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This game is played with an Italian deck, which has 40 cards, divided into four suits, called Coins, Cups, Swords and Batons (also referred to as Cudgels, or Clubs).
Each suit has values from 1 (ace) to 7; the three court cards are the knave, the cavalier (or "horse") and the king, which are worth respectively 8, 9 and 10.
Although several patterns of Italian cards exist, the one more commonly used for playing Scopa is the Piacentine deck, which the illustrations in this page refer to, adopted by most areas of central Italy.
Obviously, any 40-card deck may be used for playing this game. Spanish packs only need to drop the 8's and 9's. If using an international deck, instead, 8's, 9's and 10's need to be taken out, and the queen will act as a cavalier (or horse), while the suit of Diamonds will replace the suit of Coins. This is a common situation, since a few Italian regional decks are made of 40 cards with French suits, and therefore the same changes have to be made to play the game.


forming couples
Scopa is best enjoyed by four players, but it can be played by two, three or even six players.

When four people take part, couples (or teams) are usually formed by the players sitting in front of each other, i.e. A-C and B-D as in the picture on the left.
In any other case, the game is played individually.

Scopone Scientifico, instead, is only played by four players, who form couples, as explained above.


Scopa, meaning "sweep, broom", is a family of popular Italian games, played in most regions of the country. It is believed to be at least 400 years old, but probably dates further back in time.
There are two main versions of the game, the classic Scopa also known as Scopetta ("small Scopa") or Three-Card Scopa, and the most widespread version known as Scopone Scientifico ("big scientific Scopa"), which requires a little more practice and memory to be played well, but both games are very easy to learn.

What changes in the different versions is mainly the number of cards dealt at the beginning of the game, since all other rules and goals are basically the same.

Games start with the deal of a number of covered cards to all players: three at a time in Scopa, and ten all together in Scopone Scientifico. In the first version, four cards are turned face up from the pile, ready to be captured, while in the second version this does not happen, and the game has to start with a discard.

The cards turned face up on the table, either coming from the opening arrangement or, later on, from the players' discards, are the ones which may be captured in turn by using the cards held in hand.

If a capture cannot be made, one of the player's cards must be discarded in any case, and placed face up with the others, thus increasing the choice of cards which the following player may capture.

All captures are based on the value of cards. For example:
a 5... ...may capture another 5

an ace... ...may capture another ace

More cards may be captured at the same time, if their sum is equals to the value of the card played.
For example:
a 7... ...may capture a 5 and a 2

a 10 (king)... ...may capture a 1 (ace) and a 9 (horse)
The player is free to choose what to capture, if the cards on the table allow him to do so.
For example, if the ones on the table are...

a 9 could capture either or
But if on the table there is a card whose value matches the one played, the player is not free to choose: he must take the single matching card.
For example, if the following cards are on the table...

a 9 can only capture the other 9 and NOT

During the game, a variable number of cards may be on the table, from a minimum of one to four, five, or sometimes even more.

Players are not forced to capture, if they don't want to do so, but it is not allowed to discard a card which would make a capture and leave it on the table.

If a player who is capturing "sweeps" the table, leaving it without cards, he scores a scopa, worth 1 point.
Other points are scored:
  • by capturing more cards than other opponents;
  • by capturing more Coins cards than other opponents;
  • by capturing the 7 of Coins, known as settebello ("the nice seven"), shown on the right;
  • by building the best primiera, a special combination of four cards, one for each suit, which will be discussed in detail further on.
Obviously, players count their points when all the cards of the deck have been played.

The winner is the player (or the team) who first reaches a given total of points, usually 11 or 21. This can require a variable number of games.


The first dealer is chosen randomly, either picking a card from the deck or in any other way.

The dealer shuffles the cards, and asks the player on his left to cut the pack.
He then deals three cards to each player, starting from the one on his right, and ending with himself.
Finally, the dealer turns face up four cards, placing them in the middle of the table.

The remaining pile is kept close to the dealer.

The dealer shuffles the cards, and asks the player on his left to cut the pack.
He then deals ten cards to each player, starting from the one on his right, and ending with himself, usually giving three to each, then three more, then the last four.
Therefore, no cards are turned face up, and no pile is left.

At the end of each game, the new dealer will be the next player in anti-clockwise direction (i.e. the one to the right of the previous dealer).

Note that in Scopa, as well as in most other Italian card games, turns are taken in anti-clockwise direction.


The player to the right of the dealer is the first one who plays: according to the cards he holds in hand, he tries to capture one or more cards on the table. If he suceeds in doing so, he takes the cards and places them in front of himself (or in front of his partner), face down.
Instead, if he cannot make a capture, he will simply discard one of his cards.

The player on his right (the dealer's partner) will take his turn, and so on, until each player has no cards left in hand. At this point, the dealer will give another three cards to each player, and the game continues until all cards have been played.
The player to the right of the dealer is the first one who plays, but since there are no cards to capture yet, he can only discard one. Obviously, he will choose a value which he has as a double or triple, so to reduce the chance for the next player to capture it.

The player on his right takes his turn, and may capture this card, thus scoring a "scopa" (see further down), or he too will have to discard, so the cards on the table will be two.

The third player takes his turn, and so on until all 40 cards have been played.

In both games, the rules according to which captures are made are the ones explained above in the "Basics" paragraph.

The captured cards are usually kept by players in front of them, face down, and should not be handled or browsed during the game. In 4-player Scopa and in Scopone, only two players keep the captured cards (one for each team), so when the other player makes a capture, he hands the cards to his partner.
Partners are not allowed to let the other player know which cards they hold in hand. If the players are experienced, they might symbolically communicate, for example by making specific discards in particular situations, but they should never openly advice their partner, or suggest which card should be played, or make similar comments concerning the game.

this game is in progress:
player A can capture 4 and 5
with his 9, thus scoring a scopa
When a player by making a capture takes all cards on the table (i.e. "sweeps" the table), he scores a scopa. The card which obtained this point is placed face up crossing the pile of captured ones, as a visible reminder.
After a scopa has been made, the next player (i.e. B in this example) has no opportunity to make a capture, and has to discard: this will prove a very favourable circumstance for the same team (i.e. player C) to score another scopa straight away.

the pile of captured cards after
the scopa will look like this

The very last card of the game, always played by the dealer, is not allowed to score a scopa, so in the case his card succeeds in "sweeping" the table, this capture is always considered as an ordinary one.


Unless the dealer "sweeps" the table with his last card (although this does not score a scopa, as previously said), at the end of the game one or more cards will remain face up, uncaptured. They are taken by the player (or team) who has made the last capture, as a bonus. This gives the dealer a little advantage, because it is sufficient for him to make any capture with his last card to take all of them.
Should the dealer not be able to make a capture, the last player who did so will take all the uncaptured ones.


The two players who keep the captured cards start counting the score.
  • The team who has captured more than 20 cards is given 1 point. Should the teams have exactly the same number of cards (20 each), this point is not given.
    If three or six players are taking part individually, the one who has the larger number of cards takes this point.

  • Then the number of Coins cards are counted: the team who has more than five of them is given 1 point. Again, should this be a draw (five Coins for each team), the point is not given.
    If three or six players are taking part, the one who has the larger number of Coins takes this point.

  • The team or individual player who has captured the settebello (7 of Coins) is given 1 point.

  • Each scopa gives 1 point to the team, or to individual players.

  • Finally, the primiera of the two teams (or individual players) has to be assessed.


The primiera is a sequence of four cards, each of which belonging to a different suit. Each team or individual player must produce it: the best one will receive 1 point.
In order to assess which sequence is the best one, cards are given a special value, and they follow a particular ranking:

a sample primiera, worth 21+16+15+21 = 73
  • 7s (the most valuable cards) are worth 21
  • 6s (second best) are worth 18
  • 1s (aces) are worth 16
  • 5s are worth 15
  • 4s are worth 14
  • 3s are worth 13
  • 2s are worth 12
  • 8s, 9s and 10s (i.e. any court card) are worth 10

Note that these special values are only used to assess which is the best primiera, and have no relation with the final score of the player.

Each team will put together the best possible combination, by using the captured cards.
When playing individually, each player has to make his own.
All four suits must be represented. The sum of the four values will tell who has the best primiera.
Should this too be a draw, the point is not given.

It is easy to understand why 7's are the most cherished cards; in any version of Scopa, players capture the ones on the table as soon as they can, and use the ones they have in hand very carefully.
In making captures, also cards belonging to the Coins suit will be preferred to others, when possible.
The settebello (7 of Coins) is therefore the most important card of the deck: for example, capturing this card with another 7 of any suit is like scoring 1½ points all together (1 point for the card itself, and half primiera already made), also giving the team (or the individual player) one Coins card.

Experienced players with good memory will remember which cards are played along the game, so they will be able to spare their best ones for a good occasion, and exploit the opponent's mistakes.


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