Tarot card games

Tarot games are card games played with tarot decks, that is, decks with numbered permanent trumps parallel to the suit cards. The games and decks which English-speakers call by the French name Tarot are called Tarocchi in the original Italian, Tarock in German and various similar words in other languages. The basic rules first appeared in the manuscript of Martiano da Tortona, written before 1425.[2] The games are known in many variations, mostly cultural and regional.

The Trull, the highest-valued trumps in Central European Tarock games
Hungarian statesmen playing tarokk in 1895, the preferred card game of the pre-communist era.[1]

Tarot games originated in Italy, and spread to most parts of Europe, notable exceptions being the British Isles, the Iberian peninsula, and the Balkans.[3] They are played with decks having four ordinary suits, and one additional, longer suit of tarots, which are always trumps. They are characterised by the rule that a player who cannot follow to a trick with a card of the suit led must play a trump to the trick if possible.[4] Tarot games have introduced the concept of trumps to card games. More recent tarot games borrowed features from other games like bidding from Ombre and winning the last trick with the lowest trump from Trappola.

Tarot decks did not precede decks having four suits of the same length,[5] and they were invented not for occult purposes but purely for gaming.[6] In 1781, Court de Gébelin published an essay associating the cards with ancient wisdom, the earliest record of this idea, subsequently debunked by Dummett.[7] As a result, tarot cards have since been used for cartomancy and divination as well as gaming, although nowadays fortune-tellers tend to use specially-developed tarot decks rather than those used for games.

Tarot games are increasingly popular in Europe, especially in France where French Tarot is the second most popular card game after Belote.[8] In Austria, Tarock games, especially Königrufen, have become widespread and there are several major national and international tournaments each year. Italy, the home of Tarot, remains a stronghold, and games of the Tarot family are also played in Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark, south Germany and south Poland. Tarot games, however, have yet to be common in the British Isles or the Iberian Peninsula.

The cards of the special suit in these games are variously called tarocks, tarocs, taroks, tarocchi or tarots.


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