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The Forty (El cuarenta)
An original Ecuadorian playing card game
Text: Pilar Cobo / Photos: Patricia Salvador / Translation: Gaspo Sánchez
Tags: Ecuadorian culture, Reports, Games, Celebrations, Traditions
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Page 1 of 2 │ February 10, 2011
The Forty, the most popular playing card game of Ecuador.

"El Cuarenta" translates into english as "The Forty" and it is perhaps the most popular card game of Ecuador. This original game is found in most of the country's holidays and festivities. In any neighborhood or office a celebration is not complete without The Forty that does have its own rules for a championship and now counts with an official set of playing cards.


The game is so popular that since 1968, in Quito is held the World Championship of Forty, which is organized by the Association of Sports Journalists of the Pichincha province. The game is played by up to four people at the same time, the players can set teams of one or two couples playing against each other. On an official championships the most common way to play is two couples on each table. The winning couple is the first to complete 40 points and this rule is part of why the name of the game is Forty, the other reason is that there should always be 40 cards to start a game.

The Forty game is almost a ritual in which each movement has a meaning and an opportunity. To begin, each player chooses a card from the deck, the player with the highest card is the dealer. Being the first to distribute the cards is very important and is considered an advantage because it gives the couple the possibility to "fall'. To "fall" or a "fall" move is an in-game expression that means "to take the points first" a better explanation on this advantage later.


After deciding which couple will distribute the cards, certain kinds of cards must be separated from the deck, these cards are called "the many" which are the cards from 8 to 10, those cards are then placed apart as they now represent the deck of points. Later at the time of counting all points, if any card from "the many" faces up, is worth two points while if the same card is upside down then is worth 10 points and is called a "dog". Once "the many" cards are separated from the deck the game starts.

The couples sits in front of each other. The lucky dealer give 5 cards to each player starting from the left, with the remaining cards the opponent couple has to divide the deck as they like, they can even put a finger on top of the deck, which indicates that the first card will be placed at the end. If the dealer forgets to offer the deck to the player on the left, the opponent couple will automatically gain 10 points from that fault, remember 10 points is called a "dog". If that happens then the cards are dealt from the right, this is called "data".

The dealer, or owner of the hand, must be vigilant and deal 5 cards only to each player. If the dealer distributes more or less than 5 cards, the opponents have a "dog" (10 points), won that hand, and the right to distribute the cards for the next game. A classic Forty game starts something like this; the player to the right of the dealer throw one card on the table so everyone can see it, his partner then must throw another card of the same denomination in order to make a 'fall'.

Each "fall" is awarded two points, if at the time of the "fall' there are no cards on the table then the move is considered a "fall and clean" which is awarded four points. A way to get points from the distribution of the cards is the "round", which means that if someone received 3 cards with the same number, that player is awarded 2 points.

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