Dobbm

This description results from John McLeod & Remigius Geiser's trip to Fulpmes, in the Stubai valley south west of Innsbruck, Austria. Philipp Schöpf taught us the game in the Gasthof Jenewein, Fulpmes on 31st March 1996.

Dobbm is extremely popular in the Stubai valley among card players of all generations. It is unknown in the immediately surrounding regions, for example in the Wipptal and Innsbruck, but it is clearly related to Brixental Bauerntarock, Zuger Tapp and other similar games. Dobbm is also related to the special version of Tarock played in the same valley.

Contents

Players

There are 4 active players. Five can play, in which case the dealer takes a holiday (er feiert).

Cards

36 Doppeldeutsche Karten (Tell cards) with suits of hearts, leaves, acorns and bells. Formerly the game was played with single figure Salzburger pattern cards; these were displaced in general use by the Tell cards some 30-40 years ago, because of the inconvenience of having to turn the cards the right way up when sorting one's hand.

The rank of the cards in each suit, from high to low, and their values are as follows:

Card:      Sow   Ten   King   Ober  Unter  Nine  Eight  Seven  Six  
Value:     11    10     4      3      2     0      0      0     0    

The deuce of each suit is called the sow (die Sau). The WELI has no special significance in Dobbm - it is merely the six of bells.

Hearts are permanently trumps.

Deal

The deal and play are clockwise. The first dealer is chosen at random. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts. The cards are dealt in batches of 4, until the four active players have 8 cards each. The last four cards are placed face down in the centre to form the Dobb.

The turn to deal does not rotate. The dealer for each hand is the declarer from the previous hand. This means that in the 5-player game, you keep playing until you are declarer, after which you get a holiday.

Bidding

Starting with the player to dealer's left, and continuing clockwise, each player has just one opportunity to bid. There are two possible bids:

Dobbm
ordinary game - declarer exchanges with the talon
Solo
declarer does not exchange with the talon

A player who does not wish to bid says weiter. An ordinary game is bid by saying "ich tappe" ["i dob"]. A player who wishes to play Solo says "Solo". Once a player has bid an ordinary game, the players who have still to speak may either bid Solo or allow the ordinary game to be played by saying "gut" or "spiel zu".

Note that as each player speaks only once, there is no opportunity to raise your own bid, irrespective of whether another player has bid higher. If you want to play Solo you should say so at your turn to speak. The highest bidder becomes the declarer and plays the game which was bid. The other three players, the defenders, play as a team against the declarer.

If everyone says weiter, the cards are thrown in and in the four player game the same player deals again. In the five player version, the deal passes to the left when a hand is thrown in, and the new dealer receives a compensation payment called a Stockerl.

Exchanging

In an ordinary game, the declarer picks up the four Dobb cards without showing them to the other players, and discards four cards face down. A sow may only be discarded if a trump is discarded with it; two sows may be discarded with two trumps. The value of the discarded cards will be added to the declarer's tricks.

In a Solo the talon is left face down and its value counts with the declarer's tricks.

Schwacher

Having finalised the discard, the declarer says "ich liege" ["i lig"]. The opponents then have an opportunity to double the stake for the game (doubling is known as schießen or einen Schwachen geben). The first active player to the left of the declarer speaks first, saying either "an Schwochn" to double the stake, or "gut" or "spiel zu" if content to allow the game to proceed without a double. If the first defender does not double, the other two defenders in turn have the same options. If any defender gives a Schwacher, the declarer may either accept this, saying "gut", or double the stake again, saying "retour". If the declarer says retour, the defenders may double the stake again by saying retour - this may be said by any defender - not necessarily the one who gave the original Schwacher. The declarer may then say a further retour, and so on without limit. These doubles affect the payment between the dealer and all the defenders equally.

There is obviously scope here for an unscrupulous declarer and defender in alliance to cheat the other players by unreasonable doubling. This problem did not seem to arise in the games we saw, but you should be wary of playing this game against untrustworthy opponents.

The Play

Play is clockwise. The declarer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible, and a player with no cards of the suit led must play a heart. A player who holds no hearts and no cards of the suit led may play any card. Each trick is won by the highest heart in it, or, if it contains no hearts, by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

The three defenders keep their tricks in a single pile. Players are allowed to look back at the tricks taken by their own side, but the declarer in a Solo should not look at the Dobb until the end of the play.

Scoring

Each side counts the card points they have taken in tricks. The Dobb is counted with the declarer's tricks, so that the card points in the game total 120. The side with more card points wins an amount of money based on the difference between the card points they have taken and 60. If each side has 60 card points it is a draw (eingestellt) and there is no payment. Payments are doubled in a Solo. A Schwacher and each retour also double the payments.

If one side takes all eight tricks, this is called a Match. There is no extra score for this, but if the declarer loses every trick the defenders get the Dobb as well, so that a Match in an ordinary game is always worth 60 points.

Winnings are usually paid in cash after each hand. If the declarer wins, all the defenders pay the declarer; a declarer who loses pays each of the defenders. In the five player game, the dealer pays to or receives from the declarer the same amount as each other defender.

The stake is expressed in terms of the cost of a Match. Typical stakes are 6, 12, 60, 120 or 240 Schilling. For example, in a 60 Schilling game each card point in an ordinary game is worth 1 Schilling. In a Solo the payments are doubled to 2 Schilling per point. The payments are also doubled for a Schwacher and for each Retour - so a declarer who took 72 card points in an ordinary game with Schwacher and Retour would win 48 Schilling from each defender - that is 144 Schilling in total in a four player game, or 192 Schilling in a five player game. The same result in a Solo would bring the declarer 288 or 384 Schilling.

When playing for 6 or 12 Schilling, the score for an ordinary game is generally rounded up to the next Schilling. For example, in a 12 Schilling game the payments would be:

Declarer's  Declarer wins from           Declarer's   Declarer pays to  
   score       each defender               score        each defender   

 61 to 65            1                    55 to 59            1         
 66 to 70            2                    50 to 54            2         
 71 to 75            3                    45 to 49            3         
   etc.                                     etc.                        
In a Solo, or in case of a Schwacher, the rounding is carried out before the doubling. So a declarer taking 76 points in a Solo would win 8 Schilling from each defender, or 16 Schilling each if they gave a Schwacher.

In the five player game, when no one bids, the cards are thrown in, the deal passes to the left, and the new dealer receives a Stockerl from each other player equal to the value of 10 points in an ordinary game (i.e. 2 Schilling in a 12 Schilling game, 10 Schilling in a 60 Schilling game, etc.). The reason behind this is that in the 5 player game there is a slight disadvantage in dealing - the declarer will win more often than not, and the dealer has to pay along with the defenders. Normally you deal through choice, because you were the previous declarer. If you are forced to deal merely because the previous hand was thrown in, you are entitled to compensation.

Revoking (i.e. failure to follow suit or play a trump when required to) is called verleugnen [laungen]. The deal is abandoned and the penalty is half the value of a Match in the game currently being played. If a defender revokes, all of the defenders have to pay the declarer (the partners of the offender also suffer); a declarer who revokes pays all the defenders. The same penalty is payable by the declarer if the wrong number of cards were discarded.

As in Droggn, this revoke penalty is too mild to be an effective deterrent to deliberate revoking, and is only suitable as a punishment for an accidental error. Although in certain circumstances it would in a player's interest to revoke on purpose, so as to avoid a higher loss if the game were played out legally, deliberate revokes of this kind are not allowed.

End of the Session

To complete a session, a Mußrunde is often played. This is a series of deals on which the player to dealer's left must be declarer, and can choose to play either an ordinary game or a Solo. This has the effect that the deal passes to the left after each hand. The Mußrunde continues for as many deals as there are players, so that everyone is forced to be declarer once, and then the session ends.

Notes on Tactics

On most deals at least one player will be able to play an ordinary game. The heart sow, another heart and another sow, or any three hearts plus a sow are generally sufficient. Sometimes a player with a strong hand may pass in the hope of giving a Schwacher to another declarer, but this runs the risk that the hand will be passed out, and it is generally more profitable to play when able to.

A Solo requires an extremely strong hand, and will usually only be played to outbid another player.

When the declarer loses, it is usually through losing a trick to one defender on which the other defenders are able to discard their sows and tens. Throwing valuable cards on a partner's trick in this way is called schieben [schiam]. To reduce the chances of this, the declarer should arrange to lose any tricks which must be lost while the opponents still have trumps. That way they have to play their trumps rather than discarding. For this reason the declarer will often begin by leading from a long, possibly weak, side-suit, rather than by drawing trumps.

When the declarer leads from a side suit, it is very often right for the defenders to hold back their high cards. This is called schinden. If the defenders release their top cards too soon, they run the risk of allowing the declarer to establish winners in the suit, and forgo the chance of winning a profitable trick later.

A Fuchs (fox) is a single card in a suit (not the sow) in the declarer's hand. Sometimes the fox will win a trick, or at least be lost very cheaply. This may happen when the defenders lead the suit, playing low cards because they expect the declarer to be void, or when the declarer leads the suit and the defenders hold back their high cards, believing the declarer to have more cards of the suit. Occasionally a fox may take a trick when the defenders have mistakenly discarded their high cards in that suit before the fox is played.