The origins of the game can be traced back to the 1940s in South America. Later slightly different variant became popular in Italy. Nowadays, the Italian rules of the game are arguably the most common ones.
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It is played with two classic French decks + 4 Jokers – 108 cards in total. The objective is to get rid of your cards by discarding and melding. You can meld cards by creating combinations – sets with the same value or sequences with the same suit.
Players and cards
Burraco is usually played by 4 players divided into 2 teams. The Jokers are wildcards, the twos can be used as wildcards or as regular cards of their suits.
The Ace card can be put either at the beginning or at the end of a sequence. The order in which cards can form a sequence is (A)-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-(A).
The cards values are:
- Jokers: 30 points
- 2s: 20 points
- Aces: 15 points
- K, Q, J, 10, 9, and 8: 10 points
- 7, 6, 5, 4, and 3: 5 points
Dealing is done in a clockwise direction. Each player gets 11 cards, two sets of 11 cards are placed in the left corner forming the “pozzetto” for each team, and the remaining cards create the stock pile. The top card from the stock pile is turned face-up – the beginning of the Discard pile.
Players take turns in a clockwise rotation, beginning with the player to the dealer’s left.
The goal of each player is to meld combinations, which may be sets of equal cards or sequences of consecutive cards in the same suit. Each team has its own area on the table, where the members meld and lay off cards.
A combination must contain at least 3 cards. You can use wildcards to form it so you can have either “clean” (no wildcards) or “dirty” combinations. This is important when the score is calculated. You are allowed to use only one wildcard when forming sets or sequences. A combination of 7 or more cards is called burraco.
At the beginning of their turn, each player first draws a card from the Stock pile or takes all of the cards from the discarded pile. Then they can meld card combinations or extend already existing ones for their team. Finally, they have to discard one card. When discarding certain rules are applied:
- If a player draws only one card from the discard pile, he or she cannot discard the same card at the end of their turn.
- If several cards are drawn, players are allowed to discard any of those cards.
- When the discarding does not lead to going out (ending the hand), a player is allowed to discard a wildcard.
- When the discarding leads to going out, a player is not allowed to discard a wildcard.
There are two “pozzetto” piles on the table, one for each team. You take the “pozzetto” when there are no cards left in your hand. If you melded or laid off your last card, your turn continues after taking it. If you discarded the final card of your original hand, your turn ends.
There are three ways a hand can end – a player goes out, stack almost exhausted, and stalemate.
Going out (closing)
To go out (finish the hand), a team must have taken their pozzetto, formed at least one burraco, and a team member discard his or her last card. The last discarded card can not be a wildcard. It is not allowed to go out by melding all cards from the hand – a final discard is always required. The team that goes out gets bonus points for closing the hand.
2 cards in Stock
When there are only 2 cards left in the stock no more turns are played and the hand ends. No team is awarded bonus points.
If the discard pile consists of only one card and all players choose to take it and then discard another one, they may be swapping unwanted cards between them, therefore progress can not be made. When this happens the hand ends.
When a hand ends, the team score positive or negative points for the following achievements:
- Cards in melds on the table: (+) value of these cards
- Cards in players’ hands: (-) value of these cards
- Clean Burraco (a meld of 7+ natural cards): (+) 200 points
- Dirty Burraco (a meld of 7+ cards including a wildcard): (+) 100 points
- Going out (closing): (+) 100 points
- A team that has not taken its pozzetto: (-) 100 points
The session ends when a team reaches the winning score (1000 for example).