Celebrate Card Playing Day with Puerto Rican Briscas


December 28th is Card Playing Day! Another day attributed to celebrating something very random. This one I can get behind though! Recently we were playing cards and were wishing for a set of Briscas cards and a rules refresher so we could play – it had been a while! I decided then and there that I would write a blog about it and gather all of the information so it could be added into game night… and we are going to play some Briscas to celebraye “Card Playing Day”.

Briscas is a popular card game found in Puerto Rico that was passed to us from the Spanish – or at the least that is what I thought! Upon investigation, Wikipedia had this to say:

Briscas is one of Italy’s most popular games and is a little-changed descendant of Brusquembille, the ancestor of Briscan and Bezique, is a Mediterranean trick-taking card game for two to six players played with a standard Italian 40-card deck. Apart from the Northern Mediterranean, the game is also popular in Puerto Rico. It is usually considered to be an elaboration from an original Dutch card game related to klaviaas, perhaps transmitted by sailors. (A confirming piece of evidence comes from the curious expression when one team wins all the points, called a cappotto. This is a puzzling term, as it means coat jacket in Italian, but may descend from Kapot, meaning complete defeat in Dutch). Relative to the Dutch game, where players need to follow suit, briscola rules allow any card to be played. This makes the game more unpredictable, as trump cards cannot be easily neutralized and may be played strategically at any point in time.

So, interestingly enough, it seems that the Briscas played in Puerto Rico may have influences from Spain, Italy and even Netherlands!

Here are some basic Rules of the Game:


Players: Two or three play each by themselves. Four, two against two as partners, facing each other.

The Deal: Dealer gives each player three cards, one at a time in order to his right (counter-clockwise), instead of to the left as in most other games. In the three-player version, a four (of any suit) is removed from the pack, thus playing with only 39 cards.

Stock and Trump Suit: The undealt remainder of the pack is placed face down in the center of the table, forming the stock. Its top card is turned face up and placed partially underneath the stock. This card fixes the trump suit (“la Vida” or “el Palo del Triunfo” ).

The Play: The object is to get the highest score by wining the most point scoring tricks (tricks where there are “Briscas” (1s or 3s) or, 12s, 11s and 10s). Each trick consists of a card led by one player plus a card played by each other player in turn. The player at the dealer’s right makes the first lead, and thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next. Players may lead and play cards of any suit, as they are not required to follow suit (“asistir”). A trick is won by the highest card played of the suit led, or if it contains a trump (“una Vida” or “un Palo del Triunfo” ), by the highest trump it contains.

The Draw: At the end of each trick, and before the start of the next trick, the winner of each trick draws a card from the top of the stock, and the other players follow in order to his right (counter-clockwise). For the last drawing round, the last player to draw will draw the trump suit card.

The Win: When all tricks have been played (20 tricks in 2-player games, 13 in 3-player, and 10 in 4-player) each player or team scores the points in his/their won tricks. Player or team with highest score wins the game, and draws are possible.

Exchanging the trump suit card rule: The use of this rule is optional and is generally agreed between the players before play starts.

When the trump suit card is a 10 or better (11, 12, 1 or 3) , it can be exchanged by the 7 of the same suit by any player holding it, and before the very first hand is played, it can be exchanged by the 2 of the same suit by any player holding it. Before the first hand is played, exchanging the trump suit card with the 2 has precedence over exchanging it with the 7.

When the trump suit card is a 7 or less (4, 5 or 6), it can be exchanged with the 2 of the same suit at any time.

Rules sourced from: https://members.tripod.com/~j_carrillo_vii/Briscas1.htm#Briscas

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