Tarot card game: what are the differences with belote?

Playing tarot vs belote: what are the differences? 

Tarot and belote are among the most played card games in France. They are similar in some ways, but players have their preference.  

How to distinguish tarot from belote 

Although the main difference lies in the playing cards, it is important to mention that we are not talking about tarot of Marseilles or fortune-telling here. The cards used for playing tarot and predicting the future are not the same! If you are looking for information about tarot arcanas, card-reading and other forecasts or divination, sorry but you are not in the right place!

So, what type of tarot is this article about? Traditional tarot, an entertaining game you can play with friends.  

Tarot Cards

Tarot is played with a 78-card deck partly made of ordinary cards: Ace to 10, and then Jack, Knight, Queen and King in each suit (Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds). In addition, there are “trump cards”, also known as “tarot cards”. Unlike belote where the trump suit is one of the four conventional suits, here trumps are numbered in increasing rank from 1 to 21. This number indicates the strength of each card, from the top one (21) to the lowest (1, also called “Petit”). Finally, the “Excuse” (or “Fool”) is used as a joker and may be played in lieu of following suit.

Special tarot terminology 

Like other contract games (belote, bridge, rummy, etc.), tarot has its own terminology: 

– “Bouts” (the French for “ends”) or “oudlers” (21, Petit and Excuse): the whole strategy of tarot is based on these three cards. 

– “Dog”: the dealer deals out the cards and puts aside six cards that form the “dog”. 

– “Discard”: the taker discards six cards from his hand before the deal starts.

– “Court cards”: the four Jacks, Knights, Queens and Kings. 

– “Handful”: may be single, double or triple depending on the number of trumps the player holds. It allows to score bonus points. 

– “Guard”, “guard without the dog”, “guard against the dog”: one of the possible bids, from lowest to highest.  

– “Grand slam”: the equivalent of capot in belote. 

How to play tarot

Like belote, tarot is a trick-taking game where the taker must fulfil a contract. It is usually played by four players. Although there are also three- and five-player versions, only one official rule varies according to the number of players sitting at the table, unlike belote where numerous variants and as many rules coexist. 

Rounds and purpose 

Each player is dealt eighteen cards, in lots of three, in a counterclockwise direction. The dealer also deals six cards face down, one by one, to form the “dog”. 

A round of tarot is split into two phases:  

– Bidding: the player who makes the highest bid becomes the taker (also known as the declarer). 

– Card play: the taker plays against the other three players (the defenders) who form a temporary alliance against him to prevent him from making his contract.  

Like in belote, the taker must fulfil his contract to score points at the end of the round. A game of tarot is made up of several rounds. 

Card value and counting points in tarot 

All non-trump cards follow the usual order when you play in the suit led. With trump cards, the order, from lowest to highest, is 1 to 21. 

Trumps are the top cards. You can play them to trump any other suit and take the trick. 

Each card is worth: 

  • Oudler (1, 21, Excuse) or King: 4.5 points each 
  • Queen: 3.5 points each 
  • Knight: 2.5 points each
  • Jack: 1.5 points each
  • Other cards: 0.5 points each  

To make things easier, points are added up for each card in pairs. Each court card or oudler is grouped with a pip card worth 0.5 points.  For example, 1 King + 1 pip card = 5 points.  

The total value of points in a tarot deck is 91. The points of the taker and those of the defenders are added up separately. The number of points the declarer needs to win depends on the number of oudlers (0, 1, 2 or 3) he has in his tricks. The more he holds, the less he must score to win his bet. 

Any fulfilled contract is worth 25 points. The final score can increase depending on whether he scores the minimum card points or not , the bid (guard, guard without the dog, guard against the dog) and bonuses (for Petit au bout, a handful or a slam). 

Card game: tarot vs belote 

Which of these games do you think is the best? To help you get a clearer picture, we have listed the pros and cons. 

Playing cards  

A deck of 78 cards with special pictures on them for tarot vs an ordinary 32-card deck for belote. It does not take long to figure out the math. For improvised games with your friends, advantage belote! 

Game rules 

Easy rules in four-player tarot and for the counting of points, three- and five-player variants… Tarot is perfect to get started when you are new to contract games!  

Playing belote can be tricky. Beginners have trouble remembering the order and value of the cards straight away, even if keeping a cheat sheet next to you can easily solve the problem! 

Card play 

In tarot, each player holds eighteen cards and rounds last longer. Without a good hand, you can do nothing but watch others play… Teamwork involves the three defenders only (except in five-player tarot where the taker calls a King and the player who holds that card becomes his partner). 

Conversely, belote is characterized by quick rounds and the fact that you can enjoy playing with the partner of your choice. Some risk-taking is also possible even with a bad hand. 

Variants and progression 

Seen as an advantage by some and a drawback by others, the many variants of belote break the monotony of the game. Indeed, beginners will start with classic belote but will soon be able to move to coinche belote (also known as coinche), belote contrée, and why not try belote de comptoir.

There is no such progression in tarot. 

Game strategy 

Communication with a partner, announcements, bids, memorizing tricks, counting cards… For most players, belote is without doubt the big winner when it comes to strategy!

Tarot is indeed limited to attack and defense tactics focused on trumps between the taker and his opponents (e.g. finding the 1 of trumps). 

Is belote made for you? Don’t wait any longer and download FunBelote, the official online belote and coinche app! Open an online account and get free chips!  

The app offers free multiplayer games with real players or our AI system “Lancelot”. Daily tournaments in duplicate format as well as a free practice mode for solo games are also available. You’re welcome!  🙂