Hoyle's Games Modernized/Piquet

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Piquet is generally regarded as the best of card games for two players.

It is played with a pack of thirty-two cards, which is called a "piquet pack," all below the seven being excluded. The cards rank in Whist order—ace, king, queen, knave, ten, nine, eight, seven.

The score is made partly by combinations of cards held in the hand, and partly by points marked in the course of play.

The Deal.

The two players cut for deal, and in this cutting the ace ranks the highest. The player who cuts the higher card has the choice of first deal. After this the players deal alternately.

It is customary to use two packs of cards, and the first dealer has the choice which pack he will use. Each player has a right to shuffle both his own and the adversary's pack, the dealer shuffling last. After this the pack is "cut to the dealer" by the adversary, as at Whist.

It is customary to call the non-dealer the "elder hand."

The dealer must deal the cards by two at a time or by three at a time, giving the top cards to his adversary, the next to himself, and so on, until each has twelve cards.

The eight cards that remain (called the "stock") are placed face downwards between the players.

There are no trumps in this game.

Discarding and Taking in.

Before anything else is done, each player has a right to reject some of his cards, and take others in their place.

The elder hand begins. He has the privilege of discarding from his hand any number of cards not exceeding five (he must discard at least one), and taking a corresponding number from the top of the stock. If he does not take all his five, he may look at those he leaves, concealing them, however, from the other player.

The dealer may then discard and replace in like manner, taking the cards from the stock in the order in which he finds them. He is bound to discard one, and he may, if he pleases, take all that remain, or any number of them. He may look at any cards of his own portion of the stock he leaves behind; but if he does, the elder hand may demand to see them too, after playing his first card, or naming the suit he intends to play.


The hands being thus made up, the elder hand proceeds to declare or "call" the scoring combinations he may hold, in the following manner. There are three things in the hand that may be scored, namely (1) the point; (2) the sequence; (3) the quatorze or trio.

(1) The point is scored by the party who has the most cards of one suit. The elder hand states how many he has. If the dealer has not so many, he says "Good," and the elder hand scores one for each card; if the dealer has more, he says "Not good," and the elder hand, scoring nothing, passes on to the next item. If the dealer happens to have the same number, he says "Equal," and then the elder hand must count and declare the number of the pips—the ace counting eleven, the court cards ten each, and the others what they are. The highest number of pips makes the cards "good," and invalidates those of the other party. If the number of pips are equal, neither scores.

(2) The second item is scored by the party who has the best sequence, that is, the greatest number of consecutive cards, not less than three, of the same suit, or, if an equal number, those of the highest rank. Thus, ten, nine, eight, seven are better than ace, king, queen; but ace, king, queen are better than king, queen, knave; and so on. A sequence of three cards, no matter what, counts three; of four cards, four; beyond this ten are added, so that a sequence of five cards counts fifteen; of six cards, sixteen; and so on. The elder hand declares his best sequence. If the dealer has a better, he says "Not good"; if only inferior ones, he says "Good." In the latter case the holder scores not only for the best sequence, but for every other he holds in his hand; all the opposite party may hold being invalidated. If the best sequences are equal, neither scores.

(3) The third item is called the quatorze, from the fact that four aces, four kings, four queens, four knaves, or four tens in one hand, if "good," score fourteen. Three of either kind (called a trio) score three. In deciding which party is to score, the higher cards are better than the lower, but any four like cards take precedence of the best three. Thus four tens are better than three aces; but three aces are better than three kings, and so on. The elder hand names his best quatorze or trio, to which the dealer says "Good" or "Not good," as the case may be; and, as with the sequence, the one who has the best scores all others he may hold, while those of the opponent are all destroyed.

The point and sequence, when scored by either party, must be shown to the other, if asked for.

The Play.

The items in the elder hand thus being counted, the holder lays down one card, thus beginning the "play." The dealer plays to this; but, immediately before doing so, he calls and counts all he has to score in his hand.

The play, the object of which is to gain tricks, follows the ordinary Whist rule; the second player being obliged to follow suit, if he can, and the best card winning. If he cannot follow suit, he loses the trick, throwing away any card he pleases.

The scoring of the play is peculiar. The first player to every trick counts one for the card he so plays; but if the second player wins the trick, he also counts one. The player who takes the last trick counts an extra one for it.

If either player wins more than six tricks, he scores ten "for the cards," as it is called. If the two players win six tricks each, there is no score "for the cards" on either side.


What has been above described constitutes the simple or ordinary game. There are some additional scores for extraordinary cases; but before we mention them it will be well to illustrate the foregoing directions by an example of an imaginary hand, which will show that although the description may appear complicated, the practice is very easy.

A and B play at Piquet, B being the dealer, and A the elder hand. B deals out the following cards:

To A.
Spades—nine, seven.
Hearts—ace, nine, eight.
Clubs—knave, ten, seven.
Diamonds—knave, ten, nine, eight.
To B.
Spades—queen, ten, eight.
Hearts—queen, knave, seven.
Clubs—ace, king, queen, eight.
Diamonds—king, queen.

After the deal the stock contains cards in the following order:

Ace of diamonds (top card).
Nine of clubs.
Seven of diamonds.
Ace of spades.
King of hearts.
King of spades.
Ten of hearts.
Knave of spades (bottom card).

A has a poor hand, and must take all his five cards, in the hope of improving it. He must keep his diamond suit entire; so he discards the nine and seven of spades, the nine and eight of hearts, and the seven of clubs, taking in the five upper cards from the stock.

B's is already a good hand with the quatorze of queens—which he knows must be "good"—a fair chance for the point, and other favourable cards for trick-making. But he discards the ten and eight of spades and the seven of hearts with the hope of improvement, taking in the three remaining cards of the stock.

The two hands are then as follows: A (elder hand) has ace of spades, ace and king of hearts, knave, ten, nine of clubs, and ace, knave, ten, nine, eight, seven of diamonds. B (dealer) has king, queen, knave of spades; queen, knave, ten of hearts; ace, king, queen, eight of clubs, and king and queen of diamonds.

The following conversation may be supposed to take place:

A: My point is 6.

B: Good.

A (shows his diamonds, or says,—in diamonds; and then adds): My best sequence in the quint to the knave of diamonds.

B: Good.

A: I have also a tierce to another knave (shows knave, ten, nine of clubs, or says,—in clubs).

A: And I have three aces.

B: Not good.

A: Then I score 6 for the point, 15 for the quint sequence, and 3 for the tierce, making 24.

He then plays ace of diamonds, and says: 25.

B: I score 14 for four queens, and 3 for three kings—total 17.

B (plays queen of diamonds, and repeats): 17.

A (plays seven of diamonds): 26.

B (taking it with king): 18.

B (leads ace of clubs): 19.

A (follows with knave): 26.

B (plays king of clubs): 20.

A (ten of clubs): 26.

B (queen of clubs): 21.

A (nine of clubs): 26.

B (eight of clubs): 22.

A (throws away king of hearts): 26.

B (leads king of spades): 23.

A (takes it with ace): 27.

A (now leads knave of diamonds): 28.

B (anything): 23.

A (ten of diamonds): 29.

B (anything): 23.

A (nine of diamonds): 30.

B (anything): 23.

A (eight of diamonds): 31.

B (anything): 23.

A (ace of hearts): 32.

B (his last card): 23.

A: Then I score 1 for the last trick—33, and 10 for the cards;[32] that makes me in all 43.

B: And I score 23.

A note is made of these numbers, and the next deal is proceeded with. We shall hereafter explain how the final score is made up from the results obtained in the successive hands; but before doing this it will be well to complete the description of the scoring elements.


Piquet is remarkable for containing certain extraordinary chances, some of them of great scoring value. These are four in number, namely, the Carte Blanche, the Repique, the Pique, and the Capot.

Carte Blanche.

If the hand originally dealt to either player contains neither a king, a queen, nor a knave (no picture card, in fact, whence the name), it entitles the holder to score ten.

As soon as the player is aware that he has this, he is bound to inform his adversary; and after the adversary has discarded, he is bound to show his carte blanche by counting the cards, one by one, on the table.

The score for a carte blanche takes precedence of all other scores.


When either player can score thirty or more by the contents of his hand alone, before his adversary can score anything, he gets what is called a repique, which enables him to add sixty to his score.

Thus, if the elder hand finds himself with, say—

A good point of five 5
A good quint sequence 15
A good quatorze 14

such a combination will enable him (if the dealer does not hold carte blanche) to score ninety-four.


When the elder hand counts something less than thirty in hand, but can make it up to thirty by play before his adversary counts one, he adds thirty on this account to his score. This is a pique. It is obvious that a pique can never be gained by the dealer, as his adversary always counts one for the first card he plays.


If either of the players gain all the tricks, he scores forty for them, instead of ten for the majority. This is called a capot.

Pique, repique, and capot are not unfrequent; but the occurrence of carte blanche is exceedingly rare, occurring only about once in nine hundred deals.

As an example of how these extraordinary chances tell, suppose that the elder hand, after discarding, should find himself with four major tierces in his hand, the dealer having only three cards of each suit, including at least one knave, so as to prevent a carte blanche; the elder hand would then score as follows:

In the hand
Point 3
Four tierce sequences 12
Three quatorzes 42
Add for the repique 60
In play
Twelve cards, all winning 12
For the last card 1
For the capot 40
Total score for one hand 170

When it is considered that in some hands the score may be nothing, and that it may vary in all degrees between these, the variety obtainable will be strikingly evident.

The Final Score.

It is necessary now to explain what is done with the scores made in the successive hands, and how the final adjustment is effected.

According to the original mode of playing, the game consisted of 100 points; indeed, in early times the name Cent (corrupted into Sant or Saunt) appears to have been applied to it. Hoyle adhered to this, but at some later period the 100 was altered to 101. This was also the ordinary way of playing the game in France, and has been generally adhered to in England until the last few years. According to this, the score of each hand is registered, either by writing it down, or by some kind of marking contrivance, and the whole added up until the 100 limit is reached by one of the parties. The game may extend over several hands, or it may, by the aid of the extraordinary scores, be completed in one.

It will, however, often happen that both parties may arrive simultaneously near the 100 score, and it then becomes necessary to register carefully and in proper order the scores made at the different stages of the hand by the two parties respectively. The laws prescribe that the scores, whether obtained by the elder hand or by the dealer, shall be reckoned in the following order of precedence—viz.:

1. Carte blanche.
2. Point.
3. Sequences.
4. Quatorzes and trios.
5. Points made in play.
6. The cards.

Applying, therefore, the scores made by either player under each of these heads, in the order named, the one who first reaches 100 will have won the game.

This simple game of 100 may suffice for domestic amusement; but a few years ago an alteration was made in the practice of the clubs, by the introduction of what is called the Rubicon Game, which is as follows:

There is no definite number of points constituting a game, but the players play six deals, forming what is called a "partie." The scores made by each player in each deal are registered on a card, and at the end of the partie they are added together. The partie is won by the player who has made the highest aggregate score. The winner then deducts his adversary's score from his own, and 100 is added to the difference, which makes the number of points won.

Thus, suppose A has scored in the six deals 120 points, and B 102, A wins 120 - 102 + 100 = 118 points, for which he has to be paid.

But there is another condition, namely, the establishment of 100 as a "Rubicon." The law says that, if the loser fail to reach this amount, the winner reverses the rule, and instead of deducting the loser's score adds it to his own.

Thus, if A has scored 120, and B only 98, A wins 120 + 98 + 100 = 318, although the loser is only four short of his former score.

This mode of scoring has now superseded, at the clubs, the original 100 game. It certainly adds a new feature to the play; for if a player finds, towards the end of the partie, that he is not likely to reach the Rubicon, it is his interest to score as few points as possible, instead of trying to win.

Application of Skill.

The skill required in Piquet applies to the rejection of cards from the original hand, and to the subsequent play, both of which offer excellent scope for intelligence and judgment. It would be impossible, in the short space at our disposal, to enter into all the complicated considerations which influence this matter. These, therefore, must be studied in larger works on the game.[33] The essay by Hoyle, printed in the modern editions of his "Games," contains much useful instruction, though not very clearly conveyed. The following are some hints taken from it:

In discarding, it is a great object to retain such cards as will be likely to favour your winning "the cards," i.e. making the majority of tricks, which will generally make a difference of twenty-two or twenty-three points to the score. Do not, therefore, throw out good trick-making cards for the hope of getting high counting sequences or quatorzes, the odds for which are considerably against you.

The next attention should be to your "point," which will induce you to keep in that suit of which you have the most cards, or that which is your strongest. Gaining the point generally makes ten difference in the score. Good authorities attach even more importance to the point than to the cards, because it scores earlier, and may save a pique or a repique.

Of course, you would retain a good sequence—good, that is, either in respect to length or to rank of cards. A sequence of four is especially valuable, because, if you happen to take in one card in addition to it, it may add ten to your score. And even a sequence of three is not to be despised, as that also invites useful increase from the take-in.

Of course, also, you would keep any quatorze if you have it, even if low, as it would destroy three aces in the adversary's hand.

A trio should also be kept, if it can be done without detriment to the cards or the point, as there is always a possibility of converting it into a quatorze. (If you take in five cards, it is only three to one against your doing so, i.e. you would probably succeed once in four times.)

But Hoyle gives a case to show caution in this respect. Suppose you have ace, king, queen, and seven of hearts, and two other queens, and that it was a question whether you should discard one of your queens or the seven of hearts. If you discard the latter, it is three to one against your getting the queen quatorze; but if you discard the queen, it is five to two that you will take in another heart, which would probably give you not only the point, but also five certain tricks towards the "cards."

Suppose you, being elder hand, receive queen, ten, nine, eight, and seven of clubs, knave, ten of diamonds; king, queen and knave of hearts; ace and nine of spades, the natural impulse would be to retain the clubs intact for the point and sequence, and discard from the other suits. But Hoyle recommends you to discard all the clubs. It is true that if you took in the knave of clubs it would be a good thing, but it is three to one against it, whereas, if you keep the other suits intact, you will take in something that will give you a better chance of scoring than you could have made by the other course.

It may assist your discard to consider, by inference from your own hand, what the adversary can or cannot possibly hold. For example, if you are very short of a suit, he may have a long point or sequence in it. If you have any honour or ten, he cannot hold a quatorze of that rank, but if you are short of one, he may do so; also your holding a knave or ten, or some other combinations, will prevent him from holding a quint in that suit, and so on.

Beware how you unguard kings and queens. If, being elder hand, you reject a guard to a king, it is probable that in taking five cards you may replace it; but when you are younger hand, it is highly desirable to retain the guard, and for this purpose it is considered further advisable to keep a small card of a bad suit, that it may serve as a guard for a king if you should take one in.

In some positions you must regulate your discard according to the score. Thus, if you only want a few points, it would be foolish to lay out with a view to any large object; you would devote all your attention to what counts first, namely, the point and sequences; success in which might carry you out before your opponent could get in. On the other hand, if your adversary is much in advance of you, you can probably only retrieve your fortune by a large score, and you would discard with this view. To consider the "cards," unless with a view to a capot, would be useless.

It is considered desirable for you, if elder hand, to take all five of your cards, unless you have a chance of a great score, and there can be no repique against you. The consideration is not only whether the cards will benefit you, but also whether, if you leave them, they may not much more benefit your adversary.

If the younger hand should have dealt to him a hand which will enable him to make six tricks, Hoyle advises that he should not make such a discard as will incur the risk of losing the "cards," unless he should be very backward, and have a scheme for a great game.

In regard to the play of the hand, it is difficult to lay down rules, but an acquaintance with Whist play will be a very useful general guide to the student, showing him how to establish and bring in his suits, how to get tenaces led up to, how to preserve guard to second-best cards, and so on.

The most essential thing is to secure the seventh trick, which scores the "cards"; though, of course, every trick made is of importance to your score, the last counting two.

But the most important point in play is to discover and to take due advantage of the contents of the adversary's hand. The compulsory calling and showing of the various scoring elements give certain positive indications; but many others may be obtained by a skilful player, by inference from his own hand, and from the cards he may see of the stock, and these indications may often be used to considerable advantage.

For this reason, there is an antagonistic exercise of skill in concealing the contents of your hand from your adversary, in order to prevent his drawing correct inferences. For example, a clever player will sometimes refrain from claiming scoring-elements which he may hold, when he thinks that by concealing them he may gain greater advantage in the play. This is called "sinking."

With a bad hand great care is often necessary, by guarding second-best cards, or otherwise, to gain a single trick and so save the capot, which makes such a large score.

A more powerful aid to skill, both in discarding and playing, is to be found in the study of the laws of probabilities, which are peculiarly applicable at Piquet. Lengthy and elaborate statements of the chances will be found in "Cavendish" and in the earlier editions of "Hoyle"; and are well worth the attention of those who care to study the game fully.[34]

32 ^  A having made seven out of twelve.
33 ^  See in particular the excellent treatise on the game by "Cavendish," published by Messrs. De La Rue & Co.
34 ^  For the authorised Laws of the Game, in its modern form, see The Book of Card and Table Games, or the treatise of "Cavendish" before mentioned.