How To Play Durak

Durak is a unique and fun card game that originated in Russia. While uncommon outside this area, the game is very popular in many areas of Russia and the Ukraine and makes a great addition to any card player's repertoire of games.

The game is generally played by two to five players each playing independently. The game uses a deck consisting of 36 cards. This deck can be made by removing all cards of denominations 2, 3, 4, and 5 from a standard 52 card deck. The ranking of the cards used in this deck is as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.

Selection of seating positions and first dealer can be performed using a variety of methods, with drawing for high card commonly used. Once this has been determined, the dealer shuffles the cards and offers the deck to the player to his right for the cut. After the cut, the dealer then distributes the cards to the players in a clockwise direction, face down and one by one. The dealer continues distributing the cards until each player has a total of six cards. The dealer then removes the bottom card from the remainder of the deck and places it face-up in the center of the table to designate the Trump suit for the hand. He then places the remainder of the pack partially on top of this card, usually set at a 90 degree angle to form the draw pile or talon.

The game consists of a series of rounds or "battles" which usually consists of two players, one attacker and one defender. The player with the lowest card of the trump suit in his hand will be the first attacker and the player to his immediate left becomes the first defender.

Hand in Play in Durak The attacker begins by selecting any card from his hand placing it face up on the table. The defender must then respond by attempting to play a higher card of his own if he has one. If a card of the trump suit was played, any higher ranked card of the trump suit can beat it. If a non-trump card was played, a higher ranked card of any suit can beat it, as can any card of the trump suit. The defender's card should be played on top of the attacker's card.

If the defender does not have (or elects not to play) a higher card than the attacking card, he can concede defeat of the battle, and simply pick up the attacking card and add it to his hand. In this case the attacker is said to have won the battle. However if the defender is able and elects to play a card higher than the attacking card he wins. In this case, the attacker as well as any other opponents (except the defender) may play additional cards to the table that the defender must also beat. Players may do this if they have a card of the same rank as a card that is currently still on the table (from this battle). However, they may not do so if the total number of current attacking cards exceeds the total number of cards remaining in the defender's hand. The defender must then beat each of these additional attacking cards by playing a higher such card from his hand on top of the attacking card. If he is unable to beat every attacking card he must take every card currently played to the table. However, if the defender is able to beat each of the attacking cards, the defender prevails and is said to win the battle. When the defender wins the battle, all the cards currently played to the table are set aside to a discard pile, not to be used further in this hand.

If the original attacker wins the battle, the turn passes to the player to the immediate left of the last defender. That player becomes the new attacker and the player at his immediate left becomes the new defender. However, if the defender wins the battle instead, the defender becomes the new attacker and the player at his immediate left becomes the next defender.

After each battle, each player who has less than six cards in his hand then draws cards into his hand to replenish the hand back to six cards. The face-up, exposed trump card is considered the last card of the talon, so this would be the last card drawn from the pile. The order of drawing starts with the attacker, then the defender and clockwise around the table. Once the talon is depleted, play continues but players no longer draw cards after each round.

Play continues in this manner until the draw pile is exhausted. After this, play continues as normal, however players do not replenish the hand at the end of each battle and instead continue with the cards remaining in the hand. Immediately upon playing the last card from his hand, that player drops from the game. If a player who runs out is the current attacker or defender, the battle immediately ends, with the player who played his last card considered the winner of the battle. If he was the attacker (and would thus normally become the attacker), the player to his immediate left becomes the next attacker. The last player with cards is said to be the loser for the hand. This player is also required to gather all cards, shuffle and deal the next hand. The player to his immediate right would become the first attacker for the next hand with the dealer becoming the first defender.


Variations and Optional Rules

One Winner: In many games rather than continuing, once the first player manages to play his last card the hand ends with that player being declared the winner. In that case, the player to the winner's immediate left becomes the next dealer and the winning player becomes the first attacker during the next hand.

Durak with Epaulettes: In a whimsical twist, some players add the Epaulettes optional rule. In this rule, if the last winning card in a hand is a six, the player who still has cards remaining must literally put the six on his shoulder (called an epaulette). If two sixes were part of the last winning play, the player must put one of the cards on each shoulder (full epaulettes).

Passing the Attack in Durak Passing: The basic variant described above (called throw-in or podkidnoy) is the most common version of Durak to be played. However, there are several other variants that are often seen. One of these is the passing variant (called perevodnoy). This variant allows a defender to pass the attack in certain instances.

Thus, if a defender has a card of identical rank as that played by the attacker he my opt (but is not required) to pass the attack to the next player in turn. To do this, this first defender would add his own card of the same rank onto the current attacking card. In this case, the first defender then becomes the new attacker and the player to his immediate left the new defender. This player must then beat this and any other undefended cards still on the table. The new defender may also pass the attack to the next player if he also has a card of the same rank as the current attack card on the table. However, in order to make a pass of multiple current undefended attack cards, he would need to ensure he either beats some of the undefended cards or has a card of equal rank to all the currently undefended attack cards on the table. A player may never pass to the next player if that next player has fewer cards remaining in hand then are currently undefended on the table. This can continue until the next defender does not have a card that is the same rank as one of the undefended cards on the table. In all other aspects this version is played identically to the standard version described above.

Travel Document: Also called Flash, this is another variant of the base game which involves passing. This variant is played identically to the standard passing variant with one key exception. If the newly defending player has the trump card of the same denomination as the attack card played by the attacker, he simply shows the card and this player then becomes the new attacker. The card played by the original attacker is still considered the attack card in which the new defender will be required to defend against. In all other aspects, this version is played identically to standard Passing Durak.

Full Deck: Some players prefer to use the entire 52 card deck when playing the game. The ranking of the cards in this larger deck is as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

This variant can allow more players (up to about 8), and each player normally receives 7 cards in the deal. In all other aspects, this variant of the game is the same as the standard version described at the top of the page.

Partnership Durak: Although Durak is usually played with each playing for himself, a partnership variation also exists. This variant is usually played by four players playing in two partnerships. The partners should sit directly across from each other at the game table.

This variant is played identically to standard Durak with just a few differences. In partnership Durak, a player may never add a card to an attack in which his partner is the defender. The first player to completely deplete his hand of cards is declared the winner. The game then continues from this point with the remaining player playing independently exactly as in standard Durak until only one player remains with cards.

Six players can also participate in two partnerships of three players each. In this variant, after the partnerships have been decided, the players should sit at the table in such a manner that rotation of play alternates between players of each team. When playing this variant, the full 52 card deck should be used.
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