Le Quatre Sept
The rules on this page is based mainly on a contribution from Lorraine Dube Barnes.
This game, also known as La Politaine or La Poule is played in the French-speaking provinces of Canada. It is descended from the Italian game Tressette, which was fashionable throughout Europe in the 18th century and is still well-known in Italy. It is a four-player partnership point trick game without trumps.
Tressette is played with the 40-card Italian pack, and not only the ace, but also the two and three are promoted to be top cards of each suit, so the ranking is 3-2-A-K-Q-J-7-6-5-4. The 32-card pack that is commonly used in France has no 3 or 2, so when the French adapted Tressette to use this pack, they substituted the 10 and 9 for those cards, giving the ranking 10-9-A-K-Q-J-8-7 which was retained when the game was exported to Canada.
Tressette means "three sevens". In France this was translated to Trois Sept. In the Canadian descendant Quatre Sept (four sevens) the combination of four sevens in one hand wins the game, which no doubt accounts for the name. In the modern Italian game there is no trace of a special reward for three sevens. However, Ulf Martin has pointed out that several 18th century French and German descriptions of Tressette do feature a bonus for a holder of three and in some cases also four sevens. Also the Italian book Il Giuoco Pratico (1774, 1820) includes the three sevens bonus in the variant Tresette alla Moscovita though not in the main game. The sevens bonuses seem to have been abandoned in Europe during the 19th century, but they evidently survived long enough to influence the four sevens feature of the Canadian game and give it its name Quatre Sept.
The combination of the top three cards of a suit does give a bonus both in the Italian and in the Canadian game. In Italian this is called a Napolitane (meaning Neapolitan - from the city of Naples). In Canada this has been changed to "La Politaine", and the whole game is commonly known by this name. The alternative name "La Poule" perhaps arose as a further shortening of this.
Players and Cards
There are four players in fixed partnerships. Partners sit opposite each other. Deal and play are clockwise.
A 32-card French suited pack is used. The suits are hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades and the cards of each suit rank from high to low:
10, 9, A, K, Q, J, 8, 7
- Aces are worth 1 point each.
- Tens, nines, kings, queens, and jacks are worth one third of a point each.
- Eights and sevens have no value.
- The last trick is worth 1 point.
The total number of points in the game is theoretically 11⅔ (4 + 20/3 + 1) but any fractional points in each team's total are ignored, so the actual total of points scored is 11.
The first dealer is chosen by drawing cards from the shuffled pack: whoever draws the highest card deals first. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.
The dealer (le brasseur) shuffles the cards and deals them in batches: three cards to each player, then two cards each, then three cards each. So each player has a hand of eight cards.
If any player has all four sevens, that player's team immediately wins the whole game.
The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick, and the winner of each trick leads to the next.
Any card may be led. The other players must follow suit, playing a card of the same suit as the card that was led if they can. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card.
Each trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. Cards of other suits have no power to win the trick - there are no trumps in this game.
If any player has the top three cards of a suit (10, 9 and ace), and manages to use them to win three consecutive tricks, the player's team scores a bonus of 11 points. This combination is known as a poule or politaine and should be announced when the player plays the first of the three cards, in order to score the bonus.
Note that it is quite possible that a player who holds a politaine may not score the bonus, because the cards do not win tricks. This will happen for example if the holder does not obtain the lead, and other suits are led to the first six tricks. On the sixth trick one of the politaine cards will have to be discarded and the bonus will be lost.
At the end of the play each team counts the value of the tricks they have won: 1 point for each ace; 1 point for every three other cards apart from 8's and 7's; 1 extra point for the team that won the last trick. The 8's and 7's and the two odd cards that are left over after the 10's, 9's and pictures have been grouped into threes have no value.
The scores of the two teams should always add up to 11. Each team adds its score to its running total. When either team's score reaches 31 or more, the team with the higher score wins. In case of a tie (33 points each), another deal is played to decide the winners.
The rules of La Politaine on the Wikibooks Boite à Jeux site differ from the above in the following ways:
- Redeal. Any player who is dealt a hand with no 10's, no 9's and no aces can demand a redeal before the first card is led. The cards are thrown in and the dealer shuffles and deals again.
- Signals. When playing a card, a player may tap the table, signalling that he or she holds good cards in that suit, and requesting partner to lead it when possible. Sliding a card onto the table is a signal that one holds good cards in the other suit of the same colour - for example sliding a diamond is a request to partner to lead hearts.
- Target score. The game ends when a team has a score of 33 points or more. In some places longer games are played, for example until one team reaches 150 points or more.
The description of La Poule on the Jeux de Cartes Inédites site includes the following rules, which significantly affect the tactics of the game:
- If a trick is worth less than one whole point, the winner must lead his or her lowest card to the next trick: a 7, or an 8 if the player has no 7, or a jack if the player has no 7 or 8, and so on. Presumably a player who has more than one equally low card may choose freely between them.
- In order to score for a politaine, it must be announced at the start of the play, before the first lead. Rule 1 above can make it difficult to lead the cards of a politaine consecutively. For example if you lead the 10, and the other players play J, 8, 7, you are not allowed to continue with your 9 or ace, because that trick is worth only ⅔ of a point. You have to lead your lowest card next and the points for the politaine are lost. For this reason, when leading from a politaine, it is generally best to begin with the ace, which guarantees that the trick will be worth at least a point, allowing the 10 or 9 to be led next.
- A target score of 200 points is suggested; the game ends when a team reaches or exceeds this score.