What is Scopa and How to Play

(Scopa means broom or sweep in Italian. The object of the game is to sweep, or clean, the table of cards)

Just a few words about cards that are important, specifically to this Italian card game of Scopa.

In left to right order of the cards below they are: Sette Bello. Pretty Seven. The seven of money. Everyone wants this. The top card in the deck. Worth seven.

Next is the ‘Fante of Coppe. Fante means soldier(infantry), but it is also like infante (infant, kid) so I always spell it ‘fante. Could be just me. N.B. nota bene. Pay attention well here. He is standing, but has NO crown. Worth eight.

Then we have Cavallo (horse) or he can be called Cavaliere (knight, cavalier) of Spades. He’s easiest to spot of the “vestiti” what with the horse and all. Worth nine.

Finally, da king. In this case, the king of clubs. NB pointy hat! If it has a crown on its head its worth 10 when you are counting

NOTE: these cards are all the classic "Napoletanne" (ie: from Naples) cards. There are regional versions that are different in every part of Italy. The cards may look different, but they are equal when it comes to playing the various games. In some regions the fante may be a femail figure and be called "Donna". Still worth eight points whether called fante or donna.

 

Ok, lets go.

PLAYING THE GAME
  1. Shuffle and deal out four cards in a square (two side by side, two below them) face up in center of table.
  2. Deal each player 3 cards. 2,3 or 4 players works out fine. Four is traditional and then the two people opposite each other are in squadra (teams)
  3. Player to dealer’s left goes first putting down one single card form his/her hand. A card must leave your hand every time it is your turn. Only one. But one every hand. Pick up card/cards from the table equal to points on a card in your hand. That is a trick you have won. Set your card and the card/cards that match it you have taken from the table face down in front of you. Make a line out of these overlapped tricks as you win them. It is beneficial to get as many cards as possible and to get 7s. IF YOU DO NOT MAKE A MATCH, YOU MUST STILL PUT DOWN A SINGLE CARD!
  4. BUT, if for example, you play a king from your hand and there is a king on the board you must take it even if there would be, again for example, a three of money and a tasty setto bello. Sorry, it the rule, pecatto. If an equal count is available you must take it before taking multiple cards.
  5. When all three original cards are gone from all players’ hands, dealer deals three more cards apiece. This goes on until there are no cards in anyone’s hands.
  6. During Play — Scopa! In addition to trying to get money (aren’t we all?) sevens, and especially sette bello — you are always scheming how to “sweep” the table clean. Take all the cards. If you do, that is “scopa” and you take that trick and put it in line with your others, but face UP. Kind of to rub it in with other players and to remind you to count it later. The next player then obviously to play has no chance of making a point that hand. Nice going. (note: there is a bit of art in making sure you don’t leave convenient potential scopas out there for the next guy. Tricky business.
  7. Last player to win a trick in a game gets cards left on table at end of game. This is often a big deal and game decider.

SCORING. THIS IS THE CRAZY PART. BUT, FUN. SEEMS TOTALLY BIZZARE AT FIRST AND STRANGELY NATURAL SHORTLY THEREAFTER.

  • SCOPA: one point for every trick where you swept the table
  • CARTE: number of cards. One point for the person/team that has the highest total number of cards.
  • DENARI: The gold coin money cards. One point for person/team with the most money cards
  • SETTE BELLO: one point for having this card in hand
  • PREMIERA: one point for whoever has the most sevens, usually. You are taking the highest card you have, one from each suit.
    Sevens count the most 4 x 7 = 28 which is the max, so if you have all the sevens its easy, you get the point for
    premiera. If you have 2 sevens and 2 sixes and I do too, it’s a tie (pari par-ee) and nobody gets a point. Too bad.
    But often BECAUSE THERE MUST BE ONE CARD FROM EACH SUIT, one player will have 2 sevens and 2 sixes and the other
    will only be able to come up with 2 sevens and 2 fives for example. Sevens are best. They count, wait for it … 7
    points. Sixes count six. See a pattern forming? Wait again! Aces are 5 and one half, 5.5 points. Strange, but true.
    This 5.5 points for aces don’t fly everywhere. This is a rule taught to us by our friend Pepe from Calabria. Face
    cards count nothing.

Someone must get a point in a hand if nothing other than from sette bello. This is the only guaranteed point in
the game. All the others can result in Pari (tie). Since there is only one sette bello someone gets something.
Scores can get going pretty good if the scopas start falling into play.

Ok, play to some pre-agreed upon number of points and enjoy.