7½ / Sette e Mezzo / Siete y Media / Sete e Meio

This page is based on information from various sources, including Massimo Ilardo of oltreilpoker.it and Andrew Daniel Brinn.

Introduction

Seven and a Half is a gambling game that is popular in Italy (as Sette e Mezzo), in Spain (as Siete y Media) in Brazil (as Sete e Meio) and probably in other places as well. In Italy it is traditionally played around Christmas.

The objective is to collect cards that total as near as possible to 7½ without exceeding that number. The basic game will be described first, followed by details of the variations commonly played in Italy, Spain and Brazil.

Players and Cards

A 40-card pack is used. It is possible to use a standard 52-card pack from which the 8's, 9's and 10's have been removed, but in Spain and parts of Italy it is customary to use a Latin-suited 40-card pack, with suits of Coins, Cups, Clubs and Swords. In any case, each suit consists of A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and three picture cards worth. The point values of the cards are:

Aces: 1 point each
2 to 7: Face value
Picture cards: Half a point each

The number of players is limited only by the size of the pack and the number of seats that can be fitted around the table. Deal and play are counter-clockwise.

The Betting and Deal

At the start of the session, the minimum and maximum bets must be decided and the players draw lots to choose the first banker. The banker is also the dealer. The same player continues to deal successive hands until some other player wins with a score of exactly 7½ and thereby takes over the bank.

The cards are shuffled and cut, and each player other than the banker places a bet, not less than the minimum and not more than the maximum.

The banker then deals one card face down to each player, starting with the player to the dealer's right, continuing counter-clockwise and ending with the dealer.

The Play

Each of the players in turn, starting to the right of the dealer, may ask for extra cards to improve their total. At your turn, you look at your face down card, without showing it to the dealer or other players.

  • If you are satisfied with your total you may stay (Italian: stare, Spanish: se plantar) and the turn passes to the next player.
  • If you want to risk increasing your total, you ask the dealer for a card (Italian: chiedere una carta, Spanish: pedir otra carta), and the dealer deals you a card face up.
    • If this new card takes your total over seven and a half you are bust (Italian: sballare, Spanish: se pasar). You must show your cards and the dealer takes your stake.
    • If your total is exactly seven and a half, you must show your cards. Your turn is over and you will win unless the dealer has an equally good hand.
    • If your total is less than seven and a half you have the choice of standing or asking for another card. You may ask for another card as many times as you wish, so long as the total of your cards remains below seven and a half.

After all the players have taken their turns, the dealer's card is exposed, and the dealer may take extra cards in the same way as the players. While playing, the dealer can see the exposed cards of each of the other players, but not their face down card.

  • If the dealer makes a total of 8 or more, the dealer loses to all the players who are not bust, returning their stakes plus an equal amount.
  • If the dealer stays, with a total of 7½ or less, the dealer wins the stakes of all the players who stayed with an equal or lower total (in addition to the stakes of the players who are bust, which the dealer has already collected) and loses the players who stayed with a higher total, returning their stakes and paying them an equal amount.

Note that the dealer (banker) wins all ties.

If just one player makes a total of exactly 7½, that player not only wins but also takes over the bank and deals the next hand. If more than one player, not including the dealer, makes a total of 7½, the bank is taken over by the first of those players in counterclockwise order from the dealer.

Variations

The basic rules of the game are explained above, but the game is normally played with some enhancements. The extra rules commonly used differ between the Italian and Spanish versions of the game, as described below. Obviously it is advisable to check what special rules are in effect before playing.

Italian Rules

7½ in two cards
Seven and a half in two cards - one seven and one picture - is a special hand, called sette e mezzo d'embleé. It beats a hand of 7½ in more than two cards. When paying out, the dealer pays a double stake to anyone with 7½ in two cards (unless the dealer has an equally good hand). If the dealer has 7½ in two cards, he just collects the stakes of the players with equal or worse hands - the dealer does not win a double stake from anyone in this case. When playing this rule, a player who wins with a sette e mezzo d'embleé takes over the bank, but a player with 7½ in three or more cards does not.
Wild card
In Italy it is usual to designate one of the picture cards as a wild card, which at the owner's choice can take on either its normal value of one half or any whole number value from 1 to 7. The wild card is often the King of Diamonds (King of Coins in an Italian deck), but some use the Queen or Hearts instead. A wild card with a picture card is called a Royal 7½ (sette e mezzo reale).
Pair of sevens
Some play that a hand consisting of two sevens and no other cards beats everything else, and must be revealed as soon as it is obtained. This is called a sette e mezzo triplé, and if it is permitted, it is the only case of a hand with more than 7½ points which is not bust. The dealer then pays a triple stake to a player with two sevens (except in the very rare case where the dealer also has a hand of two sevens). A dealer with a sette e mezzo triplé simply takes all the players' stakes. Note that when playing this rule a sette e mezzo reale will count as a sette e mezzo triplé, using the wild card as a seven. A player who wins with a hand of two sevens takes over the bank.

Spanish rules

Asking for a card face down
In Spain, a player who asks for a card can either receive the card face up as usual, or they may reveal their existing face down card, and ask for the new card to be dealt face down. This way a player always has exactly one card face down. Note that if you want your new card to be face down, you must turn up your previous face down card before seeing your new card.
Splitting pictures
Players are allowed to split hands consisting of two pictures and no other cards. That is, if you are dealt a picture, and when you ask for a card this second card is also a picture, you may play these as two separate hands. You must place a second stake, equal to your first stake, on the second hand. If you get another picture as the first card added to either hand you may split again, and so on indefinitely, so long as you place a new stake equal to your original stake on each new hand you create.
7½ in two cards
A player who makes 7½ in two cards is paid double and takes over the bank, unless the dealer has an equally good hand. A player who wins with 7½ in three or more cards wins a single stake and does not take over the bank.

Brazilian Rules

Increasing the bet
In Brazil, you place your bet after seeing your initial face down card. Also, when asking for another card, you are allowed to increase your bet just before the new card is dealt, provided that the total does not exceed the agreed maximum bet.
Asking for cards face down
If you turn your first card face up you are allowed to be dealt all your other cards face down. So in this case the dealer will only see one of your cards. This is considered to be advantageous if your first card is small - for example an ace or a two.
7½ in two cards
A player who makes 7½ in two cards is paid double and takes over the bank, unless the dealer has an equally good hand. A player who wins with 7½ in three or more cards wins a single stake and does not take over the bank.
Selling the bank
After the dealer's payments are completed and before the next hand is dealt, the dealer may sell the bank to any other player at any mutually agreed price. The purchaser becomes the banker and deals the cards for the next hand. (A player who makes 7½ points in two cards takes over the bank without paying for it.)

Other variations

Ties are a stand-off
Some play that ties between dealer and player are stand-offs - the player's stake is returned. Note that even with this rule, the dealer has an advantage. The players do not know what total the dealer will make, but the dealer can see all but one card of each of the players' hands, so can estimate their likely totals when deciding whether to take more cards.
Dealer chooses when hands are exposed
Some play that the dealer may, at any stage during his turn, require any of the players who have stayed to expose their hands. He immediately pays or collects from those players, and can then carry on dealing cards to play against those who still have a concealed card. This obviously gives the dealer an extra advantage. Example. Two players have stayed with two cards each: player A has a 5 face up and player B has a 6. The dealer's first card is a 2 and the second is a 4. The dealer knows that player A must have 5½, 6 or 7, depending on the value of A's face down card, 5½ being the most likely, and that B has 6½ or 7. Therefore the dealer asks to see A's down-card and the dealer wins unless it is a 2. The dealer's total of 6 cannot win against B, so the dealer takes another card, hoping for a picture or an ace.
Seven of diamonds wild
Some play with the seven of diamonds wild. It is worth any whole number (no halves) from 1 to 7.
Change of banker
Some play that the banker changes only when a player has 7½ consisting of a 7 and a picture in the same suit.
Exchanging a four
Some allow a player whose initial face down card is a 4 to exchange it, receiving a new card from the dealer when his turn comes.

Other 7½ Web Pages

The Italian Sette e Mezzo Wikipedia page describes the Italian game.

The Spanish Siete y Media Wikipedia page describes the Spanish game.

The Brazilian game Sete e Meio is described on two sites called Jogos de Cartas, one at jogosdecartas.hut.com.br and one at jogosdecartas.com.br.