How to play the Durak card game. The goal of the game is to unload all of your cards and at the end of the game, the last player holding cards in his hands is the loser, the Durak.
Durak is a simple card game. But, unlike other games where there is one winner, and you try to be that winner, Durak is all about not being the one and only loser in the game. Durak is a traditional Russian card game, very popular in all post-Soviet Union countries which has become famous across the globe. The word Durak means the idiot, or the fool. And in the Durak game you don’t want to be that one. You don’t want to be the fool.
The goal of the game is to get rid of all of your cards and at the end of the game, the last player holding cards in his hands is the loser, the Durak.
So, let’s get going. You can play Durak with a 20-card deck, a 36-card deck, or a full 52-card deck. You need at least two players, while up to six players can enjoy Durak. The most typical setup is with a 36-card deck (2-5 have been removed) and with 2 to 5 players. Durak is a game that people can play for free. You can even find some Durak online games. It’s fun even as a 2 player game. Some use it as an alternative 2 player poker game, although it has nothing to do with poker!
Every player gets six cards. So, in case six players play with a 36-card deck, the player which will start the game will have a significant advantage. After shuffling and dealing to each player, the bottom card of the stock is turned and placed face-up on the table determining the trump suit for the current game.
With six players and 36 cards there will be no talon since each of the six players has six. So, the dealer’s last one is turned face up to determine the trump suit. This trump is part of the dealer’s hand and everyone has a chance to look at it.
For example, if it is the 7 , then spades rank higher than all other three suit cards (hearts, diamonds, and club). So, in this scenario the 6 beat the ace of hearts, king of diamonds, etc.
Who starts the Durak game?
Remember, this is a game of attacking and defending. If you are the attacker you get to attack the person to the immediate left.
The player with the lowest trump card is the first attacker and leads to the first attack, towards the player on his left. After each round of attack play proceeds clockwise. If the attack succeeds, the defender loses their turn and the attack passes to the player on the defender’s left. If the attack fails, the defender becomes the next attacker.
The highest valued card is the Ace and the lowest the 2 (or the 6 if you play with 36). And as we already know the trump card of any rank beats all from the other three suits. So the highest valued one is the trump suit Ace.
If a player draws the trump 6 (or trump 2 when playing with a 52 deck) while replenishing, it can be swapped for the turned-up trump even if that would be drawn by another player before the next bout. Even if another player has already drawn the turned-up trump, the player who drew the six can still demand to exchange it provided that the bout after the one which exhausted the talon has not yet begun.
Attacking and defending
For example, you attack with a 7 . The defender has to block you with a higher-ranked card. In this example the defender would need a 8 or higher. But if he doesn’t have any hearts in his hand, he can use any trump suit card to defend successfully. The defending cards are on top of the attack card so both cards are visible and it is clear which cards are attacking and defending cards.
And as we already know, a trump card of any rank beats all cards in the other three suits. The attacker can choose any card on my hand to attack the person on the left, and the defender can choose any card on his hand to defend, as long as its legal.
Once the attacker and the defender have thrown their two cards, anyone else on the table might also join in the attack. So, in this example, the attacker threw a 7 , let’s assume that defender didn’t have any heart card to block it and used a (trump suit) 8 .
Starting clockwise from the player left to the defender, players can start a new attack using ONLY cards that match cards that have already been played during the specific round. And in this example, players can attack the defender either with a 7 or with an 8. The player who leads the attack is the first one to attack again.
If the player who led the last attack choose not to attack again (and all future attacks during the round of attacks) then the original attacker may make a new attack. If they pass on making an attack then players to the defenders left may attack or pass and so on going clockwise around the table.
Second wave of Durak attacking
On the table we have the cards of the first attack, and successful defense. A 7 , and a (trump suit) 8 .
Let’s say the original attacker launches a double attack since he has a couple of 8’s on his hand. He throws a 8 and a 8 . The defender responds with a 10 and a K .
The first attacker chooses not to attack again, so the rest of the players can join. Remember, there cannot be more than six attacks in each round, which makes kind of sense, since every player starts with just six cards in his hand.
The defender must respond to the new attack in the same fashion as the first attack by playing a card of the same suit of the new attack card with a higher rank or a trump card. All other players may make a new attack if the defender has successful defended the last attack.
Successful attack and successful defense
If at any point during a round of attacks, the defender is unable to beat the most recent attack, they must pick up all the cards thrown on the table during that round of attack. In addition to the defender picking up all the face-up cards on the table, the other players may shed cards that have already been played (face-up cards) which the defender must also pick up. In this case the round of attacks ends. And, the player to the defender’s left starts the next round of attacks.
If, however, the defender has beaten all attacks and no other players are willing to make another attack or if the defender beats the sixth attack, the defender has won the round of attacks. In this case all cards that have been revealed during this turn are removed from the game and the defender starts the next round of attacks as the attacker, and the player to the left becomes the new defender.
New round and end of the Durak game
At the end of each round of attacks, no matter if the defense was successful or not, each player draws from the deck until they have at least six cards in their hand. Unless of course, the deck is empty. In this case, players that have played all their cards are eliminated and the game goes on with the rest of the players.
The first to draw as many needed is the attacker of the round that has just been completed, then followed by any other attackers in clockwise order, and finally the defender.
Durak is the last person left with cards in their hand and his punishment includes shuffling the deck, dealing the next round, being first attacked, and maybe even cleaning up a bit and going for a beer run. Dealing is a punishment undertaaken by the loser of the previous hand.
Only the dealer handles the cards – they are not usually cut, as in other games. If any other player touches the deck they become the fool and take over the job of dealing. Sometimes the dealer may offer the deck to be cut after shuffling; if the player to whom they are offered falls into the trap of cutting the cards, that player becomes the dealer and takes over the role of the fool. Hence the expression: “Shapku s duraka ne snimayut” (“One should not take the hat away from a fool”).
Other game variants finish earlier and declare winner of the game the first player to empty their hand and leave the game. But, the most common variant of Durak card game is the one with no winners, only one big loser.