Truc

This page is based on a contribution from Enric Capo, with additional material by John McLeod.

Introduction

Several versions of Truc or Truque are played in various parts of Spain. This page includes a description of the form played in Catalonia; others will be added in future. Truc is the basis of the more elaborate game Truco which is popular in several South American countries. Truc is also played, with slight differences, in some places in the South of France.

Truc is closely related to the old English game of Put, which was first described by Cotton in "The Compleat Gamester" (1674).

Truc in Catalonia

The players, cards and card ranking

Truc is a game for four players in fixed partnerships; it can also be played by two, but the two player game is considerably less interesting. As usual you sit opposite your partner. It's played anticlockwise to a final score of twelve points and each hand is worth from 1 to 3 points, depending on the bets.

Truc is played with a standard Spanish 40 card deck of four suits:

coins (oros) cups (copes) swords (espases) batons (bastons)
The cards in each suit run from 1 to 7 and 10 to 12 with the 10 called Sota (Valet), the 11 Cavall (Horse) and the 12 Rei (King).

The card order from highest to lowest is 3, 2, 1, 12, 11, 10, 7, 6, 5, 4. Only the rank of the cards counts, the suits are not important.

The deal

The first is dealer is chosen randomly; the turn to deal then passes to the right after every hand.Before each deal, the dealer shuffles all the cards and the player to the left of the dealer may cut. In this case the dealer deals three cards - one at a time - to every player, beginning with the player to his right.

The player to the left of the dealer can choose not to cut, but simply tap the cards. In this case, as long as neither team has more than 10 points, the dealer has the option to deal just one card to each player, so that the hand will consist of only one trick, rather than three. This option does not apply when either of the teams is within one point of the target score, having 11 points; in that case three cards each must be dealt.

The play

The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick and the winner of each trick leads to the next. As we shall see later, quite often the play is stopped before all the cards have been played out. In that case the cards not played are not shown, but shuffled into the pack along with the played cards ready for the next hand.

The play of the tricks is very easy, as there are no restrictions; any card can be played when it's your turn, regardless of suit. The highest card wins the trick. If there are two or more equal highest cards from different teams, the trick is a draw, and nobody wins it. Note that equal cards have equal value without regard to the order in which they are played, or the number of them (for example if both members of one team play threes, these do not beat a single 3 played by the other team - the trick is a draw). The winner of each trick leads the next one; if a trick is drawn, the same player who led before leads again. If the trick is won by two partners playing equally high cards, the partner who played earlier leads to the next trick.

The hand, and the associated bet, to be explained later, is won by the team that wins two of the three tricks. If one trick is a draw, then the team that wins the first of the remaining two tricks wins. If two tricks are drawn, the winners of the third trick of course win the hand. If all three tricks are drawn, the non-dealing team wins the whole hand. The tricks are only played as far as is needed to win the hand, so for example the third trick is only played if the first two were won by opposite teams or were both drawn.

In a hand where only one card is dealt (because the cards were not cut), the winners of the single trick win the hand; if the trick is drawn, the non-dealers win the hand.

Communication and Signals

While the game is in progress, conversation is allowed without restriction, provided that all four players can hear it. So partners can instruct each other about what card to play, the convenience of betting, bluffing, try to confuse the opponents, and so on. Also, signals are allowed, by which players can communicate to their partner what cards they hold. Naturally they will try to do this while the opponents are not looking, but as the signals do not need to be true, you can also try to confuse the opponents by passing misleading signals, at the risk of confusing your partner as well. The signals which are allowed vary somewhat between players. Here is a typical set:

  • Close one eye: means you hold a three.
  • Pout your lips: means you hold a two.
  • Show the tip of your tongue: means you have an Ace.

The betting

Each hand is initially worth one point; this is the amount scored by the winning team in the unusual case where the cards are played out to the end without any betting. The score for the hand can be raised to two or three during the play in a way similar to doubling in backgammon. The first raise to two points can be done by either team; if it is accepted, only the team that accepted it has the right to propose a new bet of three; the bet of three can then be accepted or rejected by the first team.

Every player, as long as he has the right to do it, can bet at his turn to play, before or after playing his card. Note that if the player immediately before you bets after playing his card, you must be careful not to play a card without first considering whether or not to accept the bet. If you play without saying anything, the bet is considered accepted.

A bet made outside a player's turn does not count. For example if you try to bet after the following player has already played a card, your bet is void. Your partner (whose turn it now is) needs to repeat the bet to make it valid (if your team still wants to bet).

The usual words for betting are truc for a bet of two and retruc for a bet of three, but any meaningful way can be used. Bets can be accepted implicitly, buy playing a card, or explicitly, by saying something like "yes", "I want it" or "OK". In response to a bet of two, "three if you play" - accepts the two-bet and bets three in return. Bets can be rejected explicitly (by saying "no", etc.) or implicitly by putting your cards face down on the table.

If a bet is accepted, play continues and the winner of the hand scores the final bet (two for truc, or three for retruc). If the bet is not accepted, the play of the hand is abandoned and the proposing team wins the score that was in effect before the bet (one if truc was proposed and rejected, two if retruc was proposed and rejected).

If one team has a score of eleven points, they must decide whether or not they wish to play the hand. If they decide not to play, the other team scores one point. If they do want to play, the hand is automatically worth three points without the need for any betting. If both teams have eleven points, the hand is played without betting and the winners win the game.

Tactics of signalling and betting

The dealer and the player to the dealer's left, the last two to play to the first trick, will normally act as team captains and direct the game. Their partners should signal their cards to the captains to allow them to judge when to bet, when to raise, what to play, and so on. There is little point in passing signals in the other direction.

Betting is a very important part of the game. A team which is behind will tend to bet freely in order to catch up, while the team which is ahead will be more cautious. It is rare for a hand to be played to the end; it is more usual to play only the first trick and part of the second, and then throw in the cards because a bet is made and rejected.

Truc in France

A game very similar to the Catalan game Truc is played in Southern France: in Rousillon (Truc) in the Pays Basque (Truka), in Poitou (Tru) and in Sarthe (Trut). It used to be played with a 36 card pack; as this pack lacks 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s, the seven and six took the place of the three and two as the highest cards, giving the ranking: 7, 6, A, R, D, V, 10, 9, 8. More recently, as 36 card packs are no longer generally available in France, Truc is played with the 32 card pack generally used for Belote. The six takes the place of the eight, and the cards rank from high to low: 7, 8, A, K, R, D, V, 10, 9. In some places the order the top cards has been rationalised, so that the eight beats the seven.

There is a description of the French game in E. Lanes: Nouveau Manuel Complet des Jeux de Cartes (Paris 1912), a translation of which was published in Sid Sackson's book "A Gamut of Games". The game can be played by two players or by four in partnerships, partners facing each other. Three cards are dealt to each player. Instead of leading to the first trick, the player after the dealer can propose a redeal, and if all agree, the cards are thrown in and new hands are dealt from the remainder of the pack. If anyone insists on playing, there is no redeal and the cards must be played. The trick play is the same as in the Catalan game, and the target score is 12 points. Usually the game is played in rubbers - the first player to team to win two games is the overall winner.

The betting is somewhat different from the Catalan game - there is no limit on the size or number of bets, except that the same team cannot bet twice in succession in the same hand. Initially the hand is worth one point. A player has the right to bet if no bet has yet been made or if the previous bet was by the opponent(s). A player who has the right can bet immediately before playing a card, and can propose to raise the stake for the hand by any amount. The other team either accept the proposed new stake (saying "play") or concede, in which case the betting team score the amount of the previous stake.

A player can also bet "my (our) remainder". If the other team accepts, the winner of that hand wins the whole game. If the other team concedes, they pay the amount of the previous stake without further play. Obviously it is particularly advantageous for a player or team that is far behind to bet the remainder - the other team will often concede rather than risk their lead.

Lanes mentions that in some places the 8 is the lowest card rather than the second highest, the ranking being 7, A, R, D, V, 10, 9, 8.

Other Truc web sites and software

A description of another French version can be found on the Trut page of Jean-François Bustarret's card games site. The former web page of the Confrérie des joueurs de Trut has unfortunately disappeared but is partly available as an archive, for example here are their rules. In these versions 3 points are needed to win a trut, and the only kind of bet is a proposal to play for a whole trut instead of a point. A team that wins a trut by this method carries any odd points over to the next trut, while the losing team loses theirs. The first team to reach the target of five (or seven) truts wins the game. Often a match (best of three games) is played.

A computer version of the version of Truc played in Valencia, Spain can be obtained from Salvador Cardona's web site.