Date: Thu, 13 Feb 1997 09:19:45 -0100
From: Kevin Charles (
Subject: Can you help a dying man?

Hi Ken

I'm not dying but the frustration is killing me. I'll explain, while on honeymoon in Italy I observed several different groups (around 10) of men playing what I assumed was poker in various bars. On closer inspection they were playing some type of gambling game with a tall thin pack of cards which only have 40 cards. I managed to buy a pack with the hope that I could find the rules but so far have been unable. So I was wondering if you have come across this pack of cards and if you know the rules for this or any games that you can play with this pack.

The pack has 4 suits. Each suit has what looks like an ace, numbered cards from 2 to 7, and three picture cards. The three pictures cards seem to have different levels of importance but some suits have three men with no woman or gueen. One of the picture cards has a crown, one has a horse and the other has nothing. They all share the suit sign. The four suit signs are a sword or simitar, an orb, a scepture and what looks like a medieval dumbbell.

The Itailan on the various cards is as follows (if it helps)
Sword - Non Tifidar Dime Seilcuor Ti Manca
Orb - Nonval Saper Achiha Fortuna Contra
Scepture - Seti Perdituo Danno
Dumbbell - Per UnpuntoMartin Perse La Capa

If you could help in any way I will be eternally grateful.

Cheers for your help


[Ken: My guess was that these were Tarot or Tarrock cards. I suggested that Kevin find a copy of Parlett's Dictionary of Card Games. Any other comments?]

Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 14:02:17 +0000
From: Noel Leaver (
Subject: Help re Italian card game

The cards you bought are a standard Italian suited pack - different countries have their own suit symbols: our hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades is the French system. Spain, Germany, and Switzerland have others. The 3 court cards are King, Knight (on a horse) and Jack (the earliest known packs all have 3 male courts, the substitution of the Queen came with the spread from Italy to France).

To find the game, look at John McLeod's web site on and select the index to regional card games, Italy, and look at the ones played with a 40 card Italian suited pack. My guess is it was Briscola being played. My favorite game to play with these cards is Scapone.

Noel Leaver

Date: Fri, 9 May 1997 22:22:06 +0100
From: John McLeod (
Subject: Italian Cards


While looking at the Game Cabinet today I came across your "Stump the Net" section which I had not noticed before. I also spotted that the March issue contains several card games questions, one of which I can answer.

I'm not clear how you like answers to be submitted so I'm sending this as an e-mail to you, copied to the person who posed the question.

Kevin Charles ( asked about some unusual playing cards he saw in Italy.

These are normal Italian cards. There are numerous games you can play with them, and you can find rules for several of these on my Card Games web site at - for example have a look at the pages on Scopone, Briscola, Tresette, Calabresella, Ciapano and Coteccio.

Each suit is composed of an ace, numbered cards from 2 to 7, and three picture cards, the king (Re) (highest), a horse (Cavallo) (middle), a blank card (Fante) (lowest). The four suit signs are swords (spade), coins (ori / denari), baton (bastoni), and cups (coppe).

The pattern of cards you described is used in the region around Venice. Other designs of Italian cards are used in other regions of Italy, but I think the Venetian cards are the only ones that have these inscriptions on the aces.

They are not Tarot cards. Tarot packs (which in Italy are called Tarocchi) have a special series of 22 trump cards in addition to the 4 suits. Also each suit has four picture cards, not three. Kevin's cards normal Italian cards, as described above.

John McLeod (
For information on card games visit

Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 09:20:11 -0500 (EST)
From: Geenius at Wrok (
Subject: 40-Card Deck

Call Avid Press in New Paltz, N.Y. Their games Briscola and Punto use that deck, and it's conceivable that you were watching a game of Punto, which can be played for chips or money. The games are $9 apiece.

The four suits are swords, cups (your dumbbell?), coins and batons, and the eight, nine and 10 are face cards. On Avid's cards, the eight is a lady, the nine is a knight and the 10 is a wizard.

You can also find Avid's games in the Museum Store mall chain and in many specialty game stores.

Avid's phone number is +1.914.255.4565.

Keith Ammann

My mind is going. Jos and I used to play Punto all the time. Sigh.


Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 14:44:04 -0600
From: Keith Waclena (

Kevin and Ken,

This is not a tarot deck, but rather the most popular Italian 40-card pack. (A standard Italian tarot (or tarocco) pack has 78 cards, but tarocco seems to be dying out in Italy.) A standard 52-card international pack can be substituted by stripping out the 8s, 9s, and 10s. I will quote John McLeod from the excellent International Card Games site (

40 cards (4 Italian suits: A R D F 7 6 5 4 3 2)
Most Italian games use a 40 card pack. Popular games include Scopa and Scopone, Briscola, Tressette and Terziglio. There are also games confined to particular regions, such as Coteccio in Trieste, and children's games such as Camicia.

Rules for all these games are available at the URL above!

While I second the recommendation of Parlett's Dictionary of Card Games as the best available compendium of rules (it contains most of the games above), his The Oxford Guide to Card Games (reprinted as A History of Card Games) has a little more information on Italian cards and the kinds of games played with them (I can't recommend this book highly enough).

From the Playing Cards FAQ ( here is a list of the suits and the names of the face cards:

    Italian   bastoni  spade    coppe   denari (= batons, swords, cups, coins)
    Italian  (40)     R C F 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
    Italian  Re   Cavallo  Fante (= King, Cavalier, Footsoldier)
    Spanish  Rey  Caballo  Sota  (= King, Cavalier, Servant)

Hope this helps!

Keith Waclena /
PGP: A4 58 54 1F 55 D8 42 E1 A7 4E 7E 2A B9 26 A6 B1
Song of the Moment: Web in Front (Archers of Loaf)

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