Skat Strategies for Beginners

A master has never dropped down from heaven. This truism certainly applies to Skat. Everyone has to start at the bottom, so don’t despair and keep on practicing. To make that Aha! experience come sooner, we’ll show you here, step by step, how to improve your game.

Count points

As soon as you’ve started to catch on to the game, you should begin counting points in your head, either your points as declarer and your team’s points as a defender. That way you always know where you stand and you can adjust your tactics depending on the point count. The result will be winning more games as the declarer and setting the declarer more often if you’re a defender.

Counting points gives you an advantage, so good Skat players always do it. And don’t forget: lots of your opponents will also be counting!

Count trumps

Maybe even more important than counting points is counting how many trumps are still in play. Especially as declarer you can’t afford to make any mistakes, because you can quickly lose a game that you should’ve won either by forgetting about an outstanding trump or by pulling an extra round of trump when they’re all already gone.

At Grand this is quite easy because there are only four trumps to be concerned with. In Suit games, with eleven trumps, it’s a little more difficult but no less important. The trick here is to count how many trumps are still in play. For example, if you started with six trumps, you only have to be concerned with the remaining five trumps held by the opponents, which you can usually control by pulling trumps.

Trump is the soul of the game

A popular adage about the declarer states: Because the declarer selected the trump suit, you can assume that he has superiority in this aspect of the game. His goal is to establish a trump monopoly as early as possible. To that end he leads trumps. The advantage for the declarer is that often he can pull two enemy trumps with only one of his own, as long as they both have to follow suit.

Once the declarer has established a trump monopoly, he has more control in developing his game because he doesn’t have to worry about being ruffed or overruled.

One of our teaching videos shows how quickly things can go downhill for the declarer if he neglects to pull trump.

Long to your foe

“Long to your foe” is a classic strategy for the opening lead by defenders. It’s also designated, “Short road, long suit.” If the declarer is sitting directly to your left, your best lead is a card from your long suit, but not trump. A “long suit” is one in which you have a lot of cards.

What’s the point of this strategy? Because you are long in the suit, it’s likely that your partner, sitting behind the declarer will be short in that suit and maybe even void. Depending on the circumstances, he may be able to smear you some points, either right away or later, or ruff or overruff the declarer’s card. That way you can really make the declarer sweat!

Short to your friend

This defender tactic, “Short to your friend” or “Long road, short suit”, is closely related to “Long to your foe.” If you’re on lead and the declarer is sitting to your right, you should play a card from your short suit, especially a singleton. The purpose is to allow you in the course of the game to assume the role of the player sitting behind the declarer and smear points to your partner or ruff the declarer’s tricks.

Once you’ve seen the Ace and Ten, don’t play that suit again

This little verse is intended to remind the defenders to switch to a different suit after the highest point cards, the Ace and Ten, have been played. The justification for this tactic is that not many more points will appear on the table if this suit is led again, giving the declarer a chance to cheaply sluff his losing cards. This can easily be prevented by playing point cards in a different suit.

This way you’ll defeat the declarer more often.

Offer up points

As defenders, keep these sayings in mind: “Die on the table” or “Do you really want to take your Fulls to the grave?”. To experienced Skat players this means that you shouldn’t be too miserly about playing your Aces and Tens because if you don’t put them on the table the declarer will happily sluff his losers and take his big cards at the end.

“I didn’t see any mistake,” chuckles the declarer, but of course this could be a left-handed compliment. So, depending and always with the exercise of good judgment: “Fulls on the table!”

Have these strategies for novices helped and do you want more? Or maybe you’re bored because you already know these tactics? No problem, because in our Skat school you can find more tips and tricks for advanced players and professionals.