Many people believe Tressette, or Tresette, to be a very complex game and refuse to learn how to play it, using the excuse “I can’t really remember the rules” when invited to join a table.
This wariness regarding Tressette is linked to the apparent complexity of its rules, which when explained all together (as is often the case, before starting the game) may cause confusion, because its direct rival, that is to say the game of Briscola, is definitely the most popular card game in Italy and is also the easiest and quickest to learn. Because of this, in many cases people prefer to play a simpler and universally known game, avoiding the risk of having to interrupt play because of the inability of an inexperienced player to implement the right strategy.
Teaching someone to play Briscola definitely takes less time than it takes to explain the rules, logic and strategies of Tressette to a person who doesn’t know how to play either of the games. Precisely because of this speed and simplicity, everyone knows how to play Briscola, while Tressette seems to be a game reserved for an elite group of masterminds.
This is not the case. It is easy to learn how to play Tressette (just read the rules of Tressette), if you do not start out with the expectation of being able to “perform well” from the very first game. It is perfectly ok to take some time to try out the game and learn as you play, especially because it is important to understand that the mental stimulation and strategic fun experienced by the partners in this game derive from the fact that it is more complex than games such as Scopa or even Briscola (without taking anything away from them).
As in the game of Burraco, and unlike in Texas Hold’em Poker, Tressette is a team game, although it can also be played by two people, one against the other, although this is far less common than the team version.
The fact that no speaking is permitted except during your go could also put some people off initially, but when playing, this rule actually helps add a degree of suspense to the game, and the “speaking” phase will soon become clear in all its elegance.
This game uses Neapolitan or Piacentine cards, although it is also played with Bergamasche cards in Northern Italy and with Sicilian cards in Sicily.
Like all games, Tressette has a series of variants that make it famous in another guise and under another name:
Tressette a Perdere (or Tressette a Non Prendere)
(Also known as “Traversone”, “Rovescino”, “Vinci Ma Perdi” or “Ciapa No”)
This game is identical to Tressette in every way, but without the "shout” and with the objective of losing instead of winning. The game is played for points, just like the traditional version. It can be played by four, five or eight players. This is believed to be the most widely played variant of Tressette. A four-player version is therefore available on the Biska website.
Ten cards are dealt out to each player, and there is a central deck of twenty cards placed face-down in the middle of the table. As in Briscola, the winner of the hand draws the first card from the deck, showing it to his or her opponent before putting in in his or her hand. Then the other player draws a card and shows it before placing it in his or her “fan” of cards. This variant is under development and is not currently available on the Biska website.
Tressette con la Chiamata al Tre (or Tressette con la Chiamata del Tre)
Almost like Declaration Briscola, Tressette con la Chiamata del Tre is played according to normal Tressette rules, but with teams not being formed in relation to their position around the table, but during the “declaration” phase. The player who's turn it is declares a three card of any suit (as long as this card is not in his or her possession). The player who possesses this declared card automatically becomes his or her partner for the game. This version is not currently available on the Biska website.
Tressette col Morto (or Tressette con la Guercia)
A game for three players. The “morto” (dead person) represents the non-existent partner of the dealer. The dead person receives cards like a normal player, but when the person who’s turn it is has led the first card at the start of the game, the dead person’s cards are placed face-up to be played by the dealer when it’s the dead person’s turn. This version is not available on the Biska website.