Fun Card Games

Straw Man Tarot: Not for 'Dummies'!

A two-player version of Tarot with open dummy cards on the table (Strohmanntarock).

The Cards

This game is played with a 54-card tarot deck. There are four suits (spades, clubs, hearts and diamonds), plus the additional fifth suit “tarot”, which is a permanent trump suit. Fun fact: the origin of the word “trump” comes from the earlier designation of the tarots in Italian, “le trionfi”.

Regular Suits

In contrast to a regular deck, there are four face cards: King, Queen, Knight and Jack. In further contrast to a regular deck, the kings are the highest cards by trick rank besides the tarots.

There is a difference between red and black suits, too: in hearts and diamonds, the trick rank after K-Q-Kn-J is A-2-3-4, and those are all the cards present in those suits.

In clubs and spades, the trick rank after the face cards is 10-9-8-7, and these again are the entirety of the cards in those suits.

Tarot Cards

The trick rank of the tarot cards is equal to their numbers, which go from 1-21. The highest trick rank among the tarots, however, is the “Sküs” (say “skyooz”, derived from French “excusez”– which you might say when taking all your opponents cards :P ). The Sküs does not have a number, but instead looks kind of like the joker of a regular deck. The Sküs, the 21 tarot, called the Mond, and the 1 tarot, called the Pagat, are the three tarots worth the most points and are known as the “honneurs”.


At the start of the game, fifteen cards are dealt face down in three packs of five to each player. These are your hand.

  • The remaining 24 cards are distributed face-down in front of each player, alternating dealing three packs of four. These cards are revealed little-by-little as the game proceeds and can be played just like cards from your hand once they’re flipped. This table hand is known as the straw man.

If a player has no tarots in their hand after dealing (before flipping the straw man cards), she can request the game be redealt by the same player.

After dealing, each player orders and checks their hand, and the player who didn’t deal decides whether she wants to claim the game, i.e. go for the win.

  • If both players pass, the game is still played, but it called a simple game (vs. a claimed game).


Points in Straw Man Tarot are credits, and can be tracked on paper or with cents or poker chips. The game is played until the opponent runs out of credits, and a short round can be started with 100 credits each. Claimed games give you more credits for winning. If you win, you get paid, if you lose, you pay.

Win Type Opponent Pays You
Claim and Win 30
Beat Claimer 40
Win Unclaimed Game 20


Bonus points in Straw Man Tarot are awarded regardless of whether the player claimed the game, and are not announced beforehand.

Bonus Description Opponent Pays You
Pagat Ultimo Win the Pagat (1) on the last trick 10
Honneur Win all three honneurs (Pagat (1), Mond (21), Sküs) 10
Four Kings Win all four kings 10
Absolut Win with 40-49 points 10
Grandpoint Win with 50 points or more 20

Example Scoring

Player one claims the game and wins without any bonuses. Player two manages a Pagat Ultimo despite losing.

  • Player two owes player one 30 credits for the game,
  • and player one owes player two 10 credits for the Pagat Ultimo.

No one claims the game, player two wins with 50 points (grandpoint) and collects all the honneurs.

  • Player one owes player two 20 credits for the win,
  • another 20 for winning with 50 (grandpoint),
  • and 10 more for the honneurs.

Flipping the Straw Man Cards

After deciding whether to claim the game, after inspecting and ordering your hands, each player flips the leftmost card of each straw man in front of them (the three four-card packs).

  • If the card is a tarot or king, she takes this card into her hand after showing it to the opponent.
  • If the card is a suited card (Heart/Diamond/Spade/Club) lower than a king, the card remains in the straw man on the table face-up and she can’t flip any more cards in this straw man. The player then proceeds to the next straw man and repeats the process.


Once at least one card has been revealed in every straw man, and the above process ended, the game begins.

Face-up cards in the straw men can be played as if they were in the hand; the player can choose to play from hand or straw man (just be careful not to use up your whole hand, having only visible cards would be very easy to play against).

After each trick in which a card from the straw man is played, the next card of that straw man is flipped, and again, if it’s a tarot or king, it’s taken into the player’s hand after showing it.

If a player makes at least 35 points plus two cards (see point counting section below), she has won the round. If neither player reaches this amount, the game is a draw.

Trick points are counted based on the scale and method described below.

Following Suit, Taking the Trick

You always are required to play the same suit as the first card if possible.

  • If you can’t play the same suit, you are required to play a tarot card.
  • Only if you can’t play a card of the same suit or a tarot may you discard a card of the wrong suit.

The highest card of the same suit (or the highest tarot) takes the trick, and the winner of the trick plays the next card.

Trick Points

Tarock traditionally uses an unusual method of counting trick points. Group cards into packs of three, add the point values of each card, and then subtract two from the sum. It’s actually fairly easy to count this way, simply group two one-pointer cards like normal tarots or the numbered suits with one higher card, and you can just ignore the one-pointers. Sometimes you’ll end up with multiple high cards in a pack of three.

To win the game, you need at least 35 points and two remainder one-pointers. One-pointers are known as skartindels.

For example:

  • Queen of Hearts / 5 of Hearts / Tarot 3 = (4 + 1 + 1) - 2 = 4
  • Jack of Spades / Tarot 14 / Tarot 18 = (2 + 1 + 1) - 2 = 2
  • King of Diamonds / Tarot 12 / Sküs = (5 + 1 + 5) - 2 = 9

Tip: If you’re not a stickler for tradition you can use a simplified point system where you just add up the cards’ values normally. No need for counting in threes and subtracting two. This way you need 36 points to win the game.

Card by Trick Rank Points (Traditional) Points (Simplified)
Sküs 5 5
Mond (21) 5 5
Other Tarots (2-20) 1 0
Pagat (1) 5 5
King 5 5
Queen 4 4
Knight 3 3
Jack 2 2
10/A 1 0
9/2 1 0
8/3 1 0
7/4 1 0

End of the Game

The game is over when you’ve run your opponent out of chips!

Cheat Sheet PDF