The first version of this page was published in 1995, based on a description by Kirsty Healey and Matthew Macfadyen. In 1998 it was revised and expanded by John McLeod, making extensive use of comments and suggestions from Gábor Révész (who also provided the example deals) and Gyula Zsigri.
Illustrated Tarokk (Illusztrált tarokk), sometimes known as Palatine Tarokk (Palatinusz tarokk), is a version of Hungarian Tarokk developed in the 1920's by Károly Lingel and Lajos Polyák. They added six extra bonuses to the basic game of Paskievics Tarokk, thereby significantly increasing the scope for skilful play. Illustrated Tarokk is now played by quite a few good tarokk players in Hungary in preference to the standard game.
Players who would like a gentle introduction to tarokk may prefer to start by learning ordinary Paskievics Tarokk before trying this game. The Hungarian Tarokk page has a full description of the basic rules, most of which are common to both games, and a discussion of elementary tactics. For ease of reference, this Illustrated Tarokk page summarises the basic rules of tarokk as well as giving the special rules for the illustrated version.
Tarokk can be played by four or five players. If there are five, the dealer sits out of each hand.
A 42 card tarokk pack is used, consisting of:
Tarokk I is known as the pagát. The skíz, XXI and pagát are collectively known as honours (honőrök). The skíz and XXI are the high honours (nagyhonőrök).
All of the cards have point values. Honours and kings are worth 5, queens are 4, riders are 3, jacks are 2, and all other cards are worth 1 point. There are 94 card points in the pack altogether.
A hat is also required. This should look as silly as possible. It is to be worn as a penalty by any player whose XXI is caught by an opponent's skíz.
Tarokk packs are normally supplied with 54 cards, with a design very similar to that of Austrian Tarock cards. Players throw out the 2, 3 and 4 of the red suits and 9, 8 and 7 of the black suits before playing. Players in North America can obtain Austrian Tarock cards from TaroBear's Lair.
To choose seats take two sets of five cards, each consisting of a tarokk and a card of each suit (omit one suit if there are four players only). Deal one set of cards to the seats and the other to the players. Each player moves to the seat with the matching card. The player sitting to the left of the player who received the tarokk deals first.
The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's left cuts, and the dealer deals six cards face down to form the talon, then a batch of 5 cards to each player, then a batch of 4 to each player. Deal and play are anticlockwise. The turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.
To end the session any player can say "A skíz oszt, nem oszt" ("The skíz deals and does not deal"). This is customarily said by a player who is a net loser from the hands played so far. In the next hand note who has the skíz, continue playing until it is that player's turn to deal, play another complete round of deals until the player who held the skíz is about to deal for a second time, and then stop.
The possible bids, in ascending order, are three (három), two (kettő), one (egy) and solo (szóló). The auction begins with the player to the right of the dealer and continues anticlockwise. Each bid must be higher than the previous one, except that in certain circumstances you can equal the highest bid so far by saying "hold" (tartom). You are allowed to hold when you have already bid on a previous round, someone else has subsequently bid higher, and the highest bid has not yet been held by anyone else (but see variations).
A player who does not wish to bid can pass (passz). If someone bids, the auction continues until three players have passed or no further bid is possible, and the final bidder becomes the declarer (felvevő).
If all four players pass the cards are thrown in, the same player deals again, and for the next round (four deals if there are four players; five deals if there are five players) all the scores are doubled. If during the doubled round another hand is passed out, another doubled round is started, leading to some deals in which the scores are quadrupled while the two rounds overlap.
There are several constraints on the bidding:
The talon cards are distributed to the players, beginning with the declarer and continuing anticlockwise, as follows:
|Final bid||Declarer||2nd player||3rd player||4th player|
|three (három)||3 cards||1 card||1 card||1 card|
|two (kettő)||2 cards||2 cards||1 card||1 card|
|one (egy)||1 card||2 cards||2 cards||1 card|
|solo (szóló)||no cards||2 cards||2 cards||2 cards|
If there are five players the dealer distributes the cards; if there are four players, they take their own cards; in either case the talon cards are not exposed to the other players.
Each player then discards face down the same number of cards that they picked up. Honours and kings can never be discarded. If there was a cue bid, the tarokk (XIX or XVIII) shown by the cue bid cannot be discarded. In a yielded game the XX cannot be discarded. Apart from these restrictions, players are free to discard any cards, including tarokks if they wish.
The declarer's discards are kept face-down in front of the declarer, and their values count with the declarer's team's tricks. The other three players' discards are kept in front of the dealer if there are five players, or immediately to the right of the dealer if there are four. Their values count as part of the opponents' tricks.
After everyone has discarded, the number of tarokks in the discard must be announced.
A player who has any of the following holdings may (but is not obliged to) annul the hand:
A hand can only be annulled immediately after the talon exchange. Once the round of announcements is underway it is too late. A player who has discarded a tarokk cannot annul the hand on the basis of any of the last four holdings, but a player who has four kings can always annul the hand, even after discarding a tarokk. When a hand is annulled, there is no score. The cards are thrown in and the same dealer deals again. The next four or five hands (depending on the number of players) are played for doubled scores.
After everyone has discarded, there is a round of announcements, which is begun by the declarer and continues anticlockwise around the table, possibly for several circuits. There are four types of announcement that can be made at this time:
Each of these possibilities will be described in detail, and then the procedure for the round of announcements will be explained.
The declarer calls a tarokk whose holder will be declarer's partner for this hand. The other two active players will form the opposing team, the opponents or defenders (ellenfelek). The declarer says, for example, "I call the twenty" ("Hívom a húszast"). The declarer must call the XX except in the following cases:
The declarer's partner must not make any sign to reveal their identity. This will only become known in the course of the subsequent announcements and play.
Bonuses (figurák) are scored for achieving some feat during the play. All bonuses are won or lost by a partnership, not an individual. Most bonuses are separate from each other and from the game; you can win some bonuses and lose others, irrespective of whether the game is won or lost. (The only exceptions are bonuses double game and volát, which interact with each other and the game score as explained under scoring).
The chief difference between Illustrated Tarokk and ordinary Tarokk is that in the illustrated game six extra bonuses are added. These extra bonuses (numbers 7 to 12 in the list below) score only if they are announced in advance. The other bonuses (1 to 6) can also be scored if they are made silently, but score twice as much if they are announced.
During the round of announcements, an opponent of the declarer may double the score for the game by saying "kontra the game" (kontra játék). In the same way an opponent of a player who announced a bonus may kontra the announcement, doubling the score for it. All kontras are independent of each other, so you must specify which things you are saying kontra to. After the game or an announcement has been kontra'd, either member of the side which originally announced it may rekontra it, which doubles the score for that item again. The process can continue with further doubles from alternate teams: "szubkontra", "hirskontra" and "mordkontra".
Any player who holds 8 or 9 tarokks may declare the fact during the round of announcements, and is paid by each of the other three active players: 1 point for 8 tarokks (nyolc tarokk); 2 points for 9 tarokks (kilenc tarokk). It is not compulsory to declare tarokks, except when announcing or saying kontra to pagát or king ultimó or pagát or king uhu, in which case you must declare 8 or 9 tarokks if you have them.
It is illegal to declare eight tarokks if you actually have nine.
If you have 8 or 9 tarokks and do not declare them during the round of announcements, you can still claim payment for them from your partner at the end of the hand, but not from the opponents. There is a school of thought that it is unsporting to claim payment from your partner for undeclared tarokks unless your team has won enough on the hand to cover the payment.
The declarer speaks first and may begin by declaring tarokks. The declarer must call a partner, may then go on to announce bonuses, and must end by saying "pass" (passz or mehet). The round of announcements continues in anticlockwise rotation. Each player, at their turn, may declare tarokks, announce bonuses, or kontra things announced by the other team, always ending by saying "pass". When three players in succession do nothing except pass, the round of announcements ends.
In general any player can announce any bonus, and all announcements are made on behalf of the announcer's team. There are some restrictions:
When a player announces a bonus, it is necessary to know which team they belong to - i.e. whether they are for or against the declarer. Without this arrangement it would become impossible to kontra these announcements, as you would not know whether you were playing with or against the announcer. Therefore any player who announces a bonus when it is not otherwise known which side they are on is subject to the following conventions:
Note that for this purpose the declaration of tarokks does not count as announcing a bonus. Anyone who has 8 or 9 tarokks can declare them freely, and you do not necessarily know whether they are for or against you. It also follows that if A is the declarer, B declares 8 tarokks and C announces some bonus, such as trull, then C is assumed to be the partner of A, not B.
If you wish to make an announcement when it cannot be proved from the previous bidding and announcements which side you are on, and you are in fact playing against the most recent player who announed a bonus or said kontra (or rekontra, etc.), then you must identify yourself by saying kontra (or rekontra, etc.) to the game or to some bonus.
The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick, and the winner of each trick leads to the next. Any card may be led to a trick, and the other players in turn must follow suit. A player who has no card of the suit led must play a tarokk if possible. If a tarokk is led, the other players must play tarokks. A player who has neither tarokks nor cards in the suit led is free to play any card. The trick is won by the highest tarokk in it, or, if it contains no tarokk, by the highest card of the suit led.
Until the partnerships are known, players keep their own tricks in separate piles, and the defenders' part of the discard must also be kept separate.
When all nine tricks have been played, the card points taken by each side are counted and the hand is scored. The player to the right of the previous dealer then shuffles, has the cards cut, and deals the next hand.
Rájátszás is the name for the obligation your team undertakes when making an announcement promising to play a specific card to a particular trick (i.e. centrum, small or large bird, or an uhu or ulti). These announcements constrain your play as follows:
The scoring system is based on settling up after each hand in cash. If a score is kept on paper, it represents the amount won (positive) or lost (negative) by each player, and the scores will always add to zero. For most purposes there are two teams of two players; each player on the losing team pays one of the players on the winning team the net score for the game and any bonuses which happened on that hand. When one player plays alone against the other three players together (having called their own XX or a discarded tarokk), the lone player pays to or receives from each of the other three active players, so the total amount won or lost by the lone player is three times the usual score. When there are five players the payments are only between the four active players; the dealer neither wins nor loses.
When all nine tricks have been played, the card points taken by each team are counted. There are 94 card points altogether. If the declarer's team have taken at least 48 points (more than half) they have won the game. The opponents win if they have 47 or more. If either team have more than three quarters of the card points, so that the other side has 23 points or fewer, they have won a double game. A team which has taken all the tricks has won volát.
The basic payment for the game depends on the bid as follows:
|Bid||Basic game score|
These basic scores are doubled if double game was made by either side, or multiplied by three if volát was made. If double game was announced, the basic game score is multiplied by four and if volát was announced it is multiplied by six. In the absence of announcements or kontras, the scores for game, double game and volát are alternatives. If double game or volát is announced, or the game is kontra'd, the situation is more complex. The rules determining the score for game, double game and volát are as follows:
The following table summarises the amount by which the basic game score is to be multiplied in various situations, according to the number of card points or tricks taken by the declarer's team. Positive multipliers indicate that declarer's team wins; negative multipliers indicate that the opponents win.
|BASIC GAME SCORE MULTIPLIERS FOR DECLARER'S TEAM|
|Announcements||Points / tricks taken by declarer's team|
|No trick||23 or fewer||24-47||48-70||71 or more||All tricks|
|Double game, volát||-13||-12||-11||-10||-2||+10|
|Kontra the game||-5||-4||-2||+2||+4||+5|
|Kontra the game;|
opponents announce double
opponents kontra the double
opponents kontra the double and the game
The above table does not give an exhaustive list of possible situations, but should be sufficient to illustrate how the scoring works.
The next table summarises the scores for other bonuses and declarations. These scores are not affected by the basic game value; they are the same, no matter what type of game was bid:
|Trull (tulétroá)||1||2||A team which wins all the tricks scores nothing for silent trull or silent four kings. Announced trull or four kings are scored as usual.|
|Four kings (négykirály)||1||2|
|Pagátultimó||5||10||The pagát itself must win the last trick for this bonus to succeed.|
|XXI-catch (XXI-fogás)||21||42||The player whose XXI was captured has to wear the hat.|
|Centrum||-||10||These bonuses only score if they are announced.|
|Small bird (kismadár)||-||10|
|Large bird (nagymadár)||-||10|
|King ultimó (királyultimó)||-||15|
|King uhu (királyuhu)||-||20|
|8 tarokks (nyolc tarokk)||1||1||Payment for declared tarokks is made by all other active players, including the partner of the player who holds the tarokks. If the tarokks are not declared, payment can be claimed at the end of the play from the partner of the holder only.|
|9 tarokks (kilenc tarokk)||2||2|
All of the above scores for bonuses and declarations are available to either team. It is even possible for a bonus to be scored twice by one team - for example if one team announces four kings but the other team wins all four kings in their tricks.
Most of the advice on playing Paskievics tarokk also applies to the illustrated game.
When the high honours are held by the declarer's team, they will almost always announce trull. It follows that whenever there is no trull announcement, there is a significant possibility of a XXI-catch. Often there are some clues available about who might hold the XXI.
The obvious way to make centrum is for your side to hold the top five tarokks and have the opening lead. In that case the centrum would be certain, and by using the conventional announcements of trull and four kings described below, it should be possible to announce it. It is also possible to announce centrum in less safe conditions: you may need to catch the enemy XVIII or XIX, or you may announce centrum without the lead, relying on being able to trump the opponents' likely suit lead. It is sometimes possible to make centrum when the holder of the XX has fewer than five tarokks: there will need to be at least one suit trick which the partner of the XX will win with a tarokk. Similar considerations apply to announcing the small and large birds - see example deal 6 for a demonstration of a small bird announcement that relies on catching enemy tarokks.
When announcing a king ultimó, it is useful to have a second card of the same suit to protect the king, so that the opponents cannot destroy the announcement by leading the suit of the king. It can sometimes be worth discarding a tarokk to achieve this. It is then possible to give up an early trick if necessary. The card accompanying the king can be led at a time when you are sure of controlling the remainder of the play.
For further discussion of tactics in Illustrated Tarokk see the section on conventional announcements below, and the collection of Example Deals contributed by Gábor Révész.
The presence of high valued announced bonuses make it worthwhile to use some of the cheaper announcements, such as trull, four kings, and in some cases even double game, to convey information which will enable the higher value announcements to be made when it is possible. In the long run, one would prefer sometimes to lose trull or four kings with kontra, rather than miss the opportunity to announce and score for centrum and the birds when it is possible. Therefore it is usual to give the lower announcements fairly specific conventional meanings.
Unlike the bidding conventions, these announcement conventions are not part of the rules. There needs to be a general agreement among the players about the meanings of the announcements, but individual players are allowed to depart from the conventions and use the announcements in other ways if they see a good reason for doing so (see, for example, the four kings announcement in example deal 7). If a player breaks a convention without good reason and the partnership suffers a loss as a result, there is likely to be a lively discussion after the game.
A trull announcement is used to let your partner know that you believe that your team has both high honours. Having these cards, you will often be in quite a good position to catch the pagát if the opponents have it, so fulfilling your trull announcement, but this is not the main purpose of the announcement. A more important reason for announcing trull when you can is to help confirm the positions of the high honours, so as to establish the possibility of further announcements such as centrum and the birds.
You should generally announce trull when you have both high honours, or when you have one high honour and know from a cue bid or yielded game that your partner has the other. You should normally also announce trull if you have a high honour and know that your partner has an honour which might be a high one. This most commonly happens when you have the called tarokk and a high honour: your partner has bid, so must have an honour of some kind; you hope it is a high one, and announce trull to convey the good news that you have a high honour too.
There are a few cases where you should not announce trull, even though your side has both high honours, because you do not want to encourage further announcements from your partner. For example if your XX has been called and you have only three tarokks such as skíz, XX, XI, it is better not to announce trull; to announce it might mislead your partner into undertaking an impossible centrum.
You should also beware of the case where you have already shown your high honour by cue bidding or yielding the game. Now if the declarer does not announce trull, you know that the declarer does not hold a high honour, and you should only announce trull if you have both of them.
A four kings announcement is used as a general encouragement to your partner to announce something further. In Illustrated Tarokk it is particularly useful as an encouragement to announce centrum, and for this purpose "four kings" is given the specific meaning that you hold the highest tarokk other than an honour whose position is not already known. If the declarer called the XX, a four kings announcement therefore says that you hold the XIX. If there was no cue bid and the declarer called the XIX, the declarer is known to have the XX and four kings shows the XVIII. However, if the declarer calls the XIX as a result of a cue bid, the position of the XX is not known, and a four kings announcement shows the XX.
Since announcing four kings is an encouragement, it normally also shows at least five tarokks. This is particularly so when you hold the XX and your side has both high honours - your four kings announcement may encourage your partner to announce centrum, and this may be hard to make if you have fewer than five tarokks.
Four kings as an encouragement to centrum is useful when you think that your side has both high honours, which would be indicated by an announcement of trull. If trull has not been announced, implying that one or both high honours are with the opponents, four kings can be used to encourage your partner to announce king ulti, pagátulti or XXI-catch. In these cases four kings shows a strong hand but does not guarantee holding a specific tarokk. Here are some examples of the use of four kings as an encouragement.
Bidding: A:3 - B:pass - C:pass - D:2 - A:hold - D:pass
Bidding: A:pass - B:3 - C:2 - D:pass - B:hold - C:1 - B:hold - C:solo - B:pass
Bidding: A:3 - B:pass - C:pass - D:2 - A:pass (yielded game)
Some care is needed when using double game as an encouragement. Your hand should be strong enough to give you a reasonable chance of making it, as losing a kontra'd double game can be expensive, especially if the bid is one or solo. If the bid is three or two, the double game announcement can be used somewhat more freely. Announcing double game conventionally indicates that you have at least six tarokks, including the second highest tarokk, other than an honour, whose position is not already known. For example if the declarer calls the XX, double game shows the XVIII. If the declarer calls the XVIII as a result of a cue bid, double game shows the XIX.
Most of the variations described on the Paskievics Tarokk page can also be applied to the illustrated game. In particular, many people play the older rule that you can only hold a bid if your first turn to bid was earlier than that of the player whose bid you are holding. Also, many play that a single jump bid of solo is an invitation to the XVIII, not the XIX. Both of these variations are in force for the example deals.
As in Paskievics Tarokk, some treat a declaration of tarokks like announcing a bonus. For example, if you declare 8 or 9 tarokks when your allegiance is not yet known, you are assumed to be the partner of the player who most recently announced, declared or kontra'd anything unless you identify yourself by means of a kontra of your own.
Some play that if the bid is three, the declarer's team announce trull and there are no other announcements, the hand is thrown in without play, and the declarer's team win 3 points. The reason is that these hands are somewhat uninteresting - the two high honours seem to be on the same side so there is going to be no XXI-catch, and nothing of much value has been announced. If anyone wants to play out the hand they should announce something else (or, in the opponents' case, say kontra).
Some play that if you win the bidding after another player has cue bid, you must announce trull at the start of the round of announcements if you have a high honour, and if you have no high honour but only the pagát, you must announce pagátultimó. The effect of this rule is to make it more expensive for a player with a weak hand containing the pagát to hinder the holders of the high honours from playing together by bidding over a cue bid. This is discussed in example deal 5.
At least one group (Antal Jánoska, Ferenc Horváth and friends) play with an additional bonus "pagát-catch" (pagátfogás), which occurs when the pagát played by one team is captured in a trick won by the other team. This bonus is worth 8 points announced and 4 points silent. If announced, it fails if the announcing team hold the pagát themselves. This group also play different values for some other bonuses: centrum and large bird are worth only 6 points, small bird is worth 8, and pagátuhu is worth 19 points rather than 20.
In his 1997 book, János Marton proposes three extra bonuses:
In the 1960's, Dr Endre Kovács invented a further elaboration of tarokk, called High Tarokk (Magas tarokk), which is described in his Tarokk-kódex (Budapest, 1989). It seems that not many tarokk players have yet taken up this game. The main difference from Illustrated Tarokk is that 10 further bonuses are added. These are:
In his 1993 book, János Író proposed a variation of High Tarokk with several further bonuses.
Royal Tarokk is an even more complicated variation devised by Zoltán Gerots for competitive and championship play. There are fixed partnerships (partners sit next to each other), only 40 cards are used (no red aces) and there is no talon and no card points. All attention is concentrated on the numerous bonuses that can be announced - the current version of the game includes over 60 of these - and especially the highest announcements, known as trophies (trofeák). Further information (in Hungarian) is available on the Hungarian Royal Tarokk Union web site, where the game can also be played on line.
John McLeod was introduced to this unusual variation in Pomáz in August 1982; the players were from Budapest. All 54 cards are used - the cards in the black suits rank king, queen, rider, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7 and in the red suits king, queen, rider, jack, ace, 2, 3, 4. The extra pip cards count 1 point each. Thus there are 106 points and the declarer's team needs 54 to win. A side that takes fewer than one quarter of the points (i.e. 26 or fewer) loses a double game.
The deal is 6 cards to the talon, and then in sixes. The four players thus have 12 cards each, and in addition to the normal declarations it is possible to declare 10 tarokks (3 points), 11 tarokks (4 points) or 12 tarokks (5 points).
The scores for trull, four kings, ultimos and uhus are as usual, except that a team that loses an ultimo or uhu pays double for it. (This doubling is probably influenced by the equivalent rule in the Hungarian national game Ulti. The same players also played a version of Paskievics Tarokk with this doubling rule).
A centrum announcement scores 10. To win small bird (kismadár) you have to make centrum and then win trick 6 with the XXI, and this scores 20 points in addition to the 10 for centrum. Similarly a large bird (nagymadár) entails making centrum and the small bird and then going on to win trick 7 with the skíz, for an additional 40 points - 70 in all if the whole thing succeeds.
The Budapest Tarokk Society (Budapesti Tarokk Egyesület) holds regular weekly meetings in Budapest.