenable" (untouchable one). The player then plays the petit as though it were another excuse – it loses the trick, however, the player keeps the card. Practice varies as to whether "petit imprenable" is declared immediately after the deal, once the player plays to the first trick, or maybe not until the petit itself is played.

Some play that a player who’s dealt the excuse but no other trumps is also allowed to offset the hand.


These bonuses are allowed by a few players:

Misre – a bonus when you don’t have any trumps or no court cards, worth 10 points petit chelem – a bonus for making nearly all the tricks – all except all except three, as agreed by the players.

Some people need the declarations to be made prior to the initial lead, instead of at declarer’s initial turn to play.


Apart from the championship scoring given in the main consideration, there are lots of alternative scoring system being used. As an instance:

80 for Garde; 160 for Garde Sans; 320 for Garde Contre; 500 for a petit chelem; 1000 for a grand chelem; card points above or below those required for the contract rounded to the nearest 10; no multiplying factors; other scores as above.

Another variant: petite x1, garde x2, garde sans x4, garde contre x5; grand chelem wins 400 if announced and produced, loses 200 if announced and lost, wins 200 if made with no announcement; petit chelem (all but one suggestion ) 300 if announced and left, loses 150 if announced and lost, no dent if made without announcement.

When playing the pousse bid, the multipliers could be: petite x1, pousse x2, garde x4, garde sans x8, garde contre x12.

Poignes will score: single 10, double 20, triple 40.

French Tarot was played pools ( mouches ). This method is a little awkward and has been dropped for tournament and club play, but it may still be encountered in informal games. At the start of the game, and then whenever there are not any mouches, everyone pays an equivalent amount (state 10) to form a mouche, and also the trader adds an extra 5. A player who wins a contract carries the most significant mouche; a declarer who loses pays into a new mouche equivalent in size to the largest mouche. At the start of each price, the dealer adds 5 to (among the) largest mouche(s). When playing mouches there may not be any base payment for the sport – only for the card points won in excess of the minimum required.

Direction of drama.

In certain areas the entire game is played rather than anticlockwise.

Tarot for Two Players.

This segment is based on a contribution in Maxence Crossley.

The game is basically the same as for four players, but each player has 21 cards hand and 18 over the table in six piles of 3, each pile having the top card face up.

The deal is as follows: three cards one by one to your competitor, face down, side by side; then 3 cards to yourself, similarly; then three to your competitor together with the initial three cards and three to your self. At this point there is a row of six cards face down in the front of each player. Repeat the process, dealing the new cards in addition to the previous ones, so that each player has six face-down piles of two cards. Then do the same again, but dealing the cards face up on top of the piles, so that each player has six piles of 3 cards with a face up card on top. The remaining cards have been dealt out three at a time to the two players, so that each includes a hand of 21 cards.

There is no bidding. The non-dealer leads, and the drama continues under the usual rules – i.e. you must follow suit and reevaluate if emptiness, and if a trump is led it has to be beaten when possible. The face-up cards on your piles can be played to tricks as though they were a part of your hand. At the end of each trick, when you have played from a pile you turn another card of that pile face up. At the end of the drama, when both players have played all the cards from their hands and their piles, the winner is determined using the usual targets – for example if you’ve got two spells and your competitor has you win if you’ve got 41 or more points and your opponent needs 51 or longer to win. If you want to keep score, the winner gets 25 points and one for each card point the winner has in excess of the goal. If the petit is played to the last trick, the winner of the trick scores an extra 10 for petit au bout. There is no score for poignee.

Other French Tarot WWW sites.

Franois Constantineau’s French language site La page tarot de Shogix contains example deals, analysis, problems and a glossary.

Jean-Franois Bustarret’s Tarot page has rules in French.

Fabrice’s website (in French) includes a section on Tarot with rules, strategies, online tournaments and a section in which a game of Tarot is played at the rate of one card every 2 or 3 days, with discussion on the best drama at each stage.

Here’s an archive copy of Sylvain Lhullier’s page rgles du jeu de tarot, which unfortunately began with two historic errors: that playing-cards came in Europe in the 10th century, and that the oldest European cards have been Tarot cards.

V & V Beuselinck’s Taroscopie site includes an electronic book of Tarot rules, strategy and organisation of clubs and tournaments, which may be viewed online or downloaded.

Matt’s website on Tarot Conventions discusses several limitations of the FFT system and proposes an alternative, and includes a number of examples and discussion.

French Tarot Software and Online Games.

At GameDuell you can play Tarot online against live opponents.

You can also play Tarot online against live opponents at VIP Tarot.

The Tarot Pro computer program can be found from Recreasoft.

Franois Uhrich has written a Tarot program for the Macintosh.

The French program WebTarot (created by the TaroTeam), can be downloaded in

At the Ludiclub site it’s possible to play Tarot on line.

A multiplayer online Tarot sport can be found at

Board Game Arena Provides an internet French Tarot game.

The free computer program FoxTarot from Fabrice Renard may be used to play against the computer or on line against other players.

At Pierre-Marie Petit’s Jeutarot site it’s possible to play Tarot championship deals on line.

With the free computer program Tarobot, written by Vincent Pelletier of Quebec, it is possible to play with 3 -, 4- or 5-player Tarot against the computer.

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