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Italian Card Games: A Rich History and Enduring Entertainment

The History of Italian Cards Games

Italian card games have long been a popular choice for leisure and entertainment at gatherings and parties. These games have a rich history that can be traced back to the late 14th century when the first cards were brought from Mamluk Egypt and localized in Italy.

Due to Italy’s regional diversity, different influences contributed to the formation of traditional Italian card games. The conventional deck had Latin suits and three face cards: the Knave, Knight, and King. However, Spanish, French, and German suits were also commonly used.

Although traditional Italian card games are still played today, modern play uses the standard 52-card deck, with cards removed to mimic the conventional shrunken decks.

For instance, the 40-card stripped deck, commonly used in Italian card games, can be played using the Anglo-American 52-card deck by removing the 8, 9, and 10 cards. Some popular games during the 1500s are still played today, such as Primero and Ombre.

The Most Popular Italian Cards Games

italian cards games


Briscola is arguably the most famous Italian card game in modern-day Italy, a trick-taking card game for 2-6 players that can be played with teams. Each player starts with three cards, and the next card from the draw pile is placed face-down, which will determine the trump suit for the game. The highest trump card wins, and players do not need to follow the leading suit. The player with the highest number of won tricks determines the winner.


Primero is one of the most well-known Italian card games, using the Spanish 40-card deck and involving 2-6 players. The game is a Matching game, and the objective is to build a 4-card hand with the highest possible value. The game features unique hand conditions, and the most substantial hand is the titular Primero, consisting of one card from each of the four suits. Contrary to common practice, face cards have the lowest value in this game.


Scopone is a four-player game played in two teams using the 40-card Spanish pack. The game’s name translates to “broom,” which describes the game’s objective of “sweeping” all the cards from the competition. Each player is dealt three cards. Four cards are revealed on the table. Players take turns playing a card either on the table or claiming a card. A player can claim a card with a matching value in their hand or through summations. The game continues until the deck is depleted. The player with the most cards wins.

Sette e Mezzo

playing a game of cards in Italy

Sette e Mezzo is another Italian card game that translates to “seven and a half.” The game focuses on building a hand close to but not exceeding 7.5 points using a French 40-card deck. Each face card is worth half a point, while the rest are worth their value. Cards are dealt one at a time, and players can request more or choose to stay. The closest valid score wins, with the dealer playing without seeing their cards.


Ombre is a trick-taking card game that originated in Spanish territories and is still played today. The game involves three players using the 40-card Spanish deck. The “man” player goes against the other two players and tries to win more tricks than them to win the game, only if the bid is reached.


Tressette is another variation of trick-taking games played with four players split evenly into two teams. The standard 40-card pack is used with French card values, and since there are no trump suits, the top play determines the suit for the trick. If players cannot follow suit, they can play any card but forfeit the chance of winning the trick. When held in hand, certain cards will give points to the player. Using vocal cues, one can provide suggestions to their partner to assist in scoring.


Marianna is a variation of Briscola designed for two teams of two and is popular among European countries. The game uses the 40-card Spanish deck, but modern-day card rankings are used. Each player takes five cards face down, placing the remaining cards aside. The dealer leads the first trick, and at the end, each player draws one card from the pile. If a player holds a king and queen of a suit, they can call “Marianna,” revealing the cards, scoring a bonus, and setting the trump suit until the next Marianna is called.

In conclusion, Italian card games have a rich history and are still popular today. They are a great way to socialize and pass the time with friends and family. Whether you prefer trick-taking games or matching games, there is an Italian card game that will suit your interests.

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