OBJECTIVE OF FRENCH TAROT: The objective of French Tarot is to be the player with the most points at the end of an inning.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 4 (with variants for 3 and 5)

NUMBER OF CARDS: French Tarot 78-card deck

RANK OF CARDS:  A Tarot deck consists of 56 cards with a value from Ace to King like a traditional game (clover, heart, diamonds, spades). There also is an additional card “The Knight” placed between the Jack and the Queen.

The trumps are 21 (from 1 to 21). They allow to cut any suit to win a trick, and their value corresponds to their number. Trumps number 1 (called The Small One) and 21 also are Oudler cards. The last card is The Excuse (also called The Fool) and works a bit like a joker. It does not allow to win a trick but it is the third and last Oudler card.

TYPE OF GAME: Bet-based tactical trick taking game



French Tarot is played in several innings during which a bet is made by one of the players, called the taker, to achieve a specific score. The Oudlers are important cards for the bet: the more Oudlers the taker has at the end of the inning, the less points he needs to succeed in his bet.

  • No Oudlers, he’s got to score 56 points.
  • With 1 Oudlers, he needs 51 points.
  • With 2 Oudlers, 41 points.
  • With 3 Oudlers, 36 points.


At the start of the game, the cards are spread out on the mat face down and each player draws a card. The player with the lowest card is designated to deal.

He then deals each player the cards 3 by 3. The dealer must also make up “The Dog” consisting of 6 cards that he must put down card by card. The first and last card must not end up into the Dog.

Each player then takes his cards without ranking them and evaluates their strength. The player to the left of the dealer announces if he takes. If the answer is no, it is up to the next player to speak. A player may override another player’s bet by taking a higher bet.

4 player setup – 18 cards per player


When one of the players decides to take, he has to announce a bet level that represents the risk/rewards in terms of points. The base bet is worth 25 points and is multiplied on higher bet levels as follows:

  • “Petite” (Small): The bet is worth 25 points.
  • “Garde” (Keep): The bet is multiplied by 2 in case of win or loss.
  • “Garde sans” (Keep without the dog): the taker does not look at the dog and keeps it). The bet is multiplied by 4 in case of win or loss.
  • “Garde contre” (Keep against the dog): the dog returns to the opposing team who does not look at it. The bet is multiplied by 6 in case of win or loss.

If no one decides to take, the player to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer and deals the cards again.

If there is a taker, the dog composed of 6 cards is then turned over in plain sight (in case of a Petite or Garde bet). The taker then takes the cards and adds them to his hand. He chooses 6 cards (except the Kings and the Oudlers) and puts them aside in front of him without showing them. For the whole duration of the inning, the 3 other players form a team and try to prevent the taker from succeeding in his bet.

Having a lot of trumps in his starting hand, the top left player takes a Garde and is well rewarded: two good trumps and a Knight in the Dog!


The player to the left of the dealer always starts the game. He plays a suit and the other players have the obligation to follow the requested suit if they have the cards. If they don’t have any, they must cut at trumps. The winner of the trick is the one who opens the next round.

Concerning trumps, players have the obligation to move up at trumps, i.e. to play a trump card higher than the best one previously played, if possible (any trump card otherwise). If a player no longer has any trumps or cards of the requested suit, he may play any card from his hand.

The Excuse is always kept by the player who plays it. The player cannot win the trick since it has no direct value when played. The player must then, when the trick is over, give a worthless card of his choice from the previously won tricks in exchange. The Excuse cannot be played in the last trick or it will be lost.

The bottom left player tries to play his King, but no luck! The taker has a no heart, and thus cuts at trumps with delight.


For each inning, the total of the taker’s tricks and the defensive team’s tricks must be counted separately. The total must always be 91 points.

To count the cards, always attach a low card with a dressed card.

The value of the cards are:

  • the 3 Oudlers are worth 5 points each
  • a King is worth 5 points
  • a Queen is worth 4 points
  • a Knight is worth 3 points
  • a Jack is worth 2 points
  • the low cards (all remaining cards) in pairs are worth 1 point

To win, the taker must reach a different score depending on the number of Oudlers he owns:

  • no Oudler: 56 points
  • 1 Oudler: 51 points
  • 2 Oudlers: 41 points
  • 3 Oudlers: 36 points

If the taker’s bet is successful, he immediately takes 25 points + the difference in points between his score and the score he had to reach.


The taker has taken a Garde and must score 51 points, having 1 Oudler. His total is 55 points. The result is therefore 29 points (25 points + 4 points).  Having taken a Garde the total is multiplied by 2, giving 58 points.

Result: each player of the opponent team loses 58 points which are given to the taker: 174 points.

If the taker has scored 45 points, he loses by 6 points, with a 31 points result (25 points + 6 points). Again this result is multiplied by 2, hence the taker losing 186 points and giving 62 points to each opponent.

Therefore, at the end of the inning, the total score of all players must always be equal to 0.



The Small One at the end

The player or team who manages to keep the Small One until the last round and to win the last trick with it scores 10 more points (multiplied according to the chosen bid).

The Grand Slam

To achieve a Grand Slam, you have to win every trick. It must be announced by the taker after he has looked at the dog (if he was allowed to by his bet). In this case, the taker starts the inning and if he has the Excuse he must play it in the last round and will keep it if he does so.

The Grand Slam grants extra bonus points:

  • + 400 points if the taker announces it and realizes it
  • + 200 points if the taker does not announce it but realizes it.
  • – 200 points if the taker announces it but does not realize it.


Thoroughly evaluate the strength of your hand of cards (number and strength of trumps, number and strength of dressed cards, number of Oudlers) before announcing if you take or not.

The taker may use the 6 cards he puts aside to create clear cuts or singletons

  • A clear cut is when you have no card of a given suit, thus allowing you to cut at trumps from the start to steal the dressed cards of that suit from your opponents
  • A singleton is when you have only one card of a given suit. Players who have cautiously not played their dressed cards during the first trick of the suit might get confident that you have more cards of that suit and fall to the trap!

The course of a Tarot inning is a race for saving your valuable cards while trying to get the opponent team’s dressed cards. You may play suits that force your opponents to cut at trumps to exhaust their trumps, but remember that by doing so you might force your teammates to yield their dressed cards.

Chasing the Small One

If a player has enough high value trump cards, he may try to chase the Small One by opening tricks with trumps, thus forcing everyone to follow at trumps. The player who has the Small One might be forced to yield it sooner or later, but if you don’t have enough strong trumps, another player might play a higher trump than you and allow his teammate to safely play the Small One. A classical move in that kind of situation is to play the 21 of trump early game just in case the Small One is owned by a teammate, allowing the team to save it.


Rules for 3 players:

The cards are dealt 4 by 4 to the players, each player thus receiving 24 cards.

The taker takes all the points in negative or positive depending on the success of his bet. The two other players share half of the points in negative or positive.

For example, if the taker succeeds in his bet up to 60 points, the defensive team loses 60 points per player, and the taker takes 120 points (total points).

The course of a tarot game with 5 players:

When the cards are dealt, the dog is no longer composed of 6 cards but of 3 cards. When one of the players decides to take, he must call a King before the Dog is revealed. The player who owns the called King then becomes his or her partner for the inning. The called player must not reveal that he is with the taker until he plays the called King.

In the case where the taker owns the 4 Kings, he may:

  • Call himself and therefore play against 4 players
  • Call a Queen instead.

The player who starts the first trick is not allowed to play the suit of the called King unless he directly plays the called King.

The game then proceeds with the usual rules.

Scoring rules for 5 players:

If the taker’s team succeeds in his bet, the taker takes 2/3 of the points and the called player 1/3. The opposing team then loses 1/3 each. In case the bet is not successful, the distribution of negative and positive points is done in the same way.

For example, if the taker’s team succeeds in his bet by 50 points:

  • Each player of the defensive team loses 50 points.
  • The taker takes 100 points (2/3 of the points)
  • The called player takes 50 points (1/3 of the points)

In the case where the taker is alone, he takes all the points (200 points in the above example).

Nakoa Davis