This game from Illinois, USA was contributed by Mary Beale whose family (from Dekalb county) have played it since the 1930's or 40's
Tribello is a trick-taking game of the Whist type for three players, using a standard 52-card deck with no jokers.
Deal out four hands of 13 cards each - one for each player and a spare hand called the pickup. The cards are dealt out one card at a time, with the last card going to the dealer. The order of dealing to the two opponents of the dealer and to the pickup is not specified, but whatever order you choose, you must be consistent.
There are four rounds of play with three dealss per round (twelve deals in all). The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand, so that each player plays once in each of the three positions in each round. In the first three rounds the object is to win tricks; in the fourth the aim is to avoid winning tricks. The rounds are as follows:
- In the first round, before dealing, cut the cards - the suit of the cut card is the trump suit.
- In the second round, dealer names trump after looking at his hand.
- In the third round, there is no trump.
- The fourth round is also played without trumps and the objective is to avoid taking tricks (This is called nullo.)
In the first three rounds, the dealer has a quota of six tricks, the person to the left of the dealer has a quota of four tricks, and the person to the right of the dealer has a quota of three tricks. If you take more than your quota you score one point per extra trick; if you take less than your quota you score minus one point per trick below quota.
In the fourth (nullo) round, the dealer has a quota of three tricks, the person to the left of the dealer has a quota of four tricks, and the person to the right of the dealer has a quota of six tricks. If you take more that your quota you score minus one point for each surplus trick; if you take less than your quota you score plus one for each trick below.
For each round, after the players have looked at their hands, the dealer decides how many cards he wants from the pickup (zero to 13). He discards this number of cards from his hand, and then draws an equal number from the top of the pickup, which remains face down. If there are cards remaining in the pickup (which there virtually always are), the player to the left of the dealer can then discard as many cards as he wishes, up to the number remaining in the pickup, and draw replacements from the pickup. If there are still some cards left, the person to dealer's right can discard and draw in the same way. The discards are placed face down in a separate discard pile to be shuffled with the rest of the cards for the next deal.
The dealer leads to the first trick. Players must follow with a card of the suit led if they have one. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. If any trumps are played to the trick, the highest trump wins it; otherwise it is won by the highest card played of the suit that was led. The winner of the trick leads to the next trick.
In round three there are no trumps, so each trick is simply won by the highest card of the suit led. In the fourth (nullo) round, the point is to avoid taking tricks, but the highest card of the suit led wins just as in the third round.
The total score for each hand must equal zero, as must the total score for the twelve hands of the game. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the fourth round.