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All players arrange themselves around the playing surface. If playing in teams, team members should be opposite each other. One player is chosen to be the dealer.

Beginning with the player on his right, and moving counter-clockwise, the dealer deals out three cards to each player, one card at a time. During this deal, the dealer will also place four cards face up on the table. A table card may be dealt before the deal begins, immediately after dealing a card to him but before dealing to the next player, or after dealing all players all three cards.

As it is impossible to sweep in a game where the initial table cards include three or four kings, such a deal is considered invalid. The cards are re-shuffled, and the dealer deals again.

The player to the dealer's right begins play. This player has two options: Either place a card on the table, or play a card to take a trick. A trick is taken by matching a card in the player's hand to a card of the same value on the table, or if that is not possible, by matching a card in the player's hand to the sum of the values of two or more cards on the table. In both cases, both the card from the player's hand and the captured card(s) are removed and placed face down in front of the player. These cards are now out of play until scores are calculated at the end of the round. If by taking the trick, all cards were removed from the table, then this is called a scopa, and an additional point is awarded at the end of the round.

Example: The player's hand contains the 2 of coins, 5 of swords, and 7 of clubs (or batons). On the table are the ace of coins, 5 of cups, and 6 of swords. The player's options are:
  1. Place the 2 of coins on the table
  2. Take the 5 of cups using the 5 of swords, and placing both cards face down in front of him
  3. Take the 6 of swords and ace of coins using the 7 of clubs, and placing all three cards face down in front of him.

Note that it is not legal to place a card on the table that has the ability to take a trick. If, for example, a 2 and 4 are on the table, and a player holds a 6, the player must either take that trick, or play a different card from his hand.

In any circumstance in which a played card may capture either a single or multiple cards, the player is forced to capture only the single card. For example, if the table has contains a 1, 3, 4, and 8 (Knave, or Fante in Italian), and the player plays another Knave, the player is not allowed to capture the 1, 3, and 4, even though their total does add up to 8. Instead, the player is only allowed to capture the Knave.

After all players have played all three cards, the dealer deals out three more cards to each player, again beginning with the player to his right. That player then begins play again. No additional cards are dealt to the table. This process is repeated until no cards remain in the deck.

After the dealer has played the final card of the final hand of the round, the player who most recently took a trick is awarded any remaining cards on the table, and points are calculated for each player or team. If no team has yet won the game, the deal moves to the right. The new dealer shuffles and deals the cards as described above.

Points are awarded at the completion of each deal. If playing in teams, the team members combine their captured cards before counting to calculate points. Players get one point for each "scopa".

In addition, there are up to four points available for the following, each worth 1 point apiece:

  • (a) captured the greatest number of cards.
  • (b) captured the greatest number of cards in the suit of coins.
  • (c) captured the seven of coins ("sette bello").
  • (d) obtained the highest "prime" (literally, primiera), erroneously referred to as simply "capturing the majority of sevens".

If two or more teams or players capture the same number of cards, same number of coin cards, or the same prime value, no point is awarded for that result, e.g. if both Team 1 and Team 2 capture 20 cards total, neither gets a point for the most cards.

The "prime" for each team is determined by selecting the team's "best" card in each of the four suits, and totaling those four cards' point values. When calculating the prime, a separate point scale is used. The player with the highest number of points using this separate point scale gets one point toward the game score.

The most common version of the separate scale is:

  • Seven (sette) = 21 points
  • Six (sei) = 18 points
  • Ace (asso) = 16 points
  • Five (cinque) = 15 points
  • Four (quattro) = 14 points
  • Three (tre) = 13 points
  • Two (due) = 12 points
  • King (re) = 10 points

If one team captures the sevens of cups and coins, the six of clubs and the ace of swords, that team's prime is (21 + 21 + 18 + 16) = 76.

Other versions of the prime's point scale exist. Most use the same ranking of cards but have variant scores, e.g. 0 points for face cards instead of 10. A variant that is popular in America but disliked by purists is to award the prime to the person with the most sevens, or the person with the most sixes if there is a tie, down to aces, and so on.

Obviously, the seven of coins is the most valuable card in the deck, as it alone contributes to all the four points. A player or team can win the "prime" even with only one seven but other useful cards. If one player has three sevens (3x21) and no cards of the fourth suit (sum=63), his opponent can win the "prime" with one seven (21) and three aces (3x16), for his sum would be 69. Therefore, it is a common tactic, while playing the game, to capture aces and sixes whenever possible.

Likewise, if a player is holding a four and there are two twos, one ace and one three on the table, he should chose the three plus the ace, unless of course he has already taken the seven or the six of the suit of the ace and unless one of the twos is a two of coins and he hasn't made the point of coins yet.

In addition to the four standard points (called "punti di mazzo", literally "deck's points"), teams are awarded additional points for every "scopa" they took during game play. A scopa is awarded when a team manages to sweep the table of all cards. That is, if the table contains only a 2 and a 4, and player A plays a 6, player A is awarded a scopa. Clearing the table on the last play of the last hand of a round does not count as a scopa.

The game is played until one team has at least 11 points and has a greater total than any other team. It is important to note that no points, including scopa points, are awarded mid-round; they are all calculated upon completion of the round. For that reason, if the current score is 10 to 9, and the team with 10 points captures the seven of coins or a scopa, the team cannot immediately claim victory. It is still possible that the opposing team could end up with a tied or higher score once all points are calculated.

In some Italian cities before the game the players can agree to play with the "cappotto" variant, in that scenario if a player is winning 7 points to 0, the game can be considered over and the player does not have to reach the total of 11 points.

It is also possible to agree on a different score, usually with increments of ten, e.g., 21 or 31 points.

Source Wikipedia

 

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