Thursday, September 10, 2009

Truco - The traditional card game of Uruguay

The game of Truco (Tick) is one of the most popular card games in the Rio de la Plata. It came originally from Spain and it is also played, with variations, in other countries of South and Central America.

It is played with the Spanish cards deck, that has 4 cards less than the French/English deck. Ace through 9 and the court cards Sota (Jack), Caballo (Horse) and Rey (King). No 10 in this deck. The Truco, furthermore, is played without the 8 and 9 cards which means that only 40 cards are used. The four suits in the Spanish cards are the following:

Espadas (Swords)
Bastos (Clubs)
Oros (Coins)
Copas (Cups

In Truco the points are obtained rather by the player´s skills in getting the opposing player to believe one has the cards one does not necessarily have. It would be a bit like Poker. The better you lie the greater opportunities of winning the game.

Truco is not usually played for money, but only for points and for the fun of it. Many times the match is organized after an Asado as a way of spending a fun afternoon. It is played by two teams of two players who sit facing each other, although there are variants for 2, 3 and 6 players. The winner is the team to first reach 30 points. The points can be counted with beans, matches or some other sort of small element. They can also be jotted down onIt is also common to count the points in a piece of paper. It also requires great team work, as winning depends also on understanding your partner and knowing the cards he has. To do this there are signals that are sent to the player's partner, so he know how to play his own cards.

I will now explain the rules of Truco. About half way you will probably get lost and think the game is too complicated. It is not. There are three things that are basic. Once you learn those the rest is easy. Those three things are:

A) The order of importance of the card
B) The challenges
C) How points are counted

NOTE: the game of Truco is played with slightly different rules in Uruguay and Argentina. I will explain here the Argentine variation because it is simpler and it is the one I know better.

A) The order of the cards, from the highest to the lowest value is the following:

1)    Ace of Swords
2)    Ace of Clubs
3)    7 of Swords
4)    7 of Coins
5)    The four 3s
6)    The four 2s
7)    The Aces of Coins and Cups
8)    The four Reyes (Kings)
9)    The four Caballos (Horses)
10)  The four Sotas (Jacks)
11)  The 7s of Clubs and Cups
12)  The four 6s
13)  The four 5s
14)  The four 4s

The points in Truco are not won by the value of the cards one has, but by challenging the opposing team. There are three "challenges" in the game:

B) The Challenges:

Flor (Flower): any three cards of the same suit. If the two teams have a flower, something very unlikely, then the value of the cards is added and the hand with the highest value wins. It can be agreed, before the game starts, to play without Flor as there is no real challenge and the points are obtained just by luck.

Envido: any two cards of the same suit. The value of an envido is 20 points plus the sum of the two cards. The court figures have 0 value. For example an Envido made of the 3 and the 6 of coins has a value of 29 points (20+3+6). The highest possible Envido is 33 points (20+7+6). The player with the highest points wins the challenge.
Truco: by challenging the opposing team with a "Truco" you are telling them that you are certain you are going to win the round.

C) How points are counted:
Flor: it's worth 3 points. If a Flor is counter challenged (both teams have Flor) then the highest valued Flor wins 6 points.

Envido: Not accepted : 1 point
             Accepted : 2 points
             Doubled : 4 points

Truco: Not accepted : 1 point
           Accepted : 2 points
           Doubled : 3 points
           Re-doubled : 4 points

If in a round there are no challenges the team that wins the round gets 1 point.

Method of Play:

To begin the game the dealer shuffles the cards and asks the player on his left to "cut" the deck. Once this is done he deals three cards to each player, starting with the one on his right. Some players believe that the cards should be dealt from the bottom of the deck.

The players pick up their cards. In order for the team to play the best possible way, it is necessary for each player to tell his partner if he has any high value cards. To do this he uses expressions on his face. The face signals used in Truco are the following:

Ace of Swords - raising the eyebrows
Ace of Clubs - winking an eye
7 of Swords - a half smile to the right
7 of Coins - a half smile to the left
The four 3s - biting the lower lip
The four 2s - throwing a kiss (silent of course)
The Aces of Coins and Cups - forming an "O" with the mouth
High points for Envido - wiggling the nose (remember Bewitched?)
Low points for Envido - eyes closed

The hardest, and most important, part of passing the signals, is to do it without the other team seeing you. You don't want them to know your cards.

Then begins the discarding and the challenges. Once a challenge is claimed, in a loud voice, the only possible answers are: QUIERO (I accept) or NO QUIERO (I don't accept). No other expressions are acceptable.
If a player has a Flor, he must declare it before any card is played. He must say aloud, "Flor". If the other team does not say anything then he gets 3 points. But if the other team happens to have a Flor too, then the player who has it in his hand repeats, "Flor". The point of the three cards are added (using the method of the Envido) and the team with the highest count wins 6 points.

Then comes the challenge of the Envido. The player who has Envido must declare it before discarding, but he can do it after the other players have discarded. He declares "Envido". If the other team does not accept then the team that declared obtains 1 point. If the other team accepts, the player with the Envido declares in loud voice how many points he has. The team who wins gets 2 points. But if a player of the team that has been challenged repeats the word "Envido", and the counter challenge is accepted, hen the winner gets 4 points

The discard continues. The player who discards the highest valued card wins the discard, and the team that wins two out of the three discards wins the round. At any point of the discard, a player can declare "Truco". This means he expects to win the round (or at least he wants the other team to believe he will). In this case there is a third valid reply, "Quiero Retruco" (I accept and I counter the challenge). If he says this then he becomes the challenger. The original challenger can now accept or not the challenge, but he has another option, "Quiero Vale 4" (I accept for 4 points). This is a counter counter challenge. Of course, if accepted, the winner takes 4 points. The object of raising the stakes (Retruco and Vale 4) can be, either to obtain more points, or to scare away the other player when one does not necessarily have good cards.

I know it sounds complicated, but explained card games are always more complicated than played card games. If you ever get the chance of seeing a game of Truco, just hang around and watch. You will see it is quite exciting. The next step will be to find a place at the table, and find a partner. Who knows, you might be a much better lier than you think. Try it.

1 comment:

r4 said...

hey man........nice job....this Truco will be keeping my card club interesting for at least next six months....keep posting. Will be visiting back soon.

A Friend Away From Home

I too am a foreigner. I have the advantage of coming from a country that is just round the corner. But I spent most of my childhood and adolescence as a foreigner, so I understand very well what it like is to be away from home. We could say that I became an expert in creating a home away from home. In times when there was no Internet and no cell phones, one had to get used pretty fast to life in new, far away places. And it was at those moments when one learned to really appreciate a friendly face, a soothing voice and a warm handshake. One felt that even living in a different culture and hearing a different language, one could find, and one always did find, a friend to make one feel a little less lost and lonely. Uruguay is very similar to Argentina, so it took no effort for me to feel at home here. Specially when the reason that brought me here is a lovely Uruguayan lady. We´ll get into that later on. But it really amazed me to find such a large quantity of foreigners, mostly from countries that are not so close at hand, living in this beautiful country. I have had the opportunity of meeting some of them. And I thought: "wow, even if the weather is great, it must not be so easy living far away from countries like Canada, USA, Switzerland, India or France. But I have been there so I can understand the feeling. And then I thought, what can I do to help them feel less far away? Could I find a way of becoming their friend away from home? I would really like to. I know Uruguay and the Uruguayan culture very well. I speak some of their languages. I understand them. Yes, I think that might work. I´ll try to help them and become their friend. And that is what I want to do. I am here to help you, to understand you and to try to make your stay in this great country as pleasant as possible.
Just ask, we´ll see what we can do.