Magyar változat

Magyar változat


Standardization of

the Rules of Paskievics Tarokk


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   This page is an attempt to create a standardized rule system of Paskievics tarokk. This proves unusually difficult, mainly due to the many bad or at least questionable traditions and rule variants. This phenomenon is unique to Hungarian tarokk. There are no other complex card games where so many incorrect strategies and elements of play persist, while those who perpetuate them are convinced – sometimes even despite obvious proof of the contrary – that they play really well. Reasons for this might be found in the history of the game: in the Communist era, the game was considered a part of the “imperialist” times and deemed unworthy of any support, so it was played only in isolated clubs and families. This must be one of the main reasons why so many irrational traditions persist and hinder the elimination of bad habits and incorrect tactics.
   Even the book “Tarokk-őr”, by Endre Kovács, contains some questionable elements (e.g. discarding the XX or annulling the game with singleton pagat). Most of these are not critically important though, so this book is rightfully considered a foundational work among the (Paskievics) community.
  Below is a list of game elements that are most often subject to different interpretations and give rise to lengthy discussions in different clubs. Where two alternatives are reasonable, or at least have a strong tradition, both are described with a recommendation about which one to use.


Some important rules


  ♣ Discarding the XX (or the invitation card in case of invitation bids) is forbidden. Therefore it is not allowed to call any trump when somebody announced a discarded trump, this is pointless;

  ♣ One can call himself only with the XX. It is forbidden to call a card that is discarded by the declarer. If an invitation is accepted, it is obligatory to call the corresponding card (XVIII or XIX);

  ♣ Though the “high game” bonus is a slightly later addition to the original Tarokk game, now it is an important part of the game and should not be eliminated;

  ♣ In a contract of 3, if the declarer announces trull and nobody announces anything else, the game should not be played. Instead, the opponents will pay 3 units to the declarer and his partner. (It is possible not to use this rule, but it is not really worthwhile, because these games are boring and a different result will be extremely rare);

  ♣ If there are 5 players in the game, it is not recommended to give the dealer any responsibilities other than dealing. Thus a discarded trump should still be announced by the player who discarded it, and the dealer should not receive money for the honours that were in the kitty;

  ♣ The rule that winning the game requires 48 points is not changed if somebody doubles the game. When doubling, opponents simply announce that the declarers won't make the game (48 points);

  ♣ When announcing a trump count, no further announcements are required to declare which side the announcer is on. It is legal to announce a trump count on its own. Such an announcement still prolongs the round of announcements, all of the 3 other players get another turn to make further announcements;

  ♣ If four kings and high game are both made silently, no score is awarded for four kings;

  ♣ If volat is made, no score is awarded for silent trull, silent four kings or silent high game;

  ♣ If the game has not been doubled and a silent high game is made (by either team), no score is awarded for the basic game. Also, if high game was announced, the basic game only scores if the declarers fail to make it as well as the high game. (In this case they lose 5 times the price of the basic game, or 9 times if the high game was doubled.) If the game was doubled, it is always scored alongside a silent or announced high game.


Announcement Rules


Compulsory announcements

After yielding or inviting with only the pagat, it is mandatory to announce pagat ultimo on our first turn. (Yielding with the pagat is prohibited in many clubs, although there is no good reason for this. It is not worthwhile to do anyway because it could happen only if the holder of the pagat is the first to bid (because yielding or inviting with only the pagat requires our partner to be on our left), but in first place it is better not to bid if holding the XX and only the pagat.) In many clubs, making an invitation with only pagat is forbidden as well, but this is definitely a bad habit, it removes a rare but exciting game situation, making the game overall less interesting;

When announcing (or doubling, redoubling, etc.) a pagat ultimo, players must also announce 8 or 9 trumps if held and not yet announced;

If a trump that has been discarded is called, the player who discarded it must immediately announce “officially double the game”*. (This is extremely rare, because the XX cannot be discarded, and in other cases it can practically only happen if a player plays suboptimally.) In this case, all 6 discarded cards count for the declarer at the end of the game;

   Apart from these 3 there are no other compulsory announcements! (For example: trull is not mandatory if a player is called by the declarer and has a high honour, nor are any announcements mandatory when accepting an invitation, etc.)

   * The player who discarded the called trump must announce “officially double the game” in this case as soon as the discarded trump was called. Some people play that this announcement must be made only on the player's turn - if so, it must still be made even if another player has already doubled the game (in which case it only serves as information). This rule is only included here for completeness, because with correct play, an official double practically never happens, and even if somehow it does happen, the player discarding the called trump is the one directly after the declarer, with no other players in between.


Other announcement rules

Announcing new bonuses:

    1. The declarer can always announce constructively;
    2. The opponents can announce a new bonus only after having doubled the game (or having superdoubled the redoubled game);
    3. The partner of the declarer can announce a new bonus only if the game has not been doubled or if the doubled game has been redoubled.

It is illegal for a player to announce high game and volat on the same turn. Players should agree if they can be announced by the same player on different turns (it is recommended to allow this);

Trull can be announced only by a player who has a high honour (or both);

A trump count can be announced only with the exact number of trumps in hand (i.e. it is illegal to announce 8 trumps when holding 9 trumps);

Trull, four kings and high game may no longer be announced once volat has been announced. (This could only happen with incorrect play anyway.)


Bidding, Invitation


   Here, there are 2 conflicting approaches. The first one says that every invitation that can only be accepted by bidding or holding Solo is an invitation to call the XVIII; the second says that if a bid jumps over one possible bid, then it is an invitation to call the XIX, and if it jumps by 2 then it is an invitation to call the XVIII. We recommend the first approach which has the longer tradition and leads to more interesting games, but the second (in italics below) is also widely used.

The alternative described below corresponds to this problem though not directly:

A:3, B:2, A:1
A is inviting with the XVIII, B can accept it only by bidding Solo A is inviting with the XIX, B can accept it either with “Hold” (or with Solo)
A:3, B:2, A:Solo
A is inviting with the XVIII (almost the same as the previous one) A is inviting with the XVIII (the only reverse invitation with the XVIII)

   The (fortunately very rare) situations described below, the two approaches are in conflict:

A:3, B:2, C:Solo
C is inviting with the XVIII C is inviting with the XIX
A:3, B:2, C:1, A:Solo
A is inviting with the XVIII A is inviting with the XIX (or this is not an invitation at all)

   Both approaches are reasonable here, but because of the previous considerations, we again recommend the first. (However, if you decided to play the second version above, then use the second here, too, for consistency.)


  The bid A:3, B:2, A:Hold, B:Solo is not an invitation (after “Hold”, an invitation is no longer possible), therefore it is useless, but – as a simple pushing bid – theoretically it can be played. (So, similarly to the case of yielding with only the pagat, there is no reason to prohibit it because it will not happen anyway if everybody plays well.) In one unusual case, it is worthwhile to play like this (as B): when he has the singleton XXI and wants to get no cards from the kitty to be able to annul the game.

   It is possible to open the bidding with less than three, but if another player accepts the presumed invitation, the first bidder must cancel it by continuing to bid. Typically this means saying “hold” – bidding solo, if still possible, achieves the same thing, but it is generally pointless. If this playing element is prohibited, the game becomes less interesting. Of course an invitation only needs to be cancelled once; if the other bidder then continues to solo, the first bidder is no longer obliged to hold.
Corresponding to the above is the rule that if one player bid 3 and everyone else passed, the declarer cannot choose to take less than 3 cards from the kitty. (The situation of a player who already has a good hand should not be made easier.)

   In fourth place, after 3 players have passed, it is legal to bid without an honour and take cards from the kitty – this is called a trial bid. If the player does not receive an honour from the kitty, the game is automatically annulled and he alone has to fill or top up the ultimo pot (if it is used) by paying the value of a doubled game (2 units) multiplied by the number of the players [4 or 5]. (Whereas if everyone passes, each player [including the dealer] pays 2 units.) If the ultimo pot is not used, the payment of 2 units per person goes to the other 3 players in the current game. (If a higher bid than three was made, then the price would have to be higher accordingly – but this is a theoretical case, because it too risky and therefore wrong to do this.) If the bidder does get an honour from the kitty, the game can no longer be annulled and must be played normally.


Annulling the game and the ultimo pot


   The game can be annulled in the following 4 cases (and in each case it is worthwhile to do so, although only mandatory in the 4th case). The right to annul can be exercised after having received cards from the kitty but before discarding:

 ♠ No trumps in hand [including the cards from the kitty];

 ♠ Singleton XXI and no other trumps in hand [including the cards from the kitty];

 ♠ 4 kings in hand;

 ♠ Everybody passed, or a trial bid failed.

   If the 1st or the 2nd case can be created only by discarding one or more trumps, the game cannot be annulled. (This is a very bad habbit, it removes some interesting games.) While there is a strong tradition allowing players to annul with singleton pagat or a doubleton pagat and XXI, there is no logic behind this, and it also decreases the amount of interesting games, so they are not recommended. (Though these cases are fortunately very rare, the players should nonetheless reach an agreement about this before playing.)

   If a game is annulled, 2 units should be paid in the ultimo pot by each player (except in case of a failed trial bid, in which case the bidder has to pay the whole amount alone). This amount can be won by an announced pagat ultimo, but it must be doubled (by the announcer and his partner) if an announced pagat ultimo fails. It is not obligatory to use the ultimo pot because when it holds a relatively large amount, it modifies the optimal long term strategy that should be followed by the players. The amount that can be won from the pot or doubled at once should be limited to 24 units per player, or 25 if there are 5 players. (In the rare case that somebody plays the game alone [by intentionally calling his own XX or unintentionally calling a discarded trump], he alone wins or doubles as much as he and his partner would win or double as a team. That means he alone can empty or has to double the pot, or at least the limit [48 or 50 units].) The ultimo pot should not be filled up before the first deal or right after it has been emptied.
  Other procedures in use (such as playing a round [4 games] for doubled stakes) that are sometimes associated with an annulled game are not worthy of serious consideration.


   In summary, to make the (Paskievics tarokk) game the fairest and most interesting, it is recommended to play with the rules that are described above. The rules that have to be agreed upon before a game are the following (in decreasing order of importance): the meaning of inverted and 3-player invitations; whether the same player is allowed to announce high game and volat (on two separate turns); when annulling is allowed; usage of the ultimo pot; and whether to play games with a 3 contract where the only announcement is trull by the declarer. Alternatives backed by a strong tradition are explained above, but we guarantee that in the long term, the game will be the most interesting by accepting the recommended options (and also that one can win the most or lose the least in the long term by following the strategies explained on the main page). These statements may seem bold but they are supported by quite a lot of experience and even more mathematical and statistical considerations.