How to Play Tarneeb

Tarneeb is a trick taking card game which is currently very popular in the Middle East as well as various areas of Africa. The name translates to Trump in Arabic, which describes one of the primary features of the game, use of a trump suit. The game is sometimes also called Tarnib, Tarnibe and Hakam.

Tarneeb is designed to be played by four players playing in two partnerships consisting of two players each. The game is played using one standard 52 card deck with the cards ranking as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. If partnerships have not been predetermined the participants in the game may use various methods to determine the partnerships for the game. One common method is to have all players draw from the shuffled deck, and the players drawing the two highest ranked cards play as partners against the players drawing the two lowest ranked. The partners should seat themselves in such a way that they sit directly opposite each at the table. The player drawing the highest card of all is usually set as the first dealer.

After the partnerships and first dealer is determined, the dealer shuffles the cards with the player to the dealer's immediate left cutting the deck. The dealer then distributes the entire deck, such that each player will receive a hand consisting of 13 face down cards. The play, deal and rotation of the dealer role all rotate in a counter-clockwise direction.

Example Bidding in Tarneeb Once the players receive and examine their cards, the bidding portion of the game begins. The player to the immediate right of the current dealer has the first opportunity to bid. A bid is a player's estimate of the number of tricks he believes he can win with the aid of his partner. The minimum bid a player may make is seven. A player may also pass rather than bid, however each player only has one opportunity to bid on each hand. Each bid must be higher than any previous bid during the hand to be considered a legal bid. The player who makes the highest bid during the bidding round is called the Declarer for the hand. The one exception to this rule is that the last player to bid, the dealer, has the option to make a bid equal (rather than higher) to the current high bid and become the Declarer for the hand. After the Declarer is determined, this player then states the trump suit to be used during the hand. If all four players pass, the cards are thrown in, shuffled and redealt by the same dealer.

After the bidding the play of the hand begins. The Declarer (also sometimes known as the Contractor) for the hand begins play, playing any card from his hand to start the first trick. On each trick, a 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 may play any card from their hand, including a card of the trump suit (if they have one). After all players have played one card to the trick, it is determined who wins the trick. The highest trump card played to the trick wins the trick. However, if the trick contains no card of the trump suit, the highest card of the suit originally led to that trick wins it. One player from each partnership should collect and gather all tricks won by his team in a face down pile. On each trick after the first, the winner of the previous trick leads the first card.

After all 13 tricks have been played, the Declarer's team then checks the number of tricks won to determine if they were able to win at least as many tricks as bid. If so, they earn a score equal to the number of tricks won during the hand. However, if they were unable to win at least as many tricks as bid, they must subtract from their current score an amount equal to their bid on the hand. In this case, the opposing team also earn a score equal to the number of tricks they have managed to win during the hand. Teams may have negative scores during this game, which is common.
Variations and Optional Rules

Instant Win Criteria: There are several changes that are sometimes made regarding the instant win rules in Tarneeb: Multiple Rounds of Bidding: Another common variant encountered when playing this game is in regards to the bidding. In many games, there is more than one round of bidding. The bidding continues in a counter-clockwise rotation around the table until three consecutive players pass. Once a player passes during the bidding, he must continue to pass during this bidding round.

Declaring the Trump Suit: In some games, the declarer does not immediately name the trump suit after being designated the winner of the bidding. Instead, the first card he leads to the first trick must be of the trump suit.

No Trump: Another rule change that is sometimes used is the allowance of playing a hand in No Trump. Thus, the high bidder may indicate the hand will be played at No Trump vice using a specific suit. In this case, each trick is won solely by the highest card of the suit originally led to that trick.

Suit Ranking in Egyptian Tarneeb Egyptian Tarneeb: A variant of Tarneeb which is very popular in Egypt is called Egyptian Tarneeb. This variant is played similarly to the standard game. The determination of partners, shuffle and deal are all identical to the standard game as is the deck used for the game. However, there is some differences surrounding the bidding. In this variant, the suits have a relative ranking as follows (from high to low); No Trump, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs. Thus, when making a bid, a players bid would be considered higher if it was either for a higher number of tricks or in the same number of tricks but in a higher ranked suit than the current high bid. The minimum bid in this version would be Seven - Clubs.

In addition, a player may also, on their bidding turn make a bid of Double. This may be done if the current high bid is owned by a member of the opposing team. Making a bid of double indicates that all scores made, if the current high bid becomes the contract for the hand, will be doubled.

Bidding continues around the table until there are four consecutive passes (or double). If a player passes previously in the bidding round, they may still make a legal bid later in the bidding. Once this occurs, the high bidder becomes the declarer for his hand using the trump suit declared in the bid. He and his partner will then attempt to win at least as many tricks as bid during the hand.

The play of the hand is identical to the standard game, with the high bidder playing the first card to the first trick.

As in the standard game, if the Declarer's team manages to win at least as many points (and the contract was not doubled by the opposing team), they score one point for each trick won during the hand. If they fail to win at least as many tricks as bid, they must subtract from their current score an amount equal to their bid on the hand. The opponents then score for each trick they won during the hand. However, if the high bid was doubled, the scoring is also doubled for the Declarer's side (but not for any points scored by the opposing team). Thus, if the Declarers manage to make a doubled contract they earn the number of tricks won doubled, and if they do not manage to win as many tricks as bid they lose twice the number of tricks bid. The opponents still earn the regular amount for the number of tricks they managed to win if the declarers fail to make their bid on a doubled contract. The first team to score 41 points is declared the winner.

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