How to Play Durak

Since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991 and 2009, the traditional card game of Durak has been a popular pastime throughout Russia (even after gambling was criminalised across most of the country in 2009).

This popularity is now spreading to the rest of the world, as an increasing number of online casinos are offering Durak to their players. If you’re interested in giving this old but new-to-you game a try, we recommend that you acquaint yourself with the following Durak basics:

No Fool’s Errand

In keeping with the bluntness associated with Eastern European cultures, the word “Durak” translates as “fool” or “idiot” in English. The Durak, in this case, is the last person holding any cards at the end of the game. So, in Durak (much like Uno), the objective is to get rid of all your cards as quickly as possible.

The Prikup

The game is played with a deck of 36 standard playing cards, with six cards dealt to each player. (Ideally, Durak should be played by between two and five players at a time.) The cards remaining after the deal go into a pile called the “prikup”, which is placed in the centre of the table. The bottom card is placed face-up underneath the pile, at a 90 degree angle to the rest of the cards, which are all face-down. This card indicates the trump suit.

Attack vs. Defence

Another of Durak’s unusual features is that players must either attack or defend every time their turn comes around. The game progresses in a clockwise direction and begins when the person with the lowest trump card places his or her first card face up – the first attack of the game. The person to the attacker’s left (the defender) must then choose to either defend their hand (present a card to beat the attacker’s card) or pass the attack to the next player.

If the defence is successful, the defender will not have to take the attacker’s card and may discard their winning card. If the defence fails or the player elects to pass the attack, he or she will also have to take the attacker’s card. At the end of each hand, players must draw another six cards each from the prikup.

Deciding whether to defend or pass the attack has a lot to do with how far along the game is. The objective is to get rid of low-ranking cards as quickly as possible, whilst storing up high-value trump suit cards for the end.

What do you think? Will you be trying out Durak any time soon? Do you think it would make a good live casino game? We think it’s an interesting debate!