Hoyle's Games Modernized/Écarté

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ÉCARTÉ.

The game of Écarté is played with what is known as the Piquet pack of thirty-two cards. The relative value of the cards is the same as at Whist, with one exception, viz. that the king is the highest card, the ace ranking between the knave and the ten. Thus the knave can take the ace, but the ace can take the ten.

Trumps, as at Whist, are the most powerful cards. A seven of trumps can take the king of another suit.

LAWS OF ÉCARTÉ.

The laws of Écarté, as accepted by the principal clubs in London and elsewhere, are as follows. We here quote them as given in "Cavendish on Écarté,"[21] a standard authority on the subject. Any reader who desires to become a skilful player cannot do better than procure and study this work.

The Club Code laws are—

1.—Each player has a right to shuffle both his own and his adversary's pack. The dealer has the right to shuffle last.

2.—The pack must not be shuffled below the table, nor in such a manner as to expose the faces of the cards, nor during the play of the hand.

3.—A cut must consist of at least two cards, and at least two must be left in the lower packet.

4.—A player exposing more than one card when cutting for deal must cut again.

5.—The player who cuts the highest Écarté card deals, and has choice of cards and seats. The choice determines both seats and cards during the play.

6.—The cut for deal holds good even if the pack be incorrect.

7.—If in cutting to the dealer a card be exposed, there must be a fresh cut.

8.—The dealer must give five cards to his adversary and five to himself, by two at a time to each, and then by three at a time to each, or vice versâ. The dealer, having selected the order in which he will distribute the cards, must not change it during that game; nor may he change it at the commencement of any subsequent game, unless he inform the non-dealer before the pack is cut.

9.—If the dealer give more or less than five cards to his adversary or to himself, or do not adhere to the order of distribution first selected, and the error be discovered before the trump card is turned, the non-dealer, before he looks at his hand, may require the dealer to rectify the error, or may claim a fresh deal.

10.—The hands having been dealt, the dealer must turn up for trumps the top card of those remaining.

11.—If the dealer turn up more than one card, the non-dealer, before he looks at his hand, may choose which of the exposed cards shall be the trump, or may claim a fresh deal. Should the non-dealer have looked at his hand, there must be a fresh deal.

12.—If, before the trump card is turned up, a faced card be discovered in the pack, there must be a fresh deal.

13.—If the dealer expose any of his own cards the deal stands good. If he expose any of his adversary's cards, the non-dealer, before he looks at his hand, may claim a fresh deal.

14.—If a player deal out of his turn, or with his adversary's pack, and the error be discovered before the trump card is turned up, the deal is void. After the trump card is turned up, it is too late to rectify the error, and if the adversary's pack has been dealt with, the packs remain changed.

15.—If, after the trump card is turned up, and before proposing, or, if there is no proposal, before playing, it be discovered that the non-dealer has more than five cards, he may claim a fresh deal. Should the non-dealer not claim a fresh deal, he discards the superfluous cards, and the dealer is not entitled to see them.

16.—If, after the trump card is turned up, and before proposing, or, if there is no proposal, before playing, it be discovered that the non-dealer has less than five cards, he may have his hand completed from the stock, or may claim a fresh deal.

17.—If, after the trump card is turned up, and before the dealer accepts or refuses, or, if there is no proposal, before he plays, it be discovered that he has dealt himself more than five cards, the non-dealer may claim a fresh deal. Should he not claim a fresh deal, he draws the superfluous cards from the dealer's hand. Should the dealer have taken up his hand, the non-dealer is entitled to look at the cards he draws.

18.—If, after the trump card is turned up, and before the dealer accepts or refuses, or, if there is no proposal, before he plays, it be discovered that the dealer has less than five cards, the non-dealer may permit the dealer to complete his hand from the stock, or may claim a fresh deal.

19.—If a fresh deal be not claimed when the wrong number of cards are dealt, the dealer cannot mark the king turned up.

20.—If the non-dealer play without taking cards, and it be then discovered that he has more or less than five cards, there must be a fresh deal.

21.—If the dealer play without taking cards, and it be then discovered that he has more or less than five cards, his adversary may claim a fresh deal.

22.—If a king be turned up, the dealer is entitled to mark it at any time before the trump card of the next deal is turned up.

23.—If either player hold the king of trumps, he must announce it before playing his first card, or he loses the right to mark it. It is not sufficient to mark the king held in hand without announcing it.

24.—If the king be the card first led, it may be announced at any time prior to its being played to. If the king be the card first played by the dealer, he may announce it at any time before he plays again.

25.—If a player, not holding the king, announce it, and fail to declare his error before he has played a card, the adversary may correct the score, and has the option of requiring the hands to be played over again, notwithstanding that he may have abandoned his hand. If the offender win the point he marks nothing; if he win the vole he marks only one; if he win the point when his adversary has played without proposing, or has refused the first proposal, he marks only one. But if the adversary himself hold the king, there is no penalty.

26.—If a player propose, he cannot retract; nor can he alter the number of cards asked for.[22]

27.—The dealer, having accepted or refused, cannot retract. The dealer, if required, must inform his adversary how many cards he has taken.

28.—Each player, before taking cards, must put his discard face downward on the table, apart from the stock, and from his adversary's discard. Cards once discarded must not be looked at.

29.—If the non-dealer take more cards than he has discarded, and mix any of them with his hand, the dealer may claim a fresh deal. If the dealer elect to play the hand, he draws the superfluous cards from the non-dealer's hand. Should the non-dealer have taken up any of the cards given him, the dealer is entitled to look at the cards he draws.

30.—If the non-dealer asks for less cards than he has discarded, the dealer counts as tricks all cards which cannot be played to.

31.—If the dealer give his adversary more cards than he has asked for, the non-dealer may claim a fresh deal. If the non-dealer elect to play the hand, he discards the superfluous cards, and the dealer is not entitled to see them.

32.—If the dealer give his adversary less cards than he has asked for, the non-dealer may claim a fresh deal. If the non-dealer elect to play the hand, he has it completed from the stock.

33.—If the dealer give himself more cards than he has discarded, and mix any of them with his hand, the non-dealer may claim a fresh deal. If the non-dealer elect to play the hand, he draws the superfluous cards from the dealer's hand. Should the dealer have taken up any of the cards he has given himself, the non-dealer is entitled to look at the cards he draws.

34.—If the dealer give himself less cards than he has discarded, he may, before playing, complete his hand from the stock. If the dealer play with less than five cards, the non-dealer counts as tricks all cards which cannot be played to.

35.—If a faced card be found in the stock after discarding, both players have a right to see it. The faced card must be thrown aside, and the next card given instead.

36.—If, in giving cards, any of the non-dealer's are exposed, he has the option of taking them; should the non-dealer refuse them, they must be thrown aside and the next cards given instead. If the dealer expose any of his own cards, he must take them.

37.—If, after giving the cards, the dealer turn up a card in error, as though it were the trump card, he cannot refuse another discard. If another be demanded, the non-dealer has the option of taking the exposed card.

38.—If the dealer accept when there are not sufficient cards left in the stock to enable the players to exchange as many cards as they wish, the non-dealer is entitled to exchange as many as he asked for, or, if there are not enough, as many as there are left, and the dealer must play his hand; the dealer is at liberty to accept, conditionally, on there being cards enough in the stock.

39.—A card led in turn cannot be taken up again. A card played to a lead may be taken up again to save a revoke or to correct the error of not winning a trick when able, and then only prior to another card being led.

40.—If a card be led out of turn, it may be taken up again, prior to its being played to; after it has been played to, the error cannot be rectified.

41.—If the leader name one suit and play another, the adversary may play to the card led, or may require the leader to play the suit named. If the leader have none of the suit named, the card led cannot be withdrawn.

42.—If a player abandon his hand when he has not made a trick, his adversary is entitled to mark the vole. If a player abandon his hand after he has made one or two tricks, his adversary is entitled to mark the point. But if a player throw down his cards, claiming to score, the hand is not abandoned, and there is no penalty.

43.—If a player renounce when he holds a card of the suit led, or if a player fail to win the trick when able, his adversary has the option of requiring the hands to be played again, notwithstanding that he may have abandoned his hand. If the offender win the point he marks nothing; if he win the vole, he marks only one; if he win the point when his adversary has played without proposing, or has refused the first proposal, he marks only one. Should the card played in error be taken up again prior to another card being led (as provided by Law 39), there is no penalty.

44.—A player may call for new cards at his own expense, at any time before the pack is cut for the next deal. He must call for two new packs, of which the dealer has choice.

45.—If a pack be discovered to be incorrect, redundant, or imperfect, the deal in which the discovery is made is void; all preceding deals stand good.

46.—The game is five up. By agreement, the game may count a treble if the adversary has not scored; a double if he has scored one or two; a single if he has scored three or four.

47.—A player turning up a king, or holding the king of trumps in his hand, is entitled to mark one.

48.—A player winning the point is entitled to mark one; a player winning the vole is entitled to mark two.

49.—If the non-dealer play without proposing, and fail to win the point, his adversary is entitled to mark two. If the dealer refuse the first proposal, and fail to win the point, the non-dealer is entitled to mark two. These scores apply only to the first proposal or refusal in a hand, and only to the point, the score for the vole being unaffected.

50.—If a player omit to mark his score, he may rectify the omission at any time before the trump card of the next deal is turned up.

51.—An admitted overscore can be taken down at any time during the game.[23]

 

The following French terms are commonly used at Écarté:

Àtout. Trump.—Couper. To cut.—Donner. To deal.—Écart. The cards thrown aside.—Forcer. To play a superior on an inferior card.—La Vole. All five tricks made by either player.—Le Point. Three out of the five made by either player. Proposer. Asking for fresh cards.—Rénoncer. Not to answer the suit led.

We will now suppose, by way of illustration, that A and Y play a game of Écarté.

Two packs of different colour or pattern, say a red and a white pack, are used. From these packs the cards from two to six are extracted. A and Y cut for deal; A cuts the knave, Y the ace. A therefore deals, as knave is in this game higher than ace.

The cards having been shuffled, A gives the pack to Y to be cut. A then deals three cards to his adversary, three to himself, then two to his adversary and two to himself, and turns up the king of spades. "I mark the king," says A (see Law 22).

A does not look at his cards, but waits to see what his adversary will do. Y looks at his hand, and says, "I propose." A looks at his hand, and finds in it queen, knave, ace of spades, the ace of diamonds, and the eight of hearts. A has the trick now to a certainty, and cannot lose it by accepting, the low heart being the weak point in his hand. The hand of Y was ten of spades, king of hearts, ten and seven of diamonds, and nine of clubs. Y takes three cards; A takes two. Y takes in the king of diamonds, the seven of spades, and the seven of hearts; A takes in the nine and eight of spades, and must win the vole.

Y now deals, and turns the nine of clubs as trumps. A looks at his hand, and finds in it the king and ace of diamonds, the eight and seven of hearts, and the ten of spades. A proposes. Y looks at his hand, and finds king, queen, knave of spades, eight and seven of clubs. "Play," says Y, and he wins the vole. Score: Y = 2; A = 3.

With such a hand as Y held, to accept the proposal would have been wrong, the chances being in his favour.

A now deals, and turns knave of diamonds. Y looks at his cards, and finds they consist of queen, ten of diamonds, ten and eight of clubs, and eight of hearts. He elects to play without proposing. A's hand consists of knave of clubs, ace, knave, ten of hearts, and eight of diamonds. Y may now win or lose the point, according to the cards he leads.

If he led queen, then ten of diamonds, he would lose the point. If he led ten of clubs, he would win the point. The reader should place the cards and play out these hands.

We will suppose that Y played correctly and won the point; the game stands at 3 all.

It is now Y's turn to deal. We will suppose that he does so, and wins the point; the game is then, Y = 4; A = 3.

A now deals, and turns the nine of diamonds. Y's hand consists of queen, knave of diamonds, king, queen, ace of spades. Y elects to play. A looks at his hands, and finds in it the king, ace of diamonds, the ace of hearts, the king of clubs, and the eight of spades.

Y must win the game if he play correctly; but, being anxious to win more tricks than are necessary, he loses it by reckless play. Y leads king of spades, on which A plays eight of spades, without marking the king. A does this because Y, having played without proposing, will lose two if he lose the point. To mark the king will be useless, if Y win the point; hence A conceals from Y the fact of his holding the king. Y plays incautiously, and leads as his second lead queen of diamonds; A wins with king of diamonds, and leads king of clubs, which Y trumps, and leads queen of spades, which A trumps, and leads ace of hearts, which wins the game.

If Y had followed his first lead with queen of spades, he must have won the game; but, imagining that A could not hold the king because he did not mark it, he played feebly, and lost the game.

This example will give some idea of the play of a hand, and of the different results which follow the correct and incorrect play of even five cards.

Jeux de Règle.

Great stress is laid by scientific Écarté-players on what are termed Jeux de règle, that is, hands which ought to be played without "proposing" or "accepting." When the cards held by a player are so good that he cannot fail to win three tricks unless his adversary hold two trumps, it is the rule to play without proposing. It is easy, by an examination of the five cards, to at once perceive how the trick must be won, unless the adversary hold two trumps. Here are a few examples:

King, queen, knave of spades, eight of hearts (trumps), eight of diamonds. Lead king of spades; if not trumped, follow with queen, etc.

With three trumps, play without proposing. Likewise with two trumps, if the other cards belong to one suit, or with two cards of one suit, one of which is the king or queen.

Play if holding only one trump, provided the other cards are four of one suit, one being a king, or three cards of one suit, one being a king or queen, and the fifth card being a king or queen.

Play with no trump if three queens are held, or four court cards.

When playing these hands (and they apply mainly to the leader) it is important to remember the disadvantage that follows leading from a suit of two when one is a high, the other a much lower card, and the advantage of leading from a suit of two when these are in sequence.

Take the following hands as examples:

A holds queen of clubs, queen of diamonds, queen and eight of hearts, and eight of spades, the ten of spades being turned up as trump.

Y holds king and nine of hearts, nine and seven of diamonds, and nine of spades.

If A lead the queen of hearts, he must lose the point, no matter how Y plays. If, however, he lead either of his single queens, he may win the point, if Y, after winning the queen of clubs, lead the king of hearts.

Again, A holds queen, ten, of spades; knave, ten, of hearts; ten of diamonds; diamonds being trumps.

Y holds knave, seven, of spades; seven of hearts; and knave, eight, of diamonds.

If A lead the queen of spades, he loses the trick. If he lead knave and then ten of hearts, he wins the trick.

From these examples it will be evident that cards in sequence, or single cards, are better as leads than one high card, and then a small one of a two-card suit. Also it is desirable that the adversary should be the leader when the third lead occurs.

What is called being "put to a card," is, if possible, to be avoided. The following will serve as an example:

A holds king, knave, ten, of hearts; queen of diamonds, and knave of spades (nine of clubs turned up). A proposes, and is refused. He may now conclude that Y has two trumps at least.

A leads king of hearts, which wins; then knave, which wins. If Y holds ace of hearts, A must lose the point. If, however, Y hold either a diamond lower than the queen, or a spade lower than the knave, A may win, if he keep the right card; if, however, A play a third heart, and this is trumped, and Y play, say, queen of trumps, A must discard either his queen of diamonds or his knave of spades, and he has no guide as to which to discard. Instead, therefore, of playing the third heart he should lead either the diamond or the spade, and thus avoid being "put to a card."

The dealer has the option of refusing or accepting; before doing either, he should not only consider well the cards in his hand, but the state of the score.

It is not unusual for a player who may hold the trick for certainty to propose in the hopes of being refused, in order that he may, by winning the trick, score two. If this occurred at the score of three, the results would be fatal.

As a general rule, refuse if only two cards can be discarded. A king or a trump should not be discarded in the first instance.

With three trumps, refuse, unless the king of trumps is one of the three, when there is a great chance that the cards taken in may enable the vole to be won.

With only one trump and one king, no matter what the other suits may be, if not having a card higher than a ten, accept. But with one trump, two queens guarded, or a king and queen guarded, refuse. Although in many cases, where it is the rule to play, it is two to one in favour of the player winning the point, it must not be imagined that he will always win. He may win twice out of three times, but it is possible for the adversary to hold exceptionally good cards, and to win the point against the jeu de règle. For example, A holds queen, ace, and seven of hearts (trumps), king of spades, king of diamonds, and, of course, plays without proposing. Y holds king, knave, nine, and eight of hearts, and nine of clubs, and must win the point; but for A to propose would have been wrong, his hand being strong enough to win four times out of five.

When a player proposes, and is refused, he may form an estimate of the suit or suits out of trumps in which his adversary it likely to be strong. Suppose A, the non-dealer, hold queen, knave of spades, ace of hearts, seven of clubs, and knave of diamonds (trumps). The probabilities are that Y is strong in hearts and clubs, or holds two trumps. The queen of spades in this case should, of course, be led; and, if it win, should be followed by the knave.

The condition of the score ought to be considered before proposing or playing without proposing. If the adversary be at the score of three, it is dangerous to play without proposing, unless the hand be very strong. If the adversary be at four, it is better not to propose if the non-dealer's hand be fairly strong, unless the king be held, as there is a chance of the dealer drawing the king, and at once scoring game.

The high cards which have been discarded should be remembered, because lower cards are then of greater value; thus, if the knave and ace of hearts have been discarded, and the king and ten are drawn, there can be only one card, viz., the queen of hearts, which is better than the ten, and in this suit the ten is equivalent to the knave held originally.

Inexperienced players, as a rule, are too apt to propose, and to continue proposing till the pack is exhausted. As there are eight trumps in the pack, a player gains no advantage if he hold four of these, when his adversary also holds four. His hand looks better than if he held only two, but whilst he has furnished himself with trumps, his adversary has done likewise.

In order to play Écarté well, take a pack of cards, and deal out the hands against an imaginary or dummy adversary; remember those hands under the heading Jeux de règle, and then note how the hand can be best played to secure the point.