Piquet has a special place in my heart — it is considered one of the oldest card games still commonly played. In fact, the earliest surviving book that describes card games is called “The Royal and Delightful Game of Piquet”. For card game enthusiasts, this game is like the Rosetta Stone or the Hope diamond.

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But, no matter how you feel about it, Piquet (or “Cent” as it is sometimes called in the UK) is a sequence game much in the spirit of Barbu, only a little less difficult and intended for only two players.

Piquet Decks and Cards

Piquet uses a special deck — but you can make a Piquet deck by simply removing all cards lower than six including Jokers. This will leave you with a deck of 36 cards, six through Ace.

In Piquet, the dealer of a particular hand is called “the younger” — the other player is naturally called “the elder”.

Piquet Hands and Parts

It is important to understand each individual hand of piquet in order to put a full game together. Each game is divided up into five parts:

  1. Part one — “blanks and discards”
  2. Part two — “ruffs”
  3. Part three — “sequences”
  4. Part four — “sets”
  5. Part five — “tricks”

The parts are always played in that order.

Scores are counted after each “part” of the game, and the first player to score 100 points is the winner. This may take several hands of Piquet to get through, so traditionally the game is scored out in the open — my grandparents always use a cribbage board to keep score in such a complex game.

Playing Piquet

To start play, the players cut the deck to determine who is the dealer (or “younger”) of each hand. In standard Piquet fashion, whoever holds the low card is the “younger”.

Each player is dealt twelve cards, two cards at a time. The remaining stock of twelve cards is placed between the players.

Part one — “blanks and discards”

In this part of the game, each player is allowed to discard up to eight of the cards they were dealt, and to draw as many as they discard from the center card stock. The elder discards and draws first (as is polite) followed by the younger. Both players are required to discard and draw at least one card.

A hand containing no “face cards” (Jack through King) is called a “blank”. If the player known as “the elder” has a blank, he may declare “blank!” and the number of cards he is going to discard. After declaring, he shows his hand to the other player. The younger then discards and draws his new cards IF he does not have a blank. Then the elder discards, draws and receives 10 points for the blank hand. However, if the younger also has a blank, he can keep the elder from earning “blank” points by declaring his own blank and showing it. If two blanks are dealt, no one earns any points and play continues as though nothing happened.

The younger may not declare a blank independent of the elder.

Part two — “Ruffs”

A ruff is the total number of points in a given suit. In Piquet, Aces count for 11 points, face cards count for 10 points, and the number cards count their rank. The elder declares the number of points in his largest ruff. If the younger has an equal or higher ruff, he declares his points, too. If the ruffs are equal, then neither player scores. If not, the high ruff receives points for all cards in the hand. 1 point is scored for each 10 points in the hand. The loser may ask to see the winning ruff for proof. The game continues.

Part three — “Sequences”

A sequence is a group of three or more consecutive cards in a suit, such as 7 8 9 10 of Spades. The elder declares the number of cards in his longest sequence. If the younger has an equal or higher sequence, he declares such. If the sequence sizes are completely equal, both declare the largest card in their sequence. If both sequences are of equal length AND contain the same high card, then neither player scores. Otherwise, either the longest sequence of cards or the sequence containing the highest card receives points for all sequences in the hand. Here’s how to score sequences — sets of three and four score 3 and 4 points, respectively. Sets of five and up score 10 points plus the number of cards in the sequence. The loser may ask to see the winning sequence, again, for proof.

Part four — “Sets”

In the game of Piquet, a set is three or more tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces. The elder declares the number of cards in his largest single set. If the younger has an equal or higher set, he declares it. If the set sizes are equal, the set card is declared. The largest set or the set of cards with the highest card receives points for all sets in their hand. Sets of three score 13 points, and sets of four score 14 points. The loser may ask to see the winning set, as always. Apparently, you can’t trust a Piquet opponent.

Part five — “Tricks”

Now that we’ve finished comparing our hands with one another, it is time to get down to the strategic part of Piquet — up until now, it has all been the luck of the draw.

“Tricks” are played like tricks in standard Bridge, only without a trump suit.

For the first trick, the elder leads a card, and the younger tries to play a higher card of the same suit.

The highest card in the “lead” suit wins the trick. The winner of the trick leads for the next trick, and this goes back and forth until all cards are played.

Tricks are scored both during and after play — for instance, a player can earn a point for “leading” a card of ten or higher, a point for winning each trick, two points for winning the final trick with a ten or higher, or a single point for winning the last trick with a nine or lower.

After all tricks are played, each player counts the number of tricks they have won. A player with seven through eleven tricks receives 10 points, while a player who wins all twelve tricks (this feat is called a “capet”) receives a monstrous 60 points.

One final note — a player can earn what is called a “pique” or even a “repique” by scoring large amounts of points while his opponent is scoreless. If you score 30 points in the “Tricks” round before your opponent has scored any, you’ve earned a “pique” and you must declare it so to earn your 30 points. If you earn 30 points during the first four hands and your opponent hasn’t scored, that is called a “repique” and is worth a staggering 60 points.