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…