How To Play South America’s Favourite Game, Truco!

A view over the shoulder of a woman playing Truco

Originating from Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Truco has travelled far to become one of the most popular card games in South America. It is particularly popular in both Brazil and Argentina where different versions of the game can be found.

The format of the game will vary greatly depending on your location. For example, Truco Argentino differs greatly from the versions found in Brazil. Even within Brazil there are different formats that vary significantly depending on which region you are in. Minas Gerais’ Truco Mineiro differs greatly from Sao Paulo’s Truco Paulista, while Rio Grande do Sul’s Truco Gaucho has more in common with its Argentinian cousin than its Brazilian brothers.

Here, we examine how to play Truco’s most popular variations (Truco Mineiro, Truco Paulista and Truco Argentino) and the secret sign language involved!

A view of someone playing Truco with the standard-style deck

How to Play Truco Mineiro

To play Truco you will need two teams of two people sat around a table. The partners should sit directly opposite each other so they can see each other clearly – this is important for communicating silently! Each player will be dealt three cards and the aim of the game is to have a higher ranking card than your opponent. Each game has three tricks (rodadas), and each person will play one card per each of these tricks/rounds. double money welcome bonus

The game is played anti clockwise from the person who plays the first card, and the team which wins two out of the three rodadas wins a point, or tento. The first team to win twelve tentos wins the match. Simple? Well, not quite! As a beginner there are more than a few things that you will need to be aware of.

Before deciding to play, you should try to familiarise yourself with Spanish playing cards. This is because the game is intended to be played with the 40-card Spanish deck. Do not worry if you do not have a Spanish-style deck to hand, you can also play with the standard 52-card deck by removing the 8’s, 9’s and 10’s. Both of these types of decks are referred to as a dirty deck, or baralho sujo.

For those of you who may be used to the standard 52-card deck, this next part may take some getting used to. The ranking of the cards does not run in ascending order from the 2’s, rather it has a unique format outlined below (from high to low):

  • Four of Clubs (zap)
  • Seven of Hearts (escopeta)
  • Ace of Spades (espadilha)
  • Seven of Diamonds (pica-funo)
  • Threes
  • Twos
  • Aces (excluding Ace of Spades)
  • Kings
  • Jacks
  • Queens
  • Seven of Spades and Clubs
  • Sixes
  • Fives
  • Fours (excluding Four of Clubs)

The most powerful cards are the first four, referred to as the manilhas. These power cards are fixed for every game and they represent that only occasion where the suit of the card is relevant. For example, the five of clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds will all have equal value. This opens up the possibility of there being a tie (empatar), which is unique to this version of Truco.

Where Truco Mineiro gets even more competitive is when the teams raise the stakes. At any time a player can call “truco” and raise the value of the current round from 1 to 3 tentos. The person making this call is called the trucador. Should “truco” get called, the opponent can do one of three things:

  1. Run away (corro) – Refuse the raise and lose the round. The team that called truco are awarded one point.
  2. Accept (aceito) – The raise is accepted, and the current round will be worth three tentos.
  3. Raise (retruco) – Raise the bet to 6 tentos. At this point, the tables are turned and the team who originally raised the bet will have the option to run away, accept or raise the bet again to 9 or 12 tentos. This is risky territory though, as 12 tentos will be enough to win the entire game!


The “truco” call can be a bluff, similar to poker. Even if the opponent chooses corro, they may never know whether the opponent was bluffing or not. Usually, the trucador’s cards are folded into the deck very quickly to conceal their strategy.

A graphic showing a bird's eye view of a game of Truco

How to Play Truco Paulista

Truco Paulista, commonly enjoyed in Sao Paulo, shares many of the same characteristics as Truco Mineiro, but there are also significant differences. Firstly, the cards will be dealt clockwise from the dealer, not anti-clockwise.  The biggest departure, however, comes in the manilhas, or power cards. In Truco Mineiro, the manilhas are fixed meaning that they remain the same for each game. However, in Truco Paulista they will change from game to game. The manilhas are determined after the players have been dealt their cards. Once this is done, the top card of the deck, called the vira, is flipped over. The card ranked immediately above the vira – and the corresponding card in the other suits – will be the manilhas.

However, don’t forget that the order of cards in Truco is different to that in other card games. In a game of Truco the order, from highest to lowest, is: 3-2-Ace-Jack-King-Queen-7-6-5-4. This means that if the vira card is a King, then all of the Jacks are the manilhas. The strength of each suit is also different, with Clubs being the strongest, followed by Hearts, Spades and lastly Diamonds. In the example where the Jacks are the manilhas, the Jack of Clubs would be the strongest, while the Jack of Diamonds is the weakest of the four. This also allows for another significant difference to the Mineiro version of the game – there can be no ties. This is because each suit has a relative strength against another meaning a stalemate is impossible.

Another key difference between the two Brazilian games is the introduction of mão de ferro – the iron hand! An iron hand is only played when both teams have eleven points. When playing the mão de ferro, the cards are dealt to the players as they normally would be. However, neither team is allowed to look at their cards. The players will  play out the three tricks by simply turning over their top card. Whoever wins that round wins the game.

A final difference that is important for new players to know is that when one or both teams have eleven points, it is illegal to even utter the word “truco”. If you make a truco call, then your opponent will win the entire match! Even just saying the word “truco” in passing will cost you the match under Paulista rules. This a sneaky rule that has caught out many players in the past, so always keep an eye on the score!

The playing cards in a Spanish deck, shown from above on a green background

How to Play Truco Argentino

The Argentine version of the game is also usually played by two teams of two, similar to the Brazilian variants. However, for the most part, this is where the similarities end! The first major difference to highlight when it comes to Truco Argentino is that it can only be played with the Spanish 40-card deck. For those of you unfamiliar with this style, it differs significantly from the standard 52 card deck.

Firstly, the four suits are completely different. They are coins (oros), cups (copas), swords (espadas) and batons (bastos). In addition to this, the numbered cards only run from Ace to 7, rather than Ace to 10. Also, gone are the Queens and Jacks, replaced by the Valet (sota) andHorse (caballo) on cards 10 and 11. Meanwhile the King remains, although his number has changed to 12. The Spanish-deck also contains four special cards (cartas bravas) which are the most powerful in the deck. The strongest of these is the Ace of Swords, followed by the Ace of Batons, the Seven of Swords, then the Seven of Coins.

The method of awarding points in the Argentine format also differs from the Brazilians thanks to the introduction of the flor and enviado. A flor is having all three of your cards in the same suit and it must be announced to the group if you have it. If another player also announces they have a flor then the person with the better cards will win the points, but usually a player will call truco to raise the stakes on their way to victory (or not!). Meanwhile, an enviado is having two cards of the same suit. If more than one player has enviado then they can again call truco and bet on which person has the higher value enviado. Similar to Truco Mineiro, members can choose to give up, accept the bet, raise the bet, and re-raise the bet.

The four different No. 7 cards in the Spanish deck

Communication Is Key!

As with any team sport, communication between teammates is essential. In all forms of Truco, players can talk, sing, shout or whisper about whatever they wish. You can tell your partner exactly what cards you have, but…actually saying the words aloud would let the other team know too! In order to keep things confidential, players have developed a code of signals to let their teammates know what cards they have:

  • Closed eyes means you have terrible cards.
  • Raised eyebrows indicates that you hold the coveted Ace of Swords.
  • A sly wink will let your teammate know that you have the Ace of Batons.
  • Move your mouth to the right to convey you have the seven of swords, move it to the left if you have the seven of coins.
  • Have you got any threes? Bite your bottom lip!
  • Got a two? Blow a clandestine kiss!

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and the signals can always be changed. Indeed, partners who have played together for a long time could develop their own code to make sure their messages don’t get intercepted and interpreted by their rivals!

You can find different varieties of Truco across South America. You can also discover even more card games the world’s favourite casino, Don’t forget to sign-up and receive our very generous Welcome Bonus!

Tom Bogues has been working in the gambling industry since 2020. He has a keen interest in all aspects from industry, from the casino floor to industry regulations.

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