Learn the traditional rules of the card game Skat, derived from Germany and popular throughout Canada.
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Skat is a card game that’s been around for just over two centuries now, dating back to Germany circa 1810. It’s a fun trick-catching card game for 3 players with unique scoring and interesting card ranking rules that make it more complex than most of its trump-based cousins.
I’ve chosen to record the rules of this game for two reasons. First of all, it’s a moderately popular game throughout Canada, worthy of inclusion in our ever-growing database. Secondly, I recently finished up a series on the North American game of Scat, which is a completely different card game. Since finishing up that series last week, I’m already being asked to supply the “rules of Skat, with a k”.
Skat is regarded to be one of the best three-player card games in the world and unlike many games, Skat is actually designed for three and works best that way. Skat came to America with German immigrants, where it peaked in popularity in the 1940s.
- In fact, the Skat card game is considered the national game of Germany, and is highly popular. While it follows the basic rules of trick-taking card games, there are special rules which make it more skill than luck-based. How to Play Skat? Skat is designed to play with three players, and uses a 32-card French-style deck.
- Quick Skits is a fun, exciting game that enforces creativity! If you have a group of friends over, and you're all bored, this game will totally start the party! Show off your acting and directing skills and giggle all day long.
So, without further ado… here we go!
How to Play Skat Card Game
This game requires exactly 3 players and a 32-card deck of 7s through Aces (remove 2s thru 6s). The rank of cards are a bit unique, so look them over carefully.
Notice the Jack is first, followed by Ace, then 10. The cards go in the usual high-to-low order after that.
Their point values, calculated at the end of each hand, are as follows:
Jack = 2
Ace = 11
Ten = 10
King = 4
Queen = 3
9-8-7 = 0
Jacks may not be worth a lot of points, but they have a very special power. All Jacks are trump, all the time. No matter what trump the contractor declares to start a game, the four Jacks will be the highest ranking of all trumps. Also regardless of the trump suit called, Jacks rank highest to lowest in this order:
Jack of Club (J♣) – Jack of Spades (J♠) – Jack of Hearts (J♥) – Jack of Diamonds (J♦)
The next highest ranking Trump is the Ace of the chosen suit, then 10, then K, Q, 9, 8, 7.
If the winning bidder chooses No Trump, called a Grand, only the Jacks are trumps, ranked in the order shown above.
Dealing the Cards
Each player will be dealt 10 cards, but like many Canadian card games, Skat requires the deal to take place in groups of cards, known as packets, rather than one card at a time. After shuffling, the dealer will pass packets of 3 cards in clockwise fashion to each player. Then, a packet of 2 cards is dealt face down to the center of the table. To finish, a packet of 4 cards is dealt to each player, then a packet of 3 to each.
The two cards in the middle are called the “Skat”.
Bidding for Trump
Starting with the player left of the dealer, each will have an opportunity to bid for trump. Players will bid the number of points they believe they can catch throughout the hand. The lowest possible bid is 18, but the winning bidder must catch at least 61 points to win the hand (depending on the contract chosen).
Bidding will make more sense after you understand how to score hands in Skat. For now, you just need to know that bids continue around the table until one player has made the highest, uncontested bid. The player who bids highest wins the contract.
This player will have the option to look at the Skat, exchanging any two cards from his hand at will, then returning the Skat face-down – or – choose not to look at the Skat, called a “Hand Game”, worth extra score at the end.
After the Skat is settled, the player will declare a contract, choosing trump. There are several contract options:
Trump Suit: To declare clubs, spades, hearts or diamonds as trump. Declarer must win minimum 61 points.
Grand: To declare No Trump, in which case only Jacks are trump. Declarer must catch minimum 61 points.
Null: There are no trumps. Declarer cannot catch any tricks.
Null Ouvert (Open): Declarer must play a Hand Game (no Skat), turn all his cards face up for others to see, and catch no tricks.
After declaring a contract, if the player has not looked at the Skat, and is not bidding null, he may also declare any of the following point multipliers:
Schneider: Announcing the player or defenders will win 90+ points.
Schwarz: Announcing the player will win all tricks.
Ouvert (Open): Announcing the player will win all tricks with their entire hand turned face up.
Playing the Game
Player left of the dealer will always go first, regardless of bids, leading any card to first trick. Other players must follow suit if able. If not, they can play any other card; trump or otherwise. The highest trump played wins the trick. If no trump is played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The player who won the trick will lead to the next trick, and so on, until all tricks are captured.
If a Jack trump is played, no matter what suit the Jack is, it is trump. Therefore players must follow suit by playing trump (Jack or trump suit), if possible.
Scoring a Hand
This is the part that takes the most getting used to. After a game is over, the declarer adds up all points in the tricks he’s captured. If the total is 61 or higher, the declarer wins. If the opponents combined points are 60 or more, the declarer cannot possibly have 61+, therefore he is “set”. If the declarer announced Schneider, they must have 90+ points. If announcing Schwarz, all tricks must be captured.
If the declarer wins the contract, score is taken by multiplying the base value of the bidder’s contract with any multipliers they’ve achieved. If the declarer fails to make their bid, lose 2x the value of the bid.
Base Value of Contracts:
- Diamonds = 9 points
- Hearts = 10 points
- Spades = 11 points
- Clubs = 12 points
- Grand = 24 points
|Multipliers||Skat Game||Hand Game|
|Matadors (with or against)||1 (each)||1 (each)|
|Game (always applies)||1||1|
|Hand Game (played without Skat)||1|
|Schneider (90+ points)||1||1|
|Schwarz (captured all tricks)||1||1|
All multipliers are added together, then that total is multiplied by the base value. For example, in a Hand Game where the winning bidder declares Spades and Schneider with 3 Matadors, the score would look like this:
Base Value = 11
Multipliers = 6 (3 Matadors, 1 Win Game, 1 Hand Game, 1 Announced Schneider)
Total = 66
Null bids have static values and are unaffected by multipliers, making them the easiest to score. The value for winning or losing a null contract is as follows:
|Contract||Points – Win||Points – Lose|
|Null w/ Skat||23||-46|
|Null Hand (w/o Skat)||35||-70|
|Null Ouvert w/ Skat||46||-92|
|Null Ouvert Hand (w/o Skat)||59||-118|
Matadors are the highest trump cards, in sequence. If trump is Diamonds, the Matadors would be:
J♣J♠J♥J♦ A♦ 10♦ K♦ Q♦ 9♦ 8♦ 7♦
To have Matadors “with” you is to have a sequence of them, starting with the highest J♣. If the player holds J♣J♠J♥, but no J♦, he is “with 3” Matadors. Holding J♣ but no J♠ is being “with 1”. If the bidder does not have J♣ or J♠, but has J♥, the highest two Matadors are with someone else, therefore the player is “without 2” Matadors.
Whether the player is “with” or “without” a number of Matadors, their hand will multiply by that many points.
Winning the Game
Skat is not played with a target score to win. Instead, every player should be given the same number of opportunities to deal. Decide if you want a shorter or longer game, and set the number of deals per player proportionately. After all deals, the highest scoring player wins.
If you’re playing Skat for money – such as penny or nickel per point – the losing players pay the wining players based on the difference in their scores. For example, let’s say the game is nickle-a-point and the final scores are:
- Player 1 = 125
- Player 2 = 78
- Player 3 = 62
- Player 1 beat Player 3 by 63 points. Player 3 owes Player 1 (63 * 0.05) $3.15.
- Player 1 beat Player 2 by 47 points. Player 2 owes Player 1 (47 * 0.05) $2.35.
- Player 2 beat Player 3 by 16 point. Player 3 owes Player 2 (16 * 0.05) $0.80.
Want to learn even more about this fascinating card game? Check out the following links…
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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:
Trumps Ranking: J, J, J, J, 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:
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.
Skat Card Game Free Download
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
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(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 declarerhas J, J, J, J, A, 10, K, they are with 7. If the declarer does not have J 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
German Card Game Skat
Null Hand 35 70
Null Open 46 92
Skit Skat Card Game Rules How To Play
^ Hand 59 118
Card Game Skat Rules
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.
American Skat Card Game Rules