Sueca, The Most Famous Portuguese Card Game

Posted by Marianne Hoesen on Friday, April 3, 2015 Under: way of life

Sueca is Portuguese for a Swedish female, but it is also a very well known card game which is played all over the country as well as in other Portuguese-speaking countries. It is a point-trick game with trumps and is probably the most widely played card game. 

At the local cafés you can find posters advertising for a Sueca tournament, where you can win a lamb, a goat, suckling pig or a chicken. The game is played with 4 people in teams - two against two, with partners sitting opposite of eachother. This is how it works:

There are 40 cards in the game (you remove the 8s, 9s and 10s from a standard 52 card deck).  

The rank of the cards in each suit, from high to low, is:
ace, 7, king, jack, queen, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 .

The seven, which is the second highest card of each suit, is known as the manilha . As well as the high position of the seven, notice that the jack beats the queen! Probably this arose because in old Portuguese decks the picture cards in each suit were the king, horseman and maid, the female picture card being the lowest of the three.

In Sueca, the aim is to win tricks containing valuable cards. The card values are:

ace 11 points
seven 10 points
king 4 points
jack 3 points
queen 2 points
6, 5, 4, 3, 2 -  0 points
There are 120 points in the deck altogether


The Deal
In most places, the game is played counter-clockwise (though in Brazil it is played clockwise - see below ). The first dealer is chosen at random and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

The player to the dealer's right shuffles the cards and the player to dealer's left cuts. The dealer then gives 10 cards to each player, in a single batch, beginning with the player to dealer's left, going around clockwise and ending with the dealer. The bottom card of the deck, which belongs to the dealer, is turned face up, and its suit becomes trumps.

Alternatively, the dealer can choose to deal the first ten cards to himself, the next ten to the player to his right, and so on counter-clockwise. In this case the dealer's first card (the top card of the deck after the cut) is turned up and determines the trump suit.

The Play
The player to the right of the dealer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. If any cards of the trump suit are played to a trick, the highest trump wins. Otherwise, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

No signals between partners are permitted.

The object of the play is to win tricks containing more than half the card points. The team which takes more than 60 card points scores one game. The first team to score four games win the rubber.

If a team takes 91 or more card points in tricks on one deal, they score two games instead of one.

If they take all the tricks, they score four games and thus win the rubber immediately. This is known as "dar uma bandeira" (which literally means "to give a flag"). Taking 120 points but losing a trick (with no counting cards in it) is not sufficient to dar un bandiera . In this case the winning team would just score 2 games for having more than 90.

If there is a tie, both teams taking exactly 60 card points in tricks, no one scores, but the next hand is worth an extra game - ie the winners will score two games if they take 61 - 90 card points; three games if they take 91 or more. If the next game is another tie, the following hand would be worth two extra games - ie at least three games to the winners.

The score in games is often kept by marking dots at the ends of the arms of a cross, like this:  US and THEM


Have fun! And maybe you will win a goat one day....

In : way of life 

Tags: sueca  portuguese card game 

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About Me

Marianne Hoesen Born in the deep south of The Netherlands, I moved to the central Algarve in 2007, together with my partner and 2 dogs. In the meantime we added some goats and chickens and are living a peaceful life in the rolling hills of the rural south of Portugal. I invite you to read a bit in my blog and to leave a comment afterwards. Also check out the holiday accommodations mentioned elsewhere in this website.


Algarve Portugal
café Portugal, bica
Esteva, rock rose, Algarve
sun, beach, Algarve
real cork real wine
beach Algarve
folklore dance Algarve
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