Belote marseillaise: origins and rules of the game

What is belote marseillaise? 

In Marseilles , card games are played by everyone from 7 to 77 and you can find formidable belote players. It is even said that several variants of belote – belote marseillaise being one of them – would come from that area… So true or false? You will find everything there is to know right here in this article!

Belote marseillaise or belote from Marseilles? 

Like rummy and tarot, belote is emblematic of the Phocaean City. “Belote marseillaise” refers to a two-player version of belote but is far from being the only variant played there. Do you know which types of belote are the most popular in Vieux-Port? Let’s find out more about the two stars of the Canebière!

Belote contrée, the southern version of coinche 

Many players say that belote contrée was born in Marseilles. There is no evidence, but it is true that it is more widespread in the South of France (the Midi) than anywhere else in the country. It is sometimes mistakenly considered as a simple southern variant of its cousin, coinche.

If some rules of the game are similar, there are differences between the two. Which ones? You will find the answer below! 

Derived from classic belote, both are played by four players split into two teams and with a 32-card deck, from the Ace to the 7 in all suits (Spades, Diamonds, Clubs, Hearts).  

Eight cards are distributed to each player at the start of the game and the trump suit is designated by the taker during the accepting phase (and not by the face-up card, i.e. the card that is turned over by the dealer while dealing out the cards).  

Finally, another key feature of belote contrée is that players can double and redouble during the bidding phase (or “coinche” and “surcoinche” in coinche belote).

But there are several differences between coinche and belote contrée when it comes to the play itself. For instance, you can play with announcements in coinche but not in belote contrée.  

The main difference is the existence of a “secret” communicative code that is known to players of belote contrée only. Here we are not talking about a secret society based in Marseilles or cheating! We are far from the famous line from Marcel Pagnol’s movie: “tu me fends le cœur” (which means “you’re breaking my heart”). No, no… We are talking about a real code following real rules and used by real players! Partners in each side communicate with each other to share information on the cards they are holding and try to make the most appropriate bid. 

If you want to know more about this variant of belote much appreciated by the inhabitants of Marseilles, you can read our article “How to play belote contrée?”. 

Belote marseillaise, for the love of the game! 

This time, there is no ambiguity as to the name. “Marseillaise” means “from Marseilles”.

And yet its origin may be elsewhere. Indeed, this two-player type of belote is called “Corsican belote”!   

At FunBelote, we are still convinced that it really comes from Marseilles. Its name may have a link with the game of “bataille corse”, the French for “Corsican battle”, for which a minimum of two players is needed and everyone discovers his cards while playing.

This is pure speculation, we admit. But it is still plausible since in belote marseillaise, also dubbed “discovery belote”, the players know half of their cards only while the other half remains unknown. As in Corsican belote, they discover them while playing.

Anyway, belote marseillaise is one of the many variants of classic belote. Two players face each other without partners. So, there is no teammate or opposing team. Only a taker and a defender. This is a new game experience for you! 

How to play belote marseillaise?

In two-player belote, there are several ways of distributing the 32 cards to the players and thus playing a game. Some versions mix cards you hold in your hand and cards on the table, but this is not the case of belote marseillaise. 

Here are the official rules of the two-player belote marseillaise.

Distributing the cards and choosing the trump suit 

Once the dealer is designated at random, he must deal the playing cards as follows: 

– Four cards are lined up face down in front of each player, starting with the opponent. Then four face-up cards are placed on top of the cards already on the table. 

– Again, the dealer puts another series of cards in front of each player, four face down and four face up. 

So, at the end, each participant can see eight cards hiding another eight cards in front of him. 

Card play in belote marseillaise 

The last card distributed designates the trump suit. That is where the first accepting phase starts. The first player who speaks is the one who has not distributed the cards. If no player takes, there is another round and players can suggest the trump suit of their choice in turn.

A good hand consists of a maximum of trumps (Jacks and 9s particularly) and several master cards in each of the non-trump suits. Once there is a taker, the game can begin! The dealer’s opponent starts the game and plays the first card. The players must follow with a card in the suit led.

Trumps have greater value than cards of the required suit. The order and value of the cards are the same as in classic belote. The player who plays the highest card takes the trick.

When a face-up card is played, the player must turn over the card it was covering to be allowed to play it. The players can announce melds (tierce, square, fifty and hundred) by playing the cards they have discovered but not played. They bring extra points when points are counted up at the end of the game.

Points are counted in the same way as in four-player belote. Each card is worth a given number of points. The cards have the same value as in classic belote

The tricks taken by each player are added up to get the scores. Bonus points for 10 of der, belote rebelote and capot are taken into account in the final score. 

Belote marseillaise gives you the opportunity to play a variant unlike any other! And this can be done easily because only two players are needed around the table. If you think that belote is one of the best card games in Marseilles and other parts of France, or even in the whole world, join us on FunBelote, the official online belote and coinche app! 

Download our mobile app and play with or against our community of FunBelote players !

You can play on to the multiplayer mode and pit your skills against your friends  

FunBelote is available for iOS and Android devices on the Apple Store and Google Play Store. 

See you soon online!