Mpourloto

This page is based on information from Paul Nomikos with help from Panagiotis Seferlis.

Introduction

The Greek card game mpourloto (μπουρλότο) or bourloto is very closely related to, and no doubt derived from the French game Belote. However, there are several differences in scoring and other details.

Players and Cards

The four players are divided into two teams of 2 players, partners sitting across from each other.

There are 32 cards (8 cards in each of the 4 suits hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades). The ranking of the cards within each suit and the point values of cards when taken in tricks are as follows:

Trump suit Other suits
Jack 20 points Ace 11 points
Nine 14 points Ten 10 points
Ace 11 points King 4 points
Ten 10 points Queen 3 points
King 4 points Jack 2 points
Queen 3 points Nine 0 points
Eight 0 points Eight 0 points
Seven 0 points Seven 0 points

Deal and selecting trumps

Deal and play are clockwise and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts.

The dealer deals five cards to each player, one at a time, and turns the next card face up to show the proposed trump suit. The player left to the dealer may accept this suit as trumps on behalf of his team or pass. If he passes, the dealer's partner has the same options, then the player to dealer's right and finally the dealer. If all four pass, there is another round in which each player in turn can name any suit of his choice as trumps. (In the second round any of the four suits can be chosen - even the suit of the face up card, which was rejected the first time. This is one of the differences from French Belote.) If all four players pass again, the cards are thrown in and the deal passes to the next player

When a trump suit has been chosen, if anyone holds the seven of the same suit as the face up card, they may take the face up card in exchange for the seven. The deal is then completed: the dealer gives a further three cards to each player, one at a time, taking the face up card as the final card that he deals to himself.

Melds

Before play begins, each player in turn, starting to the left of the dealer, may declare and show any melds (scoring card combinations) that he has in his hand. The possible melds are as follws:

Meld Score Notes
Sequence of 3 cards 20 points Sequences must consist of consecutive cards of a suit. For this purpose cards rank in the order A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7 in all suits. So for example Q-J-10-9 is a valid 4-card sequence, even in trumps, but A-10-K is not a valid sequence.
Sequence of 4 cards 50 points
Sequence of 5 cards 100 points
Four of a kind 100 points Four cards of the same rank, such as Q-Q-Q-Q or 7-7-7-7
King and Queen of trumps 20 points This is known as "mpourlotto"

Note that there are several differences here from French Belote. All melds belonging to both teams are counted: it does not matter which team has the best meld, only which has more points overall including those taken in the play. All fours of a kind score 100, even eights and sevens, and there is no special score for four jacks or four nines.

Play

Play starts with the player to the left from the dealer and proceeds clockwise. The starting player leads any card from his hand. Other players must follow suit if possible. If unable to follow suit they must play a trump. A player who has no cards of the suit led and no trumps may play any card.

Subject to the above rules, each player must if possible play a card that beats the best card so far played to the trick.That is, if able to follow suit you must beat the highest card of the suit so far played, unless someone has already trumped. If you have no sufficiently high card or the trick is trumped you must still follow suit and may play any card of the suit. When trumping you must beat all the trumps already played if possible; if unable to play a winning trump you may play any trump. But see variations.

The player of the highest ranking trump, or if no trumps are played the highest card of the suit that was led, wins the trick and leads any card to the next trick. This process continues until all cards have been played.

Scoring

Each team counts the points that it has won:

  • all the melds that they declared before the play
  • the value of all the cards in the tricks that they won
  • the winners of the last trick score 10 points extra, or 90 points if the other team took no tricks at all ("capo").

To check the calculation it is useful to know that the total number of points in the game excluding melds is 152 points, provided that each team wins at least one trick. Winning all the tricks is worth 232 points plus any melds.

If the team that chose trumps scores more points than their opponents, then each team adds the points that they took to their cumulative score. If the points are equal, or the trump makers' opponents have more, all the points are scored by their opponents. That is, the opponents of the trump makers score 152 points plus the value of all the melds declared by both teams. This is known as "mesa".

The team that first reaches a cumulative total of 1000 points wins the game. If both teams reach 1000 points in the same deal, the team with more points wins. If the scores are equal and more than 1000, two more deals are played to decide the winners.

Variations

Some play that if your partner is currently winning the trick, you are not obliged to beat his card, though you must still follow suit if able to. This less strict rule is common in café games.