Ombre - Encyclopedia

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OMBRE, a card game, very fashionable at the end of the 18th century, but now practically obsolete. The following recommendation of the game is taken from the Court Gamester, a book published in 1720 for the use of the daughters of the prince of Wales, afterwards George II: "The game of Ombre owes its invention to the Spaniards, and it has in it a great deal of the gravity peculiar to that nation. It is called Ombre, or The Man. It was so named as requiring thought and reflection, which are qualities peculiar to many or rather alluding to him who undertakes to play the game against the rest of the gamesters, and is called the man. To play it well requires a great deal of application, and let a man be ever so expert, he will be apt to fall into mistakes if he think of anything else or is disturbed by the conversation of them that look on.. .. It will be found the most delightful and entertaining of all games to those who have anything in them of what we call the spirit of play." Ombre is played by three players with a pack of 40 cards, the 8, 9 and 10 being dispensed with. The order of value of the hands is irregular, being different for trumps and suits not trumps. In a suit not trumps the order is, for red suits: K, Q, Kn, ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; for black suits: K, Q, Kn, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. In trump suits the ace of spades, called spadille, is always a trump, and the highest one, whichever of the four suits may be trumps. The order for red suit trumps is; ace of spades 7 (called manille), ace of clubs (called basto), ace (called ponto), K, Q, Kn, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. For black suit trumps: ace of spades (spadille), 2 (manille), ace (basto), K, Q, Kn, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 . There is no ponto in black trumps. The three highest trumps are called matadores (or mats). The holder of them has the privilege of not following suit, except when a higher mat is played, which forces a lower one if the hand contains no other trump.

Cards are dealt round, and the receiver of the first black ace is the dealer. He deals (towards his right) nine cards, by threes, to each player. The remaining 13 cards form the stock or talon, as at piquet. Each deal constitutes a game. One hand plays against the other two, the solo player being called the Ombre. The player at the dealer's right has the first option of being Ombre, which entails two privileges: that of naming the trump suit, and that of throwing away as many of his cards as he chooses, receiving new ones in their place, as at poker. If, with these advantages in mind, he thinks he can win against the other two hands, he says, "I ask leave," or "I play." But in this case his right-hand neighbour has the privilege of claiming Ombre for himself, providing he is willing to play his hand without drawing new cards, or, as the phrase goes, sans prendre. If, however, the other player reconsiders and decides that he will himself play without drawing cards, he can still remain Ombre. If the second player passes, the dealer in his turn may ask to play sans prendre, as above. If all three pass a new deal ensues. After the Ombre discards (if he does not play sans prendre) the two others in turn do likewise, and, if any cards are left in the stock, the last discarder may look at them (as-at piquet) and the others after him. But if he does not look at them the others lose the privilege of doing so.

The manner of play is like whist, except that it is towards the right. The second and third players combine to defeat Ombre. If in the sequel Ombre makes more tricks than either of his opponents he wins. If one of his opponents makes more than Ombre the latter loses (called codille). If Ombre and one or both of his opponents make the same number of tricks the game is drawn. When Ombre makes all nine tricks he wins a vole. The game is played with counters having certain values, the pool being emptied by the winner. If all pass, a counter of low value is paid into the pool by each player. If Ombre wins he takes the entire pool. If he draws he forfeits to the pool a sum equal to that already in it, i.e. the pool is doubled. If either of his opponents makes the majority of the tricks (codille), Ombre pays him a sum equal to that in the poo], which itself remains untouched until the next game. When the pool is emptied each player pays in three counters.

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