The dictionary would probably tell you that Truco is a two against two card game, the teams sit at opposite sides of the table, just like in dominoes, and everyone gets three cards at every round. I won’t explain the whole game, the thing is super complicated anyways, sometimes people even get into fights over certain game-defining rules. Someone should write those down once and for all.

Truco requires a lot of bluffing, but unlike poker, where everyone is quiet and serious, you need to talk, a lot. To raise the stakes you say ¡truco!, if you want to intimidate you can even scream the thing at your opponents ¡TRUCO A TI NOJODA!

Say you want to raise the stakes even more, the answer is ¡RETRUCO! (at this point everyone is screaming, I totally love this part.)

There are all kinds of chants meaning different things like “a ley o sin ley juego y envido”. That means you MAY have flor (the equivalent in poker would be flush, all cards of the same suit), but you are allowed to say it if you have absolutely nothing just to confuse. I’m telling you, the thing is a mess of rules, you have no idea.

Truco is about the institutionalization of mind games. You need to be constantly coordinating with your partner across from you while trying to figure out what your opponents are up to. You also need to gain social control of the table, so if you are not a screamer you still need to show some attitude in your chanting, maybe throw some ven a mi que tengo flor in there. Even if you are playing with complete strangers or are an introvert like me, you end up talking a lot.

Eso sí, you absolutely have to be a good sport, some light insults are bound to appear, people gather confidence quick, but it’s ok, that’s our tropical way. I think that’s why truco is even fun to watch (ESPN get a clue, ditch those poker guys, this is so much better).

Sadly, the game doesn’t have the greatest appeal to outsiders. My mom thinks it’s a game for malandros and borrachitos. Who can blame her? the cards look like santería equipment and are sold only in liquor stores. Some rebranding could go a long way.

Truco gets no respect at all. I love it though, and I sure hope that changes. Someday when you hear Venezuela you’ll think about arepas, joropo and truco venezolano.

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  1. El truco saca a relucir lo peor del venezolano. Gusta tanto porque le da rienda suelta al confianzudo, al histriónico, al tramposo, al gamberro, al vivo, al pantallero… Sin duda, un juego despreciable, para borrachos chillones y carajitos necesitados de atenciòn. Como curiosidad, nunca he conocido a nadie con un mínimo de cultura y civilidad que afirme que le guste jugar truco.

    • That’s what I mean by rebranding. Maybe you played it with the wrong people? si lo juegas con gente que no anda pendiente de hacer trampa y sin tomar ves que es simplemente un juego de estrategia. Es complejísimo porque tomas decisiones con información incompleta todo el tiempo. El juego se ganó una mala imagen que quizás no logremos revertir nunca, pero de pana te digo que es buenísimo

    • Asumo que tu postura, es porque nunca aprendiste a jugarlo o eras tan malo que siempres perdias. Si bien el juego puede llevara a situaciones que en un ambiente hostil puede salirse de control, no por ello puedes generalizar y afirmar “que es un juego despreciable para borrachos chillones y carajitos necesitados de atencion”, pues ese criterio aplica para el futbol, beisbol y n cantidad de otras disciplinas seguidas en todo el orbe. El truco es parte de la cultural venezola, en la unirversidades, generalmente en las publicas, y en gran parte del territorio del pais, con una alta concetracion en los estados orientales. representando una tradicion y hasta un juego de disfrute en familia.

  2. I won’t go as far as Apache to insult the game.

    But i do think it absolutely brings out a ton of antivalues and shitty behaviour. It encourages gambling, cheating, boasting and overall being a very obnoxious person and a loud mouth vivo criollo third world stereotype. Its quite awfull to be around people playing truco.

    And is not a venezuelan or a tropical game either. Its a thing in Argentina as well. (I was told it had its origin there actually) And it totally gets the same bad rep as a hobby for scoundrels, drunkards and bad students playing hookey. .

    I was even explained “if the rules were writtrn and set in stone that would give less excuses to cheat and get away with foul play, that ruins the game”. Ummm…yeah

  3. I never learned how o play Truco but I get to know the game at the Universidad Central Political Science and Law Faculty coffee shop. Players were faculty seniors students, some really good students, now excelent professionals.

  4. What an interesting article … Truco is quite popular in some states in Brazil. I have fond memories of learning and playing with my extended family, although we didn’t have any chants, it was more like getting up from your seat and challenging the opposing team, screaming “6, ladrón!!!”

    I do think that it would be an absolute hit on ESPN because of the deception and bluffing which are integral part of the game.

    The game was played with a regular deck of cards, sans 8, 9 or 10s. The card sequence (low to high value) was 4, 5, 6, 7, Q, J, K, A, 2 and 3. Lol don’t ask me why!

  5. As a game designer myself i have 2 remarks about this wonderful article, well, one about the article and about the comments:

    – I know why the Poker comparisson rises, but they couldn’t be more different games, mechanically different: Poker is about taking behaviour cues to calculate probabilities; Truco is about assuming your odds aren’t in favor so you can make your opponents doubt his odds using your behaviour, that’s where all the bluffing stuff comes in, and that’s also why ‘cheating’ is sort of part of the game, you need to understand that for the game’s premise to fully take place some freedom has to be taken over the general rules. Seriously, as games Poker and Truco as as far as they can get.

    – People, seriously, do you think Fútbol is more ‘classier’ than Truco? have you ever saw a fútbol match like, you know, ever??? Chess isn’t most classier by itself, the rules means nothing without context, and the context for Chess are considered classier, not the rules themselves. Do you say Chess is more intellectual? Do you know what game is actually more demading in terms of how many plays you can come up with in a given match? Mortal Kombat (more over the last installment). Yes, mathematically Mortal Kombat is deeper than Chess, and you rip off people’s head there (drop me an email if you wanna do the math). Do you know Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter game designers are mathematicians (from University of Chicago and MIT)? are those games less classy than chess only by the rules themselves? As far as a game designer, all i can say is you have no idea what you are talking about.

    Poker had a bad wrap, still does to some degree, but context around the game nowadays made shine the great game it is. You can totally do the same with Truco.

    Loved this article, great job.


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