Porrazo

Introduction

This game, played in the south-west USA, was introduced from Mexico at the end of the 19th century. The earliest description of it that I have seen is in a letter from C.D.Willard of Los Angeles dated 1st February 1900, published in the Southern Califormnia Practitioner (Vol XVI, 1901, pp237-238). There is a chapter on it in the book In and Out Door Card Games by Mrs. Burton Kingsland (Sully & Kleintech, Page & Co, 1904), and it can be found under the name Parosso or Parear in the US Playing-Card Company's Official Rules of Card Games from 1912 to 1922, but is dropped from later editions. The game is still played by at least one extended family in California. I am grateful to Denise Tuemmler for drawing my attention to it, and for discussions of the rules with her and her relatives Ann FitzGerald and Matthew Keller.

This is a fishing game: at each turn a player plays a card face up to the table. If it matches the denomination of a card that is already on the table, the player captures both cards. If not the played card remains and may be captured by a future player. Capturing by matching the card just played by the immediately previous player is known as a porrazo (blow or strike) and this Spanish term gives the game its name. Like many of the Spanish terms in the game, the spelling has been modified by American players, for example to "porosso" or "parosso" as in the USPCC book. In Spanish, "porazzo" means hit. The alternative name "parear" given by USPCC means "to make a pair".

Porrazo is quite closely related to the Moroccan game Ronda more distantly to Cuarenta, played in Ecuador. All feature the "ronda" announcement if one is dealt a pair, the additional capture of any cards in sequence above a matched card, and a bonus if one captures the card just played by the previous player.

Players and Cards

A standard 52-card pack without jokers is used, cards ranking from Ace (low) up to King (high). Suits have no significance. A cribbage board is useful for keeping score, since points are scored during the game and the first player or team that reaches 61 wins.

Two or more people can play, and the game works well for two players. Four can play either as individuals or in partnership, partners sitting opposite. The the earliest accounts say that up to 8 people can play, though a game with as many as 8 players would probably be unwieldy and unduly dominated by luck, so I would suggest that 5 is the practical maximum. An even number of players can play in partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other.

Deal and play are clockwise and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Deal and Play

The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left cuts. The dealer then deals a single batch of three cards to each player, keeping the remainder of the deck stacked face down. Play begins to dealer's left and continues clockwise, each player in turn playing a card and possibly capturing or scoring as described below. When these cards have been played, the same dealer deals another batch of three cards to each player from the remainder of the deck, and play continues with these new cards. When these have been played, there is another deal, and so on until the deck is exhausted.

On one occasion during his or her period as dealer, immediately after dealing three cards each, and before the players have looked at their cards, the dealer deals a further four cards face up to the table, two at a time. This is called the tendido (layout). The tendido can be dealt after any of the three-card deals, at the dealer's choice.

When there are 2, 4 or 8 players, the deals and the tendido exactly use up the pack: there will be 8 deals with two players, and 4 with 4 players. With 3 or 5 players, after 5 or 3 deals and the tendido have been dealt, there will be three cards left over. These remaining cards are dealt face up to the table before the final three-card hands are played.

Ronda and Rondine

After each deal, the players look at their cards. Any player who has a pair of equal cards announces "ronda", and any player who has three equal cards announces "rondine". (In some American descriptions the "ronda" announcement becomes "rondo" or "randa", and "rondine" becomes "randine".) The player does not show the cards or announce their rank. This will be seen only when the cards are played. After everyone has played their three cards, the highest ronda or rondine scores for the player or team that annouced it. The scores are:

  Ronda Rondine
Kings
4
12
Queens
3
9
Jacks
2
6
10 - 2, Ace
1
3

Any rondine is higher than any ronda, so for example if one player has 5-5-5 and another has K-K-8, the rondine scores 3 points and the Kings score nothing. A higher rondine beats a lower rondine and a higher ronda beats a lower ronda. If two players have the same ronda and no one else has anything higher, the player nearest to the dealer's left in clockwise order scores. For example if a two-player game if the dealer has 7-7-Q and the non-dealer has 7-7-3, both declare ronda and the non-dealer scores 1 point after these six cards have been played.

In a partnership game, the partner of the player holding the best ronda or rondine also scores for any ronda or rondine he or she may hold, even if this is lower than one held by an opponent, while the opponents score nothing.

If a player who has a ronda or rondine fails to declare it before play starts, then they get no points for it, and if another player notices the missed declaration and points it out after the three cards have been played, that opponent scores the points for it instead of the player who should have declared it.

Playing and Capturing

At your turn, you must play one of your cards face up to the table. If the card you play is the same rank as a card that is already on the table, you take both cards, placing them face down in the pile of cards that you (or your team) have won. In addition, any cards in an unbroken ascending sequence with the matched card that are also on the table are also captured and added to that pile.

If the card you play does not match any card on the table, your card remains on the table and may be captured by future players.

It may sometimes happen, for example after a tendido, that there is more than one card of the same rank on the table. In this case, only one of those cards is captured, either by matching or as part of a sequence above a matching card.

For the purpose of capturing sequences, the cards "turn the corner" - the Ace counts as the next card above the King and the Two as the next card above the Ace.

When the dealer's third and last card has been played, if there are still more cards to be dealt, any cards that are face up on the table remain there and are available to capture after the next deal. If there are no morfe cards to be dealt, then the plast player who captured any cards also captures all the face up cards that remain on the table.

Example. The following cards are face up on the table: A, 2, 5, 6, 6, 7, 9, J, Q, K. The effects of playing various cards are as follows:

  • Nine: captures the 9 from the table, leaving A, 2, 5, 6, 6, 7, J, Q, K..
  • Five: captures 5, 6, 7 from the table, leaving A, 2, 6, 9, J, Q, K.
  • Six: captures 6, 7 from the table, leaving A, 2, 5, 6, 9, J, Q, K.
  • Eight: captures nothing, leaving A, 2, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 9, J, Q, K.
  • Queen: captures Q, K, A, 2, leaving 5, 6, 6, 7, 9, J.

Porrazo, Counter Porrazo and San Benito

A porrazo occurs when the player before you plays a card that does not capture anything, and then you play a card that matches the card just played by the previous player. A porazzo scores points as well as capturing the matched card and any in sequence with it, unless the next player in turn also plays a matching card.

When a player makes a porrazo, if the next player also has a matching card, he or she may play it for a counter porrazo. In this case the porrazo does not score or capture. Instead the player of the counter porrazo card captures the matched cards and any in sequence with them and scores points, unless the next player can play the fourth matching card.

If the fourth card of the same rank is played by the next player after the one who played a counter porrazo, this is a san benito, which wins the whole game.

The scores for porrazo and counter porrazo are similar to those for ronda and rondine, and depend on the rank of the cards involved, as follows.

  Porrazo Counter porrazo San benito
Kings
4
12
game
Queens
3
9
game
Jacks
2
6
game
10 - 2, Ace
1
3
game

Please note the following.

  1. A porrazo, counter porrazo or san benito can only occur within one deal. If the first card played after the deal of a new batch of three cards each matches the last card played by the dealer before the new deal, this does not count as a porrazo.
  2. For a porazzo, the card played has to match the previous card played. It is not sufficient just to capture the previous card in a sequence. Example: on the table is 2, 6, 9. Player A plays a 7, capturing nothing. The next player B plays a 6, capturing the 6 on the table and A's 7. This is not a porrazo. For a porrazo, B would need to play a 7, matching A's card.
  3. A porazzo can only be claimed when the previous player's card does not make a capture. For example, with 2, 6 and 9 on the table, player A plays a 8, capturing nothing and player B plays a 6, capturing the 6. If the next player C now plays another 6, this is not a porrazo. On the other hand, if player B had instead played an 8 for a porrazo and player C plays another 8, this is a counter porrazo, capturing both 8's and the 9.

Example

Especially in the two-player game, the declaration of rondas can be important in the tactics of making and avoiding porrazos, and because the rank of the ronda is not declared before the cards are played there is scope for bluff. Suppose that in the first deal, player A deals and player B picks up 7, 7, J. Both players declare ronda. Player B plays a 7, and player A matches it with a 7 for a porrazo. Player B now has a problem. If B plays the second 7 for a counter porrazo, there is the risk that A's ronda was also sevens, and A will play the fourth 7 for a san benito, winning the whole game. So it is safer for B to play the Jack, allowing A to score the porrazo, and another porazzo later with the other 7 if A has it. In fact it is quite likely that A has some other ronda, such as 5, 5, 7. With this hand, A may well porrazo B's first 7, hoping to get a point because A will not dare to counter porrazo.

Cards in Place

There is a score for playing an Ace, 2, 3 or 4 in place (en su lugar). This means that the card is played without capturing anything, in such a way as to make the total number of cards on the table equal to the spot value of the card played. The player then scores that many points. In other words:

  • Playing an Ace to an empty table scores 1 point.
  • Adding a Two to a table with just one other card that is not a 2 scores 2 points.
  • When there are two cards on the table, playing a Three without capturing scores 3 points.
  • If there are three cards on the table, none of which is a 4, you van play a Four leaving four cards on the table and score 4 points.

A player is allowed to forgo a capture in order to play a card in place. For example if the table contains 4, 5, 9 and the next player plays a 4, the player can choose whether to capture the 4 and 5, leaving only the 9 or whether to play the 4 in place leaving 4, 4, 5, 9 on the table and scoring 4 points. Or if the table contains a 2 alone and the next player plays a 2, there is a choice whether to take the twos for a limpia (1 point - see below) or to leave them on the table scoring 2 points for a 2 in place. Playing a card in place is the only case in which a player is allowed not to capture cards when the played card matches a card on the table. If the played card would not score for being played in place, the capture must be made even if it is disadvantageous.

Limpia

Limpia is Spanish for "clean", and in this game it is the word for capturing every card on the table, leaving it empty. Some American players have altered this term to "olympia". If there is more than one card on the table, a limpia can only be made if the cards form an unbroken sequence and a card is played which matches the bottom card of the sequence.

The score for a limpia depends on the last card of the sequence taken (or the only card, if there was just one card on the table, which was matched), and it is the same as the score for a porrazo or ronda of that rank, i.e. 4 points for a King, 3 for a Queen, 2 for a Jack or 1 for any other card.

Taking the last cards from the table when all the cards have been dealt and played does not count as a limpia, even if the dealer's final play does actually capture all the remaining cards by matching and sequence.

Examples:

  • 4, 5 on the table. Next player plays a 4 taking both cards and scoring 1 point.
  • 8, 9, 10, J on the table. Playing an 8 scores 2 points for a limpia.
  • Q alone on the table. Playing a Queen scores 3 points for the limpia.
  • A, 2, Q, K on the table. Playing a Queen clears the table, scoring just 1 point because the last card of the sequence is the 2.

It is possible for a limpia and a porrazo or counter porrazo to be scored together.

Example. There is a 7 alone on the table. Next player plays a 6 and the following player plays another 6 scoring 2 points - 1 for the porrazo and 1 for the limpia - unless the following player also plays a 6 for a counter porrazo and limpia, scoring 4 points in all.

Tendido

Tendido means "layout". The USPCC book spells it "tenditto", and in English it is sometimes called a "throw" or "spread". Some players call it "estanditto", perhaps because the dealer might say in Spanish "es tendido" (I'm taking my tendido now) to warn the others not to start playing until the extra cards had been dealt and scored.

Each dealer must deal the tendido on one occasion, immediately after dealing everyone their three cards, and before looking at the dealt cards. The four cards of the tendido are dealt face up on the table in two pairs. The dealer arranges them in a row of four, with one pair on the left and one on the right. Within each pair the cards can be placed in either order but the pairs cannot be mixed or have cards swapped between them.

The dealer then counts along the row, either from left to right or from right to left, and any Ace, 2, 3 or 4 whose position in the row corresponds to its value scores that number of points: 1 for an Ace, 2 for a 2, 3 for a 3, 4 for a 4. Example. The dealer deals 2 and 4 as one pair and 7 and 3 as the other. She arranges them 4-2-3-7 and counts left to right scoring 5 points (2 for the 2 and 3 for the 3). She could instead have scored 4 for the 4 by counting right to left, but then the 2 and 3 would not have counted. It is not possible arrange this tendido to score more than 5, because the 2 and the 4 are in the same pair and the 3 is in a different pair from the 4.

In addition, the dealer scores for any matching sets of cards on the table. A pair of equal cards scores the same as a ronda, three of a kind scores the same as a rondine, and four of a kind scores twice as much as a rondine. The pairs and sets of three do not have to be adjacent and can include cards already on the table along with cards in the tendido. Example. 5, 6, Q on the table and the tendido is 4-Q-4-Q. This scores 14 points: 1 for the pair of fours, 9 for the three Queens, and 4 for the 4 in place counting right to left.

After the tendido has been scored, its four cards remain on the table along with any others that may be there and can be captured in the normal way. Note that if a card in the tendido matches a card that was already on the table neither card captures the other. Both cards remain on the table and are available for capture by future plays.

Scoring

Each player or team keeps a cumulative score. This can be done on paper, but since small scores are made throughout the game it is convenient to use a peg board, such as a cribbage board. During the play, players can score for porrazos, limpias and playing cards in place; after each set of three cards per player has been played, players may score for rondas and rondines; and on one occasion during each players turn to deal, the dealer may score for the tendido.

In addition, when all the cards have been dealt and played each player or team counts the face down pile of cards they have won. The player or team with most cards scores the number of cards that they have in excess of the number won by the next lower player or team.

The first player or team to have a cumulative score of 61 points or more wins the game.

This may happen in the middle of the play of a deal, in which case the play ends at that point. Since rondas and rondines are not scored until the three cards have been played out, it may happen that a player who has declared a ronda or rondine that would have taken them to 61 or more points gets no credit for it, because another player wins by reaching 61 during the play of the cards.

Variations

In game between two players or two teams, many play that the score for cards is the number of cards that one player or team has in excess of 26. That is half the score given above: for example if the cards divide 29:23 the side with 29 cards scores 3 points rather than 6. This variant gives more importance to the other forms of scoring: rondos, parrozos, etc. and less to accumulating cards.

The USPCC rules seem to imply that in their version Ace does not count as the next card above King when capturing sequences. The Ace is always low and if a sequence reaches the King it always ends there, evin if there is an Ace on the table.

Some players do not require rondas and rondines to be declared. A player who is dealt two or three equal cards simply claims the points for it when that deal of three cards has been played. As usual, only one player can score for a ronda or rondine on any one three-card deal. If more than one player has a ronda or rondine, the player who scores is determined as above.

The USPCC rules state that the tendido consists of the last four cards of the deck, and is dealt after the last three-card deal. In this version the dealer does not have the option to deal the tendido earlier.

Some play that if there is an odd number of players, any cards remaining after the last deal (3 cards with 3 or 5 players, 6 cards with 7 players) are dealt around to the players as far as they will go, so that some or all players have four-cards hands. In this variant there is the possibility that a player will be dealt four of a kind in this final deal. If this happens, the score for it should be twice the score for a rondine of that rank. A four of a kind should beat a lower four of a kind or any rondine or ronda should they come up in the same deal.