OBJECTIVE OF SKAT: Fulfill your contract by winning or losing tricks.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 3 players
NUMBER OF CARDS: 32 card deck
RANK OF CARDS: J, A,10, K, Q, 9, 8, 7//A, K Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7
TYPE OF GAME: Trick-Taking
INTRODUCTION TO SKAT
Skat is a popular German trick-taking game that accommodates 3 players. It was created in 1840 in Altenburg, Germany by Brommesche Tarok-Gesellschaft members. The game is a mixture of Schafkopf, Tarok (Tarot), and l’Hombre. Skat is not to be confused with the American card game Scat. Skat uses three hands with 3 active players, the fourth being the dealer who sits out. There are three different ways to play skat, which change the value of the cards: suit games, grand, and null.
The game was traditionally played with German cards which use different kinds of suits. Below outlines the corresponding suits.
Clubs Acrons (Eichel)
Spades Leaves (Grün)
Hearts Hearts (Roz)
Diamonds Bells (Karo)
K – King King (König)
Q – Queen Ober (Ober)
J – Jack Unter (Unter)
Card rankings depend on which game the declarer wants to play.
No matter the suit chosen for trumps, the four Jacks are top trumps. Jacks rank in this order: Clubs, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds
Trumps Ranking: Jack of Clubs, Jack of Spades, Jack of Hearts, Jack of Diamonds, A, 10, K, Q, 9, 8, 7
Nontrumps Ranking: A, 10, K, Q, 9, 8, 7
The four jacks are the only trumps, ranking in this order: Club, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds
Nontrumps Ranking: A, 10, K, Q, 9, 8, 7
No trumps. Cards rank: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7
In suit and grand games, cards have the following point values:
J: 2 A: 11 10: 10 K: 4 Q: 3 9: 0 8: 0 7: 0
There is 120 total points.
The first dealer is chosen randomly, the deal passes left. The dealer shuffles and then the player to their right cuts the deck. The dealer deals 3 cards to each player, 2 cards to the center (this is the skat), then 4 cards to each player. If the dealer is the fourth player, they deal to each other player and sit out.
THE AUCTION/THE BID
A bid is a possible value of points that are available within the game. For example, 20, 25, 33, 60 points, etc. The lowest bid is 18 points.
The player to the left of the dealer is the forehand (F), the player to the left of the forehand is the middlehand (M), and the player to their left is the rearhand (R). If there are only 3 players, the dealer is the rearhand. F is senior to M and M is senior to R. Senior players only have to match the bid of their junior’s to win the bid. Junior players must exceed the bids of seniors to win.
Auctions begin with F and M. M bids first, either passing or bidding (typically bidding the minimum of 18). F may either pass, and decide to not have the opportunity to be declarer, or say yes and match M’s bid. If F says yes, M may either pass or increase their bid. F decides whether to pass or match M;s bid again. This continues until either F or M drops out by passing. If a player passes they can no longer bid on the hand.
The second portion of the bid is between R and the winner of F and M’s bid. R must increase their bids as the junior, to which F or M must match. Whoever does not pass becomes the declarer, or the winner of the bid.
If M and R both pass, F may be declarer by bidding 18 or cards are thrown in and re-dealt.
The declarer has the right to pick up the two skat cards. Add them to hand and discard two unwanted cards face-down. The cards discarded can be the one’s picked up. After discarding, the declarer chooses their game. If the declarer looked at the skat cards, the contract is skat game. There are seven options:
Diamonds/Hearts/Spades/Clubs: A suit is declared as trumps, the declarer tries to earn 61 points.
Grand: Only jacks are trumps, the declarer tries to earn 61 points.
Null: No trumps, declarer attempts to lose every trick.
Null Ouvert (Open Null): Played like null with the declarer’s hand exposed.
Player’s can choose to not look at the skat cards. However, the game is called a hand game, with the same contract options.
Declarers in suit hand games and grand hand games can up the stakes by increasing the point value of a game. Player’s may announce Schneider and attempt to win 90 points, Schwarz and attempt to win all the tricks, or Open and play with their hand exposed. This must be announced before the first trick.
Play moves clockwise. The forehand always leads the first trick and player should try to follow suit if possible. If a player is unable to follow suit they may play any card. Reminder, in suit and grand games jacks are trumps despite suit. For example, if the suit lead with is diamonds, jack of clubs is still the highest trump.
Tricks are won by the highest trump, if no trump is played, the player who takes the trick is whoever played the highest ranking card that followed suit. The winner of a trick leads in the next trick.
Declarers in suit and grand game win if they take at least 61 points (in card values, including the skat). Opponents win if their tricks combined is at least 60 points.
If opponents take 30 or less points they are Schneider, if they take 31+ points they are out of Schneider. Taking no tricks at all means they are Schwarz. These apply to the declarer as well.
Declarers in Null or Open Null games win by losing every trick. Taking a trick is losing.
CALCULATING GAME VALUE
Suit & Grand Contracts
The value of these contracts is determined by multiplying the base value and the multiplier. The base value is dependent on the trump suit.
Contract Base Value
The multiplier is the sum of the following items:
Multiplier Skat Hand
Matadors 1 each 1 each
(with or against)
Game 1 1
Hand n/a 1
Schneider 1 1
^ (announced) n/a 1
Schwarz 1 1
^ (announced) n/a 1
Open n/a 1
*Every multiplier that is applicable counts.
Jack of clubs and a sequence of trumps are called Matadors. If the declarer conforms, they are with that number (of Matadors). If the opponent’s hands combined conforms, the declarer is against. For example, if the declarer has Jack of Clubs, Jack of Spades, Jack of Hearts, Jack of Diamonds, Ace of Hearts, 10 of Hearts, King of Hearts, they are with 7. If the declarer does not have a Jack of Clubs they are against that number of Matadors.
The smallest multiplier possible is two.
Nul contracts are simpler to score, contracts have fixed values.
Contract Value Amount lost (if unsuccessful)
Null 23 46
Null Hand 35 70
Null Open 46 92
^ Hand 59 118
If the declarer wins and the game value is at at least as much as their bid, the game value is added to their cumulative score. However, if the declarer loses and the game value is as least as much as their bid, then double the game value is subtracted from their cumulative score.
If the game value is less than the bid the declarer loses automatically. A number of points taken does not matter. Double the base value is subtracted from their cumulative score.
When the declarer announces Schneider and takes less than 90 points, or announces Schwarz and win a trick, the declarer loses automatically.