OBJECTIVE OF FORTY ONE: Be the first player to reach 41 points

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 4, teams of 2


RANK OF CARDS: (low) 2 – Ace (high)

TYPE OF GAME: Trick taking, team based



Forty One is a team based trick taking game popularly played in Syria.  In this game, hearts are always the trump suit, and winning is not based on a team total, but on an partner’s individual score.  These two subtle differences make for very interesting gameplay.

Determine teams before the game begins.  Partners should sit across from each other at the table.


Decide who shall be the first dealer and the scorekeeper by taking cards from the deck.  The player with the lowest card must become the dealer and keep score.  That player should collect all of the cards, shuffle, and deal.

In Forty One, each player is dealt 13 cards.  Once the cards have been dealt, it is time for the bidding phase.  While bidding, it is important to remember that hearts are always trump.  This means that the heart suited cards are the highest ranking cards in the game.  For example, a 2 of hearts is higher ranked than any other suited Ace.


When you bid, you are declaring how many tricks you think you can take.  You must bid at least 1.  The sum of all bids must equal 11 or more.  If the bid total is 10 or less, the cards are thrown back in, and the deal is passed to the left.

The scorekeeper should keep track of each round’s bid on the scorepad.  Once the bidding phase is complete, the round may begin.


Play begins with the player to the left of the dealer.  They may choose any card from their hand and throw it to the center.  This begins the trick.  Play will continue left around the table.  Each player must play a card that follows suit if they can.  If they cannot follow suit, they may play any card they wish.

The player who played the highest card in the suit that was led or the highest trump card takes the trick.  That player then leads the next trick with a card of their choosing from their hand.

Play like this continues until all thirteen tricks are played.


At the end of a hand, players earn points for taking at least as many tricks as they bid.  A bid of 1-6 earns points equal to the bid.  A bid of 7-13 earns points equal to double the bid.  For example, if a player bids 5 and takes at least 5 tricks, they earn 5 points.  If a player bids 9 and takes at least 9 tricks, they earn 18 points.  A player does not earn points for tricks taken beyond their bid.  So, if a player bids 6 and takes 7 tricks, they still only earn 6 points. 

If a player does not take as many tricks as they bid, they lose points equal to their bid.  For example if a player bids 5 and only takes 4 tricks, they lose 5 points from their score.  If a player bids 9 and fails to take that many, they lose 18 points from their score.

The first team to have a player reach 41 points or more wins the game.  In order to win, their partner must have a positive score.  For example, if a player reaches 41, but their partner has a score of -12, that team cannot win until the partner brings their score into the positives.

In the event that both teams have a player who reaches 41 points at the same time, the partners’ scores are then compared with the highest scoring partner taking the victory. 

Mark Ball
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