Kout Bo is a traditional card game from Kuwait that is played all over the Gulf region. It is similar to the game of poker and is also called the Middle East Poker game.
Kout Bo is designed for six players playing two partnerships of three players each. The game is played using one standard 52 card deck along with two Jokers. The two Jokers should be distinguishable amongst each other, as the Jokers also have a relative ranking. Most card decks are packaged with two Jokers, one in color (or red) and one not colored (black and white). If they are not so distinguishable, the Jokers should be marked in such a way such that one is the higher Joker and the other the lower Joker. The ranking of the cards as used in the game Kout Bo are as follows (from highest to lowest): Colour Joker, Black and White Joker, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. The one exception to this rule is that the Ace of the designated trump suit during a hand, is considered the second highest card in the deck during that hand and will beat every other card in the deck except the full Joker.
If not already predetermined, selection of partnerships can be performed using a variety of methods, with a draw for high cards commonly used. Once the partnerships have been determined, the players should be seated at the table such that a member of the opposing team is on both sides (to his right and to his left). Another draw for high cards can also be used to determine the first dealer for the game. After each hand, the role of dealer rotates in a counter-clockwise direction around the table.
Once the dealer has been determined this player should thoroughly shuffle the deck and offer it to the player as his left to cut. After the cut he begins dealing the cards around the table in a counter-clockwise rotation, starting with the player at his immediate right. He deals the cards, face-down one at a time around the table, until each player has a total of nine cards which form the hands.
After the cards have been dealt, each player picks up his hand and round of bidding occurs. The player to the immediate right of the current dealer has the first opportunity to bid with the bids proceeding in a counter-clockwise direction around the table. The lowest permissible bid is five (called Bab) and the highest is nine (Bawan). A player's bid is the number of tricks his team will attempt to win during the hand. A player is never required to bid and may elect to pass rather than bid. Each player has exactly one opportunity to bid. In order to be considered a valid bid, a player's bid must be higher than any previously made bid on this hand.
If the first five players all pass, the last player (the dealer) is required to make a bid of at least five. If this last, required bid, is for the minimum five, this is called Malzom.
The high bidder during the hand is called the maker and indicates one of the four suits (spades, hearts, clubs, or diamonds) to be used as the trump suit for the hand (called the Hokm suit).
After declaring the trump suit, this player then plays any card of choice from his hand to start the first trick. The high bidder and his team is called the Hokm team.
Play, bidding, and dealing are all in a counter-clockwise direction in Kout Bo. After the lead, each other player, in a counter-clockwise direction then adds one card from his hand to that same trick. If a player has a card of the suit originally led to the trick, he must play it. However, if he does not have such a card he may play any card from his hand, including a card of the trump suit. Although there are certain restrictions to the play of a Joker to lead to a trick, there are normally no such restrictions to playing a Joker to an existing trick, thus a player having the Joker may play this card to any existing trick if preferred, on his usual turn.
The Jokers are normally not allowed to be led to a trick, except in one of the following specific circumstances:
The leader of that card is a member of a team which bid eight or nine on this hand, and the bid was the highest bid for the hand. If his team's high bid was eight, he may lead with the color Joker, and if his team's high bid was nine, he may lead with either Joker.
If, during this hand, the Ace, King, Queen and Jack of the trump have already been played by this or other players.
If a Joker is thusly led to a trick, it is considered a trump card and all other players must play a card of the trump suit if able. However, if a Joker is led and the conditions for leading it have not been met, the Joker can never win the hand, and the next player in turn may play any card from his hand. The suit of this second card played to that trick determines the suit for which that trick must be played.
Once each player has played one card to the trick, it is examined to determine the winner of the trick. The highest card in the trump suit (which includes the Jokers) played to the trick wins that trick. If the trick contains no cards from the trump suit, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit originally led to that trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick.
After all nine tricks have been played and won, the Hokm team checks to determine if they were able to win at least the number of tricks as bid. The following chart shows the number of points that team will win if they manage to win at least as many tricks bid and the number of points they will lose if they fail to win at least as many tricks as bid:
|Points Won by Team if Bid Made
|Points Earned by Opposing Team if Bid Not Made
The game is won in one of three conditions:
- If Bawan is bid and made by a team on the first hand, that team is automatically declared the winner of the game.
- One team reaches an accumulated score of 51 or higher and the other team still has a total accumulated score of 0, the scoring team is declared the winner.
- One team reaches an accumulated score of 101 or more points, this team is declared the game winner.