Diloti (Δηλωτή)

This page is based on information from Alexandros Kouridakis, Michael Mihelakakis and Thanos Tsakonas.

Introduction

Diloti is a Greek fishing game which combines ideas from two other Greek games Kontsina and Xeri and adds the possibility of declaring, which is similar to building in the related game Casino. The name Diloti (Greek: Δηλωτή) is derived from the verb «δηλώνω» which means “to declare”.

Players, Cards and Deal

Diloti is played with a standard international 52-card deck. It can be played either by 2 players or by 4 players in two fixed partnerships of 2. The two-player game will be described first.

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient method. It is generally considered disadvantageous to be the dealer since the non-dealer has the first opportunity to capture any desirable cards that may be on the table at the start of the game. The turn to deal alternates after each round.

Each player is dealt 6 cards: the first 6 cards are dealt to the dealer's opponent and the next six to the dealer. The next four cards are placed separately face up on the table. In the rare event that the face up cards include 3 or 4 face cards of the same value, the table cards are shuffled into the pack and a new set of four face up cards is dealt. The rest of the pack is set aside face down, and will be dealt out later in the round.

The Play

The non-dealer plays first after each deal, and the turn to play passes back and forth between the players. On their turn, each player must play exactly one card from their hand, performing one of the following four actions:

  1. Capture a card from the table by playing a card of matching value from their hand. If it happens that two or three numeral cards of the same value are on the table, a player may capture all of them by playing a single card of that value. However, if a face card (K, Q or J) is played that matches the value of another face card on the table, the player must capture exactly one matching card with the played card and no more than that.
  2. Capture cards from the table whose sum of values is equal to the value of a card in the player’s hand, by playing that card. Face cards do not have a numerical value. Aces count as numerical cards with value one. If two or more separate combinations of cards yields the same sum, all of these combinations can be captured by playing a single card with a value equal to the sum. Examples:
    • Cards on the table: 3, 5. One single 8 can capture both cards.
    • Cards on the table: A, 4, 5. One 10 can capture all three cards.
    • Cards on the table: 2, 4, 6. One 6 can capture all three cards (2+4=6 and 6=6 by itself)
    • Cards on the table: A, 4, 5, 8: One 9 can capture all four cards (A+8=9 and 4+5=9)
    • Cards on the table: A, 2, 3, 6, 7: one 10 can capture A+2+7 or A+3+6 or 3+7, whichever the player chooses, but the remaining cards must be left on the face up on the table.
  3. use the card to create or add to a declaration - see below
  4. capture a declaration, alone or along with other cards - see below
  5. If the player cannot or does not wish to capture anything, nor create or add to a declaration, they must leave the card they play from their hand face-up on the table, alongside any others. This is referred to as “laying” a card on the table. However, it is not possible to lay a face card if another face card of the same value is present on the table; the player must capture exactly one of the matching cards, as mentioned above.

Whenever any cards are captured from the table, these cards along with the card card played to capture them are added to a face down capture pile in front of the player who made the capture. The cards in the players' capture piles may not be looked at again until the end of the play.

Declarations

Diloti allows additional types of action called "declarations" which are not available in the simpler game Kontsina. Declarations in Diloti are similar to builds in Casino. They are the essence of the game of Diloti and give it its name. When making a declaration, a player gathers one or more numeral cards from the table along with their played card, and puts them together in a pile face up on the table, and declares the value of the pile. This pile of cards can now be captured by a card matching its value, but the cards in the pile can no longer be captured separately. A player who makes a declaration must hold a card in their hand that matches its value and they are responsible for making this capture if no other player meanwhile captures the declaration or alters its value. There are two types of declaration: plain declarations and group or family declarations. Single cards on the table that are not part of any declaration will be referred to as "loose" cards.

Plain Declarations

A player combines a number card played from their hand with one or more loose number cards that are on the table into a pile. The pile is a "plain declaration" and its value is the sum of the value of the cards in it. Usually the player will verbally declare the value of the pile, for example playing an Ace, combining it with a loose 2 and 5 and declaring "eight", though this is not obligatory. In order to make a plain declaration, the player must have a card of the declared value in their hand.

A plain declaration can be captured by any player who plays a card that matches the value of the declaration. At the same time other cards that match the declaration value and sets of cards that add up to the value of the declaration can be captured.

A plain declaration may be “raised” by the opponent of the player who declared it. A declaration is raised by adding to the pile a card played from hand. This creates a new plain declaration whose value is equal to the new total value of the cards in the pile. A player who raises a declaration must have in hand a card equal to the new value of the declaration. A player is not allowed to raise his or her own declaration, but if your plain declaration has been raised by your opponent you may then raise it again provided that you hold a card of the new value. In this way a declaration may be raised several times, though not of course beyond the value of 10, since there are no single cards with a value higher than 10.

Examples of plain declarations:

  • There is a loose 5 on table. The player whose turn it is plays a 3 onto the 5 creating a pile and declares it as "8".
  • A loose Ace and a loose 3 are on the table. The player plays a 6, putting it together with the Ace and 3 to make a plain declaration of 10.
  • A player has made a declaration of 4. The opponent raises the declaration by adding a 5 to the pile, declaring it as "9".
  • There is a declaration of 7 on the table. A player may capture it by playing a 7.

Group Declarations  (also called “family” declarations).

A group declaration consists of at least two components, each component being a single card equal to the value of the group or a set of cards whose total is equal to the value of the group. For example a group declaration of value 8 could consists of two 8's, or (8, 5, 3, 7, A) because 5+3=7+1=8, or (5, 3, 6, 2). A group declaration is formed by playing a card from hand, combining it with one or more loose cards on the table, and possibly also with a plain declaration whose value is equal to that of the group declaration.

A group declaration follows special rules; it may not be raised, and the only way to capture it is by playing a card of the same value as the declaration. For example a group of 9’s and an Ace cannot be captured together by playing a single 10; however, a group of 9’s and a loose 9 may be captured together by a single 9. A group of 9’s, a loose 4 and a loose 5 may also be captured with a single 9.

When making a group declaration, the player usually announces the value of the group - e.g. by saying “two 9’s” or “group of 9’s” or “family of 9’s”; this is not normally obligatory, but must be done if there is ambiguity as to the type of declaration. For example a declaration consisting of two 4’s may either be a group of 4’s or a plain declaration of 8; this needs to be clarified by the player.

As with a plain declaration, a player who creates or adds to a group declaration must have a card equal to the value of the declaration in their hand.

Examples of group declarations:

  • There is a loose 5 on the table. The player forms a group of two 5’s by playing another 5 on top of it.
  • There is a 6, a 4 and a 2 on the table. The player forms a group of three 6’s by playing a 6 and collecting this together with the other 6 and the 4+2 into a face-up pile of four cards.
  • There is an 8 and a 2 on the table. The player forms a group of two 8’s by playing a 6 from their hand and forming a pile with this, the 2 and the 8.
  • There is a plain declaration of 8 and one 9 on the table. The player raises the 8-declaration with an Ace, and combines the raised declaration with the 9 to form a group of two 9’s.
  • A player forms a plain declaration of 7. His opponent then forms a plain declaration of 5. The first player raises his opponent’s declaration with a 2 and combines it with his own to create a group of two 7’s.
  • A player forms a plain declaration of 6. On his next turn, he adds another 6 to the declaration, forming it into a group of two 6’s.
  • An extreme case would be as follows: The table cards are 2, 3, 4, 8. A player plays an Ace and forms a group of two 8’s along with the 3, 4 and 8 from the table.  The opponent then forms a plain declaration of 6 by playing a 4 onto the 2 on table. The first player raises that declaration to 8 by playing another 2 and adds it to his group, making it a group of three 8’s. Afterwards, the opponent lays an Ace on the table. The first player plays a 7 on top of the Ace and adds the two cards to his group, making it a group of four 8’s. On his next turn, that player adds an 8 from his hand to the group, making it a group of five 8’s. And finally, on his next turn, the player plays another 8 and captures the whole group of ten cards (A+3+4, 8, 4+2+2, A+7, 8) along with the 8 played to capture it.

The rules governing declarations might seem complex at first sight, but they quickly become second nature once the game has been played a few times.
Note that face cards may never be part of any declaration. Face cards can only be captured separately one at a time by matching a single face card on the table with another of the same rank played from hand.

Obligations of the declarer

When a player declares (or raises or adds to an existing declaration, thus making it their own), they promise to capture the declaration before laying any cards on the table and before making any further declarations. Therefore, until their declaration is captured, raised or added to by another player, the only actions available to a player who has made any declaration are the following:

  • Capture a card or cards from the table by any of the methods described above.
  • Capture their own declaration by playing a card of equal value to the declaration.
  • Add to their declaration to form a group declaration of the same value.

Also the player who made the declaration must hold a card whose value is equal to the declaration, and is not allowed to use this card for any purpose other than capturing the declaration unless the declaration is raised or captured by another player.

The “Xeri”

A player who plays a card that and captures all the face up cards from the table is said to have captured the cards as a “xeri” («ξερή» = “dry”, “plain”). In that case, one of the captured cards is placed face-up under the player’s capture pile and perpendicular to it, so that about half the card is shown. The card still counts as part of the player’s captured cards; it is placed face-up to keep a record of how many “xeri” captures each player has made. A player may make any number of “xeri” during play.

The very first card played in a round does not count as a "xeri", even if it captures all four of the cards dealt to the table by the dealer.

The existence of “xeri” and their high value makes the game much more strategically complex. Players must take advantage of any opportunity to score "xeri" themselves while being careful not to allow an opponent to score any “xeri”. Here are some examples of how a “xeri” can be scored (apart from a player making the most obvious blunder of leaving a lone card on the table):

  • The cards on the table are 3, 5, 7. If a player captures the 3, the opponent cannot score a “xeri” (there is no card valued 12). If, however, the player captures the 5 or the 7, the opponent can score a “xeri” by having the appropriate card (a 10 or an 8, respectively)
  • The cards on the table are 5, 9, J. A player adds a 3 to the 5 and declares 8. The opponent captures the 9. The declarer is not allowed to lay a card now. If the declarer does not have either a Jack to capture the Jack or two 9's so that one can be added to the declaration to make it a group, the only possibility is to capture the declaration. At this point, if the opponent has a Jack, they will score a “xeri”.
  • The cards on the table are 10, J and each player holds just one card in hand. If the player whose turn is next has a Jack, they are not allowed to lay it, since it is a face card. They must capture the Jack from the table leaving the 10 alone. The opponent will then score a “xeri” if they have a 10 in hand.

Further Deals and the End of the Round

Players alternate turns playing cards until their hands are both depleted. When that happens, the dealer deals 6 more cards from undealt part of the pack to each player to start a new hand. No further cards are dealt to the table. Play proceeds as before, with the non-dealer acting first after each deal. This continues until the whole pack has been dealt and the final cards played.

When the pack and both players’ hands are all depleted, any cards left on the table are added to the capture pile of the player who last captured any cards from the table. This ends the round. Taking these last cards from the table does not automatically count as a "xeri", but the dealer can score a "xeri" with the last card of a deal if this card validly captures all the cards from the table by matching.

Scoring

After the end of the round, each player scores points for the cards they have captured. There are 11 points in total, plus additional points for any “xeri” made. The points are awarded as follows:

  • 4 points for “the cards”: awarded to the player who has captured the most cards. In the event that both players capture exactly 26 cards, the cards are said to be “split” and neither player scores for “the cards”.
  • 1 point for each Ace that the player has captured. (4 points total)
  • 2 points for “the good 10”: Awarded to the player who captures the 10 of diamonds.
  • 1 point for “the good 2”: Awarded to the player who captures the 2 of clubs.
  • 10 points for each “xeri”.

The points scored by each player are accumulated over the rounds.

The target score is usually set to 61. When a player reaches that score, they win the game. If both players reach 61 in the same round the player with the higher score wins. If the scores are equal, another round is played.

Four-Player Game

The four players form two fixed partnerships of two. Partners sit facing each other across the table, so that each player sits between two opponents. Deal and play are anticlockwise, and the turn to deal passes to the right after each round.

As in the two-player game, six cards are dealt to each player: the first six cards to dealer's right, then six to dealer's partner, then six to dealer's left, then six to the dealer, after which for cards are dealt face up to the table. The play proceeds in the same way as in the two player game, beginning with the player to dealer's right, and when the hands are depleted there is a second deal of six cards to each player, which exhausts the pack.

Any declaration binds only the player who made it; their partner is free to play in whatever way they wish. Any plain declarations that a player makes may only be raised by an opponent, not by the declarer's partner. However, cards may be added to a declaration by any player to make a group declaration of the same value. The player who adds to the declaration takes over the responsibility to keep a card with which to capture the declaration.

Once the round is over, the cards each partnership has captured are added together, and points are counted as usual for each partnership.

Variations

Deal

Some allow the dealer to look at the bottom card of the pack before dealing. In this case the dealer will know in advance one of the cards that he or she will receive in the final deal of the round.

Some allow a player who receives 5 or 6 face cards (K, Q, J) in the first deal of a round to cancel the round and demand that the cards be shuffled and dealt again by the same dealer. Some allow this privilege not only in the first deal of a round but in any deal.

Some do not redeal the table cards when they include exactly three equal face cards (for example three Queens). Instead, in this special case, the player who plays the fourth card of this rank captures all three of the matching face cards from the table.

Forced Capture

In this variation, when a card is played that can make a capture, the capture must be made and the player is not allowed to leave on the table any cards or sets that could have been captured by the played card. This does not necessarily mean that the player must capture as many cards as possible. For example if the cards on the table are A, 3, 4, 5, 9 and a 9 is played, the player may choose to capture (A+3+5, 9) leaving the 4 or (4+5, 9) leaving the A and 3, but cannot for example capture just the (A+3+5) leaving 4 and 9 on the table to avoid the danger of a xeri, or capture just the 9 leaving the other cards. As this example shows, in this variation extra care is needed to avoid being forced to give away a xeri.

Use of Plain Declarations

Some groups play with more liberal rules on the use of plain declarations, treating them like single cards for certain purposes. Some treat plain declarations as though they were single cards when forming or adding to group declarations. Some also treat plain declarations like single cards when raising a plain declaration or when making a capture. Here are some examples.

Plain declarations treated as single cards when forming group declarations
a) On the table there is a 4+3, declared as 7 by an opponent, and a separate Ace. You have two eights in your hand. You play one of your eights and combine it with the 4+3 and the Ace on the table to declare 'eights'.
b) I have a group declaration of '10s' on the table, and there is also a declaration of 5 and a loose 2. I play a 3 from my hand, combine it with the 5-declaration and the 2 and add it to my 10's declaration.
Plain declarations treated as single cards when raising plain declarations
c) On the table there is a plain declaration of 6 (4+2) declared by an opponent and a loose 3. A player holding an Ace and a 10 plays the Ace and combines it with the 6-declaration and the 3 to raise the declaration to 10.
Plain declarations treated as single cards for capturing
d) There is a declaration of 5 on the table, as well as a loose Ace. A player may capture both the declaration and the Ace by playing a single 6.
e) On the table is a declaration of 7, a declaration of 9 and a loose 2. A 9 is played, capturing the 7-declaration and the 2 as well as the 9-declaration.

Soy

Some players use the term "soy" to refer to any group declaration. However the book Το αλφαβητάρι του χαρτοπαίκτη by Γιωργος Κουσουνελος (Δίαυλος, Athens, 1998) appears to consider a "soy" to be a special type of group declaration consisting only of a pair of equal numeral cards, such as two 8's. According to this book, no cards may be added to a "soy" declaration and it may only be captured by another card of the same value.

Xeri

Some play that the very last card played by the dealer does not count as a xeri even if it captures all the cards remaining on the table by matching.

On the other hand, some play that a xeri is scored whenever a player captures all the cards from the table by matching them, even with the very first card of a round.

Target Score

For a longer game, the target score is sometimes set to 121 rather than 61, or any other value that the players may agree in advance.

Software

You can download a freeware Diloti program from Thanos Card Games.