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Is There a Dummy in the House?
by Stormy on February 29, 2008

People have played cards for thousands of years. No reason a marmot shouldn't pick up a new game, too.

Today I got to play a card game from a far away land. It's called Durak and comes from Russia where it is as common as Euchre is in the Midwest and poker is in Las Vegas. The game has a reverse concept from traditional games. There isn't a winner, but there is a loser. Much like in musical chairs, the idea is not to be the last one playing. The following are the rules for this fascinating game: Introduction: Durak is an attack/defense card game that originated in Russia. It is widely played in Eastern Europe and tends to be popular in other parts of the world. Durak means 'dummy', 'fool' or 'idiot' and refers to the game's underlying principal that there is not a winner in the game but a single loser. Players: The game can be played with two or more players, up to any number. An even number is often preferred for team play. In formal tournament rules the game is for an even number of players ranging from two to six. Card Deck: Any number of card decks can be used. Card ranking (from high to low) is A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2. Any number of decks can be used, as may the jokers from those decks. In formal tournament play the deck, a traditional Russian deck, consists only of A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 and only a single deck is used. Dealing: For the opening round any player may shuffle and deal cards. Cards are dealt face down, one at a time in a clockwise manner starting with the player to the dealer's left. Each player is dealt six cards. Next a trump card is drawn and placed face up in the center of the table with the remaining cards stacked face down on top of it. This is the talon from which replacement cards are drawn. The player holding the lowest trump card opens the game. In games where multiple decks are used, a tie for the lowest trump is taken to the second lowest trump, third lowest trump, etc. among the players who are tied. Any player who has a hand consisting of only two suits may ask for a redeal. In deals of subsequent games the dealer is the durak from the previous game. In traditional play only the durak may touch the deck that is to be dealt. If someone else makes contact with the deck before the deal is complete, they become the new durak and must deal. The Russians say, с дурака шапку не снимают. The player to the left of the durak opens the play. Trump: In each game there is a designated trump suit that can beat cards from other suits. The four traditional suits include spades (♠), hearts (), diamonds () and clubs (♣). In informal games other suits may be included when coming from extended suit decks. Including trump suits the card ranking is A though 2 of the trump suit, the jokers and finally A through 2 of the non-trump suits. The jokers are effectively a "1" of the trump suit. In a formal tournament game the card ranking is A through 6 of the trump suit, followed by A through 6 of all non-trump suits. Play: Play progresses in the clockwise direction. The attacking player leads to the defender (the player to his or her left) with cards selected from what's available in his or her hand. A boiled down strategy is to lead with the absolute lowest card(s) available although the attacker may implement other strategies. If multiple cards of the same rank are available, the attacker may choose to lead with one or more of them. For example, if the attacker holds 3♠, 3♦ and 3♣ in a game where diamonds () are trump, he or she may choose to lead with the 3♠ and 3♣, keeping the 3♦ for later use. To successfully defend, the defender must cover each attacking card with a greater card of the same suit or a trump card. For example, if the defender holds 2♠, 5♠, J♠, 8♥, 6♦ and 9♦, the 5♠, J♠, 6♦ and 9♦ will all beat the 3♠, but because the defender has no clubs, only the trump cards 6♦ and 9♦ will beat the 3♣. As a rule, it is better to defend against an attack with the lowest possible cards, although other strategies (such as using cards of the same rank or tricking the attacker(s) into handing over high cards) may be used. If the defender uses the 5♠ on the 3♠, and the 6♦ on the 3♣, the attacker and other players have the option of attacking using any rank that's on deck 3, 5 and 6. The play continues until the defender has successfully beaten off all the attacks or is forced to pick up cards because he or she can no longer defend. After the attack/defend round is completed, all players draw from the talon for a total of six cards. The attacker draws first (if cards are needed) and the order is continued to the right with the defender being the last to draw. If the talon runs out of cards, the drawing of cards stops and the game's objective becomes to dispose of all cards as quickly as possible. If the previous round's defender was successful in his/her defense, he/she now takes the role of the attacker. Otherwise, the defender has to pick up the cards that came in the attack and miss their turn to attack. The new attacker is the player to the old defender's left. It should be noted that in a failed defense the defender should pick up no more cards than what is required to double his or her hand. In a formal tournament game this number is limited to six cards and is never more than the number of cards the player already holds. All cards that were not picked up are returned to the players who put them down in the attack. Other Rules: The trump at the bottom of the talon may be replaced with the lowest trump in the game by the player holding the lowest trump at any time during play.

The marmots play a spirited game of Durak.
(taken by Jennifer on February 29, 2008)

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