Truco is a popular trick-taking card game played in Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and Brazil. It is played using a Spanish deck jokers from the deck (leaving 40 cards left to be used), by two, four or six players. When played by four or six players, they are divided into two teams.
Except for the variant played in Rio Grande do Sul, in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and many other, Truco is played with a French deck, minus the 8s, 9s and 10s. See below.
Each player is dealt three cards from a subset of the deck consisting of the numbers 1 to 7 and figures sota
in Spanish or valete
in Portuguese (jack, worth 10), caballo
in Spanish or cavalo
in Portuguese (equivalent to a queen, worth 11) and rey
in Spanish or rei
in Portuguese (king, worth 12).
The most common form of the game is the four-player version, in which there are two teams of two players, who sit opposite each other. For six players, there are two teams of three players, with every second player on the same team.
The game is played until a team finishes a game with 30 points or more. The 30 points are commonly split into two halves, the lower half called malas in Spanish or ruins in Portuguese (bad) and the higher half called buenas in Spanish or boas in Portuguese (good). Therefore a team with 8 points would be ocho malas (8 malas), and a team with 21 points would be seis buenas (6 buenas). However, because both teams can score points in one round, it is possible (but very rare) for both teams to go over 30 points in one round. Usually as soon as one team goes over 30 points, the game is ended, to stop there being a tie situation. However, sometimes the winner is the one with more points, otherwise another hand is played, until the tie is broken.
The popular appeal of the game comes from the exciting bidding process. Each type of scoring can be bid on to score your team more points. Bids can be accepted, rejected or upped. Bluffing and deception are also fundamental to the game.
- Ace of swords (Ancho de espadas in Spanish or Ás de espadas in Portuguese)
- Ace of clubs (Ancho de basto in Spanish or Ás de paus in Portuguese)
- 7 of swords (Siete de espadas in Spanish or Sete de espadas in Portuguese)
- 7 of gold (Siete de oro in Spanish or Sete de ouros in Portuguese)
- 1 of cup and 1 of gold (Anchos falsos in Spanish or Ás falso in Portuguese)
- Kings (12s)
- Knights (11s)
- Sotas (10s)
- 7 of cups and 7 of clubs (Sietes falsos in Spanish or Sete falso in Portuguese)
Mano (or Mão) and Pie (or Pé)
In Truco, there are two concepts concerning which player begins the round and who is the last. The mano
in Spanish or mão
in Portuguese ("hand") is the one that plays first and the pie
in Spanish or pé
in Portuguese ("foot"), the dealer, is the last to play. The hand is always the player on the right of the foot. The turn to deal is then passed counterclockwise, so the hand of the first round is the foot of the second and so on. If playing in teams, partners sit opposite each other.
They can also refer, when playing in teams of two, which player of the partnership plays before and which after. This has no significance in the game, as the playing is always done counterclockwise. But it has strategic significance since the foot of a team is traditionally considered the "captain" of the partnership during that round.
If the game is tied (for example, if two opponents have the same points for envido), the hand wins. That advantage is offset by the fact that, being the last one to play, the foot plays with all their opponent's cards in sight. Also, the foot and the one sitting to his left are the ones who call envido in a game of four or more. Then, the hand is the first one to call his points for envido.
Structure of the game
Players can earn points in three different ways. These will be further developed below in special sections for each one.
- Truco: points can be earned by winning in the playing of the cards (the "tricks").
- Envido: points can be earned by having the best combination of two cards of the same suit or a single card.
- Flor: points may be earned by having all three cards of the same suit.
The score won by a player is added to his team's score (when playing in teams). Any bet, win, loss, or surrender by a player also affects his partner/s. For this reason, partnerships are usually formed by mutual arrangement between two players who know each other very well. As in bridge, it is not rare for partners to share information using preestablished signs and gestures. Communication is usually performed by a standard set of gestures (see señas). Arranging a secret set of gestures is thus frowned upon.
The playing of the cards is done thus: the mano
leads to the first trick (each round has three tricks) by playing one card. Then, anticlockwise, each other player plays one card. The player with the highest card (according to the ranking shown above) wins the trick. The cards remain face-up on the table until the round is finished.
Sometimes it happens that there is no single highest card, but a tie between two or more cards. If these tied cards were played by the same team, that team wins the trick. If that is not the case, the trick is called a draw, parda. The same mano then leads the next trick.
By winning two of three tricks, one wins a round, equivalent to one point. If a team wins the first two tricks, the third is not played. But if one of the games ended in a parda, the team that won the earlier of the other two tricks wins (e.g. If trick 1 was won by A, trick 2 was won by B, and trick 3 was a draw, A wins the round for having won the earlier trick. That concept is often referred to as "primera vale doble" (first is worth double) If trick 1 is drawn and trick 2 is won by B, the winner of the round is B and a third trick is not played). In the case of two pardas, the winner of the remaining trick wins the round. In case of three pardas, the mano wins the round. The winner of each round is the first one to play the next card. If a round is tied, or "parda", the hand plays first.
During play, there are multiple opportunities to raise the stakes of the round.
- Truco: Any player can call truco at any stage of the round to increase the value of the round to 2 points for the winner team. To accept the bet, the challenged team says quiero. If not, no quiero, and the round ends there, so the challenger team wins one point and a new round begins.
- Retruco: The team that answered quiero to the truco can call retruco to increase the value of the round to 3 points. It may be said immediately after truco or after having accepted the bet. The other team must answer with quiero or no quiero. If the answer is no quiero, the round ends there and the team that called retruco wins 2 points.
- Vale cuatro: The team that answered the retruco can say this immediately after the retruco or after accepting it. This makes the round worth 4 points and is the highest bet made in Truco. If the challenged team refuses the bet, the team that called vale cuatro wins the round and scores 3 points.
Truco must be accepted explicitly: if truco is said, the only way to accept it is by saying quiero, but in a less competitive fashion it could be accepted to close the challenge saying veo, dale or any way of saying yes . To call retruco immediately, it is necessary first to say quiero (and the same is true when calling vale Cuatro). Instead of saying explicitly "quiero", a player can play a card and it is implied that he accepted.
A player can play his card face up or face down, in which case it does not count towards the score. A card can be played face down in order to prevent opponents from deducing the value of a remaining card. In some cases (for example, when envido has been played), other players can deduce the value of some cards the remaining ones. If a player does not want his opponents to know his cards, which can be done in order to trick them into raising their bets, he can play his card face down. This should not be confused with "irse al mazo" (going to the deck), which means a whole team admits defeat without finishing the hand.
In games of two people, "envido" must be said before the player plays a card. In games of four or six, the foot and the player to the left of the foot are the ones who say "envido" (when they do, there are already cards played).
It is important to know that Envido bets have precedence before Truco bets. If one team calls Truco, and then the other calls Envido, the last must be completed (accepting, increasing or declining it) before the Truco.
When Envido is said, the challenged team/player can answer in any of these ways:
- Quiero: accepts to take the bet.
- Envido: accepts the 2 points of the first Envido and proposes to raise the bet by 2 points.
- Real Envido: accepts the 2 points of the first Envido and proposes to raise the bet by 3 points.
- Falta Envido: if both players score less than 15, the one with the highest score wins the game. If they score more than 15, the winner gets as many points as his opponent is short of reaching 30.
- No quiero: refuses to take the last bet. Thus, the challenger team/player earns 1 point if there were no raisings, or the amount of points that were accepted (e.g. Envido-Real Envido-No quiero is 2 points worth).
For Real Envido, the answers are the same, excepting Envido (because it would "lower" the bet). For Falta Envido, the answers are also the same as in Envido, excepting Envido and Real Envido (that leaves only Quiero and No quiero).
Quiero and No quiero close the bet and after one of that, no other Envido bet can be opened. In the cases where the bet is ended with Quiero, a comparison of the pairs (puntos de envido = "score of envido") is performed to see which team/player has the highest and wins the bet. The puntos de envido are calculated according to these rules:
- The score of a pair of the same suit is the sum of the values of the cards + 20, but considering that the King (12s), the Knights (11s) and Sotas (10s) are worth 0.
- If the player has no suit pair, then his puntos de envido is the value of his highest card, wth Kings, Knights and Sotas worth 0.
- If playing without Flor, in case of having three cards of the same suit, the puntos de envido are those of the highest pair of the hand.
- It should be noted that a player is obliged to report his score correctly, because that can be used later to deduce his cards. For example, if a player has already played a six of spades and he has 27 for envido, he is forced to report his correct score, even if doing that means he reveals his ace of spades to the rest of the players. If the winner reports his score wrong, the points at stake are assigned to the other team.
The puntos de envido are told from the mano to the dealer player anticlockwise. In case of a tie between two or more players, the earliest (i.e. the one most on the left among the tied players) has preference. Any player, in case of having a bad envido can surrender without revealing information of his cards to the other team/player by saying Son buenas ("They're good"). To say this when playing in teams, is to surrender on behalf of the team. It is usual that when playing in teams, while telling the puntos de envido, the partner of the player that had said the highest envido can remain silent unless someone of the other team says a higher envido. Then, that player that remained silent will have to say either his score for the envidos (if his/her is higher) or Son buenas to recognize the defeat.
After finishing the truco, the winner of envido has to show his cards to the rest of the players by placing them on the table and announcing "[the amount of the envido] en mesa". Failure to do so may be noted by the opponents and causes the points to be given to them.
The envido is also referred to as "tanto", in order to talk about it without actually proposing it.
The Real Trickery
The game of Truco is actually played by tricking your opponent by playing fast and distracting them through conversation. Truco is not played like Poker, where things are kept at a low level and quiet.
In Truco, everyone is loud, telling jokes, and talking amongst each other.
When playing Truco, players generally play with friends who they can talk to and have a fun time with. The best part about Truco is the fact that you can trick players through bluffing and distraction. When playing fast and laughing, it sometimes becomes hard to concentrate on the game, which is what many experienced players take advantage of. This is done in many ways:
- Raising the stakes and bluffing can put pressure on your opponent, and might cause him to fold.
- Asking questions with the words envido or truco while having the cards in you hand (when you are holding your cards, you are active and can call a bet). For example, assuming players A and C form a team, and B and D the opposing team, Player A may bid envido and Player B may ask "innocently" while being active -- "did he say ''envido"?", which effectively raises the stakes. This may entice either A or B to quickly call "quiero", as they may have been fooled into thinking the raise was out of clumsiness and not really intended.
- As a funny aside, a usual prank goes like this: the pie, the dealer, might be talking and laughing while shuffling the deck. Then he might put the cards down beside the mano, the player to the right of the pie. The mano might think he is the one to cut the deck because the pie gave him the cards, but in fact, he is not the one to cut the deck. When the mano then reaches towards the cards, the pie will hit his hand as a punishment for being tricked into thinking he was the one to cut the deck. This of course has no effect on gameplay.
, Truco is usually played without Flor
(flower). The variant is called Sin Flor
, or Sin Jardinera
(without the gardenmaid).
To have a Flor is to have three cards of the same suit in the hand. When playing with flor, any player having one must announce it or a penalty (see below) is risked. The player having the best Flor wins 3 points for each Flor announced. On the other hand, if a player has no Flor, that player cannot announce a Flor (on the contrary to Envido, where any player having or not the pair of the same suit can announce it).
The call for Flor can only be made before playing the first card, by simply saying Flor. Then, any other player having flor must announce his own (the playing of cards is suspended, so players without flores should wait until the bet is over), going anticlockwise and by saying any of this possible answers:
- Flor: A simple announcement. If nothing more is said, the team having the best Flor scores 3 points for each Flor announced this way or by an accepted Contraflor (see below).
- Con flor me achico: You announce you have Flor, but surrender on behalf of the team. The Flor bet is closed and the opponent team scores 3 points for their Flores and 1 for your surrender.
- Contraflor: You announce your Flor and challenge the opponent team to answer (see below).
- Contraflor al resto: You announce your Flor and propose to raise the bet to the amount of points the leading team needs to win the game plus 3 for each Flor.
After calling Contraflor, the challenged team must answer by one of these:
- Con flor quiero: the challenged team confirms that each Flor will be three points worth.
- Con flor me achico: The same as above, when answering a simple Flor.
- Contraflor al resto: See above.
After Contraflor al resto, the answers are:
- Con flor quiero: Accepts to raise the bet to the amount of points the leading team needs to win plus 3 per each Flor.
- Con flor me achico: See above.
After the bet has been closed by saying con flor quiero or con flor me achico, players announce the flores. The comparison between Flores is done similarly as in Envido: the values of the three cards are added up plus 20 (Aces to 7 are worth the face value and Sotas, Knights and Kings, 0). When two flores have the same suit, the one of that player playing earlier (counting anticlockwise, as usual in Truco) has precedence. If an earlier player announces a better flor than the one you have, it is usual to say Son buenas, admitting defeat but without unnecessarily revealing infornation about your cards. At the end of the hand, the flores must be shown.
As all bettings in Truco, each Flor (or surrender) is made on behalf of the team.
This is a penalty for those players that, having a Flor
, didn't announce it. If a player suspects that another one is hiding a Flor
, he/she can challenge this player by saying Pido flor
. In the case that the player had actually a Flor
, the challenger team earns three points. But, if the challenged player shows at least two different cards, his/her team earns one point.
In a game of 6, sometimes Pica Pica
is also played. When players get their cards, instead of playing the 2 teams of 3, each confronted pair of players of different teams play a game, adding the resulting points to their teams. Usually Pica Pica
played is every other game, but only if a team has 5 or more points, and no team has more than 20 (or 25). Pica Pica
is also known as Punta y Hacha
This is a way of finishing the game more quickly, because each pair in a pica pica plays a complete hand, with corresponding scores. Therefore, it is possible to have, for example, three "vale cuatro" in the same hand, which raises scores very quickly. However, envidos and its raises are usually capped (the most usual cap being 6 points).
Truco in Brazil
Truco is also a popular game in Brazil, with many regional variations, some similar to the Spanish counterparts, although the most known versions (Truco Paulista, Truco Mineiro and Truco Gaúcho) use a French deck and different rules. Truco Paulista can be known as Ponto Acima in some regions.
Truco in Brazil is mostly associated to college culture and lifestyle. The custom of students sitting on a table to play the game while drinking alcoholic beverages has become a stereotype itself, in such a way that it has even been featured prominently in advertising campaigns and it has been included in the program of every University "Olympic" Games around the country, known as Jogos Universitários. Truco can be played by two and even three people in each team, which makes it more exciting.
Among the most notable differences, the Brazilian Truco has:
- A maximum score of 12 points
- Bids worth 3 points (with rebids being worth multiples of 3).
- A deck of 28 cards can be used in informal games, where the deck is called baralho limpo (clean deck).
- Manilha (trump card) differs to 4 of clubs, 7 of hearts, Ace of spades and 7 of gold.
- 4 of clubs (commonly know as Zap)
- 7 of hearts (commonly know as Copeta or simply Copas)
- Ace of spades (commonly know as Espadilha or simply Espadas)
- 7 of gold (commonly know as Picafumo or simply Pica)
(7s, 6s, 5s and 4s, are not included in baralho limpo)
Manilha (trump card) is predetermined in the Truco Mineiro version and it is called Manilha Velha (old "manilha"). However, other variations include the trump card being chosen at the start of each round. This variation is mainly used by the Truco Paulista version. As you can see at the card rankings, the trump card is the highest card during its course. A trump card is also ranked by its suit, meaning that two trumps in play will never lead to a tie.
Truco Mineiro is mainly played in the state of Minas Gerais but not limited to it. The same with Truco Paulista which is mainly played in the state of São Paulo and Truco Gaúcho which is mainly played in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
See the Brazilian Jargon below.
Señas are gestures that are used among players of the same team to tell the pie (hand captain) their most valuables cards or if they have good score for a potential envido situation. The most generally accepted señas are as follows:
- Ancho de Espadas (Ace of swords) - Both eyebrows up.
- Ancho de Bastos (Ace of clubs) - Wink.
- Siete de Espadas (Seven of swords) - With lips closed, slightly move the right side to the right.
- Siete de Oro (Seven of gold) - With lips closed, slightly move the left side to the left.
- Tres (Any three) - Slowly and gently move the lower lip inside and take it back out slightly biting it with the two front teeth.
- Dos (Any two) - With lips closed, move them to the outside as if they were simulating a kiss. The lips remaining closed all the time.
- Ancho Falso (Ace of cups and ace of gold) - Mouth open for few seconds.
- High score for envido - Shrink the middle of the face in such a way that the skin of the nose shrinks too. Another usual gesture is to slightly (and quickly) tilt your head towards the shoulder.
- Low or no score for truco- Both eyes closed.
Performing the señas during the game is a skill that takes time to master since the player has to be very careful not to be seen by players of the opposite team.
There are lots of informal expressions that have become part of the art of playing the game. Examples of jargon are described below:
- Siete bravo (brave seven) - the seven of spades and the seven of gold are sometimes referred to as brave sevens.
- Estar cargado (to be loaded) - to have high score for a potential envido or to have a good hand for truco.
- Vení (come) - this is said to a player by the pie (team captain) in order to ask him to play his lowest card.
- Vení acá (come here) - this is said to a player by the pie (team captain) in order to ask him to play his lowest card because he (the pie) supposedly has a good card to win the hand.
- Andá allá (go there) - this is said to a player by the pie (team captain) in order to ask him to play his lowest card because some other player has a good card to win the hand. Makes no sense in two-men team, so is usually used in 3-men team games.
- Estoy seco (I'm dry) - this is said by a player to specify that he either has no points for envido or good cards to win the hand.
- No ha venido - This is said in a rhyming response to an envido when the player wants to refuse it.
- Va por las tuyas - This is said by a player who does not have a good score when either truco or envido is proposed, to let other players know that they should accept or decline based on their cards solely.
- Falta un vidrio - This is sometimes said humorously, because it sounds like "falta envido".
- A cara de perro - Literally dog-faced. That means players require of each other perfect compliance with the rules, especially regarding the displaying of envido. When playing among friends, often a player is excused if he forgets to show his cards for envido. However, when playing with strangers or for money, people tend to play "a cara de perro", meaning that they do not accept any error on the opponent's part. Another example would be interpreting any word as being a call in the game, even when it's obvious by context that it is not so.
- Baralho Vazio/ Baralho Limpo (empty deck/clean deck) - used for the variations where the lowest cards 7s, 6s, 5s and 4s are not used.
- Baralho cheio/ Baralho sujo (full deck/ dirty deck) - uses all the 40 cards.
- Melar/Cangar - to play a card of the same value of the highest card at the table.
- Mão de Onze (also mão de dez)- When a player (or team) or both players (or teams) has 11 (or 10) points.
- Mão de Ferro (also mão escondida)- When both teams have left 1 point to win the game (which means 11 points) so the last round is playable in the dark (no escuro) where no-one sees the cards. (This option is chosen by the players and both teams must agree. Usually played in Truco Paulista).
- Cair (to fall) - To accept a Truco, Seis or Nove.
- Correr (to run) - To quit when the other player (or team) calls Truco, Seis or Nove.
- Manilhas - The best cards: 4 of clubs, 7 of hearts, Ace of spades and 7 of diamonds.
In Truco Paulista, manilha are the cards of the next number of the one who was trumped at the beginning of the round. For example: if you trumped a 2, the manilha will be the 3s. Then, the strength of each manilha depends on the stamp, which follows (strongest to weakest): clubs (zap), hearts (copas), spades (espadilha), diamonds (pica-fumo).
- Mão (hand) - The first to play.
- Pé (foot) - The last to play.
- Marreco/Pato (duck) - During the game, the losers are called patos or marrecos.
- Turco (Turk),Túlio (a male name),Suco (juice)... - words sounding close to truco, used to joke (and scare team partners) during a Mão de Onze, when it is not allowed to call truco (mostly the play that say truco lose the game instantly).
- Na testa (to the forehead) - When you have the strongest card in the game, the Zap, in order to show your complete happiness for winning that round you scream Na testa! and smash the card directly to the opponent's forehead.
- Meio Pau/Meio saco (half dick/half bag)- to call Seis (works like a retruco). Meio means half and Seis is 6 (half dozen). However, in many variations, Seis does not mean 6 points.
- Morrer de pau duro (to die with hard dick) - When you lose the round having in your hand the strongest card in the game, the Zap. (yes, that is possible.)
- Surra de pau mole (banging with a soft dick) - This one has many similar meanings. Basically it means when you bluff and win the game or round having absolutely nothing in your hand.