Petrangola is a card game from the Italian provinces of Marche and Romagna, which has spread to some other parts of Italy where it is often just known as 31. It is closely related to the game Schwimmen or 31 but is played with an Italian regional 40-card pack, usually the Piacentine pattern. Players have three cards each and can try to improve their hands by exchanging some or all of these with a set of three face-up cards on the table. As in Schwimmen the basic aim is to collect cards of a high total value in one suit, the maximum possible being 31, but in this game it is even better to collect a "petrangola", which is three equal cards or three cards of a suit in sequence.
Note that there are many other games called 31, in which the object is to have cards worth as near as possible to 31, but with different play mechanisms. They include the draw and discard game 31, also known in the USA as Scat and in Britain as Ride the Bus, in which cards are drawn from a stock or discard pile as in rummy, and the Greek banking game 31, in which the object is to draw cards adding as near as possible to 31 without exceeding it.
The following description is based on a contribution from Antonio Di Sebastiano, on information from the Petrangola Wikipedia page and the various sites it gives as references, and on a chapter in Il Maxi Libro dei Giochi di Carte by Elvio Fantini (2010).
Players, Cards and Ranking of Combinations
This game is probably best for 6 or 7 players, but is possible with any number from 3 up to 12 with a single deck or even more if two or more decks are shuffled together. Deal and play are counter-clockwise.
Petrangola is normally played with a 40-card Italian-suited pack of the Piacentine pattern. The rank and values of the cards from high to low are Ace (11 points), King (10), Horse (10), Jack (10), 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (face value). There are no 8's 9's or 10's in the pack.
Each player begins with three tokens (known as "marche" or "vite"). The loser of each hand gives up one of these tokens and a player who loses all their tokens is eliminated unless they pay to re-enter. The last surviving player is the winner.
The ranking of the possible three-card hands from highest to lowest is as follows:
- Three Aces
- A sequence of three consecutive cards of a suit ("scala"). Note that the 7 is immediately below the Jack, so for example Jack-7-6 is a sequence. Between two sequences the one with the higher top card wins.
- Three cards of equal rank (other than Aces). Between two such sets the lower set beats the higher - so 2-2-2 is the best of these and K-K-K is the worst.
- Any other three cards, ranking according to the highest total value of the cards in any one suit. So for example the King of coins with the 7 and 6 of swords is worth 13, and beats the Ace of coins with the 4 and 3 of coins which is worth only 11.
A three of a kind or a sequence of three is known as a "petrangola": a set of three Aces is sometimes called a "petrangolone".
Before the first deal each player pays an equal stake to the pool.
The first dealer is traditionally chosen by dealing cards face up to the players one at a time anticlockwise around the table until someone receives the Ace of coins. This player is the first dealer.
The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's left cuts, and the dealer deals one batch of three cards face down to each player, beginning with the player to dealer's right and going around anticlockwise. When everyone has their three cards, the dealer draws the next three cards from the top of the pack, looks at them privately, and may place them face up on the table to begin the play. These three face-up cards are called the "monte".
Alternatively, the dealer may choose to keep these three cards as a hand, without showing them to the other players, and instead expose the three (unknown) face-down cards that would have been the dealer's hand to become the "monte". If the dealer chooses this option, it counts as a knock (bussata), the dealer's hand is fixed and each of the other players has just one turn - see below.
Beginning with the player to dealer's right and continuing anti-clockwise, each player in turn has the following options:
- Keep their hand of three cards and knock ("bussare").
- Exchange one of their hand cards for one of the face-up cards on the table.
- Exchange two of their hand cards for two of the face-up cards on the table.
- Exchange their whole hand for the three cards on the table and knock. This is sometimes expressed by saying "cambio camicia" ("I'm changing my shirt").
A knock, either by a player who exchanges no cards or by a player who exchanges 3 cards, triggers the end of the play. After the knock, each player other than the knocker has just one more turn. In this last turn the player can exchange 0, 1, 2 or 3 cards.
All players then expose their cards and the player with the worst hand loses one token. In case of a tie, all the players with the equal worst hands lose one token each. Any player who has three Aces - the best possible hand - gains one token, and in this way a player may sometimes have more than three tokens.
A player who loses their last token is dead. They are eliminated from the game unless they decide before the next deal to pay a new stake equal to their original stake to the pool to re-enter the game. A player who pays to re-enter receives a number of tokens equal to the player who has fewest tokens at this point. So that the game does not last too long, it is usual to allow each player to re-enter only once in this way.
Further hands are played, the turn to deal passing to the right after each hand. If the player who was due to deal is out of the game, the turn to deal passes to the next player in anticlockwise order who is still in. When all but one of the players have been eliminated, the last surviving player is the winner and collects the contents of the pool. If at the end both (or all) the surviving players have just one token each and both (or all) have equal hands, the dealer wins.
Some require a player who knocks with a petrangola (3-of-a-kind or sequence) to place their cards face up in front of them when knocking.
There is quite a lot of variation in the ranking of the highest hands. Some allow an Ace to be used as either the highest card or the lowest when making a sequence, so that 3-2-A of a suit is a valid petrangola, albeit the lowest sequence.
Some play that any 3-of-a-kind (tris) beats any sequence.
Some rank the threes of a kind in the same order as the cards, so that 2-2-2 is the lowest tris and K-K-K is the second highest.
Some begin with 5 tokens each rather than 3.
This game, which is played on the coast of the Italian province of Marche, is essentially a version of Petrangola with 4-card instead of 3-card hands. The following description is based on information from the Mambassa Wikipedia page.
A 40-card Piacentine pattern deck is used. The maximum number of players is eight. The first dealer is whoever draws the highest card from a shuffled deck, and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.
Each player begins with four tokens, which have an agreed value - say 50 cents. Before the deal each player puts one of these tokens in the pool and keeps the other three as lives.
The dealer deals a batch of 4 cards face down to each player, then looks privately at the next four cards, and may either place them face up on the table as the monte or take them as a hand, which counts as a knock (see below). If the dealer takes the original monte as a hand, the hand that was dealt to the dealer is turned face up and becomes the monte. In either case, the remainder of the deck is stacked face down as a stock (mazzo).
The possible hands, in descending order, are
- Four Aces, known as a Mambassa (44 points)
- A Quarantuna, which is Ace-King-Horse-Jack all of the same suit (41 points)
- A Quartina, which is four cards of the same rank (40 points)
- A Long Sequence (scala lunga), which is four cards of the same suit in sequence (39.5 points)
- A Tris, which is three cards of the same rank (39 points)
- The Short Sequence (scala corta), which is three cards of the same suit in sequence (38.5 points)
- Any other hand, which counts as the highest total value of cards in any one suit (at most 38 points, which would be the Ace, two pictures and the 7 of a suit).
In a competition between two or more Quartine or between two or more Tris, a set of Aces is highest, then 2, 3, 4 and so on. A set of Kings is lowest.
In a competition between two or more sequences of the same length the one containing the highest card is best: Ace-King-Horse beats King-Horse-Jack which beats Horse-Jack-7 which beats Jack-7-6 and so on.
A competition between sequences of the same length with the same highest card is determined by the ranking of the suits which is from high to low: coins, swords, cups, batons. (If a French-suited pack is used the order from high to low is: hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades).
The player to dealer's right begins and the turn to play passes anticlockwise. Each player in turn has the following possibilities.
- Exchange 0, 1, 2, 3 or all 4 hand cards for an equal number of the face up cards from the table.
- If the player did not exchange all 4 cards, they may then, if they wish, discard one of their cards face down, place it on the bottom of the stock pile (without showing it to anyone), draw the top card of the stock pile (also without showing it), and add it to their hand.
If a player exchanges all 4 cards, or exchanges no cards and chooses not to discard and draw a card, this counts as a knock, which triggers the end of the play. After a knock, each player, excluding the knocker, has just one more turn. Then the hands are exposed and compared and the player with the worst hand must pay one of their tokens to the pool. If two or more players tie for worst hand, they each pay a token.
If a player makes a Mambassa (44: Four Aces) or a Quarantuna (41: Ace-King-Horse-Jack of one suit) they declare it and the play ends immediately.
- In the case of a Mambassa (44), each of the other players pays one of their tokens to the pool, regardless of what cards they have.
- In the case of a Quarantuno (41), the player(s) with the worst hand(s) pay one token to the pool and the owner of the 41 takes one token out of the pool, thus gaining an extra life.
A player who has lost all their tokens is eliminated from the game. The others continue playing with the tokens they have left. When all but one player have lost their tokens the last surviving player is the winner and takes the contents of the pool.
If at the end of the game both (all) surviving players have just one token and both (all) have equal hands, then the dealer of that last hand wins the pool.