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A popular Austrian two-hander
Accessories for keeping score in Schnapsen
Origin Austria
Type Trick-taking
Players 2
Cards 20
Deck French or William Tell
Play Alternate
Card rank (highest first) A 10 K Q J
Playing time 1 min/hand,
5-10 min/round
Related games
Sechsundsechzig, Bezique, Pinochle, Bauernschnapsen, Marjapussi

Schnapsen or Schnapser is a card game of the Bézique (Ace-Ten) family that is very popular in Bavaria and the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The game is similar to Sechsundsechzig ("Sixty-six"). It is the national card game of Austria.[1]

Schnapsen has been described as "an inherently intense game that requires a lot of concentration and so isn't good for socializing, but it's a challenging game whose interest never wavers."[2]

Etymology and origins[edit]

The name Schnapsen (Hungarian: Snapszer) is derived from schnappen, which means "to trump". By contrast, in popular tradition, the name is frequently attributed to the fact that people often played the game for drinks, particularly schnaps, in a similar way to the origin of the name Gin Rummy.

An early description of the game is found in the Leipziger Frauenzimmer-Lexicon of 1715 under the name Mariage (French for "wedding"). That name is still common today and there is a game that is popular today in Czechia called Mariáš.



The aim of the game is to collect 66 card points or more as quickly as possible by taking tricks and bidding.

N.B. The cards won in the tricks, score 'card points' to determine if a round is won or lost. The outcome then results in 'game points' being awarded.


Double German-French Schnapsen cards

Depending very much on the region, Schnapsen is either played with French or Double German playing cards, also known as the William Tell pattern. For tournaments in which players from different regions meet, there are special Double German-French cards (see illustration).

Schnapsen is played with a deck of 20 cards unlike Sechsundsechzig, the game it resembles, which uses 24 cards. Unlike Sechsundsechzig, the 9 is not used in Schnapsen.

Card Suits
French suits
Name Hearts (Herz) Diamonds (Karo) Spades (Pik) Clubs (Treff, Kreuz)
Double German (William Tell) suits
Bay herz.svg
Bay schellen.svg
Bay laub.svg
Bay eichel.svg
Name Hearts (Rot, Herz) Bells (Schelle) Leaves (Grün, Laub) Acorns (Eichel)

In each suit there are five cards:

Card Values
French suited card German suited card Card points
Ace (Ass) Deuce or Sow (Daus/Sau) 11
Ten (Zehner) Ten (Zehner) 10
King (König) King (König) 04
Queen (Dame) Ober 03
Jack (Bube) Unter 02

Regionally, the Ober is called the Manderl, and the Unter is referred to as the Bauer.


The dealer is decided by the drawing of cards. The player who draws the higher card, deals the first round; the other player is forehand (Vorhand).

The dealer shuffles, cuts and deals the cards as follows: a packet of three cards to forehand and then dealer; then the seventh card is flipped, before forehand and dealer are dealt a packet of two cards to give each player a five-card hand.

The remaining nine cards form the talon and are placed face down across the turn-up, so that half of the latter card is visible. The suit of the turn-up becomes the trump suit, regionally called the Atout.

In subsequent hands the players alternate the roles of dealer and forehand.


Forehand leads to the first trick. At the start of the game, players need not follow suit or win the trick: the dealer may either head the trick with a higher card of the same card suit or a trump - in either case he wins the trick. Alternatively he may discard a card of his choice and hand the trick to forehand.

The player who has won the trick, draws the top card from the talon; his opponent draws the next. After both players have brought their hand back up to five cards, the winner of the trick leads to the next trick.

The game continues in this way until the talon is used up – unless one of the players has previously announced 66 points or flips the turn-up to 'close' the talon (see below). If the talon is used up or was closed, from this point onwards, players must follow suit (Farbzwang) and win the trick if possible (Stichzwang); that means a player must, when it is his turn:

  • head the trick with a higher card of the same suit. If he is unable to, he must
  • discard a lower card of the same suit. If that is not possible, he must
  • head the trick with a trump, and only if he is unable to do that he can
  • discard a card of his choice.

Following suit (Farbzwang) always takes precedence over winning the trick (Stichzwang): a player may not play a trump if he can follow suit.

A breach of this rule is called 'revoking' and is penalised with the immediate loss of the game; the opponent receiving 3 points.

Going out[edit]

If a player reaches 66 or more card points (Augen) after winning a trick or making an announcement (see below), he may 'go out' (ausmelden), usually by saying "I have enough" (Ich habe genug) or just "enough" (genug). The game ends and each player counts the card points they have amassed.

  • If the opponent has not taken a single trick, the player scores 3 points.
  • If the opponent has 32 card points or fewer, the player scores 2 points.
  • If the opponent has 33 or more card points, the player scores one point.

Even if a player discovers he has fewer than 66 card points and has thus ended the game by mistake, play stops and his opponent wins as many points as the player would have won if they had been right.

Last trick[edit]

If neither player goes out before the last card is played, the last card must be played and the winner of the last trick is the winner of the game, scoring one point.

This rule does not apply if the talon has been closed (see below).

Marriages / Pairs[edit]

If a player holds a King and Ober (or King and Queen) of the same suit, he may meld them (ansagen, melden) when it is his turn and score the following points:

  • For a trump pair, 40 points; this is known as a Forty-er (Vierziger) or 'royal marriage'.
  • For a non-trump pair, 20 points. this is a Twenty-er (Zwanziger).

To avoid subsequent disputes in scoring the points, it is recommended to show both the cards of the pair.

Forehand may meld a pair at the start.

The player who melds a pair must play one of the 2 cards to the next trick.

If the player who has melded a pair fails to take any tricks during the game, his pair points do not count and his opponent scores 3 game points. If the pair card is subsequently beaten and the player later takes a trick, the points still stand.

The King-Queen pair is known in games of the Bezique family and in Poch as a marriage. This term is common and makes more sense when playing with French suited cards.

Trump Unter[edit]

If a player holds the Trump Unter (or Trump Jack) and it is his turn, he may, before his go, exchange it for the trump turn-up. Forehand may do this before the game starts.

If there is only one talon card left on the trump turn-up, a player may exchange, but not close, the talon.

Closing the talon[edit]

When it is his turn, if a player believes he can achieve the required 66 points without replenishing his hand from the talon, he can 'close' it. He draws the turn-up from the bottom of the talon and lays it across the top.

From this point, players must follow suit and attempt to win each trick just as if the talon had been exhausted. If the player who closed the talon succeeds in collecting 66 points and claiming victory, he has won. If, however, a player takes the last trick, the closure of the talon is not a factor. The number of game points scored depends on the number of card points collected at the time the talon is closed. The tricks and announcements (pairs) of the opponent at that point are counted immediately after the talon is closed.

If the player who closed the talon fails to reach 66 card points, or if his opponent, beats him to it, the opponent wins:

  • 3 points if he still had no tricks when the talon was closed, otherwise
  • 2 points

As stated above, if only one talon card is left on the turn-up, it may be exchanged, but the talon cannot be closed.

Bummerls and rubbers[edit]

A Bummerl consists of several individual hands and the dealer alternates with each hand. The player who is the first to seven game points wins and their opponent records this with a large dot against their name, also called a Bummerl.

One feature of Schnapsen is counting "from seven downwards" (von Sieben herunter ); i.e. you do not count the game points already scored, but record the number of points still needed to win. Both players thus begin with seven points; if a player wins the first game with 3 game points, their point score reduces to four.

Scores are either traditionally recorded on a small chalk board or with the aid of a Bummerl counter (Bummerlzähler): the seven large beads (Perlen) on the outer arch indicate the current score of the hand or Bummerl being played, while the smaller beads on the inner arch show the number of Bummerls already played.

  • If a player wins 7–0, his opponent is Schneider (Schneiderbummerl) and the loss is doubled. The loser chalks up 2 Bummerls – this rule does not apply in tournaments.
  • In all other cases the loser receives one Bummerl.

A rubber (Partie) consists, either by agreement or tournament rules, of two or three Bummerls, i.e. the player who gets his opponent to chalk up two or three Bummerls, wins the rubber.

From this is derived the saying: Einer kriegt immer das Bummerl. ("He always gets the Bummerl", i.e. "he always loses out".)

Sharp Schnapsen[edit]

The above rules describe the so-called 'soft' Schnapsen. Sharp Schnapsen (Scharfes Schnapsen) has the following rule changes:

  • Played tricks may not be looked at; players must count their own card points as they go
  • If only one card of the talon is left on the trump turn-up a player may not close the talon – as in soft Schnapsen – but may not exchange the trump either
  • Forehand may not exchange the trump turn-up before the first trick
  • Players must have at least one trick before melding a pair or marriage (Zwanziger, Vierziger).
  • If a player melds a pair, they must play the King to the next trick – playing the Ober or Queen is not permitted.
  • Players may not draw from the talon until the previous trick has been turned over (face down).

Tournament Schnapsen[edit]

Schnapsen enjoys great popularity in Austria and is played at numerous tournaments. The predominant tournament type is Preisschnapsen. Less often a Swiss-system tournament is played.

The winner of a match is the player who is the first to "add" 2 bummerls to his opponent's score sheet. If a game is won with a score of 7:0, this only counts as 1 bummerl in tournament play, not two as in private games.

Depending on the tournament rules, either 'soft' (weich) or 'sharp' (scharf / hart) Schnapsen may be played.


A Preisschnapsen tournament is played to a 'modified' knockout system. This tournament form is also used for Watten, where it is called Preiswatten. While in the usual knockout system a player is eliminated after his first defeat, this is not always the case in the case of Preisschnapsen, as a player can buy several entry cards in some tournaments.

Participant cards[edit]

Before the start of the tournament 'participant cards' are issued, the number of cards always being a power of two - for example, 32, 64, 128 - and depending on the expected number of players. Each player may buy a certain number of entry cards - variously called Lose ("batches" or "lots"), Leben ("lives") or Standkarten ("entry cards"), up to a maximum of, say, three cards, as specified in the tournament invitation. Unsold tickets are Freilose ("byes").


The pairings for the first round are then drawn by lots. Draws are held in such a way that a player who has several entry cards does not have to play against himself if possible. In the higher rounds, however, this may happen, in which case the player concerned must hand in one participant card and may advance to the next round with the other card.

A typical draw proceeds as follows. Assuming 64 entry cards are issued, 32 games will be played in the first round of the tournament. For the draw two pots are used - a 'right' and a 'left' pot - in each of which 32 cards with the numbers 1 to 32 are placed. Now the individual players draw, according to the number of entry cards they have bought, starting with the left pot: if the first player has bought three cards, he draws three cards from the left pot, and so on. Only when all cards have been drawn from the left pot, are cards drawn from the right pot. If the left pot is empty and the player who drew the last card from it also has to draw from the right, it is conceivable that he could draw the same number again. If so, he is allowed to re-draw from the right pot.

The numbers left in the right pot after all players have drawn their 'round numbers' are byes, i.e. the players who have drawn the corresponding numbers from the left pot move up to the next round without having to compete. The participants who have drawn the same number, now meet in the first round and play a game for, usually, 2 bummerls.


Of course, not all games in a round can be played at the same time, as a player who has several entry cards has to play against several opponents. There is no schedule showing when which player has to play which opponent. Each player has to track down his opponent - assisted by the tournament management team. The winner of a game keeps his entry card and moves on to the next round, the loser must hand in an entry card - but as long as he still has further entry cards, he remains in the tournament. Once all games in a round are finished, the pairings for the next round are drawn, with players who still have more than one entry card drawing first.


There are usually eight prizes at a Preisschnapsen tournament:

  • 1st prize: tournament winner
  • 2nd prize: finalist
  • 3rd and 4th prizes: the losers of the two semi-final games play for third place.
  • 5th to 8th prizes: the four losers of the quarter-finals meet; the winners from these matches then play for 5th and 6th places; the losers play for 7th and 8th places.

A player who purchases more than one entry card can also win more than one prize, unless the tournament conditions expressly state otherwise.

The winner of a Preisschnapsen used to receive a goose as first prize.


According to Austrian law, Schnapsen − unlike the various poker variants − is not a game of chance used for gambling, but a game of skill:

Typical games of skill are Tarock, Bridge, Schnapsen or chess.[3]

Related games[edit]


  1. ^ Tompa, Martin. Winning Schnapsen: From Card Play Basics to Expert Strategy. 2015.
  2. ^ Schnapsen at Retrieved 10 Jun 2018.
  3. ^ Archived 2013-03-21 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Fritz Babsch: Internationale und österreichische Kartenspiel-Regeln, Vienna, 1983
  • Johannes Bamberger: Schnapsen. Die schönsten Varianten, Perlen-Reihe, Vol. 639, Vienna o. J.
  • Fritz Beck: Schnapsen – 66 – Preisschnapsen, Perlen-Reihe, Vol. 639, Vienna, 1961
  • Helmuth Gugl: Meisterschnapsen, Piatnik, Vienna, 1971

External links[edit]