Card games in Spain

A standard Spanish pack consists of 48 cards, with three pictures - the king (rey), horse (caballo) and jack (sota) and numeral cards 1 to 9 in each of the four suits swords (espadas), clubs (bastos), cups (copas) and coins (oros). The jacks, horses and kings have numerals 10, 11 and 12 respectively in the corners, and the suits are distinguished in many packs by the number of breaks in the borders at the narrow ends of the cards: batons 3, swords 2, cups 1, coins 0. In many Spanish games only 40 cards are used - the 8's and 9's are omitted - and Spanish packs are sometimes sold in this 40 card form.

French suited cards are used in Spain - as they are everywhere - mainly for games of foreign origin such as Bridge and Poker. It is also possible to obtain 52-card packs with Spanish suits and jokers for playing these games. The pictures are marked K-Q-J as in the international pack.

Spanish card games with the 40-card pack include:

  • Tute and its variants such as Tute Subastado
  • Brisca (which is almost idantical to the Italian game Briscola).
  • The plain-trick games Julepe and Podrida (which is often played with a 52-card pack).
  • The fishing game Escoba (in which cards are captured in sets whose values add up to 15)
  • The extraordinary poker-like partnership game Mus, which is of Basque origin but is now played all over Spain.
  • The banking game Siete y Media, in which the aim is to make a total as near as possible to 7½ without exceeding it.
  • Burro, a kind of trick-taking game in which a player unable to follow suit has to pick up cards and the aim is to run out of cards.

The 48-card pack is used in the point trick game Manilla (closely related to the French game Manille), in which the 9 is the highest card of each suit, ranking above the ace, and in its Catalan variant Botifarra. Also for a form of Truc played in Catalonia, though other regional variants of Truc are played elsewhere in Spain with various sizes of pack.

Spain was the country of origin of the classic game of l'Hombre, which enjoyed a position of great prestige throughout Europe in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Its modern form Tresillo is still played to some extent in Catalonia. A related four-player game Zanga is played in parts of Andalucia and the Canary Islands.

This page is maintained by John McLeod (   © John McLeod, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2011. Last updated: 11th October 2016