A typical Skat pack (German-suited cards)
|Skills required||Hand evaluation, counting, cooperation|
|Deck||French or German-suited "Skat" pack|
|Card rank (highest first)||(U/J) A 10 K O/Q 9 8 7|
|Playing time||3–5 minutes per hand played|
The game is recorded as Bierlachs or Lachs as early as 1862 where, depending on the beverage being played for, it was also referred to as Weinlachs ("Wine Round") or Kaffeelachs ("Coffee Round").
The following rules are based on Lehnhoff except where stated.
Bierlachs follows the general rules for Skat, except in terms of scoring and winning. A target score is set and only minus scores are reckoned. In other words, if the declarer wins a deal worth 40 points, the two opponents score the minus 40 points each. If the declarer loses such a game, he is penalised double (as in Skat) and scores minus 80 points.
The game is played until one of the players reaches the (minus) target; he is the loser and pays for a round of beer, hence the name "Bierlachs". Sometimes a fixed payment is made to the Skatkasse, also called the Pinke, i.e. Skat pot.
Game is typically 501 points.
As a player nears the target score, he is forced to try and win the auction in order not to collect any more minus points. This often leads to a willingness to take more and more risk, sometimes resulting in desperate games being played. However, a player in the danger zone will also find that his opponents are increasingly risk-averse and reluctant to bid. This may give him a chance to draw an opponent into the danger zone as well. But if an opponent wins, the endangered player is likely to be pushed over the limit and thus lose the game. As Lehnhoff suggests, such a game is not without its appeal and it can be exciting to see someone in the danger zone snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or a relief to survive and see one's "Skat brother go for a swim". There is usually a moral obligation to play another game to allow the loser to enjoy a free beer. When a Bierlachs session ends is a matter for agreement but, typically, when one or more players decide they need to go, they will announce the last 3 deals. These are usually played as Bock rounds, in which the game value doubles, giving the player who is losing a chance to catch up.
Games may also be played for 301 or 401 points. It is common to add the date of the month to the target, for example: