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Écarté

Origin France
Type trick-taking
Players 2-4
Cards 32
Deck Piquet
Play Back and Forth
Card rank (highest to lowest) K Q J A 10 9 8 7
Related games
Whist, Euchre

Écarté is a two-player card game originating from France, the word literally meaning "discarded". It is a trick-taking game, similar to whist, but with a special and eponymous discarding phase. It is closely related to Euchre, a card game played mainly in the United States. Écarté was popular in the 19th century, but is now rarely played.

Play

All cards from two to six are removed from a 52-card pack, to produce the Piquet pack of thirty-two cards, which rank from the lowest 7, 8, 9, 10, ace, knave, queen, to king high. Note that the ace ranks between ten and knave, making the king the highest card.

The players cut to determine the dealer, who deals five cards each in packets of two and three, or three and two, either to whim or some agreement. The eleventh card is dealt face up to determine the trump suit. If this card is a king, the dealer can immediately mark an extra point for himself.

The elder hand (the player opposite the dealer) is then entitled, if that player so desires, to begin the exchange -- a crucial part of the game. This involves discarding cards in order to improve their hand with fresh cards from the remaining pack. To make an exchange, the elder hand must make a proposal to the dealer of a specific number of cards. The dealer must then decide whether or not to accept. If the dealer accepts then the elder hand must propose a discard and the dealer should deal the same number of fresh cards from the pack; following which the dealer must then also make an exchange of at least one card. Once cards have been discarded, they are no longer used, nor looked at. If the proposal was accepted, then the elder hand can make another proposal, if desired, and can go on making proposals as long as the dealer accepts them. This process ends and play begins either at the point that the elder hand chooses not to propose, or the dealer refuses to accept, or the stock of remaining cards runs out.

The elder hand is under no obligation to make any exchange at all. If no initial proposal is made, the elder hand becomes a vulnerable player, leaving the dealer with a chance of scoring an extra point. The dealer suffers the same liability and becomes vulnerable if they refuse the initial proposal made by the opponent. After the initial proposal, the elder hand can decline to propose further and the dealer can refuse to accept at any point, without either player becoming vulnerable.

Before playing the first card, if either player holds the king of trumps, they can mark an extra point for themselves by announcing it. They do not have to do so, but forfeit the right if they forget to do so before starting play.

The play begins with the elder hand leading the initial trick, after which the winner of the previous trick leads the next. If it is possible to follow suit, then the other player must always do so. The trick is won by the highest card in the suit led. If a trump card is played then the highest trump wins the trick. If a player can win the trick then they must do so.

Scoring

Five points wins the game.

Early 20th century London Rules

The rules of Écarté, as were accepted by the principal clubs in London at the start of the 20th century, are as follows:

Trivia

Écarté seems to be the card game played by actors in the 1895 Partie de cartes Lumière brothers film.

Écarté is mentioned in The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas as being a game the French prefer over others, such as whist.

It is played in chapter 10 of the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

It is mentioned in the lyrics of a song from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1889 comic opera The Gondoliers, in which the character of the Duchess of Plaza-Toro sings "At middle class parties, I play at Écarté, and I'm by no means a beginner.".

The game is mentioned in Chapter VI of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

The game is mentioned in Chapter I of Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard by Anatole France.

In the film The Happiest Days of Your Life, Arnold Billings, played by Richard Wattis, while introducing the new master to the Common Room, says that "Mathews, the Second Master, plays a good hand at écarté".

In Chapter XIII of Charles Dicken's The Pickwick Papers, the Club plays "écarte" (sic) at Eatanswill.

In episode 6 of the remake of Poldark, Ross plays a cardsharp.

Bell Ami chapter 3, in the publishers office "the light bits of colored paste board"

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