ECARTE (Fr. for "separated," "discarded"), a game at cards, of modern origin, probably first played in the Paris salons in the first quarter of the 19th century. It is a development of a very old card game called la triomphe or French-ruff. Ecarté is generally played by two persons, but a pool of three may be formed, the player who is out taking the place of the loser, and the winner of two consecutive games winning the pool. At French écarté (but not at English) bystanders who are betting may advise the players, but only by pointing to the cards they desire them to play, and the loser of the game goes out, one of the rentrants taking his place, unless the loser is playing la chouette, i.e. playing single-handed against two, and taking all bets.
The small cards (from the two to the six, both inclusive) are removed from an ordinary pack. The players cut for deal, the highest having the choice. The king is the highest card, the ace ranking after the knave. The dealer gives five cards to his adversary, and five to himself, by two at a time to each and by three at a time to each, or vice versa. The eleventh card is turned up for trumps. If it is a king, the dealer scores one, at any time before the next deal. The non-dealer then looks at his cards. If satisfied with them he plays, and there is no discarding; if not satisfied he "proposes." The dealer may either accept or refuse. If he accepts, each player discards face downwards as many cards as he thinks fit, and fresh ones are given from the undealt cards or "stock," first to complete the non-dealer's hand to five, then to complete the dealer's. To ask for "a book" is to ask for five cards. Similarly a second proposal may be made, and so on, until one player is satisfied with his hand. If the dealer refuses, the hand is played without discarding. If the non-dealer announces that he holds the king of trumps, he scores one; and similarly, if the dealer holds the king and announces it, he scores one. The announcement must be made before playing one's first card, or if that card be the king, on playing it. The non-dealer, being satisfied with his hand, leads a card. The dealer plays a card to it, the two cards thus played forming a trick. The winner of the trick leads to the next, and so on. The second to play to a trick must follow suit if able, and must win the trick if he can.
The scores are for the king and for the majority of tricks. The player who wins three tricks scores one for the "point"; if he wins all five tricks, he scores two for the "vole." If the non-dealer plays without proposing, or the dealer refuses the first proposal, and fails to win three tricks, the adversary scores two, but no more even if he wins the vole. The game is five up. The points are conveniently marked with a three-card and a two-card, as at euchre. The three is put face upwards with the two face downwards on the top of it. When one or two or three points are scored the top card is moved so as to expose them. At four, one pip of the two-card is put under the other card. Games may be recorded similarly.
Hints to Players. - The following hints may be of service to beginners: -
Shuffle thoroughly after every deal.
Do not announce the king until in the act of playing your first card.
The hands which should be played without proposing, called jeux de règle (standard hands), ought to be thoroughly known. They are as follows: -
1. All hands with three or more trumps, whatever the other cards.
2. Hands with two trumps which contain also -
(a) Any three cards of one plain suit;
(b) Two cards of one plain suit, one being as high as a queen;
(c) Two small cards of one suit, the fifth card being a king of another suit;
(d) Three high cards of different suits.
3. Hands with one trump, which contain also -
(a) King, queen, knave of one suit, and a small card of another;
(b) Four cards of one suit headed by king;
(c) Three cards of one suit headed by queen, and queen of another suit.
4. Hands with no trump, which contain three queens or cards of equal value in different suits, e.g., four court cards.
5. Hands from which only two cards can be discarded without throwing a king or a trump.
Holding cards which make the point certain, propose. If you hold a jeu de règle, and one of the trumps is the king, propose, as your adversary cannot then take in the king.
When discarding, throw out all cards except trumps and kings.
If your adversary proposes you should accept, unless you are guarded in three suits (a queen being a sufficient guard), or in two suits with a trump, or in one suit with two trumps. Hence the rule not to discard two cards, unless holding the king of trumps, applies to the dealer.
The hands with which to refuse are the same as those with which to play without proposing, except as follows: -
1. Two trumps and three cards of one plain suit should not be played unless the plain suit is headed by a court card.
2. One trump and a tierce major is too weak, unless the fifth card is a court card. With similar hands weaker in the tierce major suit, accept unless the fifth card is a queen.
3. One trump and four cards of a plain suit is too weak to play.
4. One trump and two queens is too weak, unless both queens are singly guarded.
5. One trump, queen of one suit, and knave guarded of another should not be played unless the queen is also guarded, or the card of the fourth suit is a court card.
6. One trump, a king and a queen, both unguarded, should not be played, unless the fourth suit contains a card as high as an ace.
7. Four court cards without a trump are too weak to play, unless they are of three different suits.
Refuse with three queens, if two are singly guarded; otherwise, accept.
Lead from your guarded suit, and lead the highest.
If the strong suit led is not trumped, persevere with it, unless with king of trumps, or queen (king not having been announced), or knave ace, when lead a trump before continuing your suit.
You should not lead trumps at starting, unless you hold king or queen, knave, or knave ace, with court cards out of trumps.
The score has to be considered. If the dealer is at four, and the king is not in your hand nor turned up, play any cards without proposing which give an even chance of three tricks, e.g. a queen, a guarded knave, and a guarded ten. The same rule applies to the dealer's refusal.
At the adverse score of four, and king not being in hand or turned up, any hand with one trump should be played, unless the plain cards are very small and of different suits.
If the non-dealer plays without proposing when he is four to three, and the dealer holds the king he ought not to mark it. The same rule applies to the non-dealer after a refusal, if the dealer is four to three.
At the score of non-dealer three, dealer four, the dealer should refuse on moderate cards, as the player proposing at this score must have a very bad hand.
At four a forward game should not be played in trumps, as there is no advantage in winning the vole.
Laws of Ecarté. - The following laws are abridged from the revised code adopted by the Turf Club: - A cut must consist of at least two cards. Card exposed in cutting, fresh cut. Order of distribution of cards, whether by three and two, or vice versa, once selected, dealer must not change it during game. Player announcing king when he has not got it, and playing a card without declaring error, adversary may correct score and have hand played over again. If offender wins point or vole that hand, he scores one less than he wins. Proposal, acceptance, or refusal made cannot be retracted. Cards discarded must not be looked at. Cards exposed in giving cards to non-dealer, he has option of taking them or of having next cards; dealer exposing his own cards, no penalty. Dealer turning up top card after giving cards, cannot refuse second discard. Dealer accepting when too few cards in stock to supply both, non-dealer may take cards, and dealer must play his hand. Card led in turn cannot be taken up again. Card played to a lead can only be taken up prior to another lead, to save revoke or to correct error of not winning trick. Card led out of turn may be taken up prior to its being played to. Player naming one suit and leading another, adversary has option of requiring suit named to be led. If offender has none, no penalty. Player abandoning hand, adversary is deemed to win remaining tricks, and scores accordingly. If a player revokes or does not win trick when he can do so, the adversary may correct score and have hand replayed.
See Académie des jeux (various editions after the first quarter of the 19th century); Hoyle's Games (various editions about the same dates); Ch. Van-Tenac et Louis Delanoue, Traité du jeu de l'écarté (Paris, 1845; translated in Bohn's Handbook of Games, London, 1850); "Cavendish," The Laws of Ecarté, adopted by the Turf Club, with a Treatise on the Game (London, 1878); Pocket Guide to Ecarté ("Cavendish," 1897); Foster's Encyclopaedia of Indoor Games (1903).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)