Forty-One

This page is based on information from Dan Glimne, Alexey Lobashev and Peter Azzi.

Introduction

This trick-taking card game, which is often known as 400 (arba3meyeh) is much played in Syria, and to some extent in Lebanon. I have no explanation for the name 400 - this number does not arise anywhere in the game, at least as currently played.

Players and Cards

41 is a partnership game for four players, over several consecutive deals. The partners sit as in bridge, North and South playing against East and West.

A standard 52-card pack is used, ranking from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-...-2. Most commonly French-made packs are used, with French indices for the court cards, so the ranking is 1-R-D-V-10-...-2. Hearts is the permanent trump suit.

Deal

13 cards to each player, dealt anticlockwise in batches of 1-2-2-2-2-2-2. The dealer position also rotates anticlockwise.

Bidding

The bidding starts with the player to the right of the dealer and continues anticlockwise round to the dealer. Each player gets just one chance to bid. At your turn, having looked at your cards you state the number of tricks you think you can take. You must bid at least 1. The sum of all the bid values must be at least 11 for play to proceed. If it is 10 or less, all players throw in their hands and there is a new deal by the next player in turn.

A bid of from 1 to 6 tricks counts the corresponding total in points. A bid of 7 or more tricks counts double: i.e. 7 tricks = 14 points, 8 tricks = 16 and so on. Thus if any player bids 7 or more tricks, the total bid value is automatically above 11 and so proceeds. (In practice, the individual bids vary between 2 and 6, which leaves the decision of whether to play in the hands of the dealer: if the dealer has no reasonable bid that will bring the total to at least 11, the dealer throws in his or her hand and the other players immediately do the same.)

Play

The player to dealer's right leads any card to the first trick and play proceeds anticlockwise. Players must follow suit if possible. Those unable to follow suit may play any card - either trump with a heart or discard or discard from another suit. Hearts is the permanent trump suit. The highest trump, or in the absence of trumps the highest card of the suit led wins the trick, and the winner leads any card to the next trick. This continues until all 13 tricks have been played.

Scoring

Even though this is a partnership game, running total score is kept for each individual player. A player takes at least as many tricks as he or she bid scores the value of the bid (there is no extra score for taking more tricks than were bid). Example: A player who bids 4 and takes 4 or more tricks scores 4 points.

A player who bids 7 or more tricks and takes at least as many tricks as were bid scores twice the number of tricks bid. Example: A player who bids 8 and takes 8 or more tricks scores 16 points.

A player who fails, taking fewer tricks than were bid, scores minus points equal to the value of the bid. Failed bids of 7 or more therefore score minus twice the number of tricks bid. Example: A player who bids 5 and takes fewer than 5 tricks scores -5 points.

Winner: A partnership wins when one partner's score reaches or exceeds 41 points while the other partner's score is positive. If both teams reach this position in the same deal, the partnership with the higher total score wins.

Variations

The Lebanese game of 400 variation follows the above rules apply with the following differences.

  • Initially the minimum bid is 2 tricks (not 1) and the maximum is 12.
  • Some play that if your score is 30-39 points you must bid at least 3, with 40-49 points you must bid at least 4, and with 50 or more at least 5 - it is possible to score more than 50 without ending the game if your partner has a negative score.
  • The scale of point values of the bids is as follows:
  • Tricks bidPoints
    22
    33
    44
    510
    612
    714
    816
    927
    1030
    1133
    1236
    13win whole game
  • If you bid 13 and win all the tricks, your team wins the game, irrespective of your partner's score. If you lose a trick (even to your partner) your team loses.
  • Some play that any bid of 11 or more scores 50 points.

Some play to a target score of 44 rather than 41.

Some require that the bids must add up to at least 12 rather than 11 if any player has a score of 30 or more.

Software and online games

At letsplay400.com you can play 400 online against real opponents or against robot players.