What is Belote?
It is the National Game of France, and is one of the most popular French card games, played in every region of the French nation. Belote has spread to the rest of Europe, and remains one of the most popular games in the world more than 100 years after its first recorded invention in 1921.
How to Play Belote?
Belote uses a 32-card modified version of the standard 52-card Anglo-American deck. A Player should remove the 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s of all suits from the deck. Aces should remain.
A unique aspect of this game dictates that the Belote deck should never be shuffled. Cards are instead cut from the top of the deck.
Partnerships must be formed first and foremost. Belote is a Four-Player game, and as such Partners should be sitting opposite of themselves across the play area, so that a Player is always flanked on their clockwise and counterclockwise by an opposing Player.
Cutting the Deck
The Dealer does not shuffle the deck at any point in a game of Belote. Cards are instead “cut” and placed on the bottom of the deck. To cut a deck, a Player simply draws a large number of cards from the top of the deck, without looking at any of them, and places them at the bottom of the deck.
The Dealer’s Partner may cut the deck first, but in subsequent deals the Player to the clockwise of the Dealer will cut the deck. When cutting, at least 3 cards must be cut from the deck.
Dealing out the Cards
After the cutting, the Dealer begins dealing out cards in “packets” of three, or three cards at a time to each Player. The Deal begins counterclockwise from the Dealer, as does the position of Dealer at the start of each round.
After each Player has been dealt a packet of three cards, the Dealer will then deal packets of two cards to each Player. The remaining cards will remain in the deck, face-down, as the bidding procedure begins.
As is the case in many trick-taking card games, Belote is also a contract-making card game. Once each Player possesses 5 cards, the bidding Phase begins. Players may “Pass”, initiate a bid, or raise a bid.
The top card from the deck is drawn and then placed face-up in the center of the Play area. This center card is a possible contract. The contract determines the Trump suit, matching the suit of the “public card”. Players may accept the suit as the contract, or they may pass.
If all four Players pass without bidding on the card, the public card is placed at the bottom of the deck. A New public card is then drawn, and the process continues until there is at least one Player willing to bid on the contract.
However, if one Player feels advantaged enough by the 5 cards in their hand, they may declare a contract. There are a number of possible contracts in Belote, and these are:
Each suit, Hearts ♥, Clubs ♣, Diamonds ♦ and Spades ♠
If a Player takes the center card, they and their partner become the “attackers” as in other trick taking card games. Once a contract is determined, a Partnership must achieve at least 82 points in order to achieve their contract. If the attackers fail to achieve their contract, the opposing Players are considered the winners.
There are melds in Belote, these melds awarding bonus points at the end of the round.
- Melds must be declared during the first trick of the round, and points should be tabulated.
- Meld points are only awarded to a winning partnership.
This means attackers may only win their meld points when they achieve the 82 points of their contract, and defenders only win their meld points when the attackers fail to achieve 82 points.
Once a Player takes the center card, the Trump suit is determined and the game may begin. The first Player to take the public card gets it.
Once the Trump suit has been determined and the public card has been taken, the Dealer will deal cards in packets of three to all Players except the Player which took the public card. That Player is dealt two cards instead, leaving each Player with a total of eight cards.
Eight tricks will be Played, with a partnership’s score being determined by the cards in their taken tricks. However, the bonus meld scores are awarded from the starting hand, as these melds must be declared at the start of the first trick.
Once again, Players only receive these bonus meld points to their total score at the end of a round in which they successfully attacked or defended.
These melds are:
A four of a kind, with four cards of all the same rank.
A “sequence” of cards that all follow the same suit, similar to a straight flush. Cards must be ascending or descending in direct order, such as 6, 7, 8 of all ♠ cards.
A Special Meld, composed of the King and Queen of Trumps. If a Player possess an Escalera which includes the Belote in its sequence, the Player is awarded the points for the Escalera and the Belote.
The points awarded for these melds is explained below in the scoring section.
Once melds are declared, play continues normally as in other trick-taking games. The Player to the right of the Dealer begins the game, leading the first trick. The right to lead tricks is granted to the Player which won the previous trick, and as such turns for leading tricks do not follow a regular pattern.
Players must follow suit, or play a card which matches the suit which led the trick, if they are able, unless they possess a trump card. Trump cards may be played at any time. If a Player’s partner is already winning a trick, they are not required to follow suit.
Once eight tricks have been played, the scores of each Player are tabulated, and then Partner’s scores are combined.
If attackers successfully fulfil their contract, they may add to their global score total both the values of the cards in their taken tricks, as well as any declared melds.
If the contract is not met, attackers may only add the value of their taken cards. Inversely, the defenders would then only count their melds if the attackers fail their contract, and otherwise must only count the cards from their taken tricks.
Gameplay continues, with a new round. Cards are not shuffled, remember, and so all Player’s cards are collected and placed at the bottom of the deck. The next Dealer is the Player counterclockwise to the previous Dealer, and the Previous Dealer gains the right to cut the deck.
Gameplay continues until one partnership achieves a global score total of 500 points.
The rules of Belote can be summarized as follows:
- Players are dealt five cards, and then the contract phase begins. After the contract phase, Players are then dealt cards until they have eight in total.
- Global score is only accounted for at the end of a round. Even if you achieve the necessary 500 points during a round, you must wait until the round ends to win the game.
- If two Players achieve a 500 score total in the same round, the team which accumulated more points in that round will win the game.
Scoring & Points
Below are two tables which will explain the values of the various melds in Belote, as well as the values of individual cards:
|Sequence of three (Tierce)
|Sequence of four (Quarte)
|Sequence of five (Quinte)
Individual Card Score
All remaining cards not listed here return a value of 0 points for taking them in the trick.
Scores are added to the global total at the end of each round, until one partnership achieves a total of 500 points.
Strategy & Tips
- Melds are worth significantly more points than taken tricks, but melds are completely random and determined by the deal of cards. However, always take the public card if it might be able to help you form a significant meld. Imagine that you have two Jacks in your hand before the public card is revealed, and it is a third jack. Take it if able, because even though the odds of being dealt the 4th jack are extremely low, there’s the potential to win 200 points immediately.
- Do not compete with your partner for a taken trick, unless you feel the need to secure the lead. If your Partner plays a high ranking trump and is all but guaranteed to win the trick, do not waste one of your Trump cards on taking that trick. Your scores are combined.
- The Jack of Trumps is a very powerful card, and can beat any other tricks. As the Jack is guaranteed to win a trick, wait for your opponent to play the 9 of Trumps, the second most powerful card, before you Play the Jack, to ensure you win the trick without wasting your Jack on a trick that could have been won by other means.
The following is a possible hand at the start of a game of Belote:
7♦, K♦, Q♦, 7♣, 8♣, 9♣, K♣, 10♥
Notice the Belote present within the opening hand, as well as the long strings of possible cards. If this is the hand dealt to you, having the diamonds or the clubs be the trump suit would be extremely useful.
- If the Trump suit is Diamonds, a Player is may declare a marriage.
- If the Trump Suit is clubs, a Player can declare a Escalera while also possessing a number of strong trump cards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where does the card game Belote come from?
Belote originated in France, first recorded in 1920 with a definitive set of rules published for the first time in 1921.
How do you count cards in Belote?
Cards in Belote are all associated with their own individual scores, which have been explained in the Scoring section above. Non-trump and Trump cards have their own separate associated values, and the ranking of cards in the Trump suit are modified, with Jacks and 9s becoming more valuable than even Aces and Kings.
Where is Belote Popular?
As France was at one time the dominant power in Central Europe, the game has spread to a number of other European nations and become very popular there.
Belote is beloved in former Yugoslav countries such as Croatia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia, and Moldova, as well as Greece, Armenia, Bulgaria.
Saudi Arabia also adores a version of Belote, known as Baloot. The scoring and rules of Baloot are very different, but the essential trick-taking gameplay is the same.
The game is extremely popular in France, where it superseded the Piquet card game as the National Game of France.