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Ulti supplement

Historical Data; Suit-bid Ulti; References

Ulti - Historical Data

1. From Máriás to Rablóulti

A game called máriás was played in Hungary up to the beginning of the 20th century. It was first mentioned in 1787 and first described in 1883. This game was much simpler than Czech mariáš. It was similar to snapszer, and was played by two people using a 32-card Tell pack. Each player was dealt 5 (or 4) cards, and nondealer led to the first trick. They restored their hands to 5 (or 4) cards from the stock after each trick, the trick-taker drawing first. Aces and tens taken in tricks counted 10 points each and the last trick counted 10 more points. A player with 10 or more points in their tricks could announce 40 if had a king and over of the same suit. The suit of the 40 became trump. Further king and over pairs of the same suit could be announced for 20 points by any player without any prerequisite. After the stock had run out of cards, one had to follow suit and win the trick if possible, and one could only announce 20.

I think that Czech mariáš might have evolved from the game which was called máriás in Hungary. I like to call that proto-game Early Mariasch/Mariáš/Máriás to differentiate it both from mariage, in which ace was 11 and jack was 2, and from 20th century Czech mariáš with bonuses like 100 or sedma (= ultimo).

As far as I know, "talonmáriás" was first mentioned in 1927, and was first described as "ultimáriás" by G. J. Potter in 1930. Ultimáriás had the following bonuses: 40-100, 20-100, ultimó, and "volát" (now durchmars). Whether "volát" was played with or without trumps was not mentioned, so I assume that it was played with them.

Rablóulti was first described in 1948 in a booklet. The author, VAJDA Zoltán József, claims that rablóulti became popular in 1945. It is reinforced by my old players whom I asked in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Vajda did not like the name of the game (reasoning that a wife could think that in rablóulti her husband was robbed), so he suggested "pankrációs ulti" (pancratic ulti).

2. Unbid 100

Most written accounts agree that an unbid 100 scores twice the value of a simple game, including Potter (1930), Vajda (1948: 10) and Kovács (1981: 91 & 94). Widder, somewhat misleadingly, writes that an unbid 100 scores 1 point in a minor suit, or 2 in hearts (1957: 17, 1963: 11), but then adds that "a kontra against the game takes along the silent 100," i.e. doubles its value, too (1963: 19).

Although it is quite popular to score 1 point for an unbid 100 in a minor suit, or 2 in hearts, independently of the simple game (which means that the kontra does not "take it along"), John McLeod was the first to describe it (1976: 13), Pais (1990: 63) was the second, and I also mention it among the variations (1993: 36). I first met this variation in the late 70's or early 80's, but it may be much older, because I only started to play ulti in 1975.

3. Betli and Durchmars

Vajda's durchmars was played without trumps if bid alone, but with trumps if combined. Unbid durchmars was scored for half price.

Betli and durchmars could be bid as follows:

  Betli...................5 - simple
  Heart Betli............10 - double
  Open Betli.............10 - double
  Heart Open Betli.......20 - quadruple

  Durchmars..............12 - simple
  Heart Durchmars........24 - double
  Open Durchmars.........24 - double
  Heart Open Durchmars...48 - quadruple
So the basic idea was that the score for betli and durchmars could be doubled in two ways:

Now the "heart" in "heart betli" and "heart durchmars" only expresses double score, but it originates from the following procedure: The first player to bid had to announce trumps before picking the talon. If he announced hearts, all betli or not trump durchmars bids by any player scored double.

The cheaper open betli and no trump open durchmars soon disappeared and "heart" was dropped from the names of the quadruple no trump games. (But see Suit-bid Ulti below.) Widder (1957: 20)

  Betli...................6 - simple
  Heart Betli............12 - double
  Open Betli.............24 - quadruple

  Durchmars...............8 - simple
  Heart Durchmars........16 - double
  Open Durchmars.........32 - quadruple
Widder (1957 & 1963), Miklós (1957) Kovács (1981), Kodba (1990) and Zsigri (1993) allow durchmars to be played in itself, while Vajda (1948: 5-6), McLeod (1976: 13) and Pais (1990: 59) do not.

The now general score of 6 points for durchmars must be very old but I found it first mentioned in Widder's Ultikönyv, where it was criticized along with 5-point betli (1963: 12-13 & 1517).

4. Rebetli & redurchmars

Originally these terms were synonymous with open betli and open durchmars (cf. Vajda 1948: 9) and "natural" players (who learnt the game from players who learnt the game from players...) still use them in that sense. Widder Lajos did not like to use "heart" with reference to no trump games (although he had used "heart betli" and "heart durchmars" in his 1957 book), and decided that "rebetli" and "redurchmars" should be used for heart betli and no trump heart durchmars respectively. Rebetli and redurchmars appear with their new meaning in his Ultikönyv (1963: 11-12), and he gives his reasons for redefining them in Füles Évkönyve (1972: 235). Pais József uses the terms like Widder.

5. Self-robbing

Self-robbing (Hungarian "önrablás") is overbidding oneself with (or without) taking the talon again. Most contemporary "rablóulti" players play what the conservative minority would call "önrablóulti" (self-robbing ulti). Self-robbing is mentioned in Widder's Ultikönyv among the non-recommended local habits (1963: 30).

Suit-bid Ulti

Suit-bid ulti (színlicites ulti) is a version of Ulti in which contracts with acorns as trumps are scored normally; when leaves are trumps all scores are doubled; when bells are trumps they are trebled, and when hearts are trumps they are quadrupled.

When combined with ulti, simple game is totally ignored in the bidding. Acorn 40-100 Ulti (4+4) and Leaf Ulti (8) are equal - neither can be bid over the other.

Acorn 40-100 (4) or acorn ulti (4) can exceptionally be bid over heart pass (4).

Suit-bid ulti is more conservative than common ulti in two respects:

  1. Self-robbing is not recognized by many suit-bid ulti players: the bidding ends after two consecutive passes.
  2. The values of betli and durchmars are the following:
    Acorn Betli...... 5
    Leaf Betli..... 10
    Bell Betli..... 15 Bell Open Betli..... 30
    Heart Betli..... 20 Heart Open Betli..... 40
    Acorn Durchmars...... 6 Acorn Open Durchmars..... 12
    Leaf Durchmars..... 12 Leaf Open Druchmars..... 24
    Bell Durchmars..... 18 Bell Open Durchmars..... 36
    Heart Durchmars..... 24 Heart Open Druchmars..... 48
    No Trump Druchmars..... 24 No Trump Open Durchmars..... 48

Acorn and Leaf Open Betli are never bid or played. Suit durchmars can be played by itself.

Suit-bid ulti is mentioned in Widder's Ultikönyv among the non-recommended local habits (1963: 28). Kodba (1990) and Szőnyi (1990) discuss it at full length, but the latter is unintelligible.


KODBA Ferenc 1990: Színlicites rablóulti (Suit-bid robber ulti). Budapest, Janus.
KOVÁCS Endre 1981: Ultikódex. Budapest, Medicina.
McLEOD, John 1976: Ulti, in The Journal of the Playing Card Society, Vol. IV, No. 4 (May), 8-15.
MIKLÓS István 1957: Kártya-kézikönyv (Handbook of card games). Budapest, Minerva.
PAIS József 1990: Ulti, tarokk és néhány kis játék (Ulti, tarokk and some little games). Budapest, HungariaSport.
POTTER, G. J. (pseud.) 1930: A kártyajáték művészete (The art of card playing). Budapest, Lingua.
SZŐNYEI Gyula 1990: Tanuljunk kártyázni (Let's learn card games). Budapest, author's.
VAJDA Zoltán József 1948: Pankrációs (rabló) ultimó játék szabályai (Rules of the pancratic /robber/ ultimó game). Kispest, author's.
WIDDER Lajos 1957: Az ultitól a bridzsig (From ulti to bridge). Budapest, Sport.
WIDDER Lajos 1963: Ultikönyv (Ulti book). Budapest, Minerva.
WIDDER Lajos 1972: Ultimóka: A renonsz ("Ultimóka" is a blend of "ultimó" and "móka" 'fun; it was the title of the ulti series in "Füles" 'Eeyore', a weekly puzzle magazine; "A renonsz" means 'irregularities'), in Füles Évkönyve (Füles Yearbook) 1972: 167-9 & 233-5.
ZSIGRI Gyula 1993: 21 válogatott kártyajáték (21 selected card games). Szeged, Szukits.