Belote – A Dummies’ Guide For English Players. Part 3: Using The Online App

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In the final part of my Belote guide I’m going to introduce you to the online app that allows you to play this game on a daily basis. I cannot emphasise this enough – if you want to get good at Belote USE THIS APP. It’s a fantastic, easy to use way of sharpening up your game and taking you from the player who gets on everyone’s nerves – because you keep forgetting the rules – to the player that people have to watch out for, because you’ve suddenly become much, much better.

The app can be found here is free to download, and can even be played while you are browsing Facebook. A word of warning on the ‘free’ part. Like all of these other free games there is a definite hint that you can, if you wish, spend money on this game through the process of buying more chips to play DO NOT DO THIS. I have been using this app to refine my game for the last few years, do you know how much I have spent? Nothing. Not a single penny.

The way to do this is easy. When you sign up for it you are given 2,000 chips to play. Each game you play ‘professionally’ that is, with other players, costs you 200 chips to ‘buy in’. You will then win 250 back if you are successful (so a 50 chip profit). There are different levels you can play at, where the stakes are higher, but stay on the ‘Relax’ level (that’s its name) and you won’t go far wrong.

Every day you go online and play, the app will invite you to ‘spin a wheel’ that grants you free chips. This can be anywhere from 100 – 400 chips (rarely 400 though). This helps to top up your chips for free. Another way of adding free chips is to ‘befriend’ other players during gameplay. This is not like adding friends on Facebook – they won’t suddenly start ‘liking’ your statuses. No, they are your friends on the Belote app, and that’s the only place they will see you, and you will see them.

These players can become your friends by simply hovering above their faces whilst playing – the options to add them are there. In the early days of playing I would say add as many players as you can. What happens then is each day these people can send you presents, and you can send them presents back. These presents take the form of chips and range from 11 – 18 chips (or so). These chips are not taken from your existing pot, but rather are a bonus amount that you have in seemingly infinite supply (but only to give as presents). This may not sound like much but if you have 20+ players sending you chips per day, coupled with the free spin each day and conservative play (stick to the relax level) you can see what I mean when I say you never have to spend a penny.

If you do ever run out of chips however there is the training mode of the game that you can fall back on, until you have enough chips from free spins and presents to get back in.

The training mode sees you pitted against three computer players, and costs you nothing. This is where you will start out on the app, before you are deemed good enough to move up to the relax level. I would strongly recommend you stay at this level – training that is – until you have enough confidence in yourself to play with real people on the relax level. each day you practice at this you will also be entitled to free spins, so do make the most of them.

If you do have the odd losing streak – and I’ve had more than my fair share of them – then simply turn it off and call it a day. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

If I had anything negative to say about the app it’s this – it will have the occasional glitch. This could be down to too many players, system updates etc I don’t know, I’m not a programmer. What this means though is that from time to time your game may freeze, other players may disappear and strange things may happen. Sometimes this passes, but sometimes it doesn’t and you will need to reset the game. Unfortunately this may often cost you your stake – so bye bye 200 chips. People have told me that you can complain on the Twitter feed of the game makers, and they will send you your chips plus extra for your time. I don’t know if this is true because, to be honest, I couldn’t be arsed with that – I just reset and reload. If it happens more than twice in a short period of time though then give it up for the day – there’s clearly an issue.

That’s about all you need to know about the app. In case you are wondering I have no stake in people clicking on the link to the game’s site. I get nothing back financially, and I am not affiliated with the creators in any way. I just recognise it for the fantastic learning tool that it is. Play it, learn from it, then take it and let it loose on your French friends – they won’t know what hit them!

 

 

So that’s all from my guide on how to play Belote. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope it all made sense. I think that a combination of reading this guide, using the app and playing with friends, should be all you need to become a seasoned pro at Belote!

 

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Belote – A Dummies’ Guide For English Players. Part 2: Hints And Tips

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You’ve now – hopefully – read my first part on how to play this game, but that was just the basics. If you want to know more, and particularly if you want to improve your game, then read on, as I impart my accumulated, incredibly valuable wisdom (all 8 year’s worth of it anyway)…

 

  • If your partner chooses the atout and it is not their turn to commence play at the start, but it is yours, then if you have an atout help them out by playing it. This will then hopefully enable them to ‘take control’ of the game.

 

  • If you don’t have an atout, but do have a number of cards from another suit, then play a card from that – but NOT the ace or ten – this may then mean that your opponents will play a higher card and your partner may then be able to cut their play (or possibly cut your play, if you are winning) and take control.

 

  • When you are deciding whether to pick the atout, never forget the strength of Belote, if you have the king and queen of the offered atout then this can greatly aid in victory.

 

  • If you play a card of a non-atout suit and one of your opponents plays a ten – and it is not played for their benefit i.e they will lose it – this generally means that they do not have any other cards in that suit. You can then exploit this – especially if you suspect them of having an atout – by playing from that same suit again on the next turn (assuming you are in control). This will then force them to play any atout they may have.

 

  • When you decide to pick an atout, always do it with a decent balance of ‘back up’ cards. By this I mean non-atout cards that are powerful in their own right – think aces, tens etc. A hand with three to four atout cards and two aces is an almost guaranteed win.

 

  • If you have a ten and a lower card from the same suit you can try to ‘sniff out’ where the ace of that suit is by playing the lower card first (sacrificing it in the process). Then, once the ace is out of play, you will be able to win this suit when it next comes into play – as long as there are no atouts left in your opponents’ hands.

 

  • Never play a high atout card if you can help it – unless it is for the benefit of your partner. If you have three atout and your opponents are playing to try and find them then – as long as they play a higher card – always play the lowest value card first. So if they play a jack – and you have the ace, the ten and the seven atout – play the seven first. Then when they play the nine, you play the ten. This will then mean that the atout you have left – the ace – is now the highest atout in the game (and you will see that your opponents will suddenly stop searching for atout when they realise this).

 

  • KEEP AN EYE ON ALL THE CARDS PLAYED there are eight cards for all four suits being played. Being aware of what has – and hasn’t – been played is a massive factor in winning. For instance if you get to the last few hands and all atouts have been played, if you have three of any suit and you know that all the other cards in that suit have been played – and you are in control of play – you have effectively won the game. So it’s your turn to play, and you have the nine,eight and seven of hearts, and nobody else has any hearts or any atouts, you are ‘maitre’ – or guaranteed to win – for the remainder of the game, and nobody can challenge you.

 

  • ALWAYS GIVE YOUR PARTNER POINTS if they are maitre and you do not have anything in the suit they are playing, or an atout if they are playing atout, then give them points. An ace, ten, king, queen or jack – only give them a nine, eight or seven if you don’t have anything else. Never forget, the points are always better in your ‘pot’ NEVER GIVE THE OTHER TEAM POINTS!

 

  • If you want to go for ‘capote’ e.g win all the points in the game and thus the maximum points then the above rule may not apply. By this I mean that you may not wish to give away your ace to your partner, if you think you can use it later on to win a hand. This goes back to what I said above, about keeping an eye on who has played what card, and how many of them are left in the game.

 

  • As a rule NEVER play your aces unless you know that you can take the hand. For example, if it’s your turn to play and there are still a full set of eight atout out there, then there’s a high risk that one of your opponents will cut it, and take a big bite out of your possible points.

 

  • To repeat the previous points it should be particularly evident that, if you have five to six cards from the same suit, and they are not atout, then you should not play the ace as this will guarantee it will be cut. You can use this situation to your advantage though – don’t play the ace but play a lesser card and you may force you opponent to use up an atout on a card that will net them zero points.

 

  • If it’s your turn to decide if you want to play the atout card or not, be careful what you choose. If the card offered is a jack it can be tempting if you have the nine of that suit – then you have the two most powerful atout cards. However if you don’t then receive more atout cards when the remaining cards are dealt you will then be left in a precarious position. If you have to cut a non-atout card you will have to use one of these, and it will be a clear signal to your opponents that you only have one more atout. They can then exploit this. Additionally even if you play the jack and the nine, if your opponents have more atout you will then be at their mercy. This would be where those ‘back up’ cards would come in handy, but if you don’t have any of those, you may be in trouble.

 

  • Sometimes, for your own benefit, you may have to cut your partner’s hand, even if they are winning. An example of this, there was a hand I played once with my father-in-law. He was winning with ace of hearts, no atout had been played yet, and I had four atout. However I had Belote (king and queen) the ten and the nine atout. Thus from his position it could have come about that if he played atout – and it wasn’t the jack – then, due to the ascending order rule and my position at the table, I may have been forced to play my nine – and lose it. Essentially if he had played his eight, the player to my left had played the ace, I would then have been forced to play my nine and the opponent to my right could then have taken everything with their jack. Cutting him this way (which was not a popular move by the way – the French find these kinds of moves startling, but smile once you explain) meant that I had control of the game, could play an atout that we could afford to lose, and could find the jack at a relatively low cost.

 

So there you go, I hope those tips will help you in your game play, and I hope they are relatively clear and easy to understand. I will come back to this section from time to time to update it, to share more tips and hints as I discover them. Please now have a look at my third and final section on Belote – playing the online app…

 

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Belote – A Dummies’ Guide For English Players. Part 1: How To Play

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This is part one in a three-part series, part two can be found here and the third part here.

 

Frequent visitors to my blog may be unaware of the fact that I am part of a Facebook group, one that was created to educate (and entertain) people interested in living in France (or indeed people that already live here). The group’s membership is mainly made up of ex-pats from the UK, Australia, America and other predominantly English-speaking territories. You, my frequent visitor, will be unaware of my membership of this group because, until now, I’ve never mentioned it. So there you go. Boom! Just rocked your world with that news haven’t I?

 

Anyway, back to the point in hand. I decided to help these poor people out, by trying to teach them how to play Belote – a tricky task as you will soon discover.

 

Belote, for the uninitiated, is a popular French card game played in groups of four, subdivided into teams of two. It’s a very competitive game played throughout France, in homes among friends, and in halls as part of serious tournaments. The first prize isn’t money, or a car, or a holiday to Benidorm. No, as a rule you win a ham. So any competitive vegetarians can stop reading now.

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Oh and even if you come dead last they still give you some meat (chicken).

 

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I’m going to do my best to help them and also you, my frequent visitor, learn how to play this fantastic game. Belote is a tricky beast to master, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing for years, but hopefully this guide will give you a solid grounding.

 

I will try to make this as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible, I will also do my best to make it entertaining, but not at the expense of the learning experience and – let’s face it – there really are only so many jokes you can make about a card game (even a French one) before it gets tiresome.

 

So, as you may or may not be aware, there are two options when it comes to learning how to play Belote:

 

  1. You can learn the way I learned and that’s to play with the natives. This will involve many hours of wine, fun, laughter and abuse as you fail again, and again to wrap your head around the rules. You will never forget the many, many occasions that you were subjected to a stream of angry French, as you caused your team to lose for the third consecutive time. The red glow that seemed to emanate from your partner’s eyes as you placed the wrong card down at the wrong time – again! – will haunt your dreams. But hey! It’s only a game right? At least that’s what you tried to explain to your partner, as his hands closed around your windpipe, and you desperately wished you had a better grasp of French or – as darkness crept into your vision, you began to faintly hear your long-deceased grandmother gently calling your name, and a bright light began to shine down on you from above – at least knew enough to say ‘Hey! It’s only a game, right?’

 

2.      Or you can read a guide like this one…

 

So I will start this with the view that the person reading it has never played the game before, and wishes to play with friends who are similarly clueless as to the rules. So we will start with a breakdown of the cards, their names in French, what that ‘atout’ business is all about, and follow this with the rules, before wrapping the whole thing up with a breakdown of the scoring system.

 

THE CARDS, THEIR NAMES AND WHAT ‘ATOUT’ MEANS

 

So there may well be repetition of some things in this guide, as I will be going over the names of the cards you play with here, and then will reiterate that, again and again, further on. I cannot stress this enough – REPETITION IS A GOOD THING. This is not an easy game to master, so I’m trying to get the message across to you as best I can, by hammering it home, again and again.

 

Order Of Card Values If Played As Atout

Jack – the most powerful card in the game and called ‘valet’ in French.

Nine – second most powerful  called (quelle surprise) ‘neuf’.

Ace – goes by ‘as’ over here (watch the spelling on that one)

Ten – simply ‘dix’.

King – is called ‘roi’

Queen – is called ‘dame’

Eight – You probably know where I’m going with this now but if not this is ‘huit’

Seven – Yes, it’s called ‘sept’.

 

Example If opponent plays the 9 and you have the jack – you can take the 9 with your jack

 

Something to note is that if you have the king and the queen atout then this constitutes ‘Belote’ and will give you extra points (more on that in the points section later). Remember this applies even if YOU HAVE NOT CHOSEN THE ATOUT YOURSELF.

 

Order Of Card Values If Not Played As Atout

Ace

Ten

King

Queen

Jack

Nine

Eight

Seven

 

ExampleIf  opponent plays 10 and you have the ace, you can take that ten with your ace – BUT ONLY IF IT IS OF THE SAME SUIT – UNLESS IS IT ATOUT AN ACE OF CLUBS WILL NOT BEAT A TEN OF HEARTS!

 

The suits themselves go by different names over here too, they are:

 

Hearts = ‘coeur’

Diamonds = ‘carreau’

Clubs = ‘trefle’

Spades = ‘pique’

 

So down to this atout business. As I said above, the cards follow that order only if they have been chosen as atout. Atout is effectively a trump card and can be used to take other players trump cards or – if during gameplay they place a card from a suit that you do not have a card from, then you can take that hand by ‘cutting’ their play. So for instance if someone plays the ace of hearts, and you don’t have any hearts then you can take this hand by playing something as lowly as a seven, as long as it’s atout – that’s how strong the atout is.

Atouts – where possible – must be played in ascending order e.g if the player to your left puts down the ten atout and you have a higher card – say the nine for instance – then you HAVE TO PLAY HIGHER. If you do not have a higher card e.g the player to your left places the ace atout, but all you have are the king and the eight, then you are free to choose which card you put down (this is known as ‘pee pee’ in France) – and always play your weaker hand if it is for the benefit of your opponents – your stronger card may well come in useful later on.

When playing non-atout cards these rules do not apply and you can play any cards you want. So if the player to your left plays the king of hearts, even if you have the ace of hearts you can play a lower card if you wish to do so BUT ONLY FROM THE SAME SUIT.

 

So that’s a bit about the values of the cards and atouts, let’s get down to some actual game-playing now…

 

GETTING STARTED

Four people playing cards, 1899

First things first, you need the right amount of players – how many’s that? Like so many other card games four is the magic number for Belote. There are variations that can be played with just two people but that’s somewhat advanced, and thus best left for another day, and another guide.

This group of four players is then divided into two teams of two, each member of each team must sit facing their partner, they cannot sit side by side. How you organise who plays with who is entirely up to you. If you play with the same group for quite a while you will begin to see who you play best with – this may not necessarily be the person you get on best with, or sleep with for that matter. I get my best results from playing with my French father-in-law, and yet I wouldn’t kiss him if you paid me.

So assuming you have your foursome, you now need to obtain a pack of cards. From this pack of cards you need to remove the two, three, four, five, and six from every suit. You should then be left with the following cards: ace, jack, king, queen, ten, nine, eight and seven.

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This is what you should have left after removing the other cards

Make a mental note that this means there will be EIGHT CARDS FOR EVERY SUIT INCLUDING THE CHOSEN ATOUT’S SUIT. This might sound patronising but keeping this simple detail in your mind can be difficult during play, but is one of the key components to success in Belote.

Shuffle the deck and then have each of the players pick out a card. Whoever has the highest card will then have first choice of whether to pick the atout or not when play commences. Once this is done put the cards back together and then split the pile in two. Pass it to a player – NOT the player who gets first dibs though – and they must then rejoin the pile in the opposite order to the way it was originally split.

You must then deal out the cards  – face down so that they are not visible – to each player. There are two ways of doing this, you can either deal out three cards to each player initially, and then two – so that each player is left with a pile of five cards – or you can do the reverse: two cards then three. All players should keep their cards hidden from each other at all times – this is especially applicable to each other’s partners – cheating is frowned upon, and treated quite harshly in France.

The dealer will then place the next card face up on the table so that all players can see it. This is – potentially – the atout card.

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In the game your cards would not be visible – this is simply for illustrative purposes. As you can see above, you shouldn’t take atout as diamond, however your spade hand is very strong

Starting with the player who won the card pick at the beginning, and then proceeding  anti-clockwise, each player can then decide whether or not they wish to play, take the atout, and get the game rolling. If nobody wishes to take the first card offered play will go back around, starting with the first person who declined the initial card. There is then the opportunity to make any other card in your hand the atout card.

If the initial card is of no interest to any player, and nobody’s hand is deemed to be strong enough to select another suit to be atout, then each player must signal this by saying ‘deux’. If all players say ‘deux’ then the whole process starts again – the cards are split by the last person who dealt and the player sitting to their right then resplits the pack – again in the opposite way to how it was originally split – and deals out the cards. This process will repeat until someone chooses the initial card or decides they have a strong enough contender in their own hand.

So let’s say that you think you have a strong enough hand – and are prepared to take on the card that has been left by all the other players, including yourself – you elect to choose another suit and name it – simply saying hearts, diamonds, spades or clubs aloud (to be correct, and especially if you are playing with the natives, then use the French version of this, it will impress them).

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Here we see that you have selected the spade as the atout card. You have announced this to the table and the remaining cards have been dealt. Three to each of the other players and two to you. You now have a very strong hand – you picked up an extra atout with the seven and you also have Belote – the king and queen atout.

In this case – or in the case of the atout being chosen being the one initially placed – you take the card and the remaining cards are dealt as follows: you (or whoever chooses the atout) receive two cards, while all other players receive three cards each. There should be no cards left in the deck whatsoever – if there are, and it happens more often than you would think, then something has gone wrong and you need to ‘reset’.

But nothing has gone wrong! The atout is selected and play has commenced.  The idea now is – generally – to sniff out the other players’ atouts, and thus take out the ‘threat’ they pose to your game. I will go into more detail on the various ways you can do this in a later section, but for now we’ll stick with the basics.

So let’s say you selected the atout and you are in control of the game i.e it’s your turn to play. If you have the jack and the nine in your selection then you should play one of these – it does not matter which one because as noted earlier, these are the two most powerful cards and will ‘defeat’ all other atout. If your opponents have atout THEY MUST PLAY THEM. Ideally this initial play – let’s say of the jack – will bring you three of their atouts. So now you know there are four left – if you deduct your nine that means three. You should then play the nine and, hopefully, you will then take the remaining atouts.

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It was (ideally) your turn to play first, and you have played your jack. The player on your right has followed your play and put down the ten, your partner has played the eight and your other opponent has no atouts – as you can tell by their playing of a low value card that is of a different suit. You have four atouts left in your hand – you have three that you have just won, in front of you on the table, leaving just one atout to find – unfortunately it’s a biggie – the nine (note how I have put all cards in their corresponding suits? it greatly aids gameplay).

With the table now clear of atouts you are free to carry on playing the game as you would a normal card game. Thus if you play a king of hearts you will lose it if your opponent plays a ten, or an ace of hearts. But don’t forget, normal rules are back in play and so a nine is just back to being a plain old nine and is nothing special at all. Likewise a jack can be defeated by a queen, a king, a ten and an ace and is not the all powerful card it is when it is atout.

So let’s just imagine however, that there’s still an atout in play and, worst of all, your opponents have the best one – the nine. At this early stage in your playing you may not know who has it but, with experience, you will soon know who has what, and how to get it out of them. It’s not magic they use, these wily old French people, who seem to have an uncanny ability to figure you out – no, they just have great memories.

So there’s a rogue atout out there and it isn’t yours – you now have to be wary of losing your ace, or other high value cards to these atout because – say if you play the ace of spades and one of your opponents doesn’t have anything in that suit – they will cut your play with their atout and it’s bye-bye ace of spades!

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You’ve decided to flush out the remaining atout and have chosen to play the seven. You don’t need to use a higher card as there is only one remaining atout and, whether it’s in your partner’s hand or that of your opponent, IT MUST BE PLAYED – so why give away points? The player on your right plays the nine, as they have to, your partner plays the jack (Always give away your weakest card if you have to to your opponents, and so this shows that he has a very good hand if this is the weakest cad he has to play) and the remaining opponent then plays a ten (if your partner is winning a hand – and you don’t have a card in the winning suit – ALWAYS give them a high value card – unless you are saving certain cards for a better time).

The reverse is applicable too though, for instance if you start with a decent handful of atouts – let’s say five (always a nice amount) – and you end up with two spare after claiming all the rest. Then you can keep them to cut your opponents with when they play something you don’t have anything in the same suit as (always hope to cut an ace or a ten though – nothing worse than being ‘flushed out’ by a seven).

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The player who took the previous hand with the nine has played hearts, your partner has followed with a king and your other opponent has played an ace. As you do not have a heart you have no option but to cut this hand with your queen – saying ‘Belote!’ while doing so. You now take this hand and control is back with you. Note the two small piles of cards in each corner, these are each team’s respective ‘winnings’.

An additional word on cutting – if your partner plays a card that you do not have something of YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CUT HIM IF HE IS WINNING (see information on ‘maitre’ further on)This is something I can’t urge you enough to remember, unless it’s tactically advantageous to you (e.g: if you have figured out that by cutting your partner’s winning hand you will claim your opponent’s (yet to be played) ace) then DO NOT DO THIS. There is further information on this in the part 2 of this guide.

If your opponent plays a card however, in a suit that you do not have anything in, then YOU HAVE TO CUT. Don’t be surprised either – if you cut the play after your partner and one of your opponents, but before your other opponent – to see your other opponent hastily shuffling his hand and laying down something of much, much lower value than, say, the ace they had originally intended on playing.

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It’s your turn again and you’ve played your ace of diamonds. As there are no other atouts left in your opponent’s hands you are “maitre” – guaranteed to win. So your partner has given you the most points he can in that suit – the ten. As you can see the player on your right has no diamonds and so has given you a low-value card.

You may also hear the French referring to themselves as ‘maitre‘ or their partner or another player may ask if they are ‘maitre‘. This simply means that they are winning the hand, even if they have played something as trivial as a seven of hearts – and even if that is not atout – IF NO OTHER PLAYER HAS A CARD IN THE SAME SUIT, AND ALL ATOUT HAVE BEEN PLAYED, A CARD AS INSIGNIFICANT AS A SEVEN CAN WIN A HAND.

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Taking a gamble the ten of clubs is played, followed by the seven from the opponent on your right (as they don’t know who has the ace) your partner plays the queen and, unfortunately, your other opponent plays the ace, winning the hand and taking control of play.

You should really try keep spare atouts as last resorts, once the other atouts have been ‘sniffed out’ and always try to keep one till the very end if you can as this will  guarantee you win the last hand, and give you more points (more on this further down).

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So here the player to your left has played the king, you have to play your eight, his partner plays the eight of clubs (showing they only have low-scoring cards left, if they had anything better this is the point they would give it as – working out from the cards that have been played – their partner is maitre here and guaranteed to win the hand) and your partner plays the seven.

One final note on atouts regards Belote – or rather if you have the cards that constitute it – the king and queen of the chosen atout suit. If you do, when you play them you must say the word ‘BELOTE!’ when you place it down, it doesn’t matter if you play the king or queen first. When you place the second one of these cards down, again whichever one it doesn’t matter, you must then say ‘RE-BELOTE!’. It’s unlikely that your friends or family will pick you up on this if you play them – and penalising your lack of vocalisation of this by refusing you the points is also highly unlikely – however in competitive environments (should you reach those dizzy heights, and potentially win the first prize of…ham!) they may be more severe. Plus the French will love hearing you say it.

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The last hands are guaranteed to be yours – there are only two atout in play, and you have them. Some French players, at this point, lay the atout down on the table and the other players throw their cards in. We, however, will play the last two hands out. So this hand is yours and you regain control and retain it for the final hand…

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It’s all over! As you have taken the last hand – as well as having Belote – you will get a points bonus. Ten extra points for the last hand and twenty extra points for having Belote. This may not sound like much but can often be the difference between winning and losing a game.

So that’s a general overview of how to play the game, I’m sure you’ve already got questions (and I don’t blame you) but hopefully by playing the game, and reading my other blog posts on the subject, you will be able to get stuck in.

So now one last word on the most puzzling aspect of all for some – which until recently included myself – how to tally the points…

 

SCORING A GAME OF BELOTE

Carol Vorderman - Captured by Bapwatch.co.uk

 

So the values of cards are:

 

ATOUT

 

Jack = 20

Nine = 14

Ace = 11

Ten = 10

King = 4

Queen = 3

Seven = 0

Eight = 0

 

‘Belote’ – King and Queen atout held TOGETHER by any one player = 20 points

 

NON-ATOUT

Ace = 11

Ten = 10

King = 4

Queen = 3

Jack = 2

Nine = 0

Eight = 0

Seven = 0

10 points are also awarded for ‘Dix de der‘ which is the winning of the very last hand.

 

WINNING – AND LOSING – SCORES

You must have 82 points to win a game – minimum.

If you chose the atout and you do not meet the 82 point minimum the other team wins and will receive 162 points (182 if they have the Belote as well). This is known as ‘Dedans‘.

If you do the minimum then the other team gets your points (162) minus yours (e.g 162 – your 82 points means they get 80 points, or if you score 92 points then 162-92 = 70 and so on).

If you/your opponents choose the atout and win every hand then you/they win 252 points (272 with Belote) this is known a ‘Capot‘. This result differs at competitive levels (or where you are playing it with the natives) where the points you are awarded are lowered to 162 points (182 with Belote).

You need 1,000 points to win the game at competitions/playing with French natives (though this can vary).

If you are playing using the online app (more on that in a later blog) then this is lowered to 501.

 

So there you have it. I hope you have enjoyed reading my initial guide, and didn’t find it too tasking or wearying.  You may now feel free to read my other Belote guides, where I will be delving a bit deeper into Belote tips, hints, good and bad hands and how to use the online app.

 

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French Shopping Trolleys Abused By The English!

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In case you are wondering, while they don’t say anything, I get the feeling that the staff at Intermarche ( a French chain of supermarkets)  frown about this misuse of mini trolleys.

 

Plus points? It allows your kids to comfortably play the motion-control game that your son insists on playing (‘just for five minutes daddy’) every time you go in there. Your daughter can also sit beside him as though she’s at the cinema, and ensure that she is in ‘striking distance’ for when it inevitably kicks off.

 

Negative points? You try pushing two of these while carrying a pack of beer, a pizza, a loaf of bread and some milk (yes, ‘les essentials’) it’s not easy and balancing them on the kids just looks wrong.

 

They do make an excellent battering ram though, if you encounter any ‘dawdlers’ in the chilled meats section.

My Favourite French Photograph*

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Here she is, my daughter, being effortlessly beautiful as always.

 

Oh to be young again…

 

The photograph was taken in the back garden** of her French granddad, or ‘papy’ as they are called in France.

 

She’s such a perfect specimen and yet, as I type this, she’s sat on the toilet, giving us a blow-by-blow account of what she’s doing. I won’t fill in the blanks too much, but I would really rather not have a ‘director’s commentary’ if I’m being honest.

 

I could also do without all the grunts.

 

They can be perfect.

 

They can be perfectly vile.

 

Here she just looks perfect.

 

Clothes from the French market.

 

Looks from Mummy.

 

Brains from Mummy.

 

Stick from Daddy.

 

 

*It’s early days, I’m sure we will take many more photographs, but so far this is my favourite.

 

**I use the term ‘back garden’ in its loosest possible sense – ‘vast field’ would be more appropriate. They have land to spare in this glorious country.

I Think My Daughter Is Planning A Great Escape…

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My daughter is going through a phase. It’s just the age, people tell me. She’ll grow out of it. Thing is, I’m not so sure it is just a phase. I think it’s all part of a much grander, devious scheme. You’d think I’m talking about some evil, megalomaniac genius here with what I’m about to say. And to that I’d say ‘Oh, so you’ve met my daughter then?’.

 

So what’s the phase? Collecting small-to-medium sized stones, filling her pockets with them and then ‘redistributing’ them in useful areas such as car seats, cups, your pockets and in bed (s). What I think her actual plan is: to dig a tunnel with her fellow nursery pupils, so that they can escape from nursery whenever they want.

 

This occurred to me the other day, after I’d collected her from her maternelle (the French name for nursery) and picked up her coat, as she got out of the car. This is heavy, I thought to myself. I soon realised why, as stone after stone fell out, forming piles on the car park floor. You may think I’m exaggerating by describing it like this, but it looked liked someone was staging a mock-recreation of The Blair Witch’s burial mounds. And that was after a good handful had been left in her seat as well. She just grinned at me, in a slightly sinister all-I’m-lacking-is-a-white-cat-to-stroke kind of way.

 

Blofeld ain’t got nothing on her, you wait and see.

 

The neighbour saw me, said hello and looked at what I was doing. I explained the stone-fetish. ‘It’s just the age’ she said to me.

 

Except she didn’t say it like that – in English – because she’s French.

 

So a few stones, OK, I get that. But these quantities? It’s been over a week since those stones were left on our – relatively busy – car park and they’re still there, they have strength in numbers you see. Either that or people actually think if they move them the Blair Witch of the car park will get them and…I don’t know, scratch their cars? Adjust their seats? Tune their radio-stations to a channel that plays Clean Bandit’s Symphony on an endless loop?

 

I can just picture her though, sat in a chair while drinks are brought to her, hunched over her tunnel-plans, gaining favour amongst her peers with her scheme to tunnel to the playground. All the while hiding this in plain sight by having all the kids ‘redistribute’ the displaced stones in useful areas that they will blend in to with ease, such as baths, stairs, inside shoes and underneath car brake pedals. She’ll egg them on with promises of slides, sunshine, fun and games and no adults around.

 

All the while hatching her master plan.

 

To have the tunnel emerge in the local chocolatier’s parlour…

 

I’m sure I’m wrong though, it’s probably just a phase. That’s what everybody keeps telling me anyway…

The Kids In France Are Losing Their Marbles Over Le Jeu Des Billes…

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Marbles

 

When I was a young whipper-snapper I used to play with marbles all the time. I loved them. Oilies, ball-bearings, clear ones, ones with bubbles inside – pretty much what you can see in the pic above, they really rocked my world. Because I was 7, and it was a much, much simpler world. There were no Gameboys*, no iPhones, nothing really electronic to distract you at all. We had fun and it was very, very simple fun; all you needed were a few kids (easily done) some marbles (easily won) and a grate/manhole cover (easily found). Then it was a simple case of playing the game against your opponent, whoever touched the other one, or managed to get their marble in the ‘goal’ (generally one of the small indentations in the grate) was the winner and claimed the other player’s marble as their prize.

 

Skip forward 30-odd years and the world is vastly different, there are many, many distractions available for kids – inside and outside of the playground – and yet marbles (or billes as they are known in France) are making a massive comeback.

 

For us it started as a reward system, if the kids behaved we would give them treats. The kids soon got wise to this though, and so were being good and then immediately coming to collect their prize. I had started out with Kinder Eggs: big mistake – have you seen the prices of these things? If you think they are bad in the UK, come and buy some in France, if you buy more than four a week your mortgage-repayments may suffer. So I looked at other, cheaper ways of keeping them on the ‘straight and narrow’. My son had expressed an interest in marbles, but in a collector’s way, not for any kind of game-playing reason. He’s a bit of a hoarder is my son, and he likes pretty, shiny things – a bit like Gollum but with a more annoying voice (love you son xxx).

 

So, off daddy went to look on Amazon and eBay to price up some marbles – and back daddy swiftly came, after seeing the prices + postage and packaging, and then checking his bank balance. No that wouldn’t do, that wouldn’t do at all.

 

Then the answer presented itself: brocantes. Yes the people at brocantes don’t charge extortionate prices for marbles, and they can be haggled with. I can’t haggle with Amazon – he doesn’t want to know. So when you roll up and eagerly eye a big sack (or tin, sometimes they are in pretty tins which your children will immediately purloin from you) and ask them how much, they may say ’50 centimes, pour dix’ (50 cents for 10) to which you can then reply ‘Combien pour tous?’ (how much for them all?) and you will then generally be able to walk away with twice as many billes as you would get on Amazon/eBay for a tenth of the price (and that’s not an exaggeration). You see the brocanteurs haven’t cottoned on to the fact that France has gone mad for marbles yet, but when they do…well expect to see the prices start jumping up, particularly among the more savvy ones (i.e the ones who aren’t just clearing out their recently deceased granddad’s house, and actually do it for a living).

 

So with this stock of marbles I was able to effectively, and very economically, reward good behaviour. As well as using them as leverage if there was any bad behaviour too – a double whammy a carrot AND a stick. This went on for quite a few weeks, and the kids amassed quite a collection of marbles, so much so that repeat trips were required, more for variety than anything; but that was OK, there’s always a brocante when you need one.

 

Then a funny thing started happening – my son started taking his marbles to school with him. Nothing new here, he often (read: every day) takes something in to show the kids. But then he’d start showing me his collection and mentioning how cool they were, and I didn’t recognise all the billes, these were different billes. Where were these billes coming from?

 

‘I won them from Yohanna’ he told me one day. ‘We play them together, me Yohanna, Alice and the other kids, and I’m good at it’. He then went on to play a game of marbles with me, a bit different from when I used to play, but essentially the same game. However I think I should amend my son’s phrasing as I think he meant to say ‘I’m good at cheating at it’. Unless of course it’s only with me that he plays marbles by guiding his marble towards mine, with his hand maintaining contact with his marble at all times. I don’t mind though. I’m not bitter.

 

Plus I’ve still got more marbles upstairs than he has (literally, as in upstairs in the house, not metaphorically, the kids have seen to that).

 

It wasn’t isolated to his group of friends either, as I first thought. We started to pass harried looking parents arguing with their kids. ‘He’s moaning to his daddy’ my partner translated on one such occasion ‘Because daddy forgot to put his marbles in his school-bag’. You can see them every day as well, in the playground, huddled in their groups playing away. It’s so refreshing. Here’s a past-time, from the past, which I had long thought to be firmly in the rear-view mirror enjoying a new lease of life. I can’t comment if it’s the same the world over, I haven’t researched it intensively; but it’s great to see here. No screens, all outdoors, a communal atmosphere – just good, clean, wholesome fun.

 

I did worry at first when I learned that they were playing this game, as my son can get quite (read: very) attached to things. Particularly shiny, small things (again, like Gollum). But he doesn’t seem phased at all by his very, very gradually dwindling pile of marbles. He’s just happy playing. Plus he knows if he’s good daddy will restock his collection – effectively making me the backer to his gambler (well, it is a form of childish gambling if you think about it). So that’s been a weight off my mind.

 

The real concern is when his sister starts playing…

 

…because she loves shiny, precious things even more than her brother – like Gollum, but more aggressively protective – (love you daughter xxx) there may well be blood on the playground floor if she loses her marbles…

 

*Yes, yes, it’s a dated reference but you get what I mean

I Love T’choupi And Now I Am A Big Boy…

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Today I had a good time as I went to the library and I read a good book called ‘T’choupi jardine’ and it was good because I understood every word and I felt that was a massive achievement even though my kids and partner laughed at me and the librarian looked at me like I was ‘different’.

 

I love T’choupi because he spends time with his daddy and they have fun and it is a great book and he helped his daddy in the garden and then they planted seeds and T’choupi thought his flowers would grow but daddy said ‘No you must wait T’Choupi’ which chuffed T’choupi off a bit but that’s kids for you. And daddy asked T’choupi to go in the house but T’choupi wouldn’t because kids never do what you tell them and he wanted to stay outside and watch his flowers grow but they didn’t because it was not time for them to grow yet which he would know if he had listened to his daddy.

 

I like T’choupi,  and I am a big boy now because I read the whole thing and I understood it all. OK, page 7 was a bit tricky but apart from that It was great and then I had a lollipop.

 

(Review by Phil, aged 41 and 3 quarters).

Strange Things In France This Week….

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Here’s a couple of oddities that have crossed my path this week in the land of love and wine. And cheese.

 

They just seemed a bit…odd – see if you think so too…

 

I saw this in my local Intermarche, a chain of French supermarkets that sell just about everything, however I think they may have overstepped the mark here:

 

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Selling an overpriced fridge adorned with a Union Jack… is the manager having some sort of a bet as to who can sell the craziest item in our town? If I go to my local Aldi will I find a washing machine for sale decorated with the German national flag for 350 Euros?

 

 

I then Received my first batch of contact lenses, from Vision Direct in France, excellent service, arrived really quickly and they are settling into my Anglais eyeballs a treat. I do, however, have to question their choice of free gift that came in the packaging. 10% off voucher for next time? Complimentary bottle of contact lens solution? No, they went for something a bit different….

 

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How old do these people think I am? But, more importantly, one packet of Haribos? Do they know what will happen in my household if the kids see this lonely item? Do you remember the scene from The Dark Knight, where the Joker, after defeating a fellow crime-lord and staring his three lackies down, informs them he has an opening in his gang, but there’s only one place? He then  gives them a broken snooker cue, and tells them to fight it out.

 

Well, the results of the one-pack-of-Haribo situation will be just like that.

 

Only with more violence.

Bourges: There & Back Again – or – Why Do Satnavs Always Do This To Me?

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I’m off to Bourges today, hooray! It’s the longest journey I’ve undertaken on my own, completely solo, without the steady guiding hand of my partner. It’s OK though, because I’m bringing my ‘trusty’ satnav with me. So nothing can possibly go wrong.

 

Which basically means things will possibly go wrong. I mean, why else would I put the word trusty in inverted commas?

 

Anyway the reason for this trip is the procurement of a Nintendo Mini SNES Classic, a sold-out item that I have managed to reserve at Micromania, in the Carrefour shopping centre in Bourges. It’s an in and out job, I just want my piece of retro-gaming nostalgia and then I’m out of there and back home, so I can get stuck into said bit of retro-gaming nostalgia. The journey there is trouble-free, it’s effectively a straight line, with the odd slight curve, and then a left turn at the end. Easy-peasy.

 

I’m out of the car, in the shopping centre and heading happily back to the car, hard-to-find gaming-system in hand before you can say ‘Well that was unexpectedly easy’. Then it all goes wrong.

 

I boot up the satnav, head out of the car-park and confidently press the ‘Go Home’ button. It’s not till I’m sat at the traffic lights that it dawns on me that something is wrong. It’s 10.30 a.m, it took me an hour to get here, so why is it now saying I won’t be home till 7.30 p.m? It’s saying that because I haven’t updated it since we moved to France, so it thinks ‘Go Home’ means home to West Yorkshire.

 

In England.

 

Doh!

 

So I frantically choose ‘recently found’ as I watch the traffic lights change, keeping one eye on the car behind me, which has taken up the standard French position of being just one inch from my rear bumper. He seems to be aware that there’s an Englishman in distress in this car. At least that’s what his eyes tell me. I can see all these nuances because he is parked an inch from my rear bumper. It’s standard practice in France you see.

 

New info input the satnav seems to take an age to ‘recalculate’. I love the way my satnav says this. It sounds like someone underwater. A lady underwater, maybe Aqua Marina from Stingray, a TV series with marionettes that I used to watch when I was young and we didn’t have Youtube. She was a mermaid who helped the main character defeat his nemesis. She must have made an impression because I can’t remember his name, or the main bad guy’s name. Although now I think about it I don’t think she could talk. So maybe not her.

 

As the lights change – giving me just enough time to receive updated information without causing my bumper-hugging friend behind me to actually attempt to mount my car – I follow the new route and pull a hasty right turn. Hasty, but not illegal. I’ve driven about 5 yards when the drowning-female-tones inform me that the route is once again being ‘recalculated’. I recognise this area though, I think to myself. I’ve had a bad Chinese buffet here*.

 

Then lady satnav makes me take a right turn and I’m in completely uncharted territory. I know now that I have to listen to her every command, because I’ve just remembered I forgot to bring my phone, and the scenery is starting to look a bit creepy.

 

Picture in your mind the locales used in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and, particularly, Deliverance. Transpose those locales to France – so basically take the yellow filter off the lens – and you can see why I’m getting worried. So many abandoned buildings. So many abandoned rusting cars. Who did they use to belong to? Did I see a curtain twitch in that window just then? Was that sunlight glinting off a shotgun’s barrel?

 

I once saw a film called Calvaire, set in rural France, about a traveller who breaks down and gets taken in by a local farmer. The local farmer gets confused, and thinks the traveller is his dead wife. Did I mention the traveller is actually a man? Hilarious scenes follow where the traveller is forced to dress like a woman, and a pig is raped. The theme seems to be that there’s nothing much to do in rural France, except rape pigs and then dress up stranded men like women. Oh and the traveller gets raped too.

 

I only watched it once.

 

So films like this plus my overactive imagination, as well as my complete lack of any means of communication – bar screaming – make me feel all kinds of worried. The roads get narrower and narrower, and the buildings look ever more sinister.

 

Satnavs always do this to me. A straightforward route to wherever I’m going is followed with a ‘scenic route’ on the way back. The worst one was one in the UK, when I was driving to Wales. That journey involved lots of animal skulls, men with few teeth, and a road that would have been better suited to rally-driving. I think satnav manufacturers are actually angry farmers, who try to make people drive down their windy roads, so that they can accidentally run them over in their cars with their tractors.

 

Like I said, I’ve got an overactive imagination.

 

Just as I’m despairing of ever getting out of this rural hell, and begin thinking that I actually died back at the traffic lights, and am in a hell of rusting tractors and scared-looking farm animals, the satnav tells me to turn right and I see a vision: the main road home. I breathe a sigh of relief as I head back down this familiar road, winding the window down (something I was loathe to do ten minutes earlier) so that the sweat down my back can dry.

 

I smile at the driver behind me, as I drive home, imagining him smiling back at me. Actually I don’t have to imagine it, I can see it. He’s a she, and she’s not smiling. I know this because she’s driving an inch from my rear bumper. It’s standard practice in France you see…

 

 

*I have yet to have a good Chinese in France. They are edible, and you can’t really complain, but it’s a bit like that scene in The Fly, where he puts a cut of meat in the teleporter, cooks it, and then invites his lady-friend to try it, and compare it with a non-teleported piece of meat. One’s fine the other one tastes synthetic. Well that’s how I always think of Chinese restaurants in France, when comparing them to the UK ones.