Cắt Tê

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Cắt Tê
People playing card games in the street.jpg
Origin Vietnamese
Type Trick-taking
Players 3-6
Cards 52
Deck Anglo-American
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Playing time 25 min.
Random chance Easy
Related games
Tien Gow

Cắt Tê, (Vietnamese for six cards), or catte, is a trick taking card game popular in Vietnam and expatriate Vietnamese communities. Unlike other trick games, in which the objective is either to collect tricks, avoid tricks, or fulfill a contract; the object of Cắt Tê is to win the last trick in a given round. The game is similar to Tien Gow, but played with cards instead of dominoes.

The game[edit]

It can be played by 3-6 players. Gambling is an essential part of Cắt Tê. Like mahjongg, there is only one betting round per game; and all players make the same bet. Also like Mahjongg, there are additional rewards and penalties for certain outcomes. It is possible for a player to be required to forfeit more than his additional bet at the conclusion of a game. The object of Cắt Tê is to either:

  • Win all of the first four tricks played in a round; or
  • Win the sixth trick played.

After the fourth trick, players who have won no tricks are eliminated, so it is not possible to win the sixth trick without winning one of the first four tricks. There are never more than six tricks played per game.

The deck[edit]

Cắt Tê is played with a standard deck of 52 cards, with jokers removed. As in Bridge, the rank-order is A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2, from high to low. There is no trump suit.

Play overview[edit]

Cắt Tê is played in rounds, each of which includes an initial bet, the deal, the play of tricks, and the settlement of any obligations incurred during play. At the conclusion of each round, all players contribute an agreed-upon sum to form the pot.

For all but the first round of play, the winner of the prior round has the privilege of dealing. For the initial round; deal can be chosen by lot, or any other means agreed upon by the players. The dealer deals six cards to each player, in counter-clockwise order. The remaining cards are then removed from play.

Trick-play[edit]

A round of Cắt Tê consists of either 4 or 6 tricks. The dealer has the lead on the initial trick; the winner of each trick leads the subsequent trick. Play is standard no-trump trick-taking. Players are not required to follow suit; nor are they required to attempt to win a trick if they are able. There are no penalty cards in the game. At any time, a player may slough, or play a card face-down; when this is done the player is ineligible to win the trick. After four tricks have been played, one of two situations will have occurred:

  • One player will have won all 4 tricks: If this occurs, that player is the winner of the round. He/she collects the pot, and becomes the dealer for the next round. If 4 or more players play (depending on house or regional rules), the player is additionally entitled to double his winnings—the other players must immediately pay the winner an additional amount equal to the initial bet.
  • Two or more players will have won at least one trick: (There is no advantage to winning more than one trick in the first four rounds). All players who have failed to win any tricks are eliminated from further play at this point; those players who have successfully won at least one trick may continue.

At this point, the 5th trick is played. The winner of the 4th trick leads one of his two remaining cards. The other remaining players play a card face down; after all cards are played, they are overturned. The winner of the 5th trick leads the last trick; all remaining cards are then shown. The winner of the 6th trick wins the round, and the pot.

Speed-up play[edit]

Players may, at any time, fold their hand by throwing all cards face-down onto the table. That player is then eliminated from the remainder of the round. He is not excused, however, from paying double should the rules require it. There is no tactical advantage to folding.

Players with exceptionally strong hands may claim a win by displaying their remaining cards. If the hand is indeed unbeatable, they win the round, as if the hand had been played out normally. If their hand is not unbeatable, however, they are penalized. Again, there is no tactical advantage in claiming a win in this manner.

Scoring[edit]

There is no scoring as such in Cắt Tê, only the accumulation of winnings. At the end of each round, the winner collects the pot, and any bonuses due to him from the other players.

Automatic winning hands[edit]

In some games of Cắt Tê, the following hands are automatic wins—if a player is dealt one of these hands, he may display it immediately and the round ends. The player may win the pot, or double the pot, depending on the rules employed:

  • A hand containing four of a kind, of any rank, regardless of the two other cards. Note that a hand containing four aces is an automatic win, regardless of whether this optional rule is employed.
  • A hand containing a flush, or six cards of the same suit. Note that a poker flush, five of the same suit is not sufficient.

Penalty for holding an ace[edit]

It is a common strategy for a player whose hand is rich in a particular suit, and who believes, to keep playing the suit until it exhausted, in an attempt to win the fourth trick while playing low cards. Winning the fourth trick is advantageous. Conversely, if one suspects an opponent is doing this, to hold onto a high card in that suit until the fourth trick is played, in an attempt to win the pivotal fourth trick, an optional penalty rule is often employed, which is triggered when:

  • If a player wins the first four tricks, he wins double his opponents' bets.
  • One player wins the first three tricks, by playing cards from the same suit.
  • Another player holds the ace of that suit, and does not play it—in order to wait for the last trick.
  • The player who wins the first three tricks then leads a different suit in the fourth trick, winning that.

If this occurs, and this rule is in force, the player who withheld the ace is required to pay the extra penalty for the other losing opponents. For example, if the initial bet is $1, and this occurs in a four-player game; the guilty player forfeits an additional $3--his share of the four-trick bonus, plus that of the 2 other losing opponents.

Side pot[edit]

One other common variation is the maintenance of a side pot. In addition to the normal bet, at the start of each round, a set figure is bet into a side pot. At the completion of the deal, one additional card from the deck is upturned. If any player has the next card of the same suit, he is entitled to claim the side pot. He may do so at any time during the round, until the cards are collected and shuffled for the next round. If no player has the winning card, or a player who does forgets to claim the side pot, the pot accumulates until won.

The side pot is completely separate from the main game play; a player need not win the main round, or even win a single trick, to claim the side pot.

Game variations[edit]

Eighty-three[edit]

Like Cắt Tê, the main objective in Eighty-three is to win the fifth trick, rather than the last Additionally, the game uses a scoring system with points rather than a winner-take-all format. Eighty-Three is one of the easiest trick-taking card games to learn, but it is difficult to master. The name of the game comes from the fact that five is 83 percent of six.

Dealing[edit]

Three to eight people generally play this game. It can also be played by two players, but at the risk of decreased quality of the game. One player deals each hand, and each player receives six cards.

Play[edit]

The player to the left of the dealer leads with any card. Deviating from Cắt Tê, other players must follow suit and place their cards face up. As there is no trump suit, whoever has the highest-ranking card in the leading suit wins the trick. Trick winners lead subsequent tricks, and play continues until all competitors play each of their six cards. After points are assigned, the next round commences with the next player, in clockwise turns, leading the first trick.

Scoring[edit]

The player who wins the fifth trick is the winner of the round and scores two points. This player can earn an additional point if the fifth trick is won without an Ace (or a face card, depending on house rules) and another point if this player does not win the sixth trick. All players, whether they win the round or not, can earn a point if their hands contain four-of-a-kind of any rank or if all six cards are of the same suit. Because both conditions cannot be met simultaneously, a person can score a maximum of five points per round.

Whoever reaches a predetermined final score based on the total points of each round wins the entire game. If two players pass that threshold and have an equal number of total points, tiebreakers depend on house rules. The player who won the most rounds might win the game and/ or more rounds are played until a clear winner is established. In the latter case, it is possible for other players to remain in contention and pull an upset by catching up and surpassing the tying players. This possibility, which also depends on house rules, essentially punishes the tying players for not definitively winning a game.

Strategy[edit]

In this game, players determine their own strategies based on numerous factors. As such, they may need to make alterations to their tactics often during a game. However, the most stable strategy, aside from keeping track of suits that have been played, is to win the fourth trick. The player who does so sets the suit for the fifth trick and has a good chance of winning with a high-ranking card. By extension, winning the third trick can help with the fourth; however, winning all of the first five tricks is an unreasonable goal, and so each player must decide on the best time to win tricks. A less stable strategy is to expel low cards during the first few tricks in order to save the high cards for the fifth trick. However, the limited number of cards and the requirement to follow suit makes this strategy difficult to follow sometimes. Additionally, the scoring provision regarding the sixth trick encourages players to keep at least one low card.

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