Discover Durak: Russia’s Most Popular Card Game
The card game Durak is popular in Russia and has enjoyed a golden period ever since the dissolution of the old Soviet Union.
Considering how many people play the game it is not too well known outside of its native country. Here’s a look at how the game is played and what all the fuss is about.
How Is It Played?
Durak can be translated into “fool” in Russian. It is also affectionately referred to as “Shithead” in other cultures.
The concept of the game is very basic. Players must aim to be the quickest to get rid of all their cards. The last person with cards left is the durak.
A deck of 36 cards is used and the game is ideally played between two and five players. The deck is shuffled and each player receives six cards. The bottom card of the remaining deck in the middle of the table is displayed face up. This will indicate the trump suit.
The remaining cards in the deck are then placed on top of that face up card at a 90 degree angle so the face up card remains visible. This pile of cards will act as the draw pile called the ‘prikup’.
Cards discarded during the process of the game are placed on a discard pile away from the prikup and become inactive.
Gameplay and Rules
The set-up of durak means players must be forced to attack and defend. The player with the lowest trump card is the first designated attacker. The individual to their left is then the defender.
The play rotates clockwise so that is always the case for the remainder of the game.
Play begins with the attacker playing their first card face up. The defender then has the chance to either defend or pass the attack.
If they successfully defend then they will not have to take on the attacker’s card. If they pass on the attack then they will take the attacker’s card, add it to their own card, and become the attacker themselves.
Passing an attack cannot be done if the player does not possess a card of the same rank as the attacker.
It is also possible for the defender to defeat the attacker.
They can choose higher value cards from their pack to win the hand. Other players can add attacking cards at any point during the turn. If the defender decides they cannot survive the attack then at any point they can cut their losses and pick up the cards in play on the table before the situation worsens.
If the player successfully defends against all attacking cards, then the cards are taken out of the game and placed on the discard pile.
At the end of every hand, players must then draw cards from the remaining prikup until they are in possession of six cards each.
This continues until the prikup is used up. Players may leave the game as soon as they have gotten rid of all their cards in their hand.
As a game of attack versus defense, Durak naturally has various strategies in play. The strategies used in durak can prove to be very in-depth.
Below we shall attempt to summarise them slightly, to avoid writing a durak version of War and Peace.
The main strategy should be based around entering the latter stages of the game with as strong a hand of six cards as possible.
Players do not want to head into that latter stage with the odds stacked against them. A key approach here is to act aggressively early on and try to collect the strongest six card hand they can muster. This will then give them impetus heading into the latter stages.
When it comes to defending and attacking, players really need to play the scenario.
The best approach to have for defending is to always assume the worst case scenario. If a situation arises that players are confident they can defend 90% of the time, then do so. Otherwise, surrender asap to avoid things spiralling out of control.
For attacking, it should be used as a tactic to get rid of bad cards early and save the stronger cards for later. Do not be tempted to bring in the big guns early in order to try and damage the prospects of a fellow player.
During the end phases of the game it is all about being decisive. Try to control as many Aces as possible. These are not only strong in defense but they are even more powerful in attack because they cannot be beaten.
Players should do everything they can to get rid of non-trump cards to focus on the more influential trump cards.
Durak is available to play online for free versus a computer opponent and other human players.
Sites such as playok.com, durak.hlop.de, and durakchallenge.com offer durak play online for fun or points. It is also available to play on mobile platforms with apps based on the game listed in the Google Play Store and Apple Store.
Can You Gamble on Durak in Russia?
Gambling is only legal in Russia in four regions, after the government made all gambling illegal in 2009.
These four regions are Altai, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, and Primorsky. Durak can be gambled on provided it takes place within the boundaries of these four regions. Everywhere else in Russia, it is illegal to bet on durak games Otherwise, it is not possible to gamble on durak in Russia.