Ulti

This page is based on a revised version of an article I wrote for "The Playing-Card" (Journal of the International Playing-Card Society) Volume IV No 4 (May 1976), p 8-15. Gyula Zsigri has provided corrections and additional information on recent developments of the game, and further variations were contributed by Tamás Korinek.

Introduction

Although ulti the most popular card game in Hungary, it is almost unknown outside its native land. The version of ulti described here is also known as rablóulti (robber ulti) because of the process of "robbing" the talon which occurs at each bid. It is related to the Czech game Mariáš, and in Hungary the precursor of Ulti, without bidding, is known as Talonmáriás. These games all ultimately derive from the old French game Mariage. The name Ulti comes from a bid in the game by which the declarer undertakes to win the last trick with the lowest trump, in this case the 7. This kind of bid is found in several games played in the former Austro-Hungarian empire, notably Tarokk and Alsós, and in former times also in Trappola.

Players and Cards

Ulti is a trick-taking game for three players. In each hand one player, the winner of the bidding, chooses trumps (or no trumps) and plays alone against the other two players in partnership.

The 32 card Tell pattern pack is used. These are the standard cards used in Hungary for most games. The cards look like this:

Makk
Acorns
Zöld
Leaves
Piros
Hearts
Tök
Bells
Ász

Ace

The aces depict seasons of the year and can be identified from the fact that they have a rotated suit symbol in all four corners.
Király

King

The kings are crowned, ride horses and have a suit symbol at the top left of the card.
Felső

Over

The overs (over-knaves) have a suit symbol at the top left, but can be distiguished from the kings because they have no crown and no horse. The over- and under-knaves are named and show characters from the William Tell legend. It might seem odd to find these Swiss people depicted on Hungarian cards (cards of this type have never been used in Switzerland itself). The explanation is probably that in the nineteenth century, when this design of cards became popular in Hungary, the Tell legend was seen as a symbol of resistance against Austrian domination.
Alsó

Under

The unders (under-knaves) can be distinguished by the fact that the suit symbol is not in the corner, but further down the side of the card. In the days when cards were single-ended, the suit symbol on the under was at the bottom of the card, but in double-ended cards, so that it does not disappear entirely, it is placed the "bottom" of each end.
Tízes

Ten

The numeral cards are clearly marked with Roman numbers, as well as having the appropriate number of suit symbols at each end.
Kilences

Nine

Nyolcas

Eight

Hetes

Seven

The Deal; Beginning and Ending the Session

To begin a session, each player draws a card from the shuffled pack, and whoever draws the lowest card (using the ranking order A-K-O-U-10-9-8-7) deals first. The turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

Deal and play are anticlockwise. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left may either cut or knock on the cards. If the cards were cut, a batch of seven cards is dealt to the player to dealer's right and the rest of the cards are dealt anticlockwise in fives, so that the player to dealer's right has twelve cards and the others have ten each. If the cutter knocked, each player's cards must be dealt in a single batch, the first 12 to dealer's right hand opponent, then 10 to the player to dealer's left and the last 10 to the dealer.

The traditional way to end a session is for one of the players to say "The ace of hearts deals and does not deal" ("Piros ász oszt, nem oszt"). The meaning of this is as follows. At the end of the following hand it is noted who held the ace of hearts at the end of the auction. Play continues until it is next the "ace of hearts" player's turn to deal. Beginning with this deal, three further hands are played, and then when the "ace of hearts" would have been about to deal again, the session ends. (It sometimes happens that on the hand when the end of the game is being decided, the ace of hearts is in the talon - for example, the ace might have been discarded if the final bidder is playing a betli. In such a case, the decision about who the "ace of hearts" player will be is delayed to the following hand.)

Rank and value of cards

When there is a trump suit, the rank of cards in every suit from high to low is A, 10, K, O, U, 9, 8, 7 (the ten beats the king). The basic aim is to win tricks containing aces and tens, each ace and each ten being worth 10 card points. In addition, 10 card points go to the side which wins the last trick, so a total of 90 card points are at stake. A player who holds both the king and the over of one suit at the start of the play can score additional card points by declaring them when playing to the first trick. The king and over of trumps are worth 40 card points; the king and over of a non-trump suit are worth 20 card points. The holder simply announces "20" or "40" when playing a card to the first trick. The cards do not have to be shown, nor does the suit have to be specified unless it is trumps. A player who has more than one combination announces "two 20s", "three 20s", "40 and 20" etc. when playing to the first trick. It is possible for more than one player to declare - all declared combinations score. It does not matter who ultimately wins the declared cards in tricks. Note that king-over in two non-trump suits must be announced as "two 20s" - not as "40", which would be a declaration of the king-over of trumps.

When there are no trumps, the cards in each suit rank from high to low: A, K, O, U, 10, 9, 8, 7 - the 10 ranks between the under and nine instead of above the king. When there are no trumps the object is always either to win every trick or to lose every trick; there are no card points or 20s or 40s.

It is illegal for an opponent of the declarer to declare a 20 or 40 in a contract where it can have no effect, namely when there are no trumps, or when 20-100, 40-100 or Durchmars has been announced.

The Auction

In each hand one player is the declarer and the other two players form a temporary partnership. Whoever bids the highest contract in the auction becomes the declarer and plays this contract against the other two. The auction begins with the player to the dealer's right, who discards any two cards face down to form a talon and then names any contract.

The bidding then continues anticlockwise around the table. Each subsequent player who wishes to bid may first pick up the two talon cards (without showing them to the other players), then discard any two cards face down in their place to form a new talon (these may include cards just picked up) and then name a contract, which must be higher than the one named by the previous bidder. A list and explanations of the possible contracts and their ranking are given below. It is also legal, though unusual, to bid by simply naming a contract, without looking at the talon cards.

A player who does not want to bid simply passes on the talon cards to the next player without looking at them. Passing on the talon in this way does not prevent you from bidding at a later turn in the same auction.

The auction continues around the table as many times as necessary until all three players in succession choose not to look at the talon. The last bidder then becomes the declarer in the last contract bid. Since the player to dealer's right is obliged to begin the auction by naming a contract, it is not possible for a hand to be "passed out".

Because the talon is exchanged every time a bid is made, players participating in the auction get to see and use each other's discards. If the opponents' discards are helpful it may be possible to "collect" a very powerful hand over a few rounds of bidding; therefore players are usually careful to discard cards that are unlikely to help their opponents. However, it is entirely legal to try to mislead the opponents about your intentions by bluffing in the bidding, naming a contract completely different from the one you really want to play. If both the other players pass you can always take the talon again and change to a different contract, provided that it is higher than what you said before. Of course this then gives the other players yet another opportunity to bid, using your new discards.

The Play

The declarer names the trump suit, if not already specified in the bid, and leads to the first trick. Thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next. It is compulsory to follow suit, and a player with no card of the suit led must play a trump if possible. A player who has no trumps and no card of the suit led may play any card. Subject to these rules, players are obliged to beat the highest card already played to the trick whenever they can.

In no-trump contracts it is still obligatory to follow suit and to beat all cards already played to the trick whenever possible.

Possible contracts and bonuses and their scores

The contracts are made up by combining components, each of which can be won or lost independently. For won components the declarer is paid by both opponents. For lost components the declarer has to pay both opponents. This is normally done by passing money across the table, but it is also possible to keep score on paper. If you are writing down the score, it is necessary to record both wins and losses; for example if the declarer wins a contract which scores 4 game points, you must add 8 to the declarer's score and subtract 4 from each opponent's score.

In this section is a description of each component, what it is worth, and some information on how the components can be combined into contracts that you can bid. A list of all the possible contracts that can be made from the components, together with their ranking and scores, is given in the bids and scores section.

There are some bonuses that can occur during the play even if they were not bid as part of the contract. These unbid bonuses result in further payments from each opponent to the declarer or vice versa, and are also explained below.

For the contracts with trumps, the scores given below apply if the trump suit is acorns, leaves or bells. These are the "minor suits". If hearts are trumps, all scores are doubled. When bidding a contract with a minor suit as trumps, the suit is not mentioned. If you are bidding in hearts you say so.

Simple game (parti)
In a simple game, the declarer's object is to take more card points than the opponents. A simple game must be played with a trump suit. It can be bid by itself, in which case it is announced (somewhat confusingly) by saying "Pass", or "Pass Hearts" if you want to play with hearts as trumps. A simple game can also be combined with an Ulti, in which case the bid would be "Ulti" or "Heart Ulti". If no twenties or forties are announced, there are 90 card points in the game, so 50 points are enough for declarer to win. With twenties and forties, the card point total can reach 190.There can never be a tie between the declarer and the opponents because of the odd 10 points for the last trick. Aces and tens in the talon count against the declarer. The score for a simple game is 1 game point.
 
Note: It is necessary to take at least one trick to win the game: if one team declares a 40 and three 20's (100 points) but the other team wins all the tricks (90 points), the team that takes all the tricks wins the game (in fact they would also win a bonus for durchmars - see below).
Ulti
The declarer undertakes to win the last trick with the 7 of trumps. If this succeeds, the declarer wins 4 game points. If it fails, either because the 7 is beaten in the last trick or because it is forced out before the last trick, the declarer loses 4 game points plus an additional penalty of 4 game points. If the ulti was kontra'd (see below) and lost, the doubling applies to the basic score for the ulti but not to the additional 4 point penalty for losing it. Ulti cannot be bid alone, but may be combined with any contract where there are trumps. Having bid ulti, the declarer is obliged to keep the 7 of trumps as long as is legally possible, subject to the rules of following suit and trumping when void. It is of course legal to bid ulti when you do not hold the 7 of trumps, either as a bluff or as a sacrifice; in this case the ulti will automatically fail if the contract is played.
Unbid Ulti (csendes ulti)
A declarer who wins the last trick with the 7 of trumps without having bid Ulti receives a bonus of 2 game points from each opponent for unbid ulti. If, however, the declarer plays the 7 of trumps to the last trick and it does not win, the declarer loses 4 game points. Similarly, if an opponent ever plays the 7 of trumps to the last trick, then the opponents get a bonus of 2 game points if it wins, or are penalised 4 game points if it is beaten. This penalty applies even if the trick is won by the partner of the opponent who played the 7.
40-l00 (negyven-száz)
40-100 is a contract to take at least 100 card points, including 40 for the king and over of trumps, which you must have in your hand for this bid to succeed. 40-100 in any of the four suits can be bid alone or combined with an Ulti, a trump Durchmars (closed or open), or both. There is no score for the "simple game" when 40-100 is bid. A declarer who has bid 40-100 is not allowed to score any twenties - only the forty, aces, tens and the last trick can be counted. Therefore the declarer can only afford to let the opponents take at most three aces or tens (two if they win the last trick). If a player who bids 40-100 does not hold the king and over of trumps, the 40-100 is automatically lost, but the declarer can still win other components of the contract. The score for 40-100 is 4 game points.
20-100 (húsz-száz)
This is a contract to take at least 100 card points including 20 for the king and over of some non-trump suit. Like 40-100 it can be combined with an ulti, a durchmars or both, and replaces the simple game. The declarer is not allowed to count any other 20 or 40 towards the 100 points, so in order to win the declarer can only afford to lose a single ace or ten, or the last trick. 20-100 scores 8 game points.
Unbid 100 (csendes száz)
If either side takes 100 card points in a trump contract without having bid 20-100 or 40-100, then (provided they take at least one trick) score for the simple game is doubled. For example if you score 100 in a simple game in acorns it is worth 2 game points instead of 1. For an unbid 100, more than one twenty or forty may be included in the 100 points.
Betli
The declarer undertakes to lose every trick. There are no trumps, so the cards rank A, K, O, U, 10, 9, 8, 7. Betli cannot be combined with any other bid. The obligation to beat all cards already played to the trick still applies. There are three forms of Betli:
  • Betli scores 5 game points
  • Heart betli (piros betli) scores 10 game points. There are no trumps - the reference to hearts is simply to indicate that the score is doubled compared to an ordinary betli.
  • Open betli (terített betli) scores 20 game points.
Between betli and heart betli there is no difference except the score. Nevertheless it can be advantageous to bid the cheaper betli - for example as an inexpensive option if one has found poor cards in the talon, or in the hope of improving one's hand further in the next round of bidding if someone is able to overcall. In open betli all three players must lay their cards face up on the table after the first trick is complete, and play the remaining tricks with their hands exposed. Even though all the cards can be seen, the declarer's opponents are not allowed to confer about what cards to play - they must each play from their own cards, without talking or making any sign to each other.
Durchmars
By bidding durchmars, the declarer undertakes to win every trick. Durchmars can be played with or without trumps. Durchmars without trumps cannot be combined with any other bid. On the other hand durchmars with trumps must be combined with at least one of ulti, 40-100 and 20-100.
  • Durchmars scores 6 game points; it can be played without trumps, or in any trump suit other than hearts if combined with another bid.
  • Heart durchmars (piros durchmars) can be played without trumps, or with hearts as trumps if combined with another bid. It scores 12 points (this already includes the double for hearts being trumps).
  • Open Durchmars (terített durchmars) scores 24. It can be played without trumps or, if combined with another bid, can be played with any suit as trumps. If hearts are trumps, the score remains 24, though the scores of the other contract components are doubled.
If there are no trumps, there is no difference between durchmars and heart durchmars except for the score. In any open durchmars, all players must expose their cards after the first trick is complete. The declarer's opponents are not allowed to confer.
Unbid durchmars
If a side wins all the tricks in a trump contract without having bid durchmars, it scores 3 points. This replaces the score for the simple game, if any. If the simple game was kontra'd, rekontra'd, etc., the doubles are applied to the unbid durchmars score.
Kontra
An opponent who believes that some or all components of the contract will fail can double the appropriate scores by saying kontra against those parts of the bid he expects to be defeated, as he plays his card to the first trick. One must specify what one is kontraing, saying for example: "kontra the game", "kontra the ulti", "kontra the game and the ulti", etc. In a contract with trumps, a kontra binds both opponents, so both pay or receive double for the kontra'd components. In a no-trump contract (betli or no-trump durchmars), each opponent kontras for himself alone. The second opponent therefore has the slight advantage of hearing whether or not his partner wishes to kontra before having to decide for himself. On the other hand the first opponent cannot change his decision in the light of his partner's choice. If only one opponent kontras when betli or durchmars has been bid, that player pays or receives double while his partner pays or receives singly.
Rekontra, Szubkontra, etc.
If the declarer is confident of winning some parts of his contract which have been kontra'd, he can rekontra those parts, doubling the scores for them again. This is done at the end of the first trick, before the lead to the second trick. If there has been a kontra, the winner of the first trick should pause before leading to the second trick to give the declarer an opportunity to rekontra. Rekontra'd parts of the contract can then be szubkontra'd by the opponents, doubling the stake to eight times the basic score; this must also take place before the lead to the second trick. After a szubkontra the declarer can double again by saying hirskontra, the opponents can double a fifth time saying mordkontra, and finally the declarer can double again, saying fedáksári. All this must happen before the lead to the second trick. The sixth and highest level of kontra, which multiplies the basic score by 64, is named after the famous actress Fedák Sári.
Scoring Ulti with Kontra
A kontra (rekontra, szubkontra, etc.) of an ulti doubles what would be scored for the ulti if it was won, but if the ulti is lost, the additional bonus for defeating a bid ulti is unaffected by the kontra (rekontra, szubkontra, etc.). Example: A player bids heart ulti; this is worth 2 for the game and 8 for the ulti. If the game is won but the ulti is lost the declarer will lose 14 - winning 2 for the game but losing 8 plus an additional 8 for the failed bid ulti. If an opponent says kontra to the ulti, and the declarer wins everything, the score will be 2 for the game plus 16 for the ulti. If the declarer wins the game and loses the ulti, the payment is 22 to each opponent: the declarer wins 2 for the game but loses 16 for the kontra'd ulti plus an additional 8 for a failed bid ulti in hearts.
Giving up
A player who has bid a simple game without ulti in a minor suit (not hearts) is allowed to give up before leading to the first trick, and lose just 2 game points. The point of doing this is that the opponents do not have the opportunity to score for unbid 100, unbid ulti, etc.

Ranking of bids

Bids rank in order of their total score in game points. For this purpose the score for a simple game is ignored except to break ties. For example, a Heart Betli (10) beats a Heart Ulti (2 + 8) which beats a Heart 40-100 (8). Certain bids have the same rank - for example Acorn 20-100 Ulti (8 + 4) and Heart Durchmars (12). To overcall another player it is necessary to make a higher bid, so each of these "equal" bids shuts out the other.

Here is a complete list of the possible bids in ascending order, and their scores. The term "minor suit" means acorns, leaves or bells. Where the score for a contract is written as (say) 4 + 8, there are two separate components, worth 4 and 8, each of which can be won or lost independently of the other. Bids which are shown within the same cell of the table are equal to each other.

BidTrump suitScore
PassMinor suit1
Pass heartsHearts2
40-100Minor suit4
UltiMinor suit1 + 4
BetliNo trumps5
DurchmarsNo trumps6
40-100 ulti
Heart 40-100
20-100
Minor suit
Hearts
Minor suit
4 + 4
8
8
Heart ultiHearts2 + 8
40-100 durchmars
Ulti durchmars
Heart betli
Minor suit
Minor suit
No trumps
4 + 6
4 + 6
10
20-100 ulti
Heart durchmars
Minor suit
No trumps
8 + 4
12
40-100 ulti durchmars
20-100 durchmars
Minor suit
Minor suit
4 + 4 + 6
8 + 6
Heart 40-100 ulti
Heart 20-100
Hearts
Hearts
8 + 8
16
20-100 ulti durchmarsMinor suit8 + 4 + 6
Heart 40-100 durchmars
Heart ulti durchmars
Open betli
Hearts
Hearts
No trumps
8 + 12
8 + 12
20
Heart 20-100 ulti
Open durchmars
Hearts
No trumps
16 + 8
24
Heart 40-100 ulti durchmars
Heart 20-100 durchmars
40-100 open durchmars
Ulti open durchmars
Hearts
Hearts
Minor suit
Minor suit
8 + 8 + 12
16 + 12
4 + 24
4 + 24
40-100 ulti open durchmars
Heart 40-100 open durchmars
Heart ulti open durchmars
20-100 open durchmars
Minor suit
Hearts
Hearts
Minor suit
4 + 4 + 24
8 + 24
8 + 24
8 + 24
Heart 20-100 ulti durchmars
20-100 ulti open durchmars
Hearts
Minor suit
16 + 8 + 12
8 + 4 + 24
Heart 40-100 ulti open durchmars
Heart 20-100 open durchmars
Hearts
Hearts
8 + 8 + 24
16 + 24
Heart 20-100 ulti open durchmarsHearts16 + 8 + 24

Summary of scores

Here is a summary table of all the scores for bids and bonuses. Note that when the declarer wins, each opponent pays to the declarer the number of game points specified; when the declarer loses, the declarer pays each opponent. The only case in which the opponents win or lose different amounts is when a betli or durchmars has been kontra'd or szubkontra'd or mordkontra'd by just one opponent.

ItemBidUnbidNotes
Minor suit trumpHearts trumpNo trumpsMinor suit trumpHearts trump
Game12---
Game given up without play2----
100---12If the game was kontra'd, rekontra'd, etc, any bonus for unbid 100 is also doubled, redoubled, etc.
40-10048---Only one 40 can be counted towards the 100.
20-100816---Only one 20 can be counted towards the 100.
Ulti (won)48-24When a bid ulti is kontra'd, rekontra'd, szubkontra'd etc. and lost, the doubling applies only to the first 4 (8 in hearts); the extra 4 (8) points for losing a bid ulti is not doubled.
Ulti (lost)4 + 48 + 8-48
Betli--5--
Heart betli--10--
Open betli--20--
Durchmars6-63-Unbid durchmars replaces the score for simple game, if any. If the simple game was kontra'd, rekontra'd, etc, any bonus for unbid durchmars is also doubled, redoubled, etc.
Heart durchmars-1212-6
Open durchmars242424--
Kontra, Rekontra, Szubkontra, Hirskontra, Mordkontra, Fedáksáridoubledoubledouble--The doubling applies independently to each specific component of the contract to which Kontra is said.

Variations

It is more than 20 years since the first version of this article was published in "The Playing-Card". With help from Gyula Zsigri it has been corrected and revised to reflect recent changes in the way the game is normally played. Nevertheless it is likely that there are still many people who play older versions of the rules. The main differences in the older version were:

  • The player to dealer's right was only dealt 10 cards and two were dealt to the talon between the two rounds of five. (If the pack was knocked instead of cutting, the talon was dealt after the first or second batch of 10 cards). For the first bid, the player to dealer's right named a suit before picking up the talon. After discarding, this player had to name a contract in the nominated suit or in no trumps. On subsequent turns to bid, the player was free to bid contracts in other suits as well.
  • When bidding, a player named the intended trump suit, even if it was a minor suit.
  • If two players in succession passed on the talon without bidding, the auction ended and the last contract bid was played. "Self-robbing" (picking up your own discards and increasing your bid) after the other players both passed was not permitted. See self-robbing in the historical data section for further information.
  • A declarer who had discarded any aces or tens into the talon had to announce that this was so when leading to the first trick, but did not need to specify what cards were involved.
  • The combination of a king and over in a suit was sometimes known as a béla - this term is borrowed from the older game of Alsós.
  • The score for 20-100 was only 4 (or 8 in hearts) - the same as a 40-100.
  • In an open betli or open durchmars, only the declarer's hand was exposed on the table after the first trick. This makes these bids somewhat easier and therefore more attarctive, since an opponent of the declarer does not know for sure which cards are held by declarer, which are held by his partner and which are in the talon.

An popular alternative method of dealing is: 5 cards to each player in the first round, then 7 to the first player and 5 each to the other players. Unusually, some people deal 6 to the first player in both rounds.

Many people play that a bid whose score is a single component beats an equal scoring bid made up of two or more parts. In this case, for example, a minor suit 20-100 beats a minor suit 40-100 ulti and a heart betli beats a minor suit durchmars with ulti. There are some problems with increasing the number of unequal bids in this way: it tends to make the auction go on for longer, and increases the scope for two unscrupulous players to help each other against the third by passing talon cards back and forth while making meaningless bids.

In the the annual Ulti Tournaments held in Siófok in spring and in Kecskemét in autumn or early winter, the treatment and scoring of durchmars is different from that described in the main rules above:

  1. A minor suit open durchmars is worth only 12 rather than 24. This is logical in that it makes the rule that scores are doubled when hearts are trumps universal.
  2. A suit durchmars does not need to be combined with an ulti or 100, but can be played by itself.
  3. There is no 6 point no trump durchmars - no trump durchmars is always worth 12 if played with concealed cards; 24 if played with open cards.

Some people play only the first or the first and second of the above durchmars variations. On the other hand, some players do not allow a suit durchmars at all - durchmars, like betli, can only be played without trumps. Further discussion of the history of betli and durchmars scoring can be found in the historical data section.

If you allow a suit durchmars to be played on its own, without ulti, 20-100 or 40-100, then a player who wants to bid a no trump durchmars must expicitly say so in the bid. The 6 point variety (if allowed) should be bid as "no trump durchmars" (szín nélküli durchmars) and the 12 point variety as "no trump heart durchmars" (szín nélküli piros durchmars).

Some play that the extra score for unbid 100 (1 in a minor suit or 2 in hearts) is unaffected by kontras. Further historical data about unbid 100 is given in the historical data section.

Some play that only betli is doubled individually. A kontra of a no trump durchmars applies to both partners.

Some play that any contract may be given up before the first lead. The declarer must pay the kontra'd value of all components of the bid. For example, if you give up a heart ulti you must pay 2x2 pts for the hearts game, and 3x8 (2x8 + 8) pts for the hearts ulti, for a total of 28 pts to each of the opponents.

There are some variations in the names of kontras above szubkontra - for example some people call the next kontra 'mordkontra', followed by 'hirskontra', rather than the other way around.

Some play with an additional bonus: four aces (négy ász), which is a bonus for winning all four aces in your tricks in a trump contract. If a minor suit is trumps, it scores 2 points unbid or 4 points if bid; these scores are doubled if hearts are trumps. Four aces can be combined with other bids in the usual way: an ulti with four aces in a minor suit is worth 1+4+4 (9); 40-100 with four aces in hearts is worth 8+8 (16). However, many play that four aces can only be bid along with another bonus - so a simple game with four aces cannot be bid. Even with this restriction, the four aces bonus seems rather too easy to make if you are lucky enough to have the four aces in your hand. Unlike the ulti bid, a bid of four aces does not incur an extra penalty if it is defeated - the amount lost is the same as what would have been won if it had been successful.

At the UltiNet on line server, four aces scores only if bid and is worth 3 points. If is also possible to bid four tens (négy tíz), undertaking to win all four tens in tricks, for 9 points.

When four people play Ulti, the dealer gives cards to the other three players and sits out of the play. Normally the dealer either does not take part in the payments or scores equally with the opponents of the declarer. There also a version, rarely played, in which the dealer scores equally with the declarer.

Suit-bid ulti (színlicites ulti) is a version of the game in which contracts with acorns as trumps are scored normally; when leaves are trumps all scores are doubled; when bells are trumps they are trebled, and when hearts are trumps they are quadrupled. This variation suffers even more severely from the problems mentioned above associated with increasing the number of unequal bids. It is described fully on a separate page.

Half-hand Ulti

Half-hand Ulti (félkéz-ulti) is a variation in which only five cards are dealt to each player initially. There is then a first phase of bidding based only on these 5-card hands; any bids at this stage are worth double points. Any player can pass at the half-hand stage if they do not want to play a contract. All half-hand bids must name the trump suit (even if it is a minor suit). After the highest bidder is established, the other two having passed, either opponent can kontra, the high bidder can rekontra, and so on. All kontras made with only 5 cards in hand multiply the score by 4 rather than 2.

After the half-hand bidding, the dealer gives seven more cards to the player who bid highest and five to each of the others. The bidding then continues in the normal way, starting with the high bidder from the half-hand phase. In the full-hand bidding, bids are worth only the normal number points, but to be valid they must score more than the final half-hand bid (including any kontras). For example, suppose that in the first phase you bid a simple game in hearts, which was kontra'd. This is worth 16 (4*4). In the second phase, you could increase this to a heart 20-100 ulti (24), but you could not bid a heart ulti (10). Another player could overcall with an open betli (20) but not with a heart betli (10).

If all pass in the half-hand phase, the dealer gives seven cards to the player to dealer's right and five to each of the others, and the bidding proceeds normally, starting with the player to dealer's right. If all pass in the full-hand phase as well, the player to dealer's right is the declarer in a simple minor suit game as usual.

If a half-hand contract is not outbid in the full-hand phase, kontras can be continued. For example, half-hand kontra'd 40-100 in bells rekontra'd full-hand is worth 64 points (8*4*2). Half-hand rekontra'd 40-100 szubkontra'd full-hand is worth 256 points (8*4*4*2).

There is another variation - 'quadruple half-hand ulti' - in which there are three levels of bidding:

  • Level 1: félkezes licitek (half-hand bids). A half-hand simple game scores double, but other half-hand bids are quadruple. For example, half-hand heart ulti is 36 points altogether (4+32). Half-hand kontras quadruple the score.
  • Level 2: passz nélküli licitek (bids without passing). If you win the half-hand bidding (phase 1) then you receive seven more cards, bid again and discard two cards. In this first full hand bid only, you can continue to count the half-hand value of any bid components that you retain from the half-hand phase, and any new components that you bid in your half-hand suit score double. For example, suppose you finished the half-hand phase with acorn ulti (2+16=18). You have just taken the talon and you are opening the full-hand phase. If you bid acorn 40-100 ulti, it will be 8+16=24. The component bid that you inherit from the half-hand phase (ulti) retains its half-hand value and what you add (40-100) scores twice. Another example: say you finished your half-hand phase with acorn 40-100 (4x4=16) and this is your first turn in the full-hand phase. If you are silly enough to change your 40-100 bid into 20-100 then you can bid acorn 20-100 ulti ((8+4)*2=24 pts) for the same value as acorn 40-100 ulti (16+8). If you change your suit then all components of your new bid will score singly only.
  • Level 3: tízlapos licitek (full-hand bids). All other full-hand bids by the winner of the half-hand bidding and all bids by the other players score singly. In particular, if the winner of the half-hand phase passes his first turn in the full-hand phase then all his later bids will only count single no matter whether he makes them in his half-hand suit or in another suit. For example, if you bid a half-hand acorn ulti (2+16), you can increase it to a full-hand acorn ulti 20-100 (16+8) if you do so at your first turn to speak in the full hand phase; but if instead you start the full-hand phase by passing, and someone else overcalls with an open betli (20), it would then be too late to increase your bid to acorn ulti 20-100, as the value of this would only be 4+8 on the second round of full-hand bidding.

Some players combine quadruple half-hand ulti with suit-bid ulti; this works in the following way. You win the half hand phase with leaf ulti ((2+16)*=36 pts). You can bid leaf open betli for 40 points because but not bell open betli, which is only 30. The value of leaf open betli is doubled because "it is in your suit."

Other Ulti Web Sites

Here is the web site of the Magyar Ulti Szövetség (Hungarian Ulti Federation).

The site of the Magyar Ultisok Országos Egyesülete also has club and tournament information.

Software

A freeware Ulti computer program is available from www.nold.hu

You can play Ulti online at UltiStars.hu.

You can play Ulti on line against computer or human opponents at Rummy Network, the English edition of the Hungarian UltiNet site.

Go to Ulti supplement page: historical data; Suit-bid ulti; References.