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Taroky

Play Taroky at
www.taroky.net

Introduction

Taroky is a tarot game for 4 players, played in the Czech Republic (especially in Moravia) and also in Slovakia. It is played with a 54 card pack similar to that used for Austrian Tarock. There are several local variations in the rules; the version described on this page is played in Hlučín, near Ostrava in the Czech Republic. It was taught to John McLeod by Alois Nasadil, Drahomír Navrátil, Oldřich Cibulec, Jindřich Cibulec and Jiří Uhřík.

A similar game Taroki is played in a small area of southern Poland, which formed part of Austrian Silesia in the 19th century.

Taroky is also played by the Czech community in central Texas, USA - for example in the towns of Temple, West and Fort Worth. There are enough players that Taroky cards are available in the shops there, and regular tournaments are held.

Outline of the game

Taroky is a point trick game - the object is to take tricks containing valuable cards. There are four active players and the whole game is played anticlockwise. The 54 card pack consists of four suits of eight cards plus 22 permanent trumps, called taroky. Twelve cards are dealt to each player and the remaining six form the talon.

In each hand, the four players play in two temporary teams, either one against three or two against two, depending on the bidding. When playing two against two, the bidder calls a tarok, usually the XIX, and the holder of the called card becomes the declarer's partner. Depending on the bid, the bidder's hand may also be improved by drawing some cards from the talon and discarding. As in all tarot games, in the trick play it is compulsory to follow suit, and to play a tarok if you have no cards of the suit led. At the end of the play the teams count the value of the cards they have won in tricks to determine which side has won and by how much. Players can also win bonuses by declaring certain combinations of cards held in hand, and for winning the last trick with the lowest trump. If no one wishes to bid, a game of Varšava is played, in which the normal objective of the play is reversed: the aim is to avoid winning card points in tricks, and whoever takes most of them loses.

It is normal to play for money, settling up after each hand by passing coins across the table. The scoring will be given throughout in terms of payment in Czech crowns (Kč).

It is possible for five people to take part in a game, taking turns to sit out. The rules are exactly as in the four-player game but the dealer deals cards only to the other four players, takes no part in the play, and neither wins nor loses in that deal.

The cards and their values

A Taroky pack consists of 54 cards and is almost identical in appearance to an Austrian Tarock pack. There are 22 taroky (singular: tarok) which function as permanent trumps. The highest of these is the škýz, which is unnumbered and looks a little like a joker. The remaining taroky bear roman numbers XXI, XX, XIX, XVIII, etc. down to I. The XXI - the second highest tarok - is also known as the mond and the I - the lowest tarok - is called the pagát.

In addition there are four suits - hearts (srdce or herce), diamonds (kára or koule), spades (piky) and clubs (křiže), each consisting of eight cards, ranking from high to low as follows:

  • in the black suits: king (král), queen (dáma), rider (kavall), jack (kluk), 10, 9, 8, 7;
  • in the red suits: king, queen, rider, jack, ace, 2, 3, 4.
The values of the cards are as follows:
škýzmond and pagát.....5 points each
taroky II to XX.....1 point each
kings.....5 points each
queens.....4 points each
riders.....3 points each
jacks.....2 points each
10, 9, 8, 7, ace, 2, 3, 4.....1 point each

When counting the point value of the cards won in tricks, they are counted as far as possible in batches of three, and two points are subtracted from the value of each group. For example a queen and two 1 point cards are worth 4 altogether (4 + 1 + 1 - 2 = 4); a king, a rider and a jack are worth 8 (5 + 3 + 2 - 2); three one-point cards are worth one (1 + 1 + 1 - 2). If two cards are left over, they are worth the sum of their individual values less one point - for example a taroky XXI and IX are worth 5 points (5 + 1 - 1 = 5). A single card left over is worth one point less than its face value - for example king by itself is worth 4, and a one-point card by itself is worth nothing.

If you are unfamiliar with this way of counting, see the page on counting cards in tarot games for further explanation. It turns out that it does not matter how a pile of cards is arranged into threes - its total value is always the same. The total value of the pack is 70 points, and the card point totals taken by the two teams always add up to 70.

The cards used in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are very similar in design to Austrian Tarock cards. Players in North America can obtain Austrian Tarock cards from TaroBear's Lair.

škýz

mond

pagát


The four kings


The four queens


The four riders


The four jacks


The deal

The first dealer is chosen by cutting cards (highest card deals); subsequently the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand. The dealer shuffles and the player sitting opposite to the dealer cuts the cards. The dealer deals a packet of 6 cards face down to the centre of the table to form the talon, and then deals out the remainder of the cards to the players, anticlockwise in batches of 6, so that everyone has twelve cards.

The player opposite the dealer can knock instead of cutting the cards. In that case the cards will be given out in batches of 12. Starting with the player to dealer's right, the players can choose which batch they want to receive - for example this player might ask for the second batch, the player opposite the dealer might ask for the fourth, the player to dealer's left might ask for the first, and the dealer would then have to take the second batch. The dealer deals the first six cards to the talon as usual, and then deals the remainder in batches of 12, giving each batch to the player who asked for it.

In the event of a misdeal, the dealer should pay Kč 1.00 to each of the other players.

The bidding

The possible bids, in ascending order are:

  • povinnost, or základni povinnost (first duty) - in which the bidder exchanges with the talon and calls a partner;
  • druhá povinnost (second duty) - which is similar to základni povinnost, with the additional condition that the bidder undertakes to try to win the last trick with the pagát;
  • trojka, or preferanc - in which the bidder exchanges with the talon but plays alone;
  • sólo - in which the bidder plays alone without exchanging cards with the talon.
The meanings of these bids will be explained in more detail below.

Each player has only one turn to speak, beginning with the player to the right of the dealer (the first player - known as předák in Czech) and continuing anticlockwise around the table. The first player is not allowed to pass, but must bid povinnost, trojka or sólo. Subsequent players can either pass or name a bid higher than the previous bid.

Notice that:

  • the first player cannot bid druhá povinnost (in fact there would be no point in doing so as the intention to win the last trick with the pagát can be announced later);
  • the other three players cannot bid základni povinnost, but if the first player starts with povinnost, one of the others can bid druhá povinnost if they hold the pagát;
  • as there is only one round of bidding, if you want to bid trojka or sólo you need to say so at your turn. If you start with povinnost and someone else bids higher, you have no opportunity to increase your own bid.
The player who makes the last and highest bid is known as the bidder (in Czech the word is vydražitel). This player may now call a partner and draw cards from the talon, according to the bid.

The possible contracts; calling a partner and using the talon

Základni povinnost (first duty)

The bidder, who is the first player in this case, calls a card - usually tarok XIX, also known as stará (the old one). The holder of the called card will be the bidder's partner, but this player must not say or do anything to reveal who they are - the partnerships are only discovered during the course of play, for example when the called card is played. A bidder who holds the XIX is allowed to call the XVIII (mladá - the young one) instead. If the bidder holds the XIX and XVIII, the XVII can be called, and a bidder who holds the XIX, XVIII and XVII can call the XVI. Taroky below the XVI cannot be called.

Alternatively, if you bid povinnost you are always allowed to call the XIX even if you hold it yourself. If you hold the called card you will of course not have a partner - you will be playing alone against the other three players, though they will not realise this at first. It is only with the XIX that you are allowed to call yourself in this way; calling the XVIII, XVII or XVI promises that you do not hold the called card, and that you do hold all the higher callable taroky up to and including the XIX. If you badly wanted to play alone, you could of course have bid trojka instead of povinnost.

Having called a tarok, the bidder draws the top four cards of the talon, without showing them to the other players, and then discards any four cards face down. The next two players in turn (the player to the bidder's right and the player opposite the bidder) also each draw one card from the talon and discard one. The discarded cards must not include any 5-point cards (kings, škýz, mond and pagát). It is not permitted to discard taroky unless you have no alternative (your remaining hand consists entirely of taroky and kings). Any taroky discarded must be placed face up, so that all the players know which taroky are in play. All discarded cards count at the end of the game along with the tricks won by the player who made the discard, in favour of that player's team.

If the bidder draws from the talon without first calling a card, it is assumed that the XIX is called.

The bidder of a povinnost must always draw four cards and discard four. It is possible that one of the other two players entitled to draw a card may not wish to draw - probably because they wish to preserve a declaration. In this case, the player who does not want a card from the talon can pass instead, and the player to the left of the bidder will draw the last card from the talon. It is not possible for two players to pass the option to draw from the talon.

If the called card is in the talon, then the player who draws it will of course become the bidder's partner. If the called card is drawn by the bidder, the bidder has no partner. In this case the bidder is allowed to surrender immediately, without playing the hand, and must pay Kč 1.00 to each opponent. Alternatively, the bidder can play on alone against the other three players.

If the first player bids povinnost and everyone else passes there is another option, which the first player will prefer with a hand weak in taroks and high cards. Instead of calling a tarok, the first player can choose to play a game of Varšava, in which the object is to avoid winning tricks containing card points. The details will be explained later.

Druhá povinnost (second duty)

This is almost the same as the základni povinnost. The differences are:

  1. the bidder undertakes to win the last trick with the pagát - this is paid for independently of the game, exactly like an announced pagát in any game, as explained below;
  2. there is no opportunity to play Varšava instead;
  3. if the bidder draws the called card from the talon, the game must continue - there is no opportunity to surrender.

Trojka, or preferanc

If you bid trojka, you play alone; the other three play as a single team against you.

You begin by looking at the top three cards from the talon, without showing them to the other players, but keeping them separate from your hand. You have two options:

  1. add these three cards to your hand and discard three cards (the restrictions on discarding are the same as for povinnost - no 5-point cards and no taroky unless forced); the other three talon cards are counted with your opponents' tricks but no one sees these cards until the end of the play; this is called playing on the first level;
  2. place the first three talon cards face up on the table and pick up the second three, again without showing them to the opponents and keeping them separate from your hand.
If you look at the second three cards from the talon you again have two options:
  1. add these three cards to your hand and discard three face down; the first part of the talon, which you rejected and exposed on the table, is turned face down and counted with your opponents' tricks at the end of the play; this is called playing on the second level;
  2. place the second three cards face up on the table, pick up the first three cards again and add them to your hand, and discard three cards face down; the second part of the talon, which you rejected and exposed on the table, is turned face down and counted with your opponents' tricks at the end of the play; this is called playing on the third level.

Sólo

If you bid sólo, you play alone; the other three play as a single team against you. No one sees the talon until after the play. The six talon cards are then counted with your opponents' tricks.

The announcements

Before the play begins, players can make announcements. The players speak in turn, beginning with the bidder, and continuing anticlockwise around the table. There are three possible types of announcements:

  1. announcements of an intention to score a bonus in the play;
  2. declarations which give information that one holds certain combinations of cards;
  3. doubling the score for the game or an announcement made by an opponent.

Bonuses

Pagát
The pagát bonus occurs when someone plays the pagát (tarok I) to the last trick. If the pagát wins the trick, the team wins a bonus of Kč 1.00; if it does not win (because some other player still has a tarok), the team which played the pagát loses Kč 1.00. Note that the team with the pagát loses this bonus even if the last trick is won by a partner of the person who played the pagát.
The holder of the pagát can announce the pagát bonus before the start of play, promising to win the last trick with the pagát. If this succeeds, the team wins Kč 2.00 instead of Kč 1.00. It can fail in two ways:
  • the announcer is forced to play the pagát before the last trick;
  • the announcer plays the pagát to the last trick but some other player (opponent or partner) beats it with a higher tarok.
In both cases the announcement is lost and the team has to pay Kč 2.00.
Note that if you announce pagát, you must keep the pagát in your hand for as long as you can, subject to the rules of play - if possible until the last trick. You are not permitted to play it early to save the card, if you notice that the bonus has become impossible.
Valát
A team which wins every trick is paid a bonus of Kč 7.00. This is in addition to what they win for the game. If you announce valát, you are promising that your team will win every trick. If this succeeds your team wins a bonus of Kč 14.00 instead of Kč 7.00 in addition to the payment for the game. If your team does not manage to take every trick, your team must pay Kč 14.00 for the failed valát.

Declaring a combination

There are certain combinations of cards which you can declare:

DeclarationCards heldPayment (Kč)
Taroky10, 11 or 12 Taroky1.00
Taročky8 or 9 Taroky0.50
BarvyNo tarok, or the pagát only1.00
BarvičkyOne tarok (not the pagát) or two taroky0.50
TrulŠkýz, mond (XXI) and pagát (I)0.50
HoneryFour or more of the seven 5-point cards0.50
Královské honeryFour kings1.00

If you have four kings you must automatically have honery as well. The payment of Kč 1.00 for královské honery already includes the 0.50 for honery - in fact it is made up of 0.50 for honery and another 0.50 for the kings.

Declarations can be combined. For example if you have trul plus one or more kings you can declare Trulhonery (trul plus honery) for Kč 1.00. If you are lucky enough to be dealt all seven five-point cards, you have trul and královské honery and can claim Kč 1.50. On the other hand you might have barvy or barvičky together with honery or královské honery. Again, the payments for the declared combinations are added.

Doubles and redoubles

Any player can double the payment for the game or for a pagát or valát announced by the opposing team by saying kontra, or more usually flek. The game, pagát and valát can be doubled independently, so if pagát or valát has been announced, the player saying flek must specify exactly what is being doubled. Any player belonging to the team whose game or announcement has been doubled can double the score for it again by saying reflek (or rekontra). If this happens, either member of the team that said flek (kontra) can double the score a third time by saying super (or superkontra).

Procedure for making announcements

Normally, each player, beginning with the bidder and going around the table anticlockwise, speaks just once, making any appropriate announcements or declarations, or passing if they have nothing to say. A player who has already had their turn may speak again to say flek, reflek or super, but announcements of pagát or valát and declarations of card combinations may no longer be made at this stage.

The play

The player to the right of the dealer leads to the first trick. Players are obliged to follow suit. A player who has no card of the suit led must play a tarok. If a tarok is led, the other players must play taroky if they have them. A player who has no card of the suit led and no tarok is free to play any card. The trick is won by the highest tarok in it, or (if it contains no tarok) by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

Players keep the tricks they have won in a face-down pile in front of them, along with any cards they discarded. When the called tarok is played in a povinnost, the partnerships become clear and partners can combine their tricks and discards into a single pile.

The scoring

At the end of the play, each of the teams counts the card points they have taken. The points taken by the two teams should add up to 70. The team with more points are paid for each point they have above 35, the rate being as follows:

BidPayment per point (Kč)
Základni povinnost0.10
Druhá povinnost0.10
Trojka - first level0.10
Trojka - second level0.20
Trojka - third level0.30
Sólo0.60

If the two teams take 35 card points each, the bidder's team has lost and the opponents win a fixed amount of Kč 0.10.

In the case of a flek, reflek or super, the relevant payments are multiplied by 2, 4 or 8 as appropriate.

All payments, whether for the game, for bonuses or for declarations, are won or lost equally by all members of a team. When the bidder calls a partner and two play against two, each player pays to or receives from one player of the other team. When the bidder plays alone, the bidder is paid by all three opponents, or pays to all three opponents.

It is possible for a team to win some items and lose others on the same deal.
Example: South deals. East is the first player, and plays a povinnost, calling the XIX, which turns out to be held by North. West declares barvičky, and South says flek. East and North take 39 card points. East and North win 0.80 for having 4 points more than 35, and South and West win 0.50 for West's barvičky. The net gain for East and North is 0.30, so West pays 0.30 to North and South pays 0.30 to East.
Example: East deals, and South plays a trojka on the third level, declares taročky and trulhonery, takes 47 points, and succeeds in winning the last trick with the pagát, without having announced it. South wins 3.60 for the game, 0.50 for the taročky and 1.00 for the pagát. Each of the other three players pays 5.10 to South.

To save time, it is generally agreed that a povinnost bid with no flek and no pagát or valát announced is thrown in without play. The bidder and partner are assumed to win the minimum amount of Kč 0.10, and any valid declarations of card combinations are also paid for.

Varšava

If the first player says povinnost and the other three all pass, the first player has the option, instead of calling a card, to declare a Varšava (Warsaw). This is a special game in which all four players play as individuals and try to avoid taking tricks containing card points. The player who takes most card points has to pay the others.

In a Varšava, no declarations, announcements or bonuses are available. As usual, the player to the dealer's right leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit, and play a tarok if they have no card of the suit led. There are three additional constraints.

  1. Compulsory overtaking. Subject to the rules of following suit, each player must if possible play a card which beats all the cards so far played to the trick.
  2. Playing the pagát. It is illegal to play the pagát until it is the only tarok left in your hand.
  3. Playing the mond. It is illegal to lead the mond (XXI), or to play it to a trick to which the škýz has already been played, unless the mond is the only tarok left in your hand, or the only taroky you have left are the mond and the pagát. However, the mond can be played (subject to the rules of following suit) to beat a lower tarok or to trump a suit card.
The six talon cards are given to the winners of the first six tricks. This is done by the first player, who at the end of each of the first six tricks turns over the top card of the talon and places it face up on top of the trick. The talon card does not have any effect on who wins the trick, but the winner takes all 5 cards and leads to the next trick.

At the end of a Varšava, all four players separately count the card points they have taken. The loser is the player who has taken most points, and must pay all three of the other players. The payment depends on the number of points taken by the loser:

up to 29 points........pay Kč 1.00
30 to 39 points........pay Kč 2.00
40 or more points........pay Kč 4.00
Any player who takes no tricks is paid double.

If two players tie for most points, they must share the payment. For example, if two players take 26 points each and one player takes no trick, the player without a trick is entitled to receive Kč 2.00 and the other winner receives Kč 1.00, so the losers must pay Kč 1.50 each.

Variations

Abeles

This is a variation in the deal. If the player opposite the dealer knocks instead of cutting the cards, the dealer can choose to deal the cards as follows: six to the talon, then six to the dealer, then twelve each to the other players in turn, and the final six to the dealer.

Exposing the talon in trojka

Some play that in a trojka, the top three cards of the talon are never exposed to the opponents, and the bottom three are only exposed after the bidder decides to reject them and play on the third level.

Declarations

In place of barvy and barvičky, some players only recognise a single declaration, called barvy, for which the player must hold not more than two taroky. In this variation barvy is worth 0.50.

Variations of Varšava

There are other ways of scoring Varšava. For example some play that the loser pays 0.50 to each other player, doubled if the loser took 35 or more points, and with a double payment to anyone who took no trick.

Some players do not impose restrictions on playing the mond.

The Žid

Some play with a pool, into which fines are paid for any irregularities, such as revokes. When playing with a pool, payments for Varšava are paid only to this pool. Anyone who takes more than a certain number of points must pay to the pool, on a scale such as 1.00 for 19 to 28 points; 2.00 for 29 to 38 points; 3.00 for 39 or more points.

In this version of the game, when Druhá povinnost is bid, the declarer and partner take the pool and share it equally between them is the Pagát is successful - this is in addition to what they receive from the opponents. They do not have to pay the pool if the Pagát fails. If Kontra is said to the Pagát then the pool will not be taken, but one side will pay the other an amount equal to what is in the pool, according to whether the Pagát is successful or not (that is, each player pays half what is in the pool), in addition to the normal payments. In case of a Rekontra, each player would pay or receive twice as much, i.e. the whole value of the pool.

Note that these pool payments for Pagát only apply in a Druha povinnost, not when Pagát is announced in addition to some other contract. Therefore in this variation, the first player should take care to open the bidding with Druha povinnost, not Základni povinnost, if intending to announce the Pagát.

The pool is popularly known as "Žid", which means Jew. The players strenuously deny any anti-semitic intention, claiming that the Žid is regarded by the players with great respect, being the arbiter of the game, who is paid for any infractions of the rules.

Polish Taroki

Taroki is played in southern Poland, around Czechowice-Dziedzice and especially in Zabrzeg. The game is very similar to Czech Taroky, but with some differences in rules and terminology as follows.

Trumps are called taroki. The highest trump is the skiż, the XXI is the mund and the I is the pagat. A player who is dealt no trumps at all, or just one trump honour (skiż, mund or pagat) and no other trumps, or just the mund and the pagat and no other trumps may (but is not obliged to) throw in the hand before the bidding begins for no score, and the same player deals again.

The four contracts are the same as in the Czech game, but their names, in ascending order, are powinność, pagat, brewer and zolo brewer. If the first player bids powinność and the other players all pass, the first player must call a partner: there is no option to play a negative game instead (no equivalent of Varšava).

As usual the bonuses pagat (winning the last trick with the I) and walat (winning all the tricks) can be announced. A player whose bid was pagat must of course announce pagat. The scores for any contract or announcement can be doubled, redoubled, etc., the names of the doubles being kontra, re, sub, mord.

The possible declarations, with their scores in game points, are:

Declaration Cards held Score
Barwy 0, 1 or 2 taroki 3
Honery 2 kings and 2 trump honours or 3 kings and 1 trump honour 4
Trul all three trump honours (skiż, mund and pagat) 5
Trul – honer 3 trump honours plus 1, 2 or 3 kings 6
Kenix – trul all four kings 5
Kenix – trul – honer 4 kings plus 1 or 2 trump honours 6
Mały tarok 8 or 9 taroki 2
Duży tarok 10, 11 or 12 taroki 4

A player can make only one of the declarations of kings or trump honours unless he has all seven 5-point cards, in which case he can declare Trul and Kenix-trul for a total of 10 game points.

In the play, in the exceptional case where the skiż, mund and pagat are all played to the same trick, the pagat wins the trick!

To obtain the basic score for the game, subtract the card points taken by the losing side from 35, round to the nearest 5, and add 1, For example, if the losers have 27 card points, divide 8 by 5 and round up to 2, and then add 1 for a basic score of 3 game points.

In powinność or pagat, the payment for the game is the basic score as above. In brewer the basic score is multiplied by 3 if the game is played at the first level, 2 if it is at the second level, and 1 if it is at the third level. Note that these multipliers are the opposite way around from those in Czech Taroky. If you look at more of the talon you reduce the value of the game. In solo brewer the basic score is multiplied by 6.

The score for pagat is 8 game points if it was announced, and 4 game points if it was not announced. As usual, playing the pagat to the last trick is treated as an attempt to score the pagat bonus. If the pagat does not win the trick, the side that played it has to pay 4 game points, irrespective of whether the trick was won by the partner or an opponent of the pagat holder.

A team that wins all the tricks scores 20 game points for walat and this supersedes all other payments. The payment for an announced walat is 40 game points, again superseding everything else.

There is a pot called the żid which is empty at the start of the session, and various events cause game points to be paid to the pot as follows:

  1. The holder of the pagat must pay 5 game points to the pot if the pagat is captured by an opponent.
  2. The holder of the mund must pay 10 game points to the pot if the mund is captured by an opponent's.
  3. The holder of the skiż must pay 15 game points to the pot if the skiż is captured by an opponent's pagat. This can only happen if the mund is also played to the same trick - see above.
  4. If the net score for a hand, when the scores for the game and all bonuses and declarations are totalled, comes to zero game points, the declarer and his partner if any must by 5 game points each to the pot.

Note that the first three payments are made only by the individual player who loses the card: the player's partner is not affected.

The whole contents of the pot are collected any team that successfully announces pagat, and shared equally between the members of that team. Note that there is no corresponding payment to the pot for a failed pagat announcement - only the usual individual payment of 5 game points by the owner of the pagat if the card is lost to an opponent. The effect of this is that a risky pagat announcement becomes more and more attractive as the pot becomes larger.

Note: a different type of Taroki, in which a king rather than the XIX is called to choose a partner, is played in the village of Kozy, east of Bielsko-Biała.

Other Taroky WWW Sites and online games

  www.taroky.net
You can play Taroky on line at the taroky.net web site which has interfaces in Czech and English. In the box to the right you can check how many players are currently on line.

The Czech language site www.taroky.cz is a rich source of information about Taroky, including details of clubs and tournaments.

At taroky.iprostor.cz, Václav Šimbera maintains a database of Czech Taroky tournament results since 1996.

Here is an archive copy of Branislav Hanaček's Taroky page, which gave the rules in Slovakian.