OBJECTIVE OF BARBU: After 28 hands, have the highest score.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 4 players
NUMBER OF CARDS: Standard 52 card deck
RANK OF CARDS: A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
TYPE OF GAME: Trick-Taking
AUDIENCE: All Ages
INTRODUCTION TO BARBU
Barbu is a trick-taking card game which takes a significant amount of skill. The game is similar to Hearts, in that four players take turns throughout the game leading 7 separate contracts or sub games. The game originated in early 20th century French, where it was immensely popular among university students. Later, the game reached prominence with French Bridge players in the 1960s. The original version is played with a stripped 32-card deck. However, modernly it is played with the standard 52-card deck.
Le Barbu (L’Homme Barbu) literally translates to “The Bearded (man).” The Barb itself is a reference to the King of Hearts, whose commonly depicted as a bearded King stabbing himself through the head. This card holds a particular significance in the game as it is one of the seven contracts in the game.
During the game, each players play each one of the seven contracts once, so there are a total of 28 hands played all together.
The game begins, not with selecting a dealer, but rather a declarer. Randomly pick a player to act as declarer for the first 7 hands. The player to the right of the declarer acts as the dealer, and the player across from the declarer cuts. Once the declarer has finished 7 contracts, the player to the left of the declarer acts as the new declarer for the next 7 contracts, and so on. This continues until each player has finished seven contracts.
During a contract, each player is player for themselves. While the declarer chooses the contract, there is no reason for other players to cooperate. However, there are rules about doubling, which are discussed later below.
THE SEVEN CONTRACTS
Of the 7 contracts, there are 5 negative and two positive contracts.
There are no trumps in negative contracts. The declarer leads in the first trick and players must follow suit if they can. If a player cannot follow suit they may play any card in hand. The winner of the trick (player of the highest ranking card in the leading suit) leads in the next trick. Certain contracts restrict which cards can be led, they are:
- No Tricks. Contract to lose. Players who win tricks score -2 points. The total score then is -26.
- No Queens. If a trick is won with a Queen or the winner takes a Queen, that winner of the trick scores -6 points. The total score is -24. Once a queen is played, it remains face-up in front of the player who won the trick so that Queens can be accounted for. Once the fourth Queen is played, the play ends once that trick has been completed.
- No Last Two. The second to last trick scores -10 to the player who wins it. The last trick score -20 to the player who wins it. The total score is -30.
- No Hearts. Each card from the suit of hearts scores -2 points to the player who wins the trick. However, the Ace of Hearts scores -6. The total score for the contract is -30. Players are not allowed to lead with hearts unless it is all they have in hand. Like the Queens, hearts won through tricks must remain in front of the player who took them so they can be properly accounted for and scored.
- No King of Hearts (Barbu). The player who wins the King of Hearts in a trick scores -20 points. The total score is -20. It is never permissible to lead with this card unless it is the only card in hand.
- Trumps. The declarer is responsible for announcing the trump suit and subsequently leading in the first trick. If possible, players must follow suit. Tricks are won by playing the highest ranking trump card, however, if no trumps are played, the highest ranking card that follows suit wins the trick. If you are unable to follow suit, or play a trump card, you may play any card in hand. The winner of the trick scores +5 points and leads in the next one. The total score is +65 points.
- Dominoes or Fantan. The declarer picks the starting rank. For example, if the rank is 6, they say, “dominoes from the six.” The goal is to play all cards in hand before the other players. Each players, on their turn, plays a single card upwards to the table. The cards must go in sequential order. So, if starting with 6, players cannot play an 8 until the 7 has been played. If a player is unable to play a card on their turn, they indicate passing by knocking on the table, and play moves on. The cards should form 4 columns, with the starting card in the center and move outward (up to A and down to 2). Normal card rankings apply.
What is a Double? A double is a side bet between two players on which will play better than the other. If you expect to score better than another player, double them.
Once a contract has been declared, each player has the opportunity to double. Players can double all, some, or none of the other players. But, the declarer can only double players who have doubled them.
During the seven hands, each player must double the declarer at least two times.
Players can only double the declarer in postive contracts, not other players.
If you wish to double a player who has doubled you, indicate this by saying, “redouble.”
Doubles are denoted on the score sheet as they happen. Doubles of the declarer are circled to make them more obvious, this ensure each player doubles the declarer twice.
After each hand is finished it is scored. Points both won and lost by players are marked on the scores sheet. The doubles are calculated on a pair-by-pair basis.
- If no two players doubled the other, no side bet was placed and no payment occurs.
- If only one pair of players doubled, the differences in their scores are determined. The difference is added to the player with the higher score and subtracted from the player with the lower score.
- If a pair of players doubled each other, the difference between their scores is doubled, and treated the same (adding to the player with the better score, subtracting from the player with the lower score.)
At the end of 28 hands, the player with the highest value score is the winner.