Scopa is a favorite Italian Game of Italians and Italian Americans. Scopa, in Italian, means broom. In the game of Scopa, you are awarded points in a variety of ways, but one of the best methods is to sweep the board. This is known as a Scopa (the broom for the “sweep”), and was how the Scopa game was named.

Scopa - Initial Scopa Deal

To play the game of Scopa, a dealer deals three Scopa cards to each player, one card at a time. The dealer will also place four Scopa cards face up on the table. (note: an opening scopa board of 3 or 4 kings is considered illegal and the cards are reshuffled and the dealer deals again)

Scopa - Card Values

A Scopa Deck has 4 suits. (Coins, Swords, Batons / Clubs, Cups) within each Italian suit there is the 1-7, Fante (infantry man similar to jack in American deck), Cavallo (calvary man similar to rank of queen in American deck) and King (always donning a crown and similar to king in American deck). For the game of Scopa the fante is worth 8, Cavallo is worth 9 and King is worth 10. These values are important for making Scopa tricks.

Scopa - Game Play

The scopa player to the dealer's right begins play. This player has two options: Either place a card on the table, or play a card to take a scopa trick. A trick is taken by matching a card in the player's hand to a card of the same value on the table, or if that is not possible, by matching a card in the player's hand to the sum of the values of two or more cards on the table. In both cases, both the card from the player's hand and the captured card(s) are removed and placed face down in front of the player.

These cards are now out of play until scores are calculated at the end of the round.

Example: The player's hand contains the 2 of coins, 5 of swords, and 7 of clubs (or batons). On the table are the ace of coins, 5 of cups, and 6 of swords. The player's options are:
* Place the 2 of coins on the table
* Take the 5 of cups using the 5 of swords, and placing both cards face down in front of him
* Take the 6 of swords and ace of coins using the 7 of clubs, and placing all three cards face down in front of him.

Scopa - Must Take Trick Rule

It is not legal to place a card on the table that has the ability to take a trick. If, for example, a 2 and 4 are on the table, and a player holds a 6, the player must either take that trick, or play a different card from his hand.

Scopa - Single Card Trick Rule

In any circumstance in which a played card may capture either a single or multiple cards, the player is forced to capture only the single card. If the table has contains a 1, 3, 4, and 8 (Fante), and the player plays a Fante of a different suit, the player is not allowed to capture the 1, 3, and 4, even though their total does add up to 8. Instead, the player is only allowed to capture the fante.

Scopa - Continuation Deal

After all players have played all three cards, the dealer deals out three more cards to each player, again beginning with the player to his right. That player then begins play again. No additional cards are dealt to the table. This process is repeated until no cards remain in the deck.

Scopa - Making Scopas

A Scopa is achieved when a player takes a trick and removes all of the cards from the board. The board is empty at this point and the next player is forced to discard a card into the board, since there is not an opportunity to take a trick. A Scopa trick should be noted separately during the game, since a player making a scopa will receive one point. Some players stack their trick sideways, upside down or in a separate pile to track a Scopa until the end of the deal.

Scopa - End of Deal

After the dealer has played the final card of the final hand of the round, the player who most recently took a trick is awarded any remaining cards on the table. After the last card of the round has been played, points are calculated for each. If no one has won the game, the deal moves to the right. The new dealer shuffles and deals the cards as described above.

Scopa - Scoring

Points are awarded at the completion of each deal. If playing in teams, the team members combine their captured cards before counting to calculate points.

Players/teams get one point for each "scopa".

In addition, there are up to four points available for the following, each worth 1 point apiece:
(a) captured the greatest number of cards (In case of tie, no one receives a point)
(b) captured the greatest number of cards in the suit of coins (In case of tie, no one receives a point)
(c) captured the seven of coins (the "sette bello")
(d) obtained the highest "prime" (This is sometimes erroneously referred to as simply "capturing the most sevens" - see below.)

Scopa - Determining “prime”

The "prime" for each team is determined by selecting the team's "best" card in each of the four suits, and totaling those four cards' point values. When calculating the prime, a separate point scale is used. The player with the highest number of points using this separate point scale gets one point toward the game score as listed in (d) above.

The most common version of the separate scale is: Seven = 21 points, Six (sei) = 18 points, Ace = 16 points, Five = 15 points, Four = 14 points, Three = 13 points, Two = 12 points, King = 10 points

For example, if one team captures the sevens of cups and coins, the six of clubs and the ace of swords, that team's prime is (21 + 21 + 18 + 16) = 76.

Other versions of the prime's point scale exist. Most use the same ranking of cards but have variant scores (e.g. 0 points for face cards instead of 10). A variant that is popular in America but disliked by purists is to award the prime to the person with the most sevens, or the person with the most sixes if there is a tie (then aces, and so on down the prime's rank order).

Scopa - Winning the Game

The game is played until one team has at least 11 points and has a greater total than any other team. It is important to note that no points, including scopa points, are awarded mid-round; they are all calculated upon completion of the round. For that reason, if the current score is 10 to 9, and the team with 10 points captures the seven of coins or a scopa, the team cannot immediately claim victory. It is still possible that the opposing team could end up with a tied or higher score once all points are calculated.

Enjoy Playing Scopa!