If you have a good memory, analytical skills, and can understand your partner in a game, then you can put your skills to test by playing Tarneeb.
It’s a popular trick-card game where four players form fixed partnerships, with partners facing each other.
You use a standard international 52-card pack to play this game, with the cards in each suit ranked A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2, from high to low. Tarneeb is often played in counter-clockwise order.
It’s popular in different countries in the Middle East. Also, it could be taken as a variation of Spades, or a version of Whist. Let’s show you to play Tarneeb offline and online.
How to Deal
In Tarneeb, the object is to win a set of continuous hands. The game allows up to four players that form partnerships of 2 teams. It’s played using a standard 52 card deck, where each suit is ranked in the usual manner from high (Ace) down to low (two).
You’ll choose the first dealer randomly, and after each hand, the turn to deal will pass to the right. The dealer shuffles and cuts the cards, and each player receives 13 cards each from him.
How to Bid
The bidding starts with the player by the dealer’s right and proceeds in a counter-clockwise manner. The bids in this game are numbers that represent the number of tricks that the bidder’s team performs to win.
7 is the lowest bid, while 13 is the highest. Also, each bid has to be higher than the last.
A player that prefers not to bid at their own turn can pass. And once you have passed, you can’t bid again on a later turn.
If all 4 players in a game pass on their first turn to speak, then the hand gets thrown in, with the cards shuffled and dealt again by the same dealer.
Otherwise, players will continue to bid around the table as many times as required until all players, except one, have passed. Then, the last bidder will announce the trump suit (tarneeb), resulting in the first trick.
Also, you may declare the hand will be played without trumps.
The player who emerges as the bid winner will lead to the first trick, after which the winner of each trick will lead to the next one.
Play takes place counter-clockwise, with participants required to follow suit if possible. Players that can’t follow suit can play any card — either trump (tarneeb) or get rid of a card of another suit (sakret).
You win each trick using the highest trump in it, or through the highest card in the suit led if it doesn’t have any trump.
Doing the Scoring
The bidder’s team will try to take at least as many tricks as they bid. If their bid is not up to 13 and is successful, they’ll be awarded the same points as the number of tricks they won, while the other team won’t get any score.
If the bidding team makes a smaller number of tricks than they bid, they’ll lose the bid amount, and the opposing team will gain the number of tricks they won.
Winning all thirteen tricks is referred to as kaboot. If the bid was not up to thirteen, kaboot gives a bonus of three points, producing a total of sixteen points instead of thirteen.
If a team bids thirteen tricks and wins all of them, they’ll earn twenty-six points. But if they lose any tricks, they’ll be awarded a score of -16, with the opposing team scoring double the number of tricks they won.
More hands are played until a team gets a cumulative score of thirteen points, or more, and becomes the winner of the game.
- Each player receives 13 cards each from the dealer
- Bids are made starting with the player by the dealer’s right
- The player making the highest bid can announce the Tarneeb (trump) suit for that round
- Trick-taking holds normally
- The first team to earn a score of 41 is the winner of the game
- The primary tip to note in Tarneeb strategy is, bidding carefully. Bear in mind that no penalty is imposed for not winning the bid.
- If there’s a large number of cards from 1 suit in your hand, consider bidding high to announce that suit as the Tarneeb.
- Make use of bidding for hinting at your partner.
- Consider counting cards from the trump suit for making good plays
- Whenever allowed, play out cards with a low rank.
- If your partner has secured the win, consider playing low cards to avoid competing.
Variations of Tarneeb
When learning how to play Tarneeb, you may find that some people play the entire game in clockwise order. Here, the player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding.
Some people prefer having the cards dealt in one batch of thirteen to each player.
Furthermore, in certain areas of Lebanon, each player can only make 1 bid. The auction ends after all players have spoken.
Players can’t raise their bids. In this variant, the dealer, who is the last to bid, only needs to equal the highest bid submitted by another player to assume the role of bidder.
In some play, if the first 3 players pass, the dealer must bid 7.
Yet, in another variation of the game, the bidder has to lead a trump to the first trick.
The required score to become the winner of the game could be set at 41, 51, or 61, instead of 31, if the players come to an agreement at the start.
In some variations of Tarneeb’s rules of play, any player with the cards below may throw in the cards immediately after the deal:
- no ace
- no king in a single suit of 2 cards or more, and
- no queen in a single suit of 3 cards or more, and
- no jack in a single suit of 4 cards or more.
Put in another way, the player doesn’t have any card, which could take a trick if an opposing player led the suit from the top down — A, K, and others.
In this scenario, the next dealer shuffles the cards and deals them.
Some variations require a player to hold ten or more cards of any one suit either
- for bidding kaboot (a move to win all thirteen tricks with a partner’s help) or
- for passing, or
- for throwing in the hand: The cards are shuffled and re-dealt by the same dealer.
You can also learn how to play Tarneeb Jawaker, which is a popular version played mainly in Egypt.
In this variation, each bid will specify the proposed trump suit and the number of tricks. The ranking of the suits starts from high to low: No Trump, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs.
You can overcall the previous bidder by bidding an equal number of tricks in a higher suit, or a greater number of tricks in any suit. Thus, 7 clubs is the lowest bid, and 13 No Trump represents the highest.
Beginning with the player to the right of the dealer, each player, in turn, could either:
- Bid higher than the highest bid made as of yet
- Double, if the last bid came from an opposing player
Doubling (or passing) doesn’t prevent you from bidding on a future turn in this variation of Tarneeb.
The bidding proceeds until there’s a complete round where none of the 4 players makes a bid. After that, the play starts with the declarer leading, and the trump suit (or no trump) stays as specified in the last bid.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some typical questions you could have when learning how to play Tarneeb:
Can I play Tarneeb with 3 players?
No. Tarneeb is a trick-card game that involves four players who form a partnership of 2 players per team.
Is Tarneeb available online for free?
Yes. You can play the game via online simulators, as a downloadable executable on a laptop or PC, and as an Android/iOS app.
How can I get better at Tarneeb?
It’s important to know how to control the game flow. You can do this by understanding when to bid and when to pass.
How can I count cards in a game of Tarneeb?
In this game, the ranking of cards proceeds as follows: Aces is the highest rank and twos the lowest rank. Thus, card counting still takes place like in other card games.
How can I give a hint to my partner?
To tell your partner to go back to the same suit on the next turn, you can slam the card on the table as you play.
Bear in mind that this practice is against the rules in certain areas and is generally frowned upon as quite unprofessional.
Working with these tips, you can easily learn how to play Tarneeb and defeat your opponents consistently.