Card games in Malta

This page is based on information from Alexey Lobashev.

The international 52-card pack is used. The suits are koppi (hearts), dinari (diamonds), mazzi (clubs), spadi (spades), and the court cards are sultan (king), kavall (jack) and donna (queen). The ace is called ass. Games are normally played counter-clockwise.

Bixkla is a game similar to Italian Briscola played with 40 cards ranking A-3-K-J-Q-7-6-5-4-2. Note that as in several places where Latin suited cards were formerly used, the jack (taking the place of the horse) beats the queen (which took the place of the maid).

Bella Donna or Ħalliela is a fishing game with 52 cards for 2 players or 4 in partnership. Three-card hands are dealt plus four to the table. When everyone has played their three cards, three more cards each are dealt, and so on until the deck is exhausted . Kings, jacks and queens have no numerical value and can only take other cards of the same type, and there is a bonus (fixxa) for taking the card played by the previous player, and another (stoppa) for clearing the table. Red cards taken count 1 point each for 2 to 9, and 2 each for 10, Q, J, K, A. Black cards are worthless. The bonus for a fixxa or stoppa is 1 point per black card taken and 2 per red card.

Rami. Several types of rummy are played. The commonest uses two 52-card packs to which jokers may be added. 10 cards each are dealt, plus one face up to start the discard pile. A player can draw from the stock or take the top card of the discard pile. If a player draws from the stock, the following player has the option immediately to take the top discard plus one card from the stock on payment of an additional stake. There is no melding during the game, which ends when a player goes out with a discard and wins all the stakes. There is also Gin Rami (presumably equivalent to Gin Rummy) and Rami Ta' L-att, a game with melding and laying off, in which a player's first meld must be of at least four cards, after which further cards can be melded and laid off on any player's melds. When a player goes out the others are penalised for points remaining in their hands. A player who reaches or exceeds 100 can leave the game or pay a stake to reenter the game with a score equal to the highest of the other players.

24 is a draw and discard game in which the object is to collect cards of one suit to a value of at least 20, at which point one can knock, and the player with the lowest score is eliminated from the game. Unfortunately I do not know the values of the cards, but from the name of the game its seems that the maximum achievable must be 24.

Seven Up in Malta is a version of Fan Tan.

Tlett Karti is the local name for Three Card Monte.

Klaxxa is a version of Baccarat.

This page is maintained by John McLeod (   © John McLeod, 2008. Last updated: 18th September 2008