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Wonderful & Traditional
Italian Card Game
Scopa is a tradtional Italian card game, and one of the two major national card games in Italy. It is also popular in Brazil, brought in by Italian immigrants, mostly in the Scopa di Quindici variation. Scopa is also played in former Italian colonies such as Libya and Somalia or some other countries like Tunisia with changed appearance. It is played with a standard Italian 40-card deck, mostly between two players or four in two partnerships, but it can also be played by 3, 5, or 6 players.
The name is an Italian noun meaning “broom”, since taking a scopa means “to sweep” all the cards from the table. Watching a game of scopa can be a highly entertaining activity, since games traditionally involve lively, colorful, and somewhat strong-worded banter in between hands. However, skill and chance are more important for the outcome of the game.
There are many variations of scopa. Since there are no formal rules, it is good manners to agree with the other players on the rules that are to be used before starting a game.
Many of the variations here can be combined. For example, a common variant in the Milan area combines “Scopone scientifico”, “Scopa d’Assi” and “Napola”.
In traditional Scopa each player receives three cards. The dealer deals them out one card at a time, in a counter-clockwise direction, beginning with the player to their right. During this deal, the dealer will also place four cards face up on the table. A table card may be dealt before the deal begins, immediately after dealing a card to themselves but before dealing to the next player, or after dealing all players all three cards.
As it is impossible to sweep in a game where the initial table cards include three or four kings, such a deal is considered invalid. The cards are re-shuffled, and the dealer deals again.
The player to the dealer’s right begins play. This player has two options: Either place a card on the table, or play a card to capture one or more cards. A capture is made by matching a card in the player’s hand to a card of the same value on the table, or if that is not possible, by matching a card in the player’s hand to the sum of the values of two or more cards on the table. In both cases, both the card from the player’s hand and the captured card(s) are removed and placed face down in a pile in front of the player. These cards are now out of play until scores are calculated at the end of the round. If by capturing, all cards were removed from the table, then this is called a scopa, and an additional point is awarded at the end of the round.
Instructional Video Below