Bieten

Thanks to Oskar Chamier for teaching me this version of the game.

Introduction

This game is popular in the Tyrol, and is one of the games that uses a 33 card pack including the WELI card, which is characteristic of this part of Austria. Bieten means bidding or betting. Each player is dealt just three cards, and points are won for the best heart, best leaf, best pair or triple, best sequence, and winning the last trick. Players can bet on any of these points: if the other players concede, the bettor automatically wins the point; if they contest the point its value is increased.

Players and cards

In principle any reasonable number of players can take part, but the game is probably best for 3 to 5 players.

WELIA 33 card German suited pack is used. In each of the four suits hearts (rot), leaves (grün), bells (schellen) and acorns (eichel) the cards rank from high to low: ace, king, over, under, 10, 9, 8, 7. The 33rd card is a six of bells with some extra suit symbols and the title WELI; in the game of Bieten this functions as a wild card.

In the Austrian Tyrol, Bieten is normally played with cards of the William Tell pattern - sometimes known as the Seasons pattern because the aces illustrate the four seasons, and known as doppeldeutsche Karten because they are double headed and German suited. In the South Tyrol, the Salzburger pattern is more commonly used - these packs are sometimes sold as einfachdeutsche Karten - single headed German cards.

The cut and deal

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

The dealer shuffles the cards and offers them to be cut by the player to the dealer's right. This player lifts the top part of the pack and looks at its bottom card, which would become the bottom card of the pack after the cut is completed. The cutting player is allowed to steal this bottom card, and place it face down, to become the first card of the cutting player's hand. This exposes the next card, which the cutter may also steal, exposing the third card, which may also be stolen, completing the cutter's hand. Any cards taken by the cutter are not shown to the other players, and the cutter cannot take more than three cards in this way.

Having taken 0, 1, 2 or 3 cards in this way, the cutter places the top part of the pack face down on the table and the dealer completes the cut in the usual way by placing the bottom section of the pack face down on top of it.

The dealer now deals three cards to each player in two rounds - either a single card to each followed by two cards to each or two cards to each followed by a single card to each. If the cutter stole some cards, the dealer deals correspondingly fewer cards to this player, so that at the end of the deal everyone has three cards.

The undealt cards is turned over and placed face up on the table in a neat stack. Thus the bottom card, which the cutter has already seen and rejected, will be known to everyone, but none of the other undealt cards is visible. These undealt cards are not used in the play.

The figures

There are five opportunities to score, known as Figuren (figures). These are Rot (red - i.e. heart), Grün (green - i.e. leaf), Gleich (equal), Hanger (sequence) and Spiel (game). The scores for these figures can be affected by betting, but if no one bets they are worth one point each as follows:

  • The point for Red is won by the player who holds the highest card of the heart suit that is in play. If no hearts have been dealt no one gets the point.
  • The point for Green is won by the player who holds the highest card of the leaf suit that is in play. If no leaves have been dealt no one gets the point.
  • A Gleich consists of two or three cards of equal rank - for example two kings or three nines. The point is won by the player who holds the highest ranking triple, or if no one has a triple, by the player who holds the highest ranking pair. If no one has a triple or a pair the Gleich point is not awarded. It can also happen that there is a tie for best Gleich - for example if one player has two kings, another player has the other two kings and no one has a better Gleich than this. In case of a tie, the Gleich point is not awarded.
  • A Hanger consists of two or three consecutive cards of one suit, such as ace-king or under-10-9. The point is won by the player who holds the highest ranking three-card sequence, or if no one has a three-card sequence, by the player who holds the highest ranking two-card sequence. If no one has a sequence, or if there is a tie for best sequence, the Hanger point is not awarded.
  • The point for Game is won by the winner of the last of the three tricks. This point is always awarded.

Before the play, it will not be clear who has won any of the points, because the players hold their cards concealed from each other. During the play, the cards are exposed, and the points are awarded after the last trick, when all the cards are face up.

The play

The cards are played out in three tricks. Players play their cards by placing them face up in front of themselves, where they remain until the end of the hand.

The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. The other players in turn must play a card of the same suit if they can - otherwise they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card played of the suit that was led, and the winner leads to the second trick, which is played in the same way. The winner of the second trick leads to the last. The winner of the last trick scores the Game point, unless the Game has been bet and conceded (see below).

The Weli

The Weli can be used to represent any card that the holder does not possess. At the moment when the Weli is played to a trick, the person playing it must say what card it represents - the rank and suit must be specified. Once specified it cannot be changed until the next deal.

The real version of the card that the Weli represents may be in the hand of another player. For the purpose of deciding who wins a trick, or any of the figures, the Weli ranks immediately below the real version of the card it represents. For example, if a player plays the Weli, calling it the ace of hearts, it beats the king of hearts, but is beaten by the real ace of hearts. In the same way, a pair of real kings would beat one real king paired with the Weli representing a second king.

Note that the Weli cannot be specified in a way that causes the holder to have broken the rule about following suit. For example, suppose you hold the nine of leaves, the ace of bells and the Weli. A heart is led to the first trick and you throw away your nine. Later you might be tempted to call your Weli the ace of hearts, to win the Red and Gleich points, but you cannot do this. You did not follow suit to the heart lead, so your Weli cannot be a heart.

The betting

Each of the figures is initially worth one point, but a player can try to increase the value of a figure by betting on it. For example, if you say "Ich biete das Gleich" (I bet on the Gleich), that is a proposal to raise the value of the Gleich to two points in that hand. This can happen at any time: often a player will bet just before playing to a trick. As soon as there is a bet, the play pauses temporarily, and starting to the left of the player who bet, and continuing clockwise, the other players in turn must say whether they accept the increase. If you want the figure to be contested for two points you say "ich halte" (I hold); if you are content to allow the bettor to win one point for the figure without a contest, you say "gut" (good).

If all the other players say "good", the bettor wins one point for the figure, even if some other player would have won it if the hands had been compared. However, as soon as any player holds, the value of the figure is increased to two points, and the remaining players do not get a chance to speak. In this case, if there is no further betting on that figure, the player who wins it will score two points for it. Note that this might be the bettor, the player who held, or some other player: it is even possible for a player who said "good" to a figure to win it thanks to some other player having held it.

An important rule is that in order to bet or hold a figure, you must have that figure in your cards. For example, you can only bet on the red or hold another player's bet on red if you have at least one heart in your hand (or have the Weli, which you choose to play as a heart). In the same way, to bet on or hold the Gleich, you must have at least two equal cards, and so on for the other figures.

After the first card of the last trick is played, it is illegal to bet on or hold the Game unless you have a card of the same suit that was led to the trick.

Note that if you use the Weli as your justification for betting or holding, you must then use the Weli as a card which makes that bet or hold legal. Suppose you have the Weli and the King and Ober of bells. You can bet on Green, intending to make your Weli into a high leaf, but even if everyone says good, you cannot later bet on Red, because your Weli cannot be both a heart and a leaf. You could also bet on Gleich, but then your Weli would have to be the King or Ober of leaves. If the opponent who held your bet on the Green turns out to have the King of leaves, you cannot beat this by making your Weli the Ace of leaves if you have also bet on the Gleich.

At any time after a bet on a figure has been held, any player except the player who originally bet on that figure try to raise the score for it from two to three points, saying for example "Drei für die Roten" (three for the red) or "Ich gebe einen Groschen" (I give a Groschen - which is a small coin originally worth three Kreuzer). Again, the other players in turn, starting to the left of the player who bet three, say "gut" (good) if they are prepared to allow the player who bet three to have two points for the figure without a contest, but if anyone insists on accepting the raise to three by saying "ich halte" (I hold), the later players need not say anything, because the player who wins the figure will now get three points.

It is not possible to raise the bet on any figure beyond three points.

The scoring

At the end of the play, the score for each player is calculated and added to their previous cumulative total. The basic scores for the five figures have already been explained:

  • For winning a figure on which there was no bet - 1 point
  • For betting a figure which everyone calls good - 1 point
  • For winning a figure which was bet and hold, but to which no one said three - 2 points
  • For saying three to a figure which was bet and held, if everone says good to the three - 2 points
  • For winning a figure on which a raise to three was held - 3 points.

A player who held the Weli but fails to score for any of the five figures loses one point.

Everyone's score starts from zero, and the game ends when any player's score reaches or exceeds an agreed target score - for example 11 points. Whoever has the lowest score at this point is the loser. A small cross is marked in the winner's column of the score sheet, while the loser gets a black spot called a Noggele or Bummerl.

In order to determine who has won and who has lost, the figures in the last deal are counted in a particular order. First the figures that have been bet are scored in the order in which they were first bet, and then the figures that were not bet are scored in the order: Red, Green, Gleich, Hanger, Game.

A player who needs only one more point to reach the target is said to be "gespannt", and is no longer allowed to initiate a bet on a figure or to say three to a figure. If a player is gespannt at the start of a deal, this may be marked by drawing a line through the player's score on the score sheet - the player is "gestrichen". In the same way, if you only need two points to reach the target you are not allowed to say three to a figure. However, being gespannt does not prevent you from holding a bet by another player.

It is possible to become gespannt in the middle of a hand. For example, suppose you are playing to 11 points and have 9 already. You bet on the red and everyone says "good". So you have will have a point for this, and you are now barred from betting on any other figure, since that would certainly take your score over 11.

The penalty for most irregularities is that the offender loses two points. For exmaple you lose two points if:

  • you play a card of a different suit from the card led to a trick, when you could have followed suit;
  • you bet on or held a figure but it turns out that you do not have that figure in your hand (for example you bet on the green but you have no leaves at all);
  • you bet when you were gespannt - i.e. when your the score for your bet, if accepted and won, would have taken your score above the target.

Variations

A higher target score, such as 15, can be agreed for a longer game.

Some play that after the winner has been determined, that player drops out of the game but the others continue playing further deals. Players drop out as they reach the target score, and the last player left in is the loser.

Some levy higher penalties for irregularities, such as failing to follow suit. In some schools this entails losing your entire score so far or losing the whole game outright.

Apparently, some play that the Weli is not a wild card. Instead, the player who holds it is automatically awarded an extra point. This seems much less interesting than the normal game described above.

Conversely, some play with additional wild cards - not only the Weli but also the sevens of bells and acorns are wild. All of these wild cards rank below the real cards they represent, and among different wild cards representing the same card, the Weli beats the seven of bells, which beats the seven of acorns.