Durak

Durak is a Russian game for two to five players that is popular in the countries that once made up the USSR. Several sources call it Russia’s most popular card game, and John McLeod even asserts “It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that every Russian who plays cards knows this game.”1 Many variants exist, including partnership versions and versions for six or more players. The individual-play version is described here.

Object of Durak

The object of Durak is to avoid being the last one with cards left in their hand, who is labeled the durak (дура́к, meaning fool or idiot).

Setup

Durak is played with a diminished deck of only 36 cards. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 5s, leaving only aces through 6s in all four suits.

Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Turn up the first card of the deck stub; the suit of this card becomes the trump suit. Place the remainder of the deck on top of this card at a ninety-degree angle, forming the stock. Despite the fact that it is exposed, the turned-up card is the last card of the stock and will be the final card to be drawn.

Game play

The player holding the lowest trump in play serves as the first attacker, and the player to their left becomes the first defender. The attacker begins by playing any card that they wish face-up. The defender then attempts to defeat this card by playing a higher card of the same suit (aces are high), or any trump card, irrespective of rank. This card is played atop the attacking card in question. Any other player, including the initial attacker, may now contribute to the attack by playing another card of the same rank as any of the cards face-up on the table. The defender must then defend against this card. This continues until the defense is abandoned or defender successfully fends off all attacks, as described below.

The defense is abandoned when the defender is unable or unwilling to defeat one of the cards they were attacked with. When this happens, they collect all of the face-up cards and add them to their hand. Additionally, other players may give the attacker any cards from their hands that would have been possible to add to the attack. The player to the defender’s left then becomes the attacker for the next hand.

The defense is successful when:

  • The defender has defeated all attacking cards and nobody is willing to play further attacking cards.
  • The defender depletes their hand.
  • Six attack cards have been played and defeated.

When the defense succeeds, all cards on the table are collected and discarded. The defender becomes the attacker in the next turn.

After each turn, players draw back up to six cards, in the following order:

  1. The attacker.
  2. Any other players that assisted the attacker by playing cards.
  3. The defender.

When the stock is depleted, play continues with no further draws, players short on cards or not. At this point, any player who runs out of cards simply sits out for the rest of the hand.

Game play continues until only one player remains with cards. This player becomes the durak. (If two players run out of the cards at the same time, with one player attacking with their final card and the other player successfully defending against it, the hand is a draw and the durak from the previous hand keeps the title.) The durak is responsible for collecting the cards, shuffling, and dealing the next hand. The player to the left of the durak becomes the first attacker in the next round.

Sources

  1. McLeod, John. “Podkidnoy Durak“. pagat.com. Version as of 2014-08-12, accessed 2015-04-30.
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