Contrée for beloters
The dealer (the one at the immediate left of the “cutter”) deals the whole deck of cards (a short division leads to 8 cards per player) according to 3 variations: 3 cards, then 2 cards, and eventually 3 cards (the only “official” dealing out, called the defensive dealing out) ; slightly different, 3/3/2 ; and last but not least, the offensive dealing out: 4/4 which entails usually the most interesting games… The first player is the one at the left of the dealer. The cutter changes at each hand of the game (the ex-dealer becomes the cutter, and so on…).
The trump is determined during the bids: each player, in the order of the game, announces, according to his wishes, a contract on a colour (there are no contract without “no trump” or with “all colours are trumps”), which fits with the minimum number of points that he thinks he can take with the colour in question as a trump.
As the total number of points is 162, the minimum possible contract is 80. The bids always rise, and rise strictly (a player who wants to announce something has to propose a higher contract) by steps of 10. The highest contract at the end of the bids (which can last for more than just one turn of the table insofar as a player doesn’t speak “over himself”, ie rises his own contract) determines the trump's colour for the hand to come.
Besides the numerical declarations (these are 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, or 160), one can announce a “capot” (I’m afraid I don’t know any translation for this term: to be “capot” means simply not to take a single trick…). A “capot” is the maximum declaration and means that the attacker has to take all the tricks of the hand. The “capot” is the ultimate goal towards which all the declarations should tend and is at the ground of all the declaration system. Some people pretend (but they’re overstating, don’t forget where the roots of the game are: in the south of France…) that a “capot” should occur every two hands!!!
Eventually, two other declarations are possible during the bids ; one can double (in French, the verb is “contrer” and explains the name of the game) a declaration: one bets that the last declaration won’t be kept (the contract will hence be down) ; no more declaration can be made as soon as a contract is doubled (the trump’s colour is therefore determined by the declaration that has been doubled): the only reply for the team that has been doubled is to redouble, which means to bet that the doubled contract won’t be down. In any case, bids are over after a “redouble”. These two declarations have of course some drastic fallouts on scores. They have to be made promptly, which means that any player can double or redouble as soon as the declaration is made, but that once a declaration is made, there's no doubling the former one. These declarations can only be made under an essential circumstance: one has to bang his fist on the table!!!
A very important teamwork lies hidden in the bids: indeed, if one’s team mate declares something, one has of course to take it into consideration before speaking ; in particular, one has to answer one’s team mate making declarations that will help him understand whether the suggested colour fits or not. Some simple rules to understand these bids and answers' system will be seen later …
Eventually, the fact to hold the belote (ie to hold in the hand the King and the Queen of the trump) allows when attacking (and only when attacking) to be given a margin of 20 points to fulfill the contract (for instance, 60 points are enough with the belote to an 80-point contract) and is to be declared by saying “belote” while laying the first card of the couple, and “rebelote” when laying the second one.
Let's sum up, bids are over:
- if no declaration is made by 3 consecutive players
- after a declaration of a “capot” if noone doubles
- after a double, if noone redoubles
- after a redouble, in any case!
The bids are, strategically speaking, a major moment in the game ; it's them that make the “Contrée” more subtle and less grounded on fate than the normal belote. They are hence not to be neglicted!
To a great extent, a trick unfolds itself the same way in “Contrée” and in belote. But one has to note that:
- if, in a turn, one's team mate is master, one doesn’t need to cut if one doesn’t hold the colour currently played and can discard himself of any card..
- a player that can’t overcut needn’t undercut (lay a weaker trump) but can discard himself of any card (NB: this rule isn’t accepted unanimously, and beloters particularly are against it ; but my opinion is that it's necessary to assure subtlety, flexibility and keenness in the game). Don’t forget that this rule can only be applied when someone cuts a colour: if trump is the color currently played, one has to lay a trump (whatever its value may be) if one holds one!
There are different ways to count points (mainly 3 ways: declared points, made points, and made points + declared points). I just present the one I use for it seems to me it's the one that equilibrates the best the game: indeed, when only made points are summed, players won’t be tempted by the highest contracts ; on the other hand, declared points prevent from an effective bidding system … Using made points + declared points presents a good alternative: the principle is to add the value of the contract with the total of points reached during the hand.
Generally speaking, the points of the defense are counted first, then one easily checks whether the contract of the attack is down or not by a substraction (attack = 162 - defense). If it’s not down, the defense is being given the total of points reached during the hand corrected to the nearest ten, and the attack is being given 160 points - this correction + the value of the contract. If it’s down, the defense is being given 160 points + the value of the contract as if they were the attackers and had won by a “capot”, and nothing is given to the attack. To achieve this system of counting, let’s point out that a “capot” is worth 250 points (and therefore a “capot”, no matter if it's down or not, is worth 410 points…), and that the belote, though giving a margin of 20 points to the attack, is never counted in the total of points. Finally, a double doubles the value of a contract (well … very surprising, isn’t it?) and a redouble quadruples it.
Eventually, the winner of the game is the first team to reach 2000 points. I just would like to emphasize the fact that these rules are mine, which means that you could encounter other players who will use very different ones. Nevertheless, these seem to me very pleasant to use!