Mastering the Complex Rules of French Tarot

French Tarot, a classic trick-taking card game with roots in 15th century Italy, has captured the hearts of gamers for centuries with its unique blend of strategy, partnership and luck. While the intricate rules may seem daunting initially, they open up a world of stimulating gameplay and endless fun once mastered. This comprehensive guide will take you through the fascinating history of French Tarot, unravel its detailed rules, and provide tips to excel at this beloved game.

A Glimpse into the Storied History of French Tarot

The exact origins of French Tarot remain shrouded in mystery. Most scholars trace its beginnings to northern Italy in the 15th century, where playing card decks called Tarocchi emerged, containing prototypes of the iconic Tarot trump cards. As Tarocchi decks spread across Europe, the game evolved into different regional variations.

French Tarot, as we know it today, came into its own in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its tremendous popularity in France during this period cemented its enduring association with the country. While the French bestowed the name “Tarot” on the game, its complex bidding system also reflects influences from bridge whist, a popular British card game. Over the centuries, French Tarot disseminated across Europe, giving rise to many delighted devotees and local variations.


GC is an Internet provider of universally popular competitive multi-player games of skill and strategy as Gin Rummy, Backgammon, Cribbage, Dominoes, Mahjong.

The Essential Game Components – Deck and Players

French Tarot requires a specialized 78-card deck, unlike standard 52-card playing card decks. The Tarot deck comprises:

  • The four standard card suits of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs with 13 cards in each suit from King down to Ace.
  • 22 Trump cards, including 21 numbered trumps plus the Fool, that fall outside the regular suits and hold special powers.

Ideally, French Tarot is played with 4 players, but variations for 3-6 players exist. The dealer can also participate as the fourth player.

Understanding the Intricate Gameplay and Rules

French Tarot unfolds through a series of critical steps which form the game’s framework:

Distribution of Cards

The cards are thoroughly shuffled and each player receives 18 cards, dealt in batches of 3. This is followed by the placement of one face-down card in the center of the table, referred to as the “chien” (dog).

The Bidding Phase

Bidding begins with the player to the right of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Each player announces how many tricks they believe they can win, from a minimum mandated number to a maximum of 18 or all the tricks.

The bids must name the trump suit as well, except Hearts which cannot be trumps. The player with the highest bid becomes the declarer or “taker.” Their called suit serves as trumps for that round.

Calling the King

The taker can call for the King of any suit, except the trump suit, by naming the suit. Whoever holds that King becomes the taker’s partner for the round.

Playing and Winning Tricks

The player to the taker’s right leads the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible or play trumps if unable to follow suit. The highest card of the led suit or the highest trump played captures the trick.

The trick winner leads the next trick and this continues until all cards have been played. The taker and partner collectively try to win at least the number of tricks bid by the taker.

Scoring Points

If the declaring team wins their announced number or more tricks, they score points for each extra trick. Failure to make the bid results in point deductions. Further bonuses or penalties apply based on cards captured. The first team to reach a set total score wins the game.

Special Rules

  • The Fool card can be played anytime but does not win the trick unless it is the last remaining unplayed card.
  • Within a suit, standard card rankings apply from King high down to Ace low. For trumps, the numbering 1 to 21 determines the rankings.

BetOnline is a privately held online US friendly gambling company offering Sports, eSports Betting, Poker, wagering on Horse Racing and Casino.

Top Tips and Strategies to Excel at French Tarot

Mastering French Tarot requires understanding key strategies around bidding, trumps, partnerships and deductions. Here are some pro tips:

  • Bid judiciously based on your hand strength, not greed, to avoid overbidding and penalties.
  • Assess which uncalled suit would be the optimal trumps for your hand and bid accordingly.
  • Value trumps highly for their trick-winning powers and seek to obtain the 1 and 21 trumps if possible.
  • Communicate effectively with your partner through signals and card play to maximize your partnership’s chances.
  • Observe opponents’ discards closely to deduce which cards and suits they hold.
  • Maintain a balanced hand with cards across suits to handle unpredictable situations during play.
  • Learn to calculate points and risks quickly during bidding to arrive at the optimal contract.


While French Tarot may appear mystifying initially, its nuances reveal a world of deep strategy and partnerships. Learning its unique mechanics, from bidding to trumps and scoring, is extremely rewarding. With practice, you too can master the complex ballet of French Tarot and join the ranks of its passionate devotees across the globe.