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French Piquet deck
Piquet is a card game for two players. It is considered by many to be one of the best two player card games. Pronounced “pee-kay” in France, it is usually pronounced “picket” in English speaking countries.
Piquet is one of the oldest card games still being played. It originated over 500 years ago, with a written reference dating back to at least 1534, in Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais.
The card game Piquet is said to have derived its name from that of its inventor, who contrived it to amuse Charles VI of France. The game was played with thirty two cards, that is, discarding out of the pack all the deuces, treys, fours, fives, and sixes. Regular piquet-packs were sold. In reckoning up the points, every card counted for its value, as ten for ten, nine for nine, and so on down to seven, which was, of course, the lowest; but the ace reckoned for eleven. All court cards reckoned for ten. As in other games, the ace won the king, the king the queen, and so on, to the knave, which won the ten. The cards were dealt at option by fours, threes, or twos, to the number of twelve, which was the hand — ‘discarding’ being allowed; but both the dealer and he that led were obliged to discard at least one card. When the cards were played out, each counted his tricks; and he that had most reckoned 10 for winning the cards; if the tricks were equal, neither reckoned at all. He who, without playing (that is, according to the various terms of the game), could reckon up 30 in hand, when his antagonist reckoned nothing, scored 90 for them; this was called a repic; and all above 30 counted so many, — 32 counting 92, and so on. He who could make up 30, part in hand and part by play, before the other made anything, scored 60; this was called a pic.
The game was also played as pool precisely according to the rules briefly sketched as above, the penalty for losing being a guinea to the pool.
Piquet required much practice to play it well. It became so great a favourite that, by the middle of the 18th century, the meanest people were well acquainted with it, and ‘let into all the tricks and secrets of it, in order to render them complete sharpers.’ Such are the words of an old author, who adds that the game was liable to great imposition, and he explains the methods in use. Short cards were used for cutting, as in Whist, at the time. Of these cards there were two sorts, one longer than the rest; and the advantage gained by them was as the adversary managed it, by cutting the longer or broader, as best suited his purpose, or imposing on the dealer, when it was his turn, to cut those which made most against him. The aces, kings, queens, and knaves were marked with dots at the corners, and in the very old book from which I am quoting precise directions are given how this marking can be effected in such a manner ‘as not to be discovered by your adversary, and at the same time appear plain to yourself.’ With a fine pointed pen and some clear spring water, players made dots upon the glazed card at the corners according to the above method; or they coloured the water with india ink, to make the marks more conspicuous. The work concludes as follows: — ‘There are but 32 cards made use of at Piquet, so that just half of them will be known to you; and in dealing you may have an opportunity to give yourself those you like best; and if you cannot conveniently change the pack according to your desire, you will commonly know what you are to take in, which is a demonstrative advantage to win any one’s money.’
Although much reduced in popularity these days, Piquet continues to enjoy a small but enthusiastic following, many of whom believe it to be the equal or even the superior of Cribbage as a card game for two. One famous enthusiast for the game is the author Richard Adams.