Jeu De Tarot


Jeu de Tarot gets my vote for the most complex card game I have ever played. It is no mean feat to track what has been played with a 78 card deck. The rules provide many opportunities for strategic decision making. Finally all the players team up to prevent the one player who won the bid from making his or her contract. However, while it is a challenge to learn  it is definitely  worth  it.

Players 4


78 card french Tarot deck

Score pad or chips

How to play



The cards as seen above are rank ranked 21 down to one in the trump suite. In the non trumps suits the ranking is King, Dame, Chevalier, Vallet, 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,and finally one. There is a card marked with a star  called the excuse or fool.

The first dealer is chosen at random

The cards are shuffled by the player seated opposite the dealer.

The player on the left of the dealer must then cut the cards.

The dealer deals the cards, 3 at a time to each person, in a counter-clockwise direction. During the deal, the dealer deals cards individually  to  a stock of 6 cards called the Chien (Dog).The dealer may not deal the first or the last card of the deck to the Chien.

The players pick up their cards only when the deal is finished.

The player on the dealer’s right  speaks first. If he or she says “I pass”, the right to bid passes to the right hand neighbor of this player, and so forth, to the dealer.

If all four players pass, the player on the right-hand side of the dealer proceeds to a new deal. 

But if a player bids,  thinking that he or she can  play alone against  three united opponents, then that player  says  “prise”, “garde”, “garde sans le chien” or “garde contre le chien”. 

The other players, in turn,  may overcall  this first bid with a higher bid. Each player  speaks only once.

The bids in ascending order are:


Chelem (Slam)

To achieve Chelem successfully, it is necessary to win all the tricks.  

The Chelem can be declared by the Preneur in addition to his or her contract and  the points are counted according to the required contract and a bonus (or a penalty) is added depending on the success (or the failure) of this Chelem: 

Chelem announced and achieved: additional bonus of 400 points. 

Chelem not announced but achieved: additional bonus of 200 points. 

Chelem announced but not achieved: 200 points are subtracted from the total.

In the event of a Chelem announcement, the player making the announcement leads the first trick and becomes Preneur, regardless of who is the dealer.

In order for a Chelem to succeed, the one announcing it must win all tricks and must play the Excuse in the final trick. Consequently,  “Petit au bout”   will be counted  if  the Petit wins the second to last trick

Play starts during  a Prise or a Garde bid when the bidding is finished.  The Preneur turns over the 6 cards of the  Chien so that each player can them.

The Preneur takes the cards in his hand then discards 6 cards which remain secret during the entire play of the hand and which will be counted towards the won tricks of the Preneur. One may neither discard a King nor  a Bout. One may discard Trumps, however, only when it proves necessary. One must then show the discarded Trumps to the Defense.

When the Preneur finishes the discard, he says “play” and the discard may not be further modified or examined

On a Garde Sans or a Garde Contre, the cards of the Chien remain face down.

On a Garde Sans, they are placed in front of the Preneur and will count towards his won tricks.

On a Garde Contre, they are placed in front of the player located opposite the Preneur and will be counted towards the won tricks of the Defense


Poignée or handful (10, 13 or 15 Trumps)

A player having a  Poignée may, if desired, announce it and present it, arranging the Trumps in  descending order, completely and only once, right before playing his first card.

With the simple  Poignée (10 Trumps) there is a bonus of 20. 

With the double  Poignée (13 Trumps) there is a bonus of 30. 

With the triple Poignée (15 Trumps) there is a bonus of 40.

These bonuses have the same value regardless of the contract.

This bonus is awarded to the victorious side in a played hand.

The  Poignée must include ten, thirteen or fifteen Trumps.

When a player has eleven, twelve, fourteen, sixteen or seventeen Trumps, the player hides one or two Trumps of his choice, but complying with this very  rule: the Excuse in the  Poignée implies that the player announcing  Poignée does not have any other Trumps.

If the Petit is played at the last trick, it is called “Petit au bout.” 

The side winning this trick, receives a bonus of  10, multiplied by the value of the  contract, regardless of who wins the deal.

A player having the Petit without any other Trump and not having the Excuse  must announce Petit Sec, displaying his or her hand and annuling the deal before the bidding commences.

The Preneur having finished the discard, says “Play”. 

The first trick is led by the  player located on the right of the dealer. Then each player plays in  turn in a counter-clockwise direction.

The player having having won the first trick leads the next trick, and so forth. The game proceeds according to following rules:

With a Trump, one is obliged to exceed the highest Trump already played, even if it belongs to a partner. A player not having a Trump exceeding  the highest one played, plays a Trump of his or her choice”

With a suit card, one is obliged to play a card of the suit led, but not required to exceed it

A player is obliged to play a Trump if he or she does not have a card of the suit led. If a preceding player also Trumps, one is obliged to over-Trump (to play a higher Trump) or  to under-Trump (to tinkle) if one cannot over-Trump.

Players may play a card of  or her his choice if he or she has neither a card of the suit led nor  a Trump.

If the card led to a trick is the Excuse, it is the next card played which determines the suit led.

The Excuse may not win a trick (except in the event of Chelem), but it still belongs to the side holding it. If the opposing side wins the trick containing the Excuse , the holder  of the Excuse must replace it in the trick by any small card (any card, including a Trump, valued at ½ points) taken from the tricks won by his side. 

In the event of a successful Chelem without the Preneur having the Excuse, this card is played normally and remains with the side of the Defense and accounts for 4 points.

The tricks won by the Defense must be collected by the player seated opposite the preneur.

At the end of the hand , players count the points contained in the won tricks of the Preneur for one total, and  those of the Defense as another total.

To win the contract, the Preneur must score a minimum number of points according to the number of Bouts that he or she has acquired at the end of the played deal. If the Preneur  has three Bouts must win 36 points in his or her tricks. With two Bouts the Preneur must win 41 points in his or her tricks.    A Preneur with one Bout must win 51 points in his or her tricks. If a Preneur has no Bouts they must win 56 points in there tricks.
In the event of Garde Sans,  it is possible for the Preneur to acquire a Bout with the Chien.

If the number of points is equal to this minimum, the contract is barely achieved; if the number of points is higher, the additional points  are profit (positive); if the number of points is lower, the contract has not been achieved and the score is counted as a loss (negative).

Any contract arbitrarily being worth 25 points, one adds 25 points with the number of scored points, positive or negative.

This new total is multiplied by a coefficient according to the appropriate contract: 

in the event of Prise, this total is unchanged, 

in the event of Garde, this total is multiplied by two, 

in the event of Garde Sans, this total is multiplied by four, 

in the event of Garde Contre, this total is multiplied by six.

Each Defender scores the same number of points:  negative if the Preneur wins, or positive if the Preneur fails.

The Preneur counts three times this total; as positive if he or she wins, or as negative if he fails.

The total of the four scores of the Preneur and the three Defenders is, thus, equal to 0. 


Tarot for 3 Players

The rules are the same as for the game for 4, but the cards are dealt 4 at a time per person.

Each player receives 24 cards, the Chien 6 cards.

The contracts are identical to the game for 4 players

The Poignées are: simple: 13 Trumps; double: 15 Trumps; triple: 18 Trumps

It is not necessary to provide a low valued card to supplement the trick involving the Excuse. This rule is worthy only to insure an even number of cards per side. Among three players, it is indeed uncertain to have an even number of cards to be counted at the time of calculation.

At the time of  calculation, it is necessary to round off the half point. Thus, a Preneur who was to make 41, loses if he makes 40.5. The round-off is done, then, by always privileging the side which scores points. Thus in the preceding case, the Preneur loses by 1 point. Conversely, if he had made 41.5, he would have won by 1 point.

If the Preneur misses by 1/2 point,  he has failed to fufill the contract.

Tarot for 5 Players

The cards are dealt, counter-clockwise, 3 cards at a time per person. Each player receives 15 cards and 3 cards are dealt to the Chien.

The contracts are identical to the games with 3 or 4 players

The Poignées are: simple: 8 Trumps; double: 10 Trumps; triple: 13 Trumps

Before turning over the Chien, the Preneur calls a King of his choice and the holder of this King becomes his partner.

If the Preneur has the 4 Kings, he calls a Queen, or a Knight if he also has the 4 Queens.

If the chosen King is with the Chien, then the game is played 1 against 4.

The first trick may not be led in the suit chosen by the Preneur unless this trick is led by the suit’s King.

The distribution of the points (including the bonuses of Poignée and/or Petit au bout) is divided 2/3 for the Preneur and 1/3 for his partner. If the Preneur plays 1 against 4, he combines the totality of the points as + or  – according to his success or failure.

If the Preneur misses by 1/2 point, he has failed to fulfill the contract