How to Play Durok

This popular Russian card game of attack and defense uses trumps in a most unusual way. Durok, incidentally, means "fool!" Here's how to play:

Number of players: Two or more, but this is an especially good game for five players.

Object: Not to be Durok, or the last player left holding cards.

The cards: One regular 52-card deck.

Card Term Glossary
Here's a quick reference for some of the card language you will find in this article.

Deal: The act of portioning out the cards to the players; also, the period of play in the game between one deal and the next.

The undealt cards available for future use.

Talon: A portion of the pack reserved for later use during the deal.

Trump: A suit designated to be higher ranking than any other suit; any card in that suit. Also, to play a trump card on a trick.

For a complete listing of card terminology, click here.

To play: Deal five cards to each player. Turn up the next card, which designates the trump suit. For example, if the card is J, spades will be the trump suit. Leave the card visible, but palce it under the rest of the undealt cards, called the stock (or talon). Aces are the high card, and the suits go down in sequential order, ending with 2.

Play consists of a clockwise progression of attack and defense. Attacker plays one to five cards on the table. The next player defends the attack with two options: Either pick up and keep the attacking cards, or else beat each attack card with a card of the same suit and higher rank (or, of course, a trump card).

The attack: The attack may be any of these plays: a single card, a pair (two cards of the same rank), three of a kind (three cards of the same rank), two pairs, four of a kind (four cards of the same suit), or a full house (a pair plus 3 of a kind).

To defend, you must beat each card in the attack by a higher card in the same suit or by a trump card.

Joining the attack: Other players may add, at any time, more cards of the same rank as an attack card. At no time may the total number of attack cards be larger than 5, however. In the example hand below, any other player could add to the attack with a 4 or a 9. Since the attack must stop with 5 cards, this time only one player can add to the attack. For example, if Victor adds the
9, Jill will have to top it with a higher trump, or else pick up all the cards.

If the defender beats every attack card, then all cards involved are retired from play.

Replenishing hands: Starting with attacker and including defender, all players with zero to four cards now draw from the talon until each has five cards again. Any player with 5 or more cards does not draw.

Durok, a popular Russian card game of attack and defense, uses trumps in a most unusual way.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
In the hand shown, s are trump and Eddie has attacked Jill with 4499.
Jill could have picked up these cards, but her hand happens to be good enough
to beat each: She plays J8A5, topping each attack card with a higher
card in that suit or with a trump.

Ongoing play: If successful, the defender now becomes the new attacker. If the defender picked up cards, then the following player makes the next clockwise attack.

Play continues like this until the talon is exhausted. (The trump upcard from the start of the game is the last card drawn.) Here's when the fun really begins! Now, as soon as you have no cards left, you're out of the hand and you can't be Durok; you can relax and watch the others play.

When only two players remain, if one attacks using all their remaining cards, the other player is Durok without getting a chance to defend.

By tradition, Durok takes on the shame of gathering, shuffling, cutting, and dealing the cards for the next hand. Also by tradition, if someone other than Durok touches the cards, that person becomes dealer.

Note: At the end of the hand, a player with fewer than five cards can be attacked only up to the number of cards held. Example: Victor has 3 cards. Hugo attacks him with 2 cards, as Jill adds a third. Eddie cannot join the attack. Victor picks up those cards, and now that he has 6 cards, he may receive a full attack the next time.

Scoring: If you are playing for a stake, Durok pays one chip to each other player.

Tips: It does not hurt to pick up attack cards in the early stages. You'll still have chances to get rid of many of these cards before players start to drop out. In fact you can gather high cards of the same rank, such as three kings, and use them to counter an attack. If you have trumps, especially high ones, they will be most helpful in the endgame. Also, when your right-hand opponent is defender, by withholding from the attack, or by adding to it, you may influence whether he or she succeeds or fails.

Variations: In a large game, the right to join the attack may be limited to the players nearest the attacker.

Pass-the-buck: Under this rule, the defender who can match the attack card passes the attack along onto the next player, who takes over as defender. Example: Meg is attacked with
6. Meg plays 6 and passes the pair of 6s along to the next player, Stan, who becomes the defender.

A popular traditional Durok variant limits the initial attack to one rank, but any new card the defender plays opens up that rank for attack too. Example:
s are trump. Hugo plays 5 at Victor. Victor plays 7 to beat the attack, but then Hugo extends the attack by playing the 7, while Eddie tosses on the 7! Victor may want to pick up the pile now, before it gets any bigger!

Durok with six cards dealt is a popular form of the game. Also, some prefer to play with a 36-card pack created by removing all 2s through 5s.

©Publications International, Ltd.