Trump cards in belote: definition and playing strategy
Belote games are all about the trump suit: order and value of trump and non-trump cards, bidding All-Trumps or No-Trumps, etc. Trumps are essential cards allowing you to take tricks and score points.
What is a trump in belote ?
In all card games, a trump is a playing card whose value is higher than the other cards of the deck.
Generalities about trumps
Trumps are not used in belote only! Overall, in trick-taking games, the highest card wins the trick. On top of the natural order of the cards, some games have cards that are stronger than others: trumps.
In general, trumps are cards of one of the suits of the deck (Spades, Clubs, Diamonds or Hearts) as in belote. There is one special case: tarot where trumps are cards that have nothing to do with suits. They are numbered from 1 to 21 and there is an extra card called the Excuse (or Fool), which plays the role of a joker since it can be played instead of following suit on a deal.
Trumps in belote games
In classic belote and its many variants, trumps are therefore cards of one suit among the four suits of the deck. The trump suit varies across the deals. It is designated either during or after the dealing of the cards.
The trump suit is designated:
- Either by the face-up card
In a traditional game of belote, the cards are distributed in two goes.
In the first round of dealing, the dealer must give five cards to each player (2+3 or the other way around). Then one card is placed face-up in the middle of the table. This face-up card designates the trump suit for the deal. All the players must now take turns to speak. The players may choose to take the trump suit designated by the face-up card and bid the value of the contract they would like. If no player has taken by the second round of the table, the game allows the possibility for the players to make a bid in the suit of their choice.
Once the accepter and his partner have been declared, we proceed to the second stage of the distribution of the cards. The accepter collects the face-up card and receives two further cards, while the other players each receive three more cards. Each player holds a total of eight cards in their hand. The game can begin.
- Or by the bidding round between the players
In coinche and belote contrée, the dealer has to deal out all the cards (eight to each player) straightaway.
Once all the cards have been distributed, the bidding phase begins… The players take it in turns to speak. They have to announce the level of the contract and a suit. Example: 90 Hearts.
The value of the contract corresponds to the number of points the player and his partner commit to making in order to win the deal. The strain of the contract sets the trump suit for the rest of the hand. He who wins the bidding imposes his trump suit on others.
Order and value of trumps in belote
The order and value of trump and non-trump cards differ. The Jack is the strongest trump, followed by master cards (from highest to lowest): Nine, Ace, Ten, King and Queen. Then come the Eight and Seven.
When counting up the points at the end of the game, trump cards allow you to score a certain number of points: the Jack is worth 20 points, the Nine is 14 points, the Ace is 11 points, the Ten is 10 points, the King is 4 points and the Queen is 3 points. The Eight and Seven have the same value and do not win you any points.
If you want to remember the order and value of non-trump cards in classic belote, take a look at our page dedicated to the rules of the game on the FunBelote website.
A particularity of coinche belote: bidding “No-Trumps” or “All-Trumps”
On top of making announcements (combinations of cards as sequences or squares), a particularity of coinche is that the players can choose to bid No-Trumps or All-Trumps.
When you play a deal in No-Trumps, there are no trump cards for the tricks. It is therefore not possible to ruff with a trump or to announce belote and rebelote.
The order and value of the cards in No-Trumps are as follows: the Ace is worth 19 points, the Ten is 10 points, the King is 4 points, the Queen 3 points and the Jack 2 points. The Nine, Eight and Seven do not win you any points.
Conversely, when you play a deal in All-Trumps, all cards are considered trumps. It is therefore not possible to ruff with a trump here either. But the players can announce up to four belote rebelotes and score as many bonus points.
The order and value of the cards in All-Trumps are as follows: the Jack is worth 13 points, the Nine is 9 points, the Ace is 6 points, the Ten is 5 points, the King 3 points and the Queen 2 points. The Eight and Seven do not win you any points.
When and how to play a trump in belote ?
Card play phase
If a player leads a trick with a trump:
You have to play a trump of higher value (if you hold any). It is referred to as “playing a higher trump”. If you don’t have any trump in your hand, you can play any card of any other suit (the one that seems the most appropriate depending on whether your partner is winning the trick or not).
If the led suit is not a trump:
If you don’t have any card of that suit, you can “ruff” with a trump. You will take the trick unless a player of the opposing side overruffs after you.
If approved at the beginning of the game, a convention also allows the players to “duck” in this kind of situation. It means that the opponents are not obliged to play a higher trump. They can keep their trumps.
Also note that if your teammate is winning the trick (he played the strongest card), you are not obliged to overruff. You can keep your trump card and use it to take a trick later.
When you belong to the accepting side, one playing strategy is to “draw trumps” from the start of the deal. If they have accepted, a priori, the accepter and his partner have the strongest trumps. The aim is therefore to take as many tricks as possible with trumps by dominating the game.
If the accepters don’t adopt this strategy, they will probably play the strongest card (the Ace) in another suit. But by leading an ace, they are taking the risk of seeing one of the defenders ruff with a trump if he doesn’t hold any card of the requested suit. The accepters will lose the trick and the lead on the deal.
So, the best playing tactic, if possible, is to draw the trumps of the opposing side until they don’t have any left. Then you can play aces in other suits. And so on.
In belote, it is essential to count the number of trumps that have already been played. Same thing for the cards in the side suits. You have to count the cards live and try to memorize them… Remembering how many and which cards have been played is THE secret weapon of top belote players!
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