With thanks to Paolo Ronzoni for clarifying some details of this game.
This Italian game for four players is a variant of Tressette, using the same rules of play, and the same distinctive card ranking and values, the 3, 2 and Ace being the top cards. The chief difference is that instead of the partnerships being fixed, the teams are different for each deal, as determined by the bidding. The final bidder plays alone against a team of three, or chooses a partner by calling a card, so that two play against two. Another difference is that there is a "monte" of four undealt cards which can be used to improve the bidder's hand.
Players and Cards
There are four players, and the deal and play are anticlockwise.
A 40-card Italian pack is used. This could be any of the Italian regional patterns, with either Latin or French suits. When Latin suited cards are used, the cards of each suit, from highest to lowest, and their values are as follows.
When French suited cards are used, usually the Donna (queen) replaces the horse.
In addition the last trick is worth 1 card point, so that there are 11⅔ card points to play for. Since there are always two teams and fractions of a point are rounded down, the points scored by the two sides always add up to 11.
The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left cuts. The cards are dealt out in batches of three, anticlockwise, beginning with the player to the dealer's right, until everyone has a hand of nine cards. The dealer places the last four cards face down to the middle of the table. These cards form the monte, which can be used to improve the bidder's hand.
The turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.
The players speak in anticlockwise order, beginning with the player to dealer's right. Each player in turn may pass or bid, and each bid must be higher than the previous bid. When no one has yet bid players generally pass by saying "passo" (I pass), after a bid they pass by saying "sta bene" (it's OK). If all four players pass the cards are thrown in and the next player deals. If someone bids, the bidding continues for as many circuits as necessary until three players pass in succession.
The possible bids, in ascending order, and their consequences if all the other players then pass, are as follows.
- The bidder names a card (usually a three), and the holder of this card becomes the bidder's partner. The called partner must not say anything to indicate that he or she has the called card. The partnerships become clear only in the course of play. The bidder then picks up the four cards of the monte, without showing them to the other players, and discards any four cards. If it turns out that the called is in the monte (or if it was in the bidder's original hand, in which case the call was presumably a mistake), then the bidder has no partner and plays alone.
- The bidder names a card (usually a three), and the holder of the card gives it to the bidder. The bidder then picks up the monte, showing the cards to everyone. The four cards are added to the bidder's hand, and the bidder discards any 4 of the 13 cards now held to make a new monte and passes one card face down to the player who had the called card. The bidder plays alone against the other three players as a team. If no one produces the called card, it is either in the monte or in the bidder's original hand. In this case the bidder just takes the monte and discards four cards.
- No card is called. The bidder then picks up the monte, showing the cards to everyone. The four cards are added to the bidder's hand, and the bidder discards any 4 of the 13 cards now held to make a new monte. The bidder plays alone against the other three players as a team.
- No card is called. The bidder may look privately at the monte but cannot use these cards. They are replaced face down on the table and the bidder plays alone against the other three players as a team.
- No card is called and no one may see the cards of the monte until after the last trick. The bidder plays alone against the other three players as a team.
The player to dealer's right (il mano) leads any card to the first trick. Players must follow suit. Those unable to follow suit may play any card. There are no trumps. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick, and the winner leads any card to the next trick.
Unlike Tressette, this game has no declarations (accuse) of high cards in the hand of a player. However, there are some signals or remarks that a player is allowed to make when leading to a trick:
- Busso ("I knock") indicates that you would like your partner to play his highest card in the suit you led, and lead the suit back if it wins. Instead of saying busso you can strike the table (or the led card) with your fist.
- Volo (" I fly") (or piombo - "I fall") indicates that you have no further cards of the suit led. Instead of saying volo you can throw the card so that it glides onto the table.
- Striscio (or liscio) ("I stroke" or "I smooth") (not allowed by all players) indicates that you have, besides the card you are leading, one or more low cards (king or lower) of the suit led. Instead of saying striscio you can slide the card led onto the table.
When all the cards have been played, the four cards of the monte (the cards discarded by the bidder, or the original monte if the bidder did not use it) are given to the team that won the last trick. Each team then adds up the value of the cards it has won - see card values above. The team that has at least 6 of the available 11⅔ card points wins.
The scores for the various bids are as follows. Either the players can pay in cash or chips after each deal, or the cumulative score of each player can be recorded on paper, in which case the scores of the four players should always add up to zero.
- Chiamo. If the bidder's team wins, each of the opponents pays 4 units, the bidder receives 5 units and the bidder's partner 3 units. If the bidder was alone, the called card being in the monte, each opponent pays 4 and the bidder receives 12. If the bidder's team loses these payments are reversed. Each opponent of the bidder gains 4, the bidder's partner loses 3, and the bidder loses 5, or 12 if playing alone.
- Mediatore. If the bidder wins, the player (if any) who supplied the called card pays 6 and the others pay 8, so that the bidder wins either 22 or 24. If the bidder loses these payments are reversed: the bidder pays 6 to the player who had the called card and 8 to the others.
- Solo. The bidder wins 12 units from each opponent (total 36) if successful, and pays 12 to each if unsuccessful.
- Solissimo. The bidder wins 16 units from each opponent (total 48) if successful, and pays 16 to each if unsuccessful.
- Arcisolissimo. The bidder wins 18 units from each opponent (total 54) if successful, and pays 18 to each if unsuccessful.
If a player or team wins capotto (all the tricks) the payments are increased by 2 units. That means for example that a bidder playing alone will receive a total of 6 extra units for a capotto, and that if the bidding team win all tricks in a chiamo, the bidder will receive 7 units and the bidder's partner 5.
With the advantage of calling a partner and taking the monte, it is rather easy to win a chiamo. To make it harder, some play that in a chiamo, the bidder does not look at the monte: it remains untouched until the end of the play, when it belongs as usual to the winners of the last trick. In this variant, if the called card is in the monte, everyone, including the bidder, will be unaware at first that the bidder is playing alone.
Some play that the monte is always shown to all the players, so that if the called card is in the monte, everyone knows from the start. Others play that the monte is never shown to the other players, neither in chiamo not in mediatore nor in solo.
Some impose restrictions on what card can be called. Some only allow a 3 to be called, some allow a 3 or a 2, and some allow the bidder to call any card except an Ace.
Some play that in Solissimo the bidder is not allowed to see the monte. In this version Solissimo is the highest bid: there is no Arcisolissimo.
Some play that the lead to the first trick is made by the bidder, not the player to dealer's right, if the bid is Arcisolissimo or Solissimo. Some also allow the bidder to lead to the first trick in a Solo. Some play that the bidder always leads to the first trick, whatever the bid.
Some players use a different code of signals from the one described above. When leading to a trick, a player may say:
- "Busso" - meaning: I have the highest outstanding card in the suit I am leading - i.e. the 3, or if the 3 has already been played, the 2, etc.
- "Ribusso" - meaning: I have the second highest outstanding card in the suit I am leading
- "La meglio" or "Le meglio" - meaning: I am looking for the highest outstanding card in the suit. The is a request to partner to play this highest card if he has it.
- "Tutto fuori" - meaning: I have many cards in the suit I am leading, but none of the three highest cards.
Some play with different scoring schedules. For example:
- Chiamo: each opponent of the bidder pays or receives 2, bidder receives or pays 3, partner receives or pays 1.
- Mediatore: the holder of the called card pays or receives 3; other opponents of the bidder pay or receive 4.
- Solo: bidder's opponents pay or receive 6 each.
- Solissimo: bidder's opponents pay or receive 8 each.