Doppelkopf

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Doppelkopf
Bild-VierUnter.jpg
A picture of four Unters of German cards
Origin German
Type Trick-taking
Players 3-7 (4 Best)
Skill(s) required Tactics & Strategy
Cards 2 x 24
Deck Doppelkopf (modified French)
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) A 10 K D B 9
Playing time 20 min.
Random chance Tactics & Strategy
Related games
Skat, Schafkopf, Sheepshead

Doppelkopf (German, lit. double-head), also abbreviated to "Doko," is a trick-taking card game for four players. The origins of this game are not well known; it is assumed that it originated from the game Schafkopf.

In Germany, Doppelkopf is nearly as popular as Skat, especially in Northern Germany and the Rhein-Main Region. Schafkopf however is still the preferred trick-taking variant in Bavaria. Unlike in Skat, there are numerous variants.

Although the Deutscher Doppelkopf-Verband developed standard rules for tournaments, informal games often play many variants and players adopt their own house rules. Before playing with a new group of players, it is therefore advisable to agree on a specific set of rules before their first game.

Game rules[edit]

Note: In the following section, the most common rules are described.

General principles[edit]

Doppelkopf is a team game where each team normally consists of two players. The most distinguishing feature of the game is that the actual pairing is not known from the start, which is what makes the game interesting for most players.

The deck of cards consists of either 48 or 40 cards:

  • 8 Aces worth 11 points each
  • 8 Tens worth 10 points each
  • 8 Kings worth 4 points each
  • 8 Queens worth 3 points each
  • 8 Jacks worth 2 points each
  • 8 Nines worth 0 points each

Each group of 8 cards consists of 2 cards from each suit: Diamonds, Hearts, Spades and Clubs. Each card exists twice in the deck (which leads to the name Doppelkopf) resulting in a total number of 240 points. In the following explanation, the more common 48-card version is assumed. The rules for the 40-card variant are the same, the only difference is that the Nines are missing.

In every game, there are two parties, called Re and Kontra. To win, the Re-party normally has to achieve 121 points or more; Kontra wins when Re fails to do so.

Preparation[edit]

Each player is dealt twelve cards, or ten in the 40-card variant. After the cards are dealt, the kind of game is determined. In non-tournament play, it is assumed that a normal game will be played and any player desiring a different game simply says so. In tournament games, a more complicated method is used to prevent players from gaining information about foreign hands.

The kinds of games that can be played only differ in what cards are considered trumps. When a player declares a game different from the normal game, (s)he alone is Re and has to play against the other three players who form Kontra. These non-standard games are, therefore, called solo games.

In the standard game, the players who hold the Queen of Clubs ("Die Alten" ("The Elders")) constitute Re, while the other two are Kontra. In these games, the actual teams are not known from the start. In case a player has both Queens of Clubs, (s)he declares Hochzeit (marriage).

Playing the cards[edit]

The player to the left of the dealer leads first; the other players follow in a clockwise direction. Each player must follow suit, that is, play a card in the same suit as the first-played card in the trick. If he cannot follow suit, he can play a trump or any other card. The player playing the highest trump or the highest card in the current suit wins the trick and plays the first card of the next trick. Since each card exists twice, there is the possibility of a tie; in that case, the first-played card wins the trick. For example, when the trick consists of ♠10 ♠A ♠9 ♠A, the player who played the first Ace of Spades wins the trick.

During the first tricks, each player may make some announcements which increase the value of the game.

After all the cards have been played, the point-values of the tricks are counted and each player in the winning party gets the game-value added to his score, while the losing players get the value subtracted.

Type of games[edit]

Choosing a Type of Game[1][edit]

This is sometimes referred to as Bidding in some variants - when this is referred to as bidding the section below on bidding is referred to as Announcements.[1]

Choosing a type of game consists of a single round starting at the dealers left.

Each player says either "Gesund" (healthy), meaning that they are content to play a normal game, or "Vorbehalt" (reservation) meaning that they want to play some other type of game. If one or more players have said "Vorbehalt", they each in turn say what type of game they wish to play. Whoever has the highest ranking Vorbehalt plays their game (the first player in bidding order winning in case of a draw).

The possibilities, from lowest to highest, are:

  1. Hochzeit (marriage)
  2. voluntary Solo (various types)
  3. compulsory Solo

Normal game[edit]

Normal game
trumps (in decreasing order)
10 | ♣Q | ♠Q | Q | Q | ♣J | ♠J | J | J | A | 10 | K | 9
non-trumps (in decreasing order per suit)
Clubs Spades Hearts
♣A | ♣10 | ♣K | ♣9 ♠A | ♠10 | ♠K | ♠9 A | K | 9

The Ten of Hearts (often called Dulle) is the highest trump in every normal game as well as any color solo. Except for Hearts solo, there are actually more trumps than non-trump cards. One noteworthy result of this rule is that there are only six non-trump cards left in Hearts, making this suit more likely to be trumped in the first trick it is played.

Hochzeit (lit. Marriage)[edit]

When a player has both Queens of Clubs, he usually declares Hochzeit (lit. "marriage") and will form the Re party with the first foreign player to win a trick. Apart from this, the game is played like the normal game. If, however, the player who declares Hochzeit, makes the first three tricks, he will instead play a Diamonds solo game against the other players.

The player can also decide not to announce Hochzeit, in which case he plays a "stilles Solo" (silent solo). This is played like a normal Diamonds solo; the only difference being that the other players do not know from the start they are playing against a solo. Apart from this, the game is scored like a normal solo (times 3 for solo player, normal for all others).

Solo games[edit]

Hearts solo
trumps (in decreasing order)
10 | ♣Q | ♠Q | Q | Q | ♣J | ♠J | J | J | A | K | 9
non-trumps (in decreasing order per suit)
Clubs Spades Diamond
♣A | ♣10 | ♣K | ♣9 ♠A | ♠10 | ♠K | ♠9 A | 10 | K | 9

A player can, if he wants to, announce a solo game. These games change the status of trump cards; the player also must play against the other three players. He will get thrice game value added (or subtracted) from his scoreboard in case of a win (or a loss).

The kinds of solo games are, according to the official rules:

  • "Bubensolo" (Jack solo) which only makes the Jacks trump cards;
  • "Damensolo" (Queen solo) with only Queens as trumps;
  • "Fleischlos" (fleshless) where no trumps exist;
  • "Farbensolo" (color solo or trump solo) which makes the announced suit along with Jacks and Queens trump cards. A "Diamond solo", therefore, has the same trumps as in a normal game.

Bids (Also referred to as Announcements as they are made during play)[edit]

During play, a player may make announcements claiming that his party will succeed in achieving a specific goal. These announcements increase the game value regardless of whether they are fulfilled. If a party fails to accomplish the self-given goal, it has automatically lost.

Apart from increasing the game value, the bids fulfill the role of clarifying which side a player who makes them belongs to.

The bids that are possible are:

  • Re (or Kontra), announcing that the player is part of the Re (Kontra) party and his party will score more than 120 points. Note that this means that, in the case of an announced Kontra, the Kontra party must now make 121 points instead of 120 to win the game, unless Re is also announced. Either of these announcements also tell all players whether they play against or with the announcer.

Each of the following announcements can only be made after Re or Kontra. If, for example, Re was said and a player of the Kontra party wants to make an announcement, he also has to announce Kontra. If Re was announced by one player and his partner wants to make an additional announcement, he also has to identify himself as being on the Re team before being able to do so.

  • Keine 90 (no 90), often abbreviated to keine 9, meaning that the opponents will get less than 90 points.
  • Keine 60, or keine 6, announces the opposing party will not make 60 points
  • Keine 30 / keine 3
  • Schwarz (black), meaning the opponents will not get a single trick, not even a trick worth 0 points

Each announcement implies any previous announcements, for example, "keine 60" implies "keine 90" and "Re"/"Kontra", increasing the game-value by 4 (for the standard rules) points. Every bid may be countered by "Kontra" resp. "Re" when the opponents think the goal will not be met. For example, if the Re-Party announces "Re, keine 60", a reply of "Kontra" simply claims Kontra will score 60 points.

To be able to make a bid, the player must still hold a specific number of cards in his/her hands, the official rules state:

  • A Re or Kontra can be made with 11 cards left (that is, before the player plays his second card; it does not require the announcement to be made before the first card of the second trick is played).
  • For keine 90, 10 cards must be held.
  • keine 60: 9 cards
  • keine 30: 8 cards
  • schwarz: 7 cards

A player that has, for example, announced "Re", but not "keine 90", may not announce keine 60 with 9 cards left, because the implied "keine 90" would not be legal.

A Kontra/Re in response to a bid of the opposing party may be made until one trick later, e.g. a player can say "Kontra" in response to "Re/Keine 90" as long as he holds 9 cards, regardless of when "Re" and "Keine 90" was announced.

When, in the case of a Hochzeit, the partner is found with the second (third) trick, all players need to hold one card (two cards) less than in a normal game in order to make their announcements. Also, it is not allowed to make an announcement before a partner has been found.

Ansagen/Absagen[edit]

The official rules distinguish between "Ansagen" (announcements) and "Absagen" (lit. rejection, but probably used as a pun). There, an initial "Re" or "Kontra" is a "Ansage", and all other announcements ("keine ..." and "schwarz") are "Absagen".

Scoring[edit]

After all cards are played, each party counts the points of their tricks (since the total sum of points always is 240, in theory only one party has to count; letting both parties count serves as verification). The game value is calculated as follows:

  • 1 point base value ("won the game")
  • +1 if the winning party is Kontra ("gegen die Alten", against the elders) unless a solo is played
  • +2 for an announcement of Re
  • +2 for an announcement of Kontra
  • +1 if the losing party has less than 90 points
  • +1 if No 90 was announced
  • +1 if the winning party won with more than 120 points against an announcement of No 90
  • +1 if the losing party has less than 60 points
  • +1 if No 60 was announced
  • +1 if the winning party won with at least 90 points against an announcement of No 60
  • +1 if the losing party has less than 30 points
  • +1 if No 30 was announced
  • +1 if the winning party won with at least 60 points against an announcement of No 30
  • +1 if the winning party made all tricks
  • +1 if Schwarz was announced
  • +1 if the winning party won with at least 30 points against an announcement of Schwarz

Extra score points[edit]

Unless a solo is played, the following additional score points can be made during the game, which affect the game value. There are no extra points in a solo game, not even in a silent solo (when a Hochzeit is not announced).

Catching a fox (Fuchs)[edit]

If a party's Ace of Diamonds (dubbed the fox) is won by the opposing party, the opposing party scores an extra point.

Doppelkopf[edit]
A „Doppelkopf“ Trick

A trick containing 40 or more points (4 Volle, i.e. tens and aces) scores an extra point for the party that collected the trick.

Charlie (Karlchen)[edit]

If a party's Jack of Clubs (dubbed Charlie) wins the last trick, the party scores an extra point.

Score of each player[edit]

The game value is added to the score of each player in the winning party, and subtracted for the losing party. If the game was a solo game, the soloist gets thrice the game value added or subtracted. This rule ensures the total sum of points won/lost in a round is always zero.

Examples[edit]

The following examples show the scoring as stated in the official rules.

  • No bids were made, Re wins with 131 points.
    • Game was won: +1
    • Both Re-players get +1, both Kontra -1.
  • Kontra, no 60 was announced, Kontra gets 183 points.
    • Game was won: +1
    • Won against the elders: +1
    • Kontra was announced: +2
    • Losing party has less than 90 points: +1
    • No 90 was announced: +1
    • Losing party has less than 60 points: +1
    • No 60 was announced: +1
    • Both Kontra-players get +8, both Re -8.
  • Re, no 60 was announced, Kontra party said Kontra. Kontra gets 60 points and therefore wins.
    • Game was won: +1
    • Won against the elders: +1
    • Re was announced: +2
    • Kontra was announced: +2
    • No 90 was announced: +1
    • No 60 was announced: +1
    • Both Kontra-players get +8, both Re -8.
  • Re, no 60 was announced, Kontra party said Kontra. Kontra gets 90 points.
    • In addition to the previous example, Kontra got 90+ points against the No 60 announcement: +1
    • Both Kontra-players get +9, both Re -9.
  • A solo player wins without announcements with 153 points.
    • Game was won: +1
    • Losing party has less than 90 points: +1
    • Soloist gets +6, all others -2.
  • Solo player announces Re, keine 90 but only manages to get 87 points for himself.
    • Game was won: +1
    • Re was announced: +2
    • No 90 was announced: +1
    • Kontra got 120+ points against Re's No 90 announcement: +1
    • Losing soloist has less than 90 points: +1
    • Soloist gets -18, all others +6.

Tactics[edit]

Suggested tactics shown here come from the Pagat website.[1]

Leads[edit]

The first of equal cards wins rule makes it important to lead your ace of a non-trump suit before an opponent can lead theirs, as the second round is almost certain to be trumped - there are only 8 cards in a suit (6 in hearts). Avoid leading a second round of hearts, because of the danger of giving a ruff and discard to the opponents, since there are only six cards in the suit.

Therefore, if on lead at the start, normally you would lead:

  • lead a single black ace (shortest suit first with both club and spade single aces);
  • lead a single ace of hearts;
  • lead an ace from a pair.

After this, try to give the lead to your partner:

  • If you are on the Re side you will normally lead a trump to your partner's ♣Q.
  • If on the Kontra side you may lead a side suit. However, if your partner has said Kontra you should lead a trump as they should have at least one ♥10 (Dullen variant).

Trumping[edit]

If you are trumping in, and there is a possibility of being overtrumped, trump with at least a Jack so that the fourth player cannot win with a Fox or 10 of trumps. Similarly, if trumps are led then if you are the last player of your team to play to the trick, with one or both opponents after you, play a Jack or higher if no high card has been played so far.

Announcements[edit]

It is important that you announce Re or Kontra if things seem to be going well, not only to increase the score for the game but also so that you can announce no 90 if things continue to go well.

Announcing Re or Kontra earlier than you need to, for example on your first play rather than your second, this indicates a possession of additional strength (similar in concept to jump bidding in Contract Bridge).

If on the opening lead the fourth player says Re or Kontra before second hand plays, this indicates that they are going to trump the lead and want their partner to put a valuable card on it.

Marriage Announcements[edit]

It is generally correct to announce a marriage - and rarely profitable to go solo instead.

It is desirable to partner with a marriage as your partner has at least 2 high trumps.

Leading against a marriage you might lead a ♥10 to win the trick; otherwise you could lead an ace in your shortest suit.

Armut (poverty) games[edit]

Armut (poverty) games are easier than you think. An experienced player will discard valuable cards on partner's tricks and the armut partner takes the opportunity to create voids.

Solo Games[edit]

When considering a solo, the initial lead is a big advantage. Trump solos require a much stronger hand than you think ... these hands will also play well in a normal game. For an Ace solo, a five card suit to A A 10 will normally capture over 60 points. For a Queen or Jack solo 4 trumps are sufficient with a reasonable number of aces.

See also note on solo games in tournament play below.

90/60/30 announcements[edit]

Care must be taken with 90/60/30 announcements as they change the target. It can be very rash gambling 1 extra point against the possible loss of the whole game.

Tournament Play[edit]

It is highly likely that a player will not get a hand warranting a solo bid during the session. A compulsory solo, particularly towards the end, should almost always have Kontra said if declarer does not say Re to increase the game value when the soloist loses.

Variants[edit]

Armut (poverty)[1][edit]

A person with three or fewer trumps can say "Vorbehalt" (reservation) and then announce Armut (poverty). If no one has a better Vorbehalt, the person announcing Armut places three cards containing all the Armut player's trumps face down on the table. A player who wishes to partner (preference being given clockwise from the Armut player - if nobody wishes to partner then the hand is redealt by the same dealer) the Armut player has the right to take these three cards (without seeing them first) and then discard any three cards, which are returned to the Armut player. The returned cards may contain trumps and may include cards originally passed.

ohne Neunen (Without Nines)[edit]

Many groups remove the nines so that there are 40 cards left. This way, there are no more dummy cards and the balance between trumps and non-trumps is shifted even more towards trumps. Such a game might be called "scharfer Doppelkopf" (acute Doppelkopf) as well.

Hochzeit[edit]

Some variants allow the Hochzeit player to announce a specific kind of trick that must be taken, e.g. the first non-trump trick. However, this is usually not a good idea since it is in the interest of the Hochzeit player to find a "strong" partner, e.g. one with a Ten of Hearts.

Dullen[edit]

It may be agreed that - as the only exception - the second Ten of Hearts is considered higher than the first, if both are played in the same trick. In some variants, this is true for all but the last trick, where the first Ten of Hearts is considered higher. Playing this variant makes the game less predictable because some conventions (such as playing a Ten of Hearts in the first trick by a Re player, or to marry a Hochzeit player) cannot be used anymore.

Pflichtansage (Forced announcement)[edit]

If a player collects 30 points or more in the first trick (not counting the tricks needed to determine the partners after a Hochzeit has been announced), he has to announce either Re or Kontra. This variation is often played in games "without Nines". Some players even insist that a further announcement (i.e. 90) be made if the announcement in question has been made already. This rule is popular among recreational players in order to render the game more dynamic.

Catching a fox in the final trick[edit]

Losing an Ace of Diamonds to the opposing party in the last trick of the game may lead to two extra points (instead of one) counted against the party losing the fox.

Schweinchen (Piglet)[edit]

When one player has both Füchse (Aces of Diamond) on his hand, he announces "Schweinchen". That means, that these cards become the highest trumps in play, outranking the Dullen (Tens of Hearts) and Alten (Queens of Clubs). It may be played that a Schweinchen forces the player to an announcement of Kontra or Re. Other variants include the announcement at any point during the game, often breaking the opposing party's bid or the possibility of Super-Schweinchen, if one holds both Nines of Diamonds.

Super-Schweinchen (SuperPiglets)[edit]

Only when Schweinchen is announced does Super-Schweinchen become possible. When one player has announced Schweinchen, and another has both nines of diamonds on his hand, the player with the nines of diamonds may announce Super-Schweinchen. That means, those nines of diamonds become the highest trumps in play, outranking the Schweinchen, the Dullen and Alten.

Lost Charlie (Karlchen)[edit]

As a variant, a Jack of Clubs may be also scored if a party loses it to the opposing team in the last trick. If a player loses their Jack of Clubs to their partner, no point is counted.

Tournament Play[edit]

Tournaments are played over a series of sessions, each of 24 deals. Each session having 20 normal hands plus 4 compulsory solos (or 25 hands with five solos for five players at a table).

Compulsory Solos[edit]

Each player must bid one "compulsory" solo during the session. He/she may bid other "lust" solos if desired. The first solo each player bids is their compulsory solo, and they lead.

Following the hand the same dealer deals again.

A compulsory solo ranks above a lust solo in the bidding; if more than one player wants to play a compulsory solo, the bidding order overrules.

Failure to bid a solo[edit]

If a player fails to bid a solo by the end of a session, an additional hand is dealt on which they must bid solo.

Conventions[edit]

Essener or Essen System[edit]

The Essener System is a system of conventions used in Doppelkopf in accordance with the rules of the German Doppelkopf Association.

See:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d McLeod, John. "Doppelkopf". Pagat.com. Pagat.com. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 

External links[edit]