The Rules of Mus Game
Extracted from the document "Memo Mus" written by Mr. Frederic Camino.
Translated from French by Christel S.
The game consists of two teams of 2 players and uses a Spanish deck of cards consisting of 40 cards without 8s, 9s, 10s, or jokers. The game consists of four rounds:
- Handia (Biggest): playing for the highest combination of cards.
- Txikia (Smallest): playing for the lowest combination of cards.
- Pareak (Pairs): playing for the best matching card combination.
- Jokoa (Game): playing for cards total values of 31 or more. Sometimes replaced by a Punto (Point) special round.
In each round all players verbalize whether they will bid “envido” or pass “paso”. If all players pass the next round begins.
Mus is a verbal game with a lack of cards involved. Verbally in that bets are called, passed, accepted, and rejected.
The game has a pool of 30 points placed in the middle of the table, which are represented by an object such as beans or coins.
The game is won by the first team to reach 30 points. In Spain 3 games count as one vaca and 3 vacas win the match, there are many scoring variations. In some places the games consist of 5 games and 5 vacas. In areas such as the Baque Country and regions of Northern Spain, Mus is played with four kings and with a pool of 40 points instead of the standard 30 points. In Mus when played with eight kings, three counts as kings and two aces. In the case of eight kings, it is easier to get good hands and it’s risker to bet.
Beginning the Game
During the first game the dealer is selected at random. After the dealer is the last game’s first player, therefore the order changes in each game and all players are the dealer at some point during gameplay. The dealer is responsible for shuffling the cards and the player to the left of them cuts the deck. Each player receives four cards starting with the player to the right of the dealer and the game begins once cards are dealt.
“Mus” Vs. “No Mus”
Beginning with the player left of the dealer(Mano) each player states if they want to discard (“Mus”) or not (“No Mus”). Only if all four players agree the discard phase moves forward, where each player decides to discard up to four cards and the dealer re-deals. The discard phase until one player disagrees and playing begins.
The Four Rounds of Mus
The objective of this round is to compete for the highest combinations of cards. The highest cards in the Spanish deck are the face cards beginning with the Kings.
The objective of this round is to compete for the lowest combination of cards. The lowest cards in the Spanish deck are the Aces. This can be a challenging round as most players believe bidding reveals how low of cards one may have.
In this round players states “Pares si” if they have matching cards or “Pares no” if they don’t have matching cards. If none of the players have matching cards (Pares) the entire round is skipped. The lowest combination of matching cards for this round is a single pair ('pares'), followed by three-of-a-kind ('medias') and the highest Two-pair ('duples').
In order to proceed in this round players must have a total value of cards in a player’s hands of 31 or more. The player announces “Juego Si” if they have equal to or more than a face value of 31 in their hands or “Juego No”.
Upon all players having their cards dealt to them the rounds start with grande. Each player has the choice to bid or pass. Each player must bid a minimum of two points to be elegible to bid in this round. The opposing players can choose to counterbid or pass. Upon one accepting a bid the next round begins. If the counterbid is not accepted, then the bidder scores one point right away. Bids are made and accepted by each player, however scoring is made by each team. It’s possible to accept a bid you may lose, but your team member will win.
Players use the phrase “Envidio” when they want to bid and the opponents can bid more by saying “Envido mas”. Players can continue to raise the bet as they wish without limitation.
Upon completing the four rounds the points rounds, every players show their cards and the winiing bidders claim their bets. The third and fourth round give additional points to the winders depending if they had a good hand of cards. The winning team of the third round scores 1 additional point for each single-pair they have, 2 points for every three-of-a-kind and 3 points for every Two-pair. The winning team of the fourth round scores 2 additional points for each player who could play the round or 3 points if that player had a total card value of exactly 31.
A player can’t win every single round therefore sometimes the player gets lucky and other times the player loses. A player can have three kings, which is great for the first and third round, but terrible for the second and fourth round. The best strategy is to take into account what cards their teammate may have in order to score in rounds they have poor cards in. Also, winning third and fourth rounds always gives additional points and a good strategy is to break the discard phase when both team members can play third and fourth rounds, even with mediocre cards, in order to score those bonuses.
Many players use non-verbal cues to signal to their teammate what cards they have. Knowing your partners cards and letting them know your cards is an effective gameplay strategy, however you must hide your signaling from your opponents. The opponent is able to find a weak spot in your available cards and use it to their advantage during gameplay.
Several non-verbal cues are allowed during gameplay. It’s against the rules to use other signals or even use false signals. Signals include:
- Two Kings: biting the centre of the bottom lip
- Three Kings: biting one side of the bottom lip
- Two Aces: poking out the tongue
- Three Aces: poking out the tongue to one side
- Single Pair (pares): tilting the head to one side
- Three-of-a-kind (Medias): pursing lips to one side of the mouth
- Two-pairs (Duples): raising the eyebrows
- 31 (La una, i.e. 31-point Juego): winking
- 30 (30 puntos): lifting both shoulders
- 29: (29 puntos): lifting the right shoulder
- 28: (28 puntos): lifting the left shoulder
- I have nothing (Ciego, blind). This indicates a bad hand: closing the eyes
- Royal 31 (31 real, see above): touching the earlob
However not all these signals are accepted in every variation of Mus and there may be additional non-verbal cues.
Names of Hands in Spain
In Spain, some arrangements have particular names:
- Duples gallegos ("Galician dupleak") : King-King-Ace-Ace
- Duples castellanos ("Castilian dupleak") also called "Duples polacos" ("Polish duples") and "Duples alemanes" ("German dupleak"): King-King-Knight-Knight.
- Duples vascos ("Basque dupleak") : King-King-Jack-Jack
- Duples palentinos ("Palentian dupleak") : King-Knight-Ace-Ace. Actually not duples, as can be seen.
- 31 Real ("Royal 31"): Also, La real ("The Royal"): Jack-7-7-7. It is the only combination of cards that adds up to 31 for the fourth round with only one figure card (King/Knight/Jack). Different house rules consider this hand to beat any other 31-hand with varying requirements. Some people would allow King-7-7-7, while others would require the original Jack-7-7-7 only when the Jack is of a specific suit. Some people restrict it further by requiring that the sevens be of different suit than the Jack. As an example, the rules of a particular tournament might declare that the only hand considered 'Royal 31' is the Jack of coins together with the 7s of swords, clubs and cups.
- La Jugada del tío Perete ("Uncle Perete's hand"): 4-5-6-7. It is simply the worst hand possible. It is weak in all four rounds. Certain house rules allow a single point to be awarded to a player that openly declares this hand before starting to play. Some other places might call it differently: Tanganete in La Rioja or Peterete in Castile and León.
- Solomillo ("Tenderloin") or la bonita ("The Pretty one"): King-King-King-Ace. Some rule sets reserve the name of "solomillo" for pure hands, that is, three Kings and an Ace without 3s or 2s. Unlike the '31 erreala' hand, this distinction has no effect at all on gameplay.
- Ley del Mus ("Law of Mus"): King-King-Knight-Jack. This hand is seen as the minimum a player has to have in order to accept risky bets, at least in first, third and fourth rounds.
- La Josito ("The Josito"): King-Knight-Ace-Ace.