Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

The Schnapsen Log is a series about the card game Schnapsen, and how to play it like a master. Schnapsen is the national card game of Austria and Hungary. It is very similar to the German game Sechsundsechzig (Sixty-six). These games are popular throughout Europe, where they go by various regional names, including Snapszer, Snapszli, Hatvanhat, Mariagen-Spiel, Mariáš, Santase, Tute, and Exinta-exi. Schnapsen is easy to learn, requires only one other willing player (or a computer program, always willing), is quick and fun to play, and is full of interesting strategy.

My goal in this series is to teach you everything you need to know about the strategy for winning Schnapsen. I will present thought-provoking situations that arise commonly in Schnapsen, in a manner very similar to the daily newspaper’s bridge or chess columns. Here are a few of the most recent columns. Check out the archives for older columns.

Sidestep a Few Landmines

Martin Tompa
September 2, 2022

The game against your Uncle Tibor continues….

Two Last-Trick Problems

Martin Tompa
June 27, 2022

Today, as a special bonus for my faithful readers, I’m going to give you two puzzles for the price of one. As another bonus, I will reveal to you that both puzzles have to do with the question of how to win the last trick. The two puzzles bear a lot of similarity to each other, at least on the surface. I made the right play on only one of them when they came up.

Tackle this puzzle first…

More Extremes of Luck

Martin Tompa
May 21, 2022

In today’s column I will continue my tales of probability extremes and woe against Doktor Schnaps. I was at the end of a tight game. We’re down to the last deal with the game point score 1:1. I’m on lead having been dealt the ace of trumps and ATKQ in an outside suit. What to do? If Doktor Schnaps has 0 or 1 trump, I can close the stock and win the game by cashing the trump, declaring the marriage, and running the rest of that suit. If Doktor Schnaps has 2 or 3 trumps, I’ll lose the game by closing. I don’t fancy my chances much with the stock open; it’s never a good starting hand to have four cards in a nontrump suit, because the opponent will gain the lead and keep playing cards from the remaining suits. I wish I knew what the probability was that Doktor Schnaps has 0 or 1 trump. I get out a piece of paper and start to work it out, but I’m concerned that I won’t be able to compute the probability quickly enough before my game times out. My hunch is that my probability of winning is pretty good. With 5 cards in its hand, 9 face-down cards in the stock, and 3 trumps I can’t see, the expectation is certainly for Doktor Schnaps

About the Author

Martin Tompa

Martin Tompa (

I am a Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where I teach discrete mathematics, probability and statistics, design and analysis of algorithms, and other related courses. I have always loved playing games. Games are great tools for learning to think logically and are a wonderful component of happy family or social life.

Read about Winning Schnapsen, the very first and definitive book on the winning strategy for this fascinating game.


Getting Started

Links for Schnapsen and Sixty-Six

Links in German

Links in Hungarian

Recent Columns

Sidestep a Few Landmines, Sep 2
Two Last-Trick Problems, Jun 27
More Extremes of Luck, May 21
Grasping at Straws, Apr 4
A New Scheme for Remembering Cards, Mar 23
As Luck Would Have It, Sep 9