How to Play Barbu

Let's play Barbu Barbu is an elaborate and fun French card game in which the goal changes on every hand. Play of the game combines elements of Whist, Hearts and Fan Tan, among others. The name Barbu, which translates to Bearded One, refers to the King of Hearts, which can play a prominent role in the game. The game is also commonly known as Tafferan or Le Barbu. Barbu is designed to be played by 4 players, each playing for himself. Barbu uses the standard 52 card deck. The ranking of the cards in this deck used for playing Barbu are as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. The suits in this game have no relative ranking; however, certain hands may involve trying to avoid certain cards or suits.

Determination of the first declarer can be done in a variety of ways, with drawing for high card a common method. The same declarer will actually retain this role for seven consecutive hands, after which the identity of the declarer then rotates to the next player in turn, who also is the declarer for seven hands. This continues until each player has been the declarer exactly seven times, for a total of 28 deals for a complete game. The player to the immediate right of the declarer will perform the duties of the dealer. Once the preliminaries are determined, the dealer shuffles the pack and deals the cards one by one, face down to each player in a clockwise rotation. He will deal out the entire pack in this way, such that each player has a 13 card hand. After examining his hand the current declarer then decides which of seven different game types he will play this hand at. He is required to play one hand of each game type exactly one time (for a total of seven hands). Five of the game types are known as negative games, as they contribute minus values to players hands and two are known as positive games as they add plus values to the players scores. The full menu of game types which each declarer will select from is as follows:

It is customary in this game, when the last point scoring card in a hand has been captured in a trick, to terminate that hand as no further plays in that hand will effect the score in any way.

Doubling: Another feature of Barbu is the concept of doubling. Each time the declarer selects their specific contract for the hand, they must allow a moment for any other players to declare a double against one, some or all of his opponents. This opportunity to double is done in one clockwise rotation, starting with the player to the dealer's immediate left. The player may (and should) look at their hand before declaring a double.

When declaring a double, a player must state which other player or players they would like to double. The declarer may never double on his own, but may redouble after first being doubled by that player (see below). The number and specific opponents a player can double is dependent on the game declared. If the declared game is one of the 2 positive scoring games (Trumps or Domino), a player has the option to double any (one or more) of the other players at the table. When one of the 5 negative games is doubled, however, the non-declarer players may only double the declarer. Each player must double the declarer at least two times during that declarer's seven contracts. A player may, on the same hand, double a player who has already doubled him which is commonly called a redouble. When this occurs, each double should be scored individually. Any player, including the declarer, who is first doubled may opt to additionally redouble even if they have already had their turn to double. This redouble further increases the value of the double.

The scoring results of each double is calculated in terms of the players involved in the double and are determined as follows:
Once the hand is completed, all the normal scores should be calculated as normal (including for players who may be involved in a double or redouble). After the regular scoring on the hand is complete, the results of the doubles and redoubles should be calculated between each pair of players. For each set of two players, the player with the higher score for the hand is credited with the difference between the two scores, and the player with the lower score has that difference subtracted from their own score. For a redouble, each player has double the difference added or subtracted as appropriate. If both player's score was the same during the hand no additional points are added or subtracted from either player.

Blank Barbu Score Sheet
A Blank Barbu Score Sheet.
Scoring and Winning the Game: Each hand should be scored as soon as completed, including scores for any doubles or redoubles. To help track that a player has doubled the mandatory number of times, a score that is the result of a double is usually circled on the score sheet. A paper score sheet can be created containing an adequate number of scoring rows. Click this link for a printable, ready to use blank score sheet for playing Barbu. Once each player has declared each of the seven games exactly one time, the final scores can then be totalled with the player earning the highest total positive score announced as the game winner. The scoring scheme in Barbu is net zero, thus the sum total of all scores when added together should total exactly zero.


Variations of Barbu

There are a number of variants of the standard game as well as games that use a very similar concept. Below are described several such games and variants.

Ravage City: Ravage City is an additional declarable game that is sometimes added to the base game. When Ravage City is added to the game, each player has a total of 8 declarable games for a total of 32 hands played to finish one full game. When Ravage City (considered one of the negative scoring games) is declared, the players attempt to not take the most cards of any particular suit. In the hand, the player who takes the most cards of any one suit scores -36 points. If two different players tie for most cards of a single suit, they each score -18. For a three way tie for most cards of one suit, each scores -12, and if all four tie for most cards of a single suit, all players score -9 each.
In order to ensure the game retains the net zero scoring sum, the scores for each contract are adjusted as follows:
ContractScore
Nullo-3 per trick won
No HeartsWinning the Ace -6, all other Hearts -2
No Queens-8 per Queen captured
Barbu-21 for capturing King of Hearts
No Last TwoLast trick -20, second to last trick -10
Trumps+7 per trick won
DominoFirst player out +50, Second player out +25, Third player +10, Last Player 0
Ravage CityMost cards of one suit -24
Other than the additional contract, the remainder of the rules are the same as in standard Barbu.

Classic Barbu: The original French game of Barbu was played somewhat differently than the current version. The main difference was in the contracts and their ordering.

In the modern version of the game, described above, a player selects which contract to play each round, as long as they play each contract one time. In one of the original sets of rules, however, a player had no choice in the order they would play the contracts and must play them in a specific sequence. The order in which each player, when he is the declarer, plays the contracts is as follows (with the scores indicated):
  1. No Tricks - Each trick won earns 5 points for the player winning it.
  2. No Hearts - Each card of the Heart suit scores 5 points for the player capturing it in a trick.
  3. No Queens - Each Queen won scores 20 points for the player winning it.
  4. Barbu - The player who captures the King of Hearts earns 80 points.
  5. Salad - Each trick won scores 5, each card of the Heart suit scores 5, each Queen scores 20 and the King of Hearts scores 80.
Each player declares five times, calling each of the above contracts once, in the specific order listed. After each player has dealt five times, the player with the lowest total score is the winner of the game. This version does not feature or allow doubling.

Fruit Salad: Fruit Salad, sometimes just called Salad, is another variation of Barbu that is similar to Classic Barbu described previously. The main differences consist of the addition of one contract, the scoring values and allowance for differing number of players. This game should not be confused with the game Canadian Fruit Salad that is described further below. The game is usually played by from 3 to 8 players. Since each player should get the same number of cards in each round, certain cards are left out of the deck. The following chart shows the number of cards and cards left out with the differing number of players:

Number of PlayersCards Per PlayersCards Removed
3172 of Clubs
413None
5102 of Clubs, 2 of Diamonds
68All twos
772 of Clubs, 2 of Diamonds, 2 of Spades
86All twos
As in all other games of the Barbu style, the game is played in a series of rounds, with the deal rotating clockwise around the table after each round. The various contracts in Fruit Salad and the order they are to be played are as follows:
  1. No Tricks - Each trick a player wins earns 10 points for that player.
  2. No Hearts - Each card of the Heart suit captured in tricks by a player scores 10 points for the player.
  3. No Queens - Each Queen captured in tricks scores 25 points for the player.
  4. King of Spades - The player who captures the King of Spades during this round earns 100 points.
  5. Last Trick - The player who wins the last trick of the round scores 100 points.
  6. Fruit Salad - This round combines all the previous rounds scoring categories; Each trick scores 10, each card of the Heart suit scores 10, each Queen captured scores 25, capturing the King of Hearts scores 100 and winner of the last trick scores 100.
After all six rounds have been completed, the player with the lowest total score is declared the winner of the game.

Australian Scoring and Rules: The version normally played in Australia and the United Kingdom is identical to the standard version in most respects. The main difference is in the scoring for some of the contracts, however a few other differences are noted below, as well. The scoring for this version is as follows: As in the standard scoring scheme, the net total of all scores at the end of a game should sum to exactly 0.

A few other differences between this version and the standard one:

On any of the negative contracts, if no player doubles any other, the hand is actually not played. Instead, all players except for the dealer evenly split the total possible negative count for that hand, divided as evenly as possible.

Aces, in the Fan Tan contract are considered low, and would be considered the lowest card in the deck, right before two.

The quick rotation rules are never used in this variant.

A player may double any other player during a positive hand (not just the declarer).

Italian Rules and Scoring: Another version which is almost identical to standard Barbu with the primary difference being in the scoring of some of the contracts is the Italian version. The scores for the various contracts in the Italian version are: The total score for all players added together when using Italian scoring would be -135. Thus, the winner of this version could be the player with the lowest negative score at the completion of a game.

As in the Australian rules, there are also a few other minor changes when using the Italian Barbu ruleset:

The quick rotation rules are never used.

During a "Trump" game, the declarer may also make a declaration of No Trump, which indicates there will be no Trump suit during the hand.

During the No Hearts contract, a player may lead a card of the Hearts suit to the trick even if he could lead with a card of another trick.

A player is not obligated to play a higher card of the trump suit when trumps are led to the trick. The player still must play a card of the trump suit in this circumstance if they have one, but are not under any obligation to try to win the trick if they prefer not to.

In most versions of Barbu, once you state your option to Double (or not) you may not change the call, even if the next player has not yet bid. However, in the Italian version, a player may change their call if the next player has not yet made a call or passed.

In a contract being played at the game type of Barbu, a player may only redouble a player who has doubled him, if the player who wants to redouble possesses the King of Hearts in their hand.

Quick Rotation: A common variant sometimes used is the Quick Rotation method of passing the deal.

When playing using the Quick Rotation method, the deck and deal rotates in a clockwise rotation after every hand. Each player is still required to declare each contract once, but she must wait until the deal rotates completely around the table again before declaring her next contract.
Rotation of Declarer in Standard BarbuQuick Rotation Barbu
In Standard Barbu rotation, each player takes the role of declarer for seven consecutive hands.In Quick Rotation Barbu, the declarer changes for every hand.

Turkish King (Rifki): Rifki is a game that uses the same concept as Barbu, that of players declaring different contracts on each hand. Rifki is commonly played in Turkey, Russia, Portugal, France as well as many other countries.

This game, also called Turkish King, Super King or sometimes just King, consists of exactly 20 hands per deal as opposed to the 28 when playing Barbu. The determination of the first dealer and seating positions can be done in any of the standard formats. The rotation of the play to each hand occurs in a counter-clockwise direction. The movement of the identify of the declarer also rotates in a counter-clockwise direction, with a player declaring one hand and then passing the role of declarer to the next player in turn. Thus, each player will be the declarer once every fourth hand, for a total of 20 deals in an entire game of Rifki.

In this game, each player will be the declarer for a total of five hands. He must select the Trump contract twice and any three other contracts during the course of the game. However, each of the other contracts can only be declared a total of two times each during the full course of the game. Thus, if one of those five contract types has already been declared twice during the current game, no player may declare it again during the same game.

The contracts in which a player may declare are as follows:

Rifki: In this declaration or contract, the players attempt to avoid winning the King of Hearts. The declarer leads off and each player must play a card of the same suit if they possess one. If they do not, they may play a card of any suit. The trick is won by the highest card played to the trick of the original led suit. A player may not lead a card of the Hearts suit to a trick unless they have no cards of any other suit in which they can lead to the trick or any player has already played a card of the Hearts suit to a trick when unable to play to the suit led, during the current hand. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick. Whichever player wins the King of Hearts scores a -320 point penalty.

No Tricks: In this contract, the players attempt to avoid winning any tricks. As in all other contracts in this game the declarer plays the first card to the first trick. Each player must play one card to the trick and must follow suit if they have any cards of the same suit as the card led to the trick. If not, they may play any card to the trick. The highest card of the original suit led to the trick wins the trick and the winner of each trick leads to the next. Each trick captured during this contract scores -20 points.

No Hearts: During this contract, players attempt to avoid winning cards of the Hearts suit. The declarer leads the first card to the first trick. A player must play a card of the same suit as originally led to the trick if they have one. If they do not possess a card of that suit they may play any card to the trick. A player may not lead a card of the hearts suit to the trick unless they have no other cards to which they could lead to the trick with or any player has already played a heart to a trick during this hand. The highest card of the suit led to the trick wins the trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick. Each card of the Hearts suit captured during this declaration earns the player a -20 point penalty.

No Girls (Queens): In this contract the players attempt to avoid winning tricks with any Queens in the trick. The declarer leads to the first trick and thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next. Each player must play exactly one card to the trick, and must play a card of the same suit as originally led to the suit if they have one. If they have no such cards they may play a card of any suit. The highest card of the suit originally led to the trick wins it. Each Queen captured in tricks during this particular contract type earns the player a -50 point penalty.

No Boys Contract in Rifki No Boys (Kings or Jacks): During a hand played with this contract the players attempt to avoid winning tricks with Kings or Jacks played to them. The declarer leads to the first trick and the winner of each trick leads to the next. A player must play a card of the same suit as led to the trick if they have one. If not, they may play a card of any suit. The highest card of the suit originally led to the trick wins the trick. Each King or Jack won during this hand scores -30 points for the player winning it.

No Middle Or Last: In this contract the players attempt to avoid winning the middle and ultimate trick. The player winning the seventh trick (middle) scores a -180 point penalty as does the player winning the last trick (ultimate) of the hand. The rules of play for this contract are similar to the other contracts with the declarer leading the first card to the first trick. Each player must play a card of the suit led to the trick if they have one, but if the player does not have a card of the suit led can play any card to the trick. The highest card of the suit originally led to each trick wins it. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next. Some players play this contract similar to the "No Last Two" contract in Barbu, where each of the last two tricks scores the penalty vice the seventh and last tricks.

Trump: In this positive contract, the players attempt to win as many tricks as possible during the hand. Each trick won during this hand earns a +50 score for the player winning the trick. After declaring this contract, the declarer states what the trump suit will be for the hand. He then leads the first card to the first trick. Each player must play a card of the same suit as led to the trick if they have one. If not, they must play a card of the trump suit if they possess one. If the player does not have a card of the trump suit or the suit led, he may play a card of any other suit. Each trick is won by the highest card of the trump suit it contains, or, if no trump cards were played to the trick, by the highest card of the suit originally led to the trick. The winner of each trick leads to the next.


When playing to one of the negative contracts, a player who has one of the cards which earns a penalty during that hand must play that penalty card in a situation where it is safe to do so. In other words, if a higher card of the same suit as the penalty card has been played during the trick before this player, he must play the card to the trick. Similarly, if they cannot follow the led suit to the current trick, they must play a penalty card of another suit if they have such a legal play. When all the penalty cards for a specific contract have been played, the rest of the cards for that hand can be thrown in with the deal moving to the next player in turn, since all point playing cards have already been played during that hand.

After all 20 hands have been played the winners of the game can be determined. All players having a positive score are declared to be the winners of the game. The player with the highest total is the overall winner.

Rifki - All In One: Rifki - All in One, also called Express Rifki, is a shortened version of Rifki, with a complete game being played in just 8 deals. This game was developed by the Cats to make an exciting game of the Barbu type concept which could be played in a fraction of the time. Determination of seating positions and first dealer can be done in any of the standard methods, with drawing for the highest card a common method.

In Rifki - All In One, each player is the declarer exactly two times, and during a hand makes a contract declaration of either "Positive" or "Negative". He must make each of the two declarations one time. Similar to the quick rotation rules, the deal rotates in a clockwise rotation after each hand, with two full rotations around the table making a complete game.

On a Negative contract declaration, the players attempt to avoid winning any of the negative point scoring combinations. It is similar to the standard Rifki negative point scoring categories, however all are totaled during one hand. The points that can be scored during the negative hand are as follows:
  1. Tricks: Each trick won during the negative contract scores -20 points.
  2. Hearts: Each card of the Heart suit scores the winner of that card -20 points.
  3. King Of Hearts: The player winning the King of Hearts scores a -300 point penalty. This would be in addition to any other penalties for the card, such as being a member of the Hearts suit, or the Kings and Jacks category.
  4. Queens: Each Queen captured scores -50 points for the player winning the card.
  5. Jacks or Kings: Each Jack or King captured scores a -30 point penalty to the player who wins the card.
  6. Middle and Last: The winner of the Seventh trick scores a penalty of -150 points. Similarly the winner of the last trick scores a -150 point penalty.
A specific card won during a trick may accumulate scores for the player in multiple ways, by being a member of multiple scoring categories.

During a Positive contract declaration, the players instead attempt to win as many tricks and cards of the trump suit as possible. When a player declares a Positive contract, they also declare the trump suit to be used during the hand. In addition to any of the four standard trump suits, a player can also declare the Positive hand to be played at No Trump, indicating no trump suit will be used for the hand.

The points which can be scored during a Positive contract are as follows:
  1. In a suited trump contract, each trick won during this contract scores +100 points for the player winning it. If the contract is declared as No Trump, each trick scores +120 points instead.
  2. In a suited trump contract, each card of the trump suit won in tricks scores +20 points for the player capturing it. This trump card scoring obviously doesn't apply in No Trump contracts.
The declarer plays the first card to the first trick. Each player must play a card of the same suit if they possess one. If not, they may play any card, including one of the trump suit. The highest trump card played to the trick wins the trick, or if the trick contains no cards of the trump suit, the highest card of the original suit led to the trick wins it. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick.

After each player has dealt a total of two times (one Positive and one Negative contract) the game ends and the player with the highest accumulated total is declared the winner of the game.

Canadian Salad: Another, game using the same concept of multiple hands with different contracts during these hands is called Canadian Salad or Canadian Fruit Salad. This game is a fairly recent addition to games of the changing contract type. This game was originally developed by Randy Green.

In order to allow an even number of cards to be played to each player, the deck used differs dependent on the number of players in the game.
     
Number of PlayersDecks NeededCards per PlayerCards Removed from Deck
3One172 of Clubs (♣)
4One13None
5One102 of Clubs (♣), 2 of Diamonds ()
6One8All Twos
7Two14Both 2's of Clubs (♣), both 2's of Diamonds ()
8Two13None
9Two10Both 2's of Clubs ♣), both 2's of Diamonds (), One two of Spades (♠)
10Two10Both 2's of Clubs (♣), both 2's of Diamonds ()

As in most other games of this type, the game is played over a series of several rounds. In this variant, 12 rounds make one game.
One Eyed Court Cards
In the ninth round, players attempt to avoid one eyed court cards. These cards are so called because in most packs the face on these cards is displayed in a side profile, thus with only one eye exposed.
The rounds are played in the following, specific order:
  1. No Red Cards: During this round, each card in the suit of Hearts () or Diamonds () captured in tricks imposes a five point penalty.
  2. No Even Cards: While this round is played, each even card captured by a player in tricks scores a penalty of five points. The even cards are Queen, 10, 8, 6, 4 and 2.
  3. No Tricks: During a No Tricks round, each trick a player captures scores 10 points for that player.
  4. No Hearts: During this round, each card in the suit of Hearts a player captures scores 10 points for that player.
  5. No Face Cards: Each King, Queen or Jack captured during this round scores 10 points for the player who captures it.
  6. No Sevens: For each card of denomination seven captured during this round, the player scores a 30 point penalty.
  7. No Aces: For each Ace captured during this round, the player who captures it scores a 30 point penalty.
  8. No Queens: Each Queen captured by a player during this round, earns that player a 30 point penalty.
  9. No One Eyed Royalty Cards: For each one-eyed court card captured, the player capturing it scores a 40 point penalty. The King of Diamonds, Jack of Spades and Jack of Hearts are considered the one eyed court cards.
  10. No King of Spades: The player who captures the King of Spades during this round scores a 75 point penalty.
  11. No Last Trick: Whichever player captures the last trick during this round scores a 75 point penalty.
  12. All: All of the previous scoring categories are calculated on this hand for the players winning in each category.
The player to the immediate left of the dealer plays the first card to the first trick. Each player must play a card of the suit led to the trick if they have one. If they do not have such a card, they can play any card from their hand. The highest card of the suit led to the trick wins the trick. If the highest card of the suit led is duplicated in the trick, the last of the cards played is considered to win the trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick.

After all tricks in a round have been played the hand is scored as per the description of the particular round. However, if on any round one player is able to capture all point scoring cards in that round, they instead score zero and all opponents score 100. This does not apply to the King of Spades round (hand 10) and the No Last Trick round (hand 11). At the end of all 12 rounds, the player with the lowest score is declared the winner of the game.

Trex: Trex is a Middle Eastern game that is played similarly to Barbu or Rifki. This variant uses one standard deck and is played by four players, all playing independently. The ranking of the cards in this variant is the same as in Barbu as well. The rotation of the deal, turns and order of dealing are all done in a counter-clockwise direction.

Selection of seating positions and first dealer can be done in a variety of manners, with cut for high cards very common. Once this is determined, the deck is shuffled by the dealer and cut by the player to his immediate left. After the cut, the dealer then deals out the entire deck one-by-one, with each player thus receiving a 13 card hand. The player who was dealt the seven of Hearts is known as the current King or "Owner of the Kingdom". This player remains the King for five hands, after which time the privilege of being the King rotates to the next player to the current King's immediate right. The current King also deals all additional hands while King.

As in most games of the Barbu family, the King will declare each of five different "games" during his tenure as King. Although this player must declare each of the five game types exactly once, they may do this in any order. After looking at his cards, the current King can decide on one of the following five Game types: The game continues until each player has announced and played each of the five contracts. After this time, the player with the highest total score is declared the winner.

Bonking: Bonking is another game of Barbu family. The game is played by four players each playing for themselves. A standard 52 card deck is used for this game using the normal ranking of the cards within the deck.

Determination of seating positions and deal can be done using a number of methods, with drawing for high card being common. Once the first dealer is determined, this player deals the entire deck in a clockwise rotation such that each player receives 13 face down cards.

A total of 11 deals makes a game of Bonking. The player directly across from the dealer is the first declarer. The declarer, after examining their hand, then decides which of the 11 rounds that comprise a game will be played. The following are the 11 possible rounds or games in which a player may declare: Play of the Hand: In the Ducking, Heartshunting, KingJacks, Queens, King of Hearts and Last Trick rounds, there is no trump suit for the round. The leader plays a card of their choice from their hand and the other players must follow suit if able. If unable, they may play any card from their hand. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick. Note that in the Heartshunting and King of Hearts rounds, there are restrictions on when a player can play or lead a card in the suit of Hearts.

During the Trump rounds, the player who declares that hand also chooses the Trump suit or No Trump. The declared suit is thus the trump suit for the hand. When a trump suit has been declared, the highest card of the declared trump suit played to the trick wins the trick. If no trump suit was played to the hand, the highest card of the suit led wins it. When playing to a trick, a player must play a card of the suit originally led to the trick. If he does not have a card of the led suit he may play any card, including a card of the trump suit if he so has one. In the No Trump contract, the highest card led to each trick wins the trick. The winner of each trick during a Trump round leads the first card to the next trick.

The Domino round is played identically to the Domino round as in standard Barbu or Rifki. A player must make a play on his turn if he has a legal play. If unable to play he says pass and the turn moves to the next player in a clockwise rotation. When a player runs out of cards, they take no further part in that round. The player to the immediate left of the current dealer has the first opportunity to make a play with the turn rotating in a clockwise rotation.

After each round, the cards are shuffled and the player to the immediate left of the last dealer shuffles and deals the next round. The player directly across from that player then declares what game the round is to be played. A player may never select a game that has already been selected, and each player must declare the Trumps type game exactly one time (although they may declare No Trump for their Trump suit selection). The player to the immediate left of the current dealer leads the first card to the first trick on each round.

Doubling: Similar to the standard game of Barbu, players may opt to Double. Dissimilar to Barbu however, in this game players are never required to double. Players may double after the declarer has declared the game and before play of that hand begins. The player to the immediate right of the current dealer has the first opportunity to double and this option rotates in a clockwise rotation. A player can make multiple doubles during a round. Doubling essentially consists of specifying another player at the table in which that player wants to Double. When doubled, the difference in points between the two players for the round will be added to the doubling players total and subtracted from the score of the other. When a player is doubled he may also elect to double back. In that case the total score added or subtracted is multiplied by two. The declarer may not call any doubles during the round, but may double back if another player elects to first double him.

After exactly 11 rounds are completed, the game ends and the player with the highest total score over the 11 rounds is declared the winner of the game.
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