Skat

Notice to Skat players in Britain

The British Skat Association, founded by David Parlett, holds regular tournaments in the UK. Please send e-mail to Mike Tobias at if you are interested in hearing about future events.

Contents

Introduction

Skat is the national card game of Germany, and one of the best card games for 3 players. It was invented around 1810 in the town of Altenburg, about 40km south of Leipzig, Germany, by the members of the Brommesche Tarok-Gesellschaft. They adapted the existing local game Schafkopf by adding features of the then popular games Tarok and l'Hombre. Altenburg is still considered the home of Skat and has a fountain dedicated to the game.

Note: Skat is not to be confused with the American game Scat - a simple draw and discard game in which players try to collect 31 points in a three card hand.

The main description on this page is based on the current version of the official German and International rules (which were revised on 1st January 1999). In social games many variations will be encountered. In Skat clubs in Germany, the game is generally played as described here, though often with tournament scoring. In parts of the USA other versions of Skat survive: Texas Skat is fairly close to the German game but in Wisconsin they play a significantly different game: Tournée Skat, which was brought by immigrants from Germany in the 19th century and reflects the form of Skat which was played in Germany at that time.

Skat is a three-handed trick taking game. It is also quite often played by four people, but there are still only 3 active players in each hand; the dealer sits out. Each active player is dealt 10 cards and the remaining two form the skat. Each hand begins with an auction. The winner of the bidding becomes the declarer, and plays alone against the other two players in partnership. The declarer has the right to use the two skat cards to make a better hand, and to choose the trump suit.

Some cards have point values, and the total number of card points in the pack is 120. To win, the declarer has to take at least 61 card points in tricks plus skat; the opponents win if their combined tricks contain at least 60 card points. Instead of naming a trump suit the declarer can choose to play Grand (jacks are the only trumps) or Null (no trumps and the declarer's object is to lose all the tricks).

The value of the game, in game points, depends on the trumps chosen, the location of the top trumps (matadors) and whether the declarer used the skat. Declarer generally wins the value of the game if successful, and loses the game value (doubled if the skat was exchanged) if unsuccessful. In is important to realise that in Skat the card points, which generally determine whether the declarer wins or loses, are quite separate from the game points, which determine how much is won or lost.

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The Cards

Skat was originally played with German suited cards, and these are still in general use in South and East Germany, including Altenburg. Elsewhere, Skat is played with French suited cards. 32 cards are used: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 in each suit. In this article French suits are assumed, but in case you are using German suited cards the correspondence is as follows:

AbbreviationFrench SuitsGerman Suits
clubclubs (Kreuz)acorns (Eichel)
spadespades (Pik)leaves (Grün)
hearthearts (Herz)hearts (Rot)
diamonddiamonds (Karo)bells (Schellen)
Kking (König)king (König)
Qqueen (Dame)ober (Ober)
Jjack (Bube)unter (Unter)

Ranking of Cards

The ranking of the cards depends on the game the declarer chooses to play.

Suit games
Irrespective of the suit chosen as trumps, the four jacks are the top four trumps, ranking in the fixed order club spade heart diamond. Then follow the remaining seven cards of the chosen suit, making eleven trumps in all, ranking from highest to lowest:
clubJ - spadeJ - heartJ - diamondJ - A - 10 - K - Q - 9 - 8 - 7.
The other three suits each contain just seven cards ranking from high to low:
A - 10 - K - Q - 9 - 8 - 7.
Grand
The four jacks are the only trumps. They form a suit by themselves ranking from high to low:
clubJ - spadeJ - heartJ - diamondJ.
The remaining four suits each contain seven cards ranking from high to low:
A - 10 - K - Q - 9 - 8 - 7.
Null
There are no trumps. The eight cards of each suit rank from high to low:
A - K - Q - J - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7.

Point values of the cards

In suit games and Grand, the cards have the following values:

Card: J A 10 K Q 9 8 7
Value: 2 11 10 4 3 0 0 0

The total value in the pack is 120 card points.

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The Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random; thereafter the turn to deal rotates clockwise. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts. The dealer deals a batch of three cards to each player, then two cards face down in the centre of the table to form the skat, then a batch of four cards to each player, and finally another batch of three cards each. If there are four players at the table, the dealer deals to the other three players only, and takes no further part in the hand.

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The Auction

Each bid is a number which is the value in game points of some possible game (see below for calculation of game values). The possible bids are therefore 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 27, 30, 33, 35, 36, 40, 44, 45, 46, 48, 50, 54, 55, 59, 60, etc. If you bid or accept a bid it means you are prepared to play a contract of at least that value in game points.

The player to the dealer's left is called forehand (F), the player to forehand's left is middlehand (M), and the player to middlehand's left is rearhand (R). If there are three players at the table R is the dealer; if there are four R is to dealer's right. Throughout the bidding F is senior to M who is senior to R. The principle is that a senior player only has to equal a junior player's bid to win the auction, whereas a junior player has to bid higher than a senior player to win.

The first part of the auction takes place between F and M. M speaks first, either passing or bidding a number. There is no advantage in making a higher than necessary bid so M will normally either pass or begin with the lowest bid: 18. If M bids a number, F can either give up the chance to be declarer by saying "pass" or compete by saying "yes", which means that F bids the same number that M just bid. If F says "yes", M can say "pass", or continue the auction with a higher bid, to which F will again answer "yes" or "pass". This continues until either F or M drops out of the auction by passing - once having passed you get no further opportunity to bid on that hand.

The second part of the auction is similar to the first part, but takes place between R and the survivor of the first part (i.e. whichever of F and M did not pass. As the junior player, R either passes or bids a succession of numbers, the first of which must be higher than any number mentioned in the first part of the auction. To each number bid by R, the survivor must answer "yes" or "pass". The winner of the second part of the auction becomes the declarer, and the bid is the last number the declarer said or accepted.

If both M and R pass without having bid, then F can either be declarer at the lowest bid (18), or can throw in the cards without play. If the cards are thrown in there is no score for the hand, and the next dealer deals.

Examples:

1.  F      M      R 
           18
   yes     20
   yes    pass          (F wins first part)
                  22
   yes            23
   yes            24
   pass                 (R is declarer in 24)

2.  F      M      R 
          pass          (F wins first part)
                  18
   yes           pass   (F is declarer in 18)

3.  F      M      R 
           18
   pass                 (M wins first part)
                  20
          pass          (R is declarer in 20)

To remember whose turn it is to start the bidding, German players sometimes say "geben, hören, sagen" (deal, listen, speak), pointing in turn to dealer, forehand and middlehand. If middlehand forgets to begin, forehand can start proceedings by saying "I'm forehand" or "I'm listening", or "Speak to me!".

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The Possible Contracts

If you win the bidding you are entitled to pick up the two skat cards, add them to your hand without showing them to the other players, and discard any two cards face down. The cards discarded may include one or both of the cards picked up, and their value counts along with your tricks. Having discarded, you declare your game. If you looked at the skat, your contract is a skat game. There are seven possibilities:

Diamonds, Hearts, Spades, Clubs (in which the named suit is trumps and the declarer tries to take at least 61 card points),

Grand (in which the jacks are the only trumps and the declarer tries to take at least 61 card points),

Null (in which there are no trumps and the declarer tries to lose every trick),

Null Ouvert (Open Null) (like Null but with declarer's cards are exposed).

You may choose not to look at the skat cards, but to play with the 10 cards you were originally dealt. If you don't look at the skat you are playing a hand game, and again there are seven possibilities: Diamonds Hand, Hearts Hand, Spades Hand, Clubs Hand, Grand Hand, Null Hand and Null Ouvert Hand. In this case no one must look at the skat cards until after the play.

If you are declarer in a Suit Hand or Grand Hand game, you can increase the value of the game by announcing Schneider (undertaking to win at least 90 card points), or Schwarz (undertaking to win all the tricks), or Open (Ouvert) (undertaking to win all the tricks with your cards exposed). Such announcements must be made before the lead to the first trick. These announcements are not allowed if declarer has looked at the skat. Also (obviously) they do not apply in Null games.

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The Play

Play is clockwise. No matter who is the declarer, forehand always leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. A player with no card of the suit led may play any card. Note that in Suit and Grand games the jacks belong to the trump suit, not to the suits marked on them. For example if hearts are trumps, the jack of clubs is the highest heart, and has nothing whatever to do with the club suit.

A trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless it contains a trump, in which case the highest trump wins it. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

If you are declarer in a Suit or Grand game you win if the cards in your tricks plus the skat contain at least 61 card points. The opponents win if their combined tricks contain at least 60 card points.

If the declarer's opponents take 30 points or fewer in tricks, they are Schneider. If they take 31 or more they are said to be out of Scheider. If they take no tricks at all, they are Schwarz. The same applies to the declarer - as declarer, you are Schneider if you win 30 card points or less including the skat, and Schwarz if you lose every trick. Note that Schwarz depends on tricks not points - if a side wins just one trick and it has no card points in it, that is sufficient to get them out of Schwarz.

If you are declarer in Null or Null Ouvert, you win the game if you manage to lose every trick. If you take a trick, you have lost and the play of the hand ceases at that point.

If you are declarer in an Open (Ouvert) contract - i.e. you are playing Null Ouvert or have announced Open in a Suit or Grand contract - you have to spread out your hand face up on the table before the lead to the first trick. Play then proceeds normally, and you play from your exposed hand. The opponents are not allowed to discuss tactics.

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Calculating the Value of the Game

Suit and Grand contracts

The value of a Suit or Grand contract is obtained by multiplying together two numbers: the base value and the multiplier. The base value depends on the trump suit as follows:

    Contract   Base value
    Diamonds9
    Hearts10
    Spades11
    Clubs12
    Grand24

The multiplier is the sum of all applicable items from the following table:

Multiplier Skat game Hand game
Matadors (with or against)1 each1 each
Game (always applies)11
Hand (declarer did not look at the skat)n/a1
Schneider (one side took 90 or more card points)11
Schneider announcedn/a1
Schwarz (one side took every trick)11
Schwarz announcedn/a1
Openn/a1
(n/a = not applicable)

Note that all applicable multipliers count - for example

  • if you make the opponents Schwarz, you count the matadors, game, Schneider and Schwarz multipliers;
  • if you announce and make Schneider you count matadors, game, Hand, Schneider and Schneider announced;
  • if you announce and make Schwarz you count matadors, game, Hand, Schneider, Schneider announced, Schwarz, Schwarz announced.

Open contracts are extremely rare: you can only play open if you did not look at the skat and you also undertake to win every trick. By implication, an open contract includes announcements of Schneider and Schwarz,so you count: matadors, game, Hand, Schneider, Schneider announced, Schwarz, Schwarz announced, and Open.

Matadors

The jack of clubs and any top trumps in unbroken sequence with it are called matadors. If as declarer you have such a sequence in your original hand plus the skat, you are with that number of matadors. If there is such a sequence in the opponents' combined hands, declarer is against that number of matadors.

Examples of matadors (Hearts are trumps)
Declarer has:    Declarer is:
clubJ, heartJ, diamondJ, heartA, heart10, heartQ, heart9with 1
clubJ, spadeJ, heartJ, diamondJ, heartA, heart10, heartKwith 7
spadeJ, heartJ, heartA, heartK, heartQ, heart7against 1
diamondJ, heartA, heart10, heartK, heartQ, heart7against 3

Note that for the purposes of matadors, cards in the skat count as part of declarer's hand, even though in a Hand game declarer does not know what is in the skat when choosing the game.

The game multiplier is always counted, whether declarer wins or loses. The calculation of the value of a game sounds something like this: "with 2, game 3, Schneider 4, 4 times spades is 44". The declarer must always be with or against at least one matador (the jack of clubs must be somewhere), so the smallest possible multiplier is 2, and the smallest possible game value (and the lowest possible bid) is 18.

Null contracts

These are easy to score. Each possible Null contract has a fixed value unaffected by multipliers. As with all contracts, an unsuccessful declarer loses twice the value of the game. The Null values are:

ContractFixed ValueAmount lost if unsuccessful
Null.....23.....46
Null Hand.....35.....70
Null Ouvert.....46.....92
Null Ouvert Hand.....59.....118

These rather eccentric looking numbers are chosen to fit between the other contract values, each being slightly below a multiple of 12. (Before the rule change of 1st Jan 1999, Null Hand cost only 35 when lost and Null Ouvert Hand cost only 59 - see scoring variations.)

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The Scoring

If declarer wins the game and the value of the game is as least as much as the bid, then the value of the game is added to the declarer's cumulative score.

If the declarer loses the game and the value of the game is as least as much as the bid, then twice the value of the game is subtracted from the declarer's score.

If the value of the declarer's game turns out to be less than the bid then the declarer automatically loses - it does not matter how many card points were taken. The amount subtracted from the declarer's score is twice the least multiple of the base value of the game actually played which would have fulfilled the bid.

Note that the above are the official rules as from 1st January 1999. Before then, scores for lost games played from the hand were not doubled (see scoring variations).

If as declarer you announce Schneider but take less than 90 card points, or if you announce Schwarz or Open and lose a trick, you lose, counting all the multipliers you would have won if you had succeeded.

Example: Middlehand holds heartJ, diamondJ, club10, clubK, club9, club8, spadeA, diamondA, diamond10, diamond7, and decides to play Clubs Hand. This should normally be worth 48 game points ("against 2, game 3, hand 4, 4 time clubs is 48"). Rearhand has a Null Ouvert and bids up to 46, to which M says yes. M plays clubs hand and takes 74 card points (including the skat cards), but unfortunately the skat contains clubJ, heartQ. M is therefore with 1 matador (not against 2 as expected), and the game is worth only 36 ("with 1, game 2, hand 3 times clubs"), which is less than the bid. M therefore loses 96 game points (twice the 48 points which would be the minimum value in clubs which would fulfill the bid). Had M taken (say) 95 card points, the Schneider multiplier would have increased the value of the game to 48 ("with 1, game 2, hand 3, schneider 4 times clubs") and M would have won 48 game points.

Normally a running total of each player's score is kept on paper. At the end of a session (to be fair, each player should have dealt an equal number of times), the players settle up according to the differences between their scores. Between each pair of players, the one with the lower score pays the one with the higher score the difference in their scores multiplied by the stake.

Example: A, B and C are playing for 5 Pfennig a point. At the end the scores are A:  96, B:  30, C:  -8. Then B pays A 66  x 0.05  =  3.30, C pays A 104  x  0.05  =  5.20, and C pays B 38  x  0.05  =  1.90. So the net result is that A wins DM  8.50, B loses DM  1.40 and C loses DM  7.10.

A side effect of the method of scoring is that if there are four players at the table, the dealer of a hand is effectively against the declarer, winning or losing the same as the declarer's opponents.

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Variations

Tournament scoring

In tournaments organised by the Deutscher Skatverband, the game is played with four players at each table (with dealer sitting out of each hand) wherever possible. A session generally consists of 48 deals. A small number of three-player tables may be formed if necessary, depending on the number of players in the tournament; at these table 36 deals are played.

The scoring is modified somewhat to reduce the difference in value between the different contracts. At the end of the session, the following additional scores are calculated:

  • each player scores 50 extra points for each contract they won as declarer;
  • each player loses 50 extra points for each contract they lost as declarer;
  • for each lost contract at a four-player table, the other three players (including the dealer for that hand) score an extra 30 points each; at a three-player table the two opponents of the declarer score an extra 40 points each.

In 2001 an improvement in scoring at 4-player tables was suggested, by which when a contract is lost the declarer loses an extra 50 points (as usual), and the two active opponents each gain 40 points (instead of 30); with this scoring the inactive dealer at a 4-player table does not gain points when a contract is defeated.

Kontra and Rekontra

This variation is very widely played in social games. Either opponent of the declarer, at any time before they play their card to the first trick, may say kontra. This doubles the score for the contract, whether won or lost. The declarer may immediately answer with rekontra, which doubles the score again.

Note that it is the score that is doubled, not the value of the contract. For example suppose I bid up to 20, look at the skat, and play in diamonds. I am only with one matador, but am hoping to make the opponents schneider. One of the opponents says Kontra, and in the play I win 85 card points. As I am with 1, the game value is 18, so I have overbid (the Kontra does not affect this). So I lose based on the lowest multiple of diamonds which would have been sufficient, namely 27. I lose double because I looked at the skat and the score is doubled again for the Kontra, so I lose 108 game points altogether.

There is some variation as to when Kontra and Rekontra can be said. Some play that Kontra can only be said before the first lead (and a declarer who is Forehand must wait before leading to give the opponents an opportunity to Kontra).

A variation occasionally met with is that you are not allowed to Kontra if you passed an opportunity to bid 18 or say yes to 18. For example, A is forehand, B bids 18 to A and A passes; C also passes. A will not now be allowed to kontra B's contract, because A failed to say yes to B's 18 bid. On the other hand, C can Kontra, because C would have had to say at least 20 to enter the bidding - C never had an opportunity to bid 18. The thinking behind this variation is that a player with a good hand should bid - they should not be allowed to pass and lie in wait, ready to Kontra another player.

Ramsch

This is also very widely played. If Middlehand and Rearhand pass, and Forehand also does not want to play a contract, the cards are not thrown in, but a game of Ramsch is played. Ramsch can be thought of as a punishment for a player who does not bid with good cards. The rank and value of the cards is the same as in Grand, but the object is to avoid taking card points. Players keep their tricks individually, and whoever takes the most card points loses.

There are many varieties of Ramsch. The players need to agree in advance on the following rules:

What happens to the Skat?
In the simplest version, everyone plays with the cards they were originally dealt. A popular variation is Schieberamsch, in which each player in turn may pick up the skat cards, and discard two cards face-down to be picked up by the next player. (Notice this happens in order - not simultaneously as in Hearts - in Schieberamsch you pick up the cards before deciding on your discard). Forehand has the first chance to exchange the skat, then Middlehand, and finally Rearhand, whose discards are then left face-down until the end of the play. A player who is brave enough to play without exchanging cards can pass them on without looking at them; this action doubles the score for the hand. Some players do not allow jacks to be passed on; other players allow anything to be passed.
Who gets the card points in the Skat?
There are three options here:
  1. the skat goes to the winner of the last trick;
  2. the skat goes to the player who had most points without the skat, thus increasing that player's loss;
  3. no one gets the points in the skat.
How much does the loser lose?
In simple Ramsch the loser loses a fixed amount - for example 10 points. More usual is the version called Augenramsch (point Ramsch), in which the amount lost is the number of card points taken.
What happens if there is a tie for most card points?
If two players tie, they both lose. Some play that they both lose the full amount; others play that they share the loss, losing half each. If all three players tie there is no score.
What happens when someone takes no tricks?
A player who takes no tricks is called a virgin (Jungfrau). In Augenramsch, this doubles the amount lost by the loser is doubled. In simple Ramsch the loser loses 15 rather than 10. Note that to be a virgin you have to take no tricks; a trick with no card points in it is sufficient for you to lose your virginity.
What happens when someone takes all the tricks?
In this case there are two virgins, and in simple Ramsch the loser loses 20 points. In Augenramsch you could play that the loser loses four times the number of card points taken (i.e. 480). However, most people play that if you succeed in winning all the tricks in Augenramsch you win 120 points.

If you like playing Ramsch, it is possible to play it as a game in its own right. That is, you just play Ramsch on every hand. See the Schieberamsch page for a description of how this works.

Bockrounds and Ramschrounds

A Bockround is a round (i.e. 3 consecutive deals when there are 3 players; 4 deals when there are 4 players) played for double stakes (i.e. double scores). Note that this doubling only affects the final scores on the scoresheet; the bids and game values are unaffected. It is usual to play a Bockround after some special event; the events which cause a Bockround should be agreed before the game. Possibilities are:

  • a hand where the declarer and the opponents take 60 points each
  • a successful Kontra - i.e. the opponents Kontra and the declarer loses
  • a successful Grand Hand
  • any Rekontra
  • a player's cumulative score being some special number - for example a multiple of 100, or a number with 3 or more digits all equal, such as 222.
Note that if you have too many of these, you will end up playing for double score all the time, and you might as well have just agreed to double the stake and not have bothered with the Bockrounds.

If you play with Bockrounds, you also need to agree the following rules:

  • What happens if an event causing a new Bockround happens before the current Bockround is over - or several Bockround events happen at the same time? You can decide to play the Bockrounds consecutively (which can take a long time) or simultaneously (for example 3 simultaneous Bockrounds multiply the stake by 8 - this makes certain hands very expensive).
  • What happens to uncompleted Bockrounds when you want to finish the session?

Some people like to play a round of compulsory Ramsch after each Bockround, or after every third Bockround. Ramschrounds are played according to the rules of Schieberamsch, including the possibility of playing Grand Hand. A Ramschround consists of as many hands of Ramsch as there are players; a Grand Hand does not count towards completing the Ramschround, and after a Grand Hand the same player deals again.

Schenken

If the opponents decide at the start of the play that they cannot defeat the declarer, they can give up (schenken). If the declarer accepts, the score is as though the game was won simply (i.e. with 61-89 card points). The declarer can insist on playing on, but in that case has to make the opponents Schneider to win. The score in this case is as for an announced Schneider (but without the hand multiplier if it is not a hand game). If the declarer goes on the opponents can schenken again, giving the declarer the Schneider. The declarer can accept Schneider or insist on playing on for Schwarz.

The normal way of giving up is for one opponent to say "schenken". The other then either agrees, in which case they are offering to give up, or disagrees, in which case play continues as though nothing had happened.

There are some tricky ethical problems about this variation (for which as far as I know there are no standard answers), for example:

  • Exactly when are you allowed to say schenken?
  • If your partner refuses can you say it again?
  • To what extent can you use an offer of schenken to convey information to your partner about your hand?

Some people play that if the bid is 18 and the contract is diamonds, or the bid is 20 and the contract is diamonds or hearts, then the hand is automatically conceded by the opponents and won simply by the declarer, unless the opponents Kontra or the declarer makes some additional announcement (such as open or Spitze).

Spitze

This is an announcement that the declarer will win the last trick with the lowest trump - the 7 in a suit contract or the jack of diamonds in a Grand. It is announced verbally, or by reversing the card in your hand so that the face is visible to the opponents. Spitze increases the value of your game by one multiplier. In order to win, you have to win the last trick with the lowest trump in addition to taking 61 or more card points. If you fail in either, you lose.

You can announce more than one Spitze - in fact you can produce any unbroken sequence of trumps including the lowest and contract to win an unbroken series of tricks with them at the end of the hand. This is worth one extra multiplier per card - for example contracting to win the last 3 tricks with the 9-8-7 of trumps is worth 3 extra multipliers.

Scoring and contract variations

Two changes to the scoring were introduced at 1st January 1999 when the German (DSkV) and International (ISPA) rules were unified. These changes seem to have been swiftly adopted by Skat clubs in Germany, but the older rules may well still be found, especially in private games. The main description on this page now follows the new rules. The differences in the older rules were as follows.

  1. Until the end of 1998, the amount subtracted from declarer's score for losing a game played from the hand was not doubled, according to the official rules. The declarer lost twice the value of the game only in games where the skat was taken. Many people regret this rule change, since it removes one of the incentives for playing hand games.
  2. Until the end of 1998, Grand Ouvert had its own base value of 36, and the open multiplier was not counted when Grand Ouvert was played.

Here are some other scoring variations that may be encountered. These have no official status.

  • Until the 1930's, the base value of Grand was 20 not 24. A few people still play with the base value of Grand as 20.
  • Some people do not recognise the Null Hand contract.
  • Some people value Null Ouvert Hand at 69 rather than 59.
  • Some people allow a contract of Revolution worth 92 which is like Null Ouvert, but with the additional feature that after the declarer's cards are exposed, the opponents can look at each other's cards and rearrange their 20 cards in any way they wish to construct a 10-card hand for each opponent. When the opponents have finished rearranging their cards, the hand is played like a normal Null Ouvert.

Open contracts

Some people play that declarer's cards are not exposed until after the first lead, or after the first trick.

Some people allow the declarer to play any contract open, adding an extra multiplier to the game value. Some score contracts played open as double value. Some play open contracts as double value if exposed before the first lead, but adding one multiplier if exposed after the first trick.

Rum

In this variation, the declarer can score an extra multiplier when using the skat in a suit or grand contract by showing the skat cards to the opponents before picking them up. ("Der Skat geht rum"). This variation is not recommended - there is very little advantage to the opponents in seeing the original skat (as opposed to the declarer's discards) so the multiplier is too easy to score.

Playing with a pot

Gamblers may like to play with a pot. This can work in various ways. A common scheme would be that everyone puts a small amount in the pot at the start or when it is empty. Any declarer who loses a contract (or a Ramsch) pays to the pot as well as to the other players. The contents of the pot are won by a player who wins a Grand Hand. If you play and lose a Grand Hand you have to double the pot.

Texas Skat

Texas Skat differs from German (or International) Skat as follows:

Value of Null
Null is worth 20 points, Null Hand is 30, Null Ouvert is 40 and Null Ouvert Hand is 60.
Value of Grand
The base value of Grand is 16 points.
Schneider
The declarer (known here as "the player") needs at least 91 card points to make the opponents Schneider. With 30 card points the opponents are out of Schneider. However, the declarer needs 31 points to be out of Schneider, as in Germany.
Announcing Schneider, Schwarz and Ouvert
In Texas Skat you can announce Schneider, Schwarz and Ouvert even after you look at the skat. Announcing Ouvert doubles the value of the game rather than adding a multiplier.
Example: Grand Ouvert with 4 would score: "with four, game 5, Schneider 6, Schneider announced 7, schwarz 8, schwarz announced 9, open (ouvert) 18; 18 times 16 is 288 points".
Ramsch
If all pass and Forehand does not wish to play a game, Ramsch is played. The skat is not looked at until the end of the play and then goes to the winner of the last trick. If everyone takes at least one trick, the player who took the fewest card points scores 10 game points. If two players tie for fewest, the one who did not take the last trick as between them scores 10. If all three tie with 40 each, Forehand scores 10. If one player takes no tricks, that player scores 20 instead of 10. If two players takes no tricks, the player who won all the tricks loses 30 points.
Looking at the discard
A declarer who looked at the skat is permitted to look again at the discarded skat cards at any time before the first card has been played to the second trick.

Tournee Skat

This game is played in Wisconsin, USA. It corresponds to a form of Skat played in Germany in the 19th century but no longer known there. There are several significant differences from modern German Skat.

There are no Skat contracts in the usual sense (where you pick up the skat, discard, and then choose a trump suit). The only possible games are as follows:

Tournee
The declarer looks at the top card of the skat, without showing it to the other players, up and has two options:
  1. show the card and accept its suit trump; then pick up both cards without showing the second one and discard two cards face down;
  2. pick up the first card without showing it and turn the second skat card face up; the suit of the second card automatically becomes trump; declarer then picks up the second card as well and discards two cards face down.
If either card is a jack, the declarer may choose either Grand or the nominal suit of the card.

The base values of tournee contracts are:

  • diamonds 5
  • hearts 6
  • spades 7
  • clubs 8
  • grand 12
If the game is lost, the amount lost is the value of the game if the first card was used to make trumps, but double this amount if the second card was used.
Solo
These are similar to the Hand contracts in German Skat. There is no Hand multiplier and lost games are not scored double: the amount lost if the game is lost is just the game value. The base values are:
  • diamonds 9
  • hearts 10
  • spades 11
  • clubs 12
  • grand 20
Guckser
The declarer picks up the skat, discards two cards, and must play Grand. The base value is 16. If the game is lost, the score is doubled.
Null
The skat is not used. A simple Null is worth 20 and a Null Ouvert is worth 40. The same amount is lost if the game is lost (no double).
Ramsch
If all pass a simple Ramsch is played, as in Texas Skat. The player who takes fewest card points wins 10 game points, or 20 for taking no trick. If two players take no trick the third player loses 30 game points.
Grand Ouvert
Apart from Null Ouvert the only open contract allowed is Grand. It is played without looking at the Skat and the declarer must win every trick. The base value is 24 and multipliers up to and including Schwarz Announced are applied. There is no Open multiplier.

In Tournee Skat the declarer needs 91 card points to make the opponents Schneider - with 30 points they are out. However, the declarer needs 31 points to be out of Schneider, as in Germany.

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Danish Skat

Skat is popular in Sønderjutland, the southern part of Jutland that was under German rule from 1864 to 1920. Whilst the German minority in this region play by German rules, the Danish population play a slightly different version of the game. The official rules of the Danish Skat Union differ from the German rules as follows:

  1. The base value of Grand is 20.
  2. The declarer needs at least 91 points to make the opponents Schneider: with 30 points they are out of Schneider.
  3. There are only three Null contracts:
    • Nul (ordinary Null, with concealed cards, using the skat), with a fixed value of 23
    • Nul Ouvert, using the skat - fixed value 46
    • Nul Ouvert Hand (known as Dækker) - fixed value 69
  4. Any suit or Grand game can be played Open. When playing Open, one extra multiplier is added. The declarer's cards are exposed before the lead to the first trick. It is permissible to play Open after looking at the Skat, and it is not necessary to make Schneider or Schwarz. (As in Germany, Schneider or Schwarz can only be announced in a game played from the hand.)

In tournaments, when playing for the highest score at the end of the session, rather than paying the difference between the scores of each pair of players, the opponents of an unsuccessful declarer each score the value of the contract. Example: declarer plays Open Grand with 2 and loses: with 2, game 3, open 4 x 20 =80. The declarer scores -160 and each opponent scores +80. In money games normal scoring is used: in the example the declarer is paid 80 by each opponent if successful and pays 160 to each opponent if not.

In private games, many other variations are played. The version played at the Århus club differs from the official Danish game as follows:

  1. In suit and grand games, the declarer can play with "music". This is the equivalent of Spitze in the German game: the declarer must win the last trick with the lowest trump - the seven in a suit contract or the diamondJ in a Grand. This is worth 2 extra multipliers. For example Hearts without 2, game 3, music 5: 5 x 10 = 50.
  2. The possible Null games are: Nul (35), Nul Hand (46), Nul ouvert (69), Dækker (Null ouvert hand) (92).

A version described by Reinar Peterson differs in other ways from the official Danish game:

  • There is no Null contract played with closed cards. The only possible Null contracts are Nul Ouvert (46) and Dækker (Open Null Hand) (59).
  • In all open contracts (Suit, Grand and Null), the declarer's cards are exposed after the first trick has been played.
  • The lowest bid allowed is 24.
  • Suit and grand games can be played with music (Spitze) for one extra multiplier.
  • If all pass, there is a Ramse (similar to Schieberamsch). Each player in turn can take the Skat and discard two cards. After this, each player in turn has the opportunity to play a Grand. If no one wants to play Grand, a Ramsch is played in which the Skat is given to the winner of the last trick. The player who takes least points wins, unless someone takes 101 or more points, in which case that player wins.

Other sites for Skat information and discussion

Deutscher Skatverband
The official organisation for the game in Germany. The web site includes information about clubs and tournaments, a shop for Skat equipment, and the official rules.
International Skat Players' Association
The ISPA promote Skat and organise tournaments in many countries, as well as running a world championship.
David Parlett's Skat pages
A general introduction, plus pages on the rules, variants, cards and history of the game.
SkatGame.net
At this site Michael Buro has set up an English language forum and a wiki for Skat information and discussion.
Skatfuchs
Collection of information on Skat history, bibliography, proverbs, etc. (German language)
Besser Skat Spielen
You can download Wolfgang Rui's excellent free e-book on Skat tactics from the Skat-Extra website, which also offers numerous other Skat resources (German language).
Lærebog i Skat
Reinar Petersen's online book on Danish Skat.
Skatverzeichnis.de
A database of articles about Skat clubs and associations, Skat-related websites and other information.
Skat Seminare
Thomas Kinback's site (German language) with details of his Skat seminars for advanced players, and other information.
British Skat Association
Information for Skat players in Britain.
Skat Canada
Web site of the Canadian branch of the ISPA, with a list of clubs, tournament calendar and other information.
Cleveland Skat Club
Teaching and promoting Skat in Northeastern Ohio, USA.
Spiele Okular
From this site you can download Jürgen Weißauer's eBook in which he proposes MoSkat, a Skat variation with revised scoring and some extra contracts including both Tournee and "Revers", which is a Grand in which the ranking order of both trumps and plain suits are reversed.

Skat software and on line games

Skat at GameDuell
At GameDuell you can play Skat online against live opponents for fun or real money.
Michael Fischer's Cutesoft Page
From here you can download his Skat and Schafkopf computer programs.
Rasche's Skat Program
This is available in an English language version, for Windows and Macintosh.
Siegried & Kiebitz
From this site you can obtain the Skat-playing program Siegfried, and also Kiebitz, a uniquely powerful Skat analysis program which will analyse any given Skat situation to find the best lines of play.
LiveSkat
Site where you can play Skat online against real players for fun or real money. You can play Kneipenskat ("pub Skat" with Kontra, Re, Ramsch and Bock rounds) or Skat according to the official rules. There are also regular tournaments with cash prizes.
Sunnygames.de
Free online skat game against live opponents.
Skatpalast
A cross-platform multiplayer Skat app which allows users of Android, iOS and Facebook to play together.
Skat24.de
Here you can download the Windows program Royal Skat with which you can play against the computer or against live opponents over the Internet. Royal Offizierskat for 2-player Skat is also available.
Skatstube
An online Skat site and community, where you can play for points or real money. The site also provides an introduction to the rules of the game.
Gunter Gerhardt's XSkat
A free Skat program for Linux and Macintosh OS X computers. Single player, LAN and internet games are supported.
HOYLE Card Games for Windows or Mac OS X
Card game collection including a Skat program, along with many other popular games.
PlayOK Online Games (formerly known as Kurnik)
A Polish games site including a free on line Skat game
Skill 7
A German on-line games site that offers Skat and other games.
meister-skat.de
At this server you can play Skat, Synchron (Duplicate) Skat, and Ramsch on line.
Skat 2010 Skat 2095 Skat 3000
Skat programs for Windows and DOS. Skat 2095 has animations by Uli Stein (CD and shareware versions)
Special K Software
With Garry Mackay's program you can play Skat against computer opponents: several rule variants are included.
Skat-Turniermanager
Software for running a Skat tournament.
Dracis
offers a Java online Skat game

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