Encaje

Fernando Hernandez Morondo contributed a brief description of this game, and further details were filled in by Enric Capo.

Encaje, also known as Mus Francés (French Mus), is a version of the Basque game Mus suitable for 3 or 5 players.

The cards used and the combinations (grande, chica, pares, juego) are the same as in Mus. See the Mus page for an explanation if you are not familiar with these.

There are two main differences from four player Mus:

  1. in Encaje there are no partnerships; everyone pays for themselves;
  2. in Encaje there is no winner, only a loser - so the objective is to avoid losing.

Deal and Mus

There are two alternative methods of dealing in Encaje. Before beginning the players must agree which will be used.

  1. The first is the ordinary deal. The dealer deals four cards to each player and there is a round of saying "mus" or "no hay mus". If everyone says "mus", cards are exchanged, just as in the four player game.
  2. The second method is to deal five cards to each player, from which everyone discards one card face down before the betting begins. When playing this way, there is no "mus".

The Object of the Game

At the beginning of the game, everyone is given an equal number of stones (usually between 15 and 21, as the players agree). During the game, these stones are passed between the players, put in temporary pots which are later given to a player, or discarded from the game, according to the betting and the result of the showdown, as described below.

The goal of the players is to get rid of all their stones. As players run out of stones they drop out of the game. The game ends when only one player has any stones left and there are no pots outstanding. That player is then the loser.

Often, a longer session is played consisting of several games. The overall loser of the session is first player who loses an agreed number of games (usually, between five and ten). In addition to suffering the shame of being the worst player, the loser must usually pay for the players' drinks - and if you lose you can't blame your partner, as in regular Mus.

The Betting Procedure

As in Mus, each hand has four phases of betting: the Grande, the Chica, the Pares and the Juego. Each round is begun by the Mano (player to the right of the dealer) who may pass (paso) or bet (envido). If the mano passes, the next player to the right can pass or bet, and so on anticlockwise around the table. If everyone passes, the phase is over, and the mano begins the betting for the next phase.

The minimum bet is 2, and if no number is mentioned, the bet is assumed to be 2. If you wish, you can bet a higher number, but not more than the number of stones you have in front of you at that moment.

If someone bets, the subsequent players have three options:

  • fold (no quiero) - conceding that they will not win that phase; a player who has folded does not speak again during that phase;
  • see (quiero) - accepting the stake proposed by the player who bet, and that whoever has the best hand should win the round;
  • raise (reenvido) - proposing to raise the stake further; each raise must increase the stake by at least two stones.
As there are no partnerships, players speak only for themselves. Therefore, if someone bets, each of the other players in turn must say whether they want to fold, see or raise. If everyone folds or sees, the phase is over, but if someone raises the bet, all those players who have not already folded must decide whether to fold, see this higher bet, or raise further. The phase of betting ends when all the players except the one who last raised the bet have chosen to see that last bet or have folded.

You may never bet or raise to a number greater than the number of stones you have in front of you. However, you are allowed to see a bet or raise of any size as long as you have at least one stone.

If you have no stones in front of you, you are not allowed to take part in the betting in any way. This applies even your lack of stones is temporary, because you staked them all on an earlier phase of betting in the current hand and are awaiting the result.

There is no ordagó.

Pares and Juego

As in Mus, before the third phase (pares) each of the players who have stones in front of them must say in turn whether they have pares or not (players without stones cannot speak or score). If no one announces pares, there will be no betting or score for pares on that deal. If only one player announces pares, there is no betting on pares, but the holder of pares will score in the showdown. If more than one player announces pares, the betting takes place between those players - the others are not allowed to speak in this phase.

In the fourth phase (juego) each of the players who have stones in front of them must say whether they have juego. If more than one such player announces juego, there is betting between these players. If only one player announces juego, there is no betting and that player will score for it in the showdown. If no one announces juego, all the players who have stones can take part in the betting on the punto.

Settling the Bets and Scores

The bets and scores are settled up as follows.

  1. If there was no betting:
    • for grande or chica, in the showdown, the player with the best combination discards one stone out of the game;
    • for pares or juego or punto, in the showdown the player with the best combination discards from the game a number of stones equal to the value of that combination; the values are as in Mus - 1 for par simple, 2 for medias, 3 for duples, 3 for a juego of 31, 2 for any other juego, 1 for punto.
  2. If just one player bets (any amount) and everyone else folds, then the player who bets immediately discards one stone out of the game. In addition, if the phase was pares or juego / punto, then in the showdown the player who bet discards out of the game a number of stones equal to the value of the combination, as above.
  3. If someone raises and everyone else folds, then the player who finally raised immediately gives to the player who made the previous bet or raise the number of stones staked in that previous bet. In addition, if the phase was pares or juego / punto, then in the showdown the player who made the final raise discards out of the game a number of stones equal to the value of the combination, as above.
  4. If one or more players see the last bet or raise, then the player who bet or raised and the ones who see this bet or raise each put the number of stones mentioned in the bet or raise into a temporary pot, where these stones are kept until all four betting phases are complete. Anyone who is seeing the bet but has fewer stones than the bet must put all their stones in the temporary pot, so cannot take part in any of the remaining phases of betting. In the showdown, the hands of the players who contributed to the temporary pot are compared. Whichever of these players has the worst hand for this phase must take all the stones in the temporary pot. In addition, if the phase was pares or juego / punto, whichever of these players has the best hand gives a number of stones equal to the value of this hand to the player who took the pot.

Examples

                A           B           C           D           E
Stones:         5          18          16           9          10

Grande:        Pass        Pass       Bet 2        Fold        See
               See      Raise to 5     See                  Raise to 8
               Fold     Raise to 12    Fold                    See
The stake for this phase is now 12. B must put 12 stones into the temporary pot and E, who only has 10 stones, must put them all in. The winner will be whichever of A and E turns out in the showdown to have the better grande. A, C and D can no longer win this phase, however good their grande may be, having folded. Moreover E, having committed all 10 stones to the grande pot can do nothing more on this deal. For example E cannot announce or score for pares or juego, even if no one else has these combinations - if B has the better grande, E will have to take the 22 stones and keep them for the next deal.

Suppose instead, the betting goes like this:

                A           B           C           D           E

Grande:        Pass        Pass       Bet 2        Fold        See
               See      Raise to 5     See                  Raise to 8
               Fold        Fold        Fold 
Now E immediately gives 5 stones to B, the player who bet 5.

End of the Game

If all the players except one have run out of stones, and all the temporary pots have been settled, the one player who has stones left is the loser.

Note that this can happen in the middle of the betting (provided that there are no pots to be settled) or in the middle of the settling up at the showdown.