This page is based on information from Sagi Goldman, Noam Nelke and Itay Adler.
This unusual draw and discard game has become popular with the younger generation in Israel in the last few years, both at home and when travelling abroad. It is somewhat akin to Rummy, in that players can get rid of cards by forming them into sets and sequences, but the mechanism of play is different. Sets and runs are not melded but discarded, so that one of the cards used can be picked up by the next player.
The name of the game comes from the fact that the objective of the game is to have a lower total value of cards in your hand than the other players. When you think you have achieved this, you call "Yaniv" to stop the play and compare hands. Yaniv is a Hebrew personal name, which leads some people to think that the inventor of the game might have been called Yaniv. I have no definite information on whether this is true. If someone has a lower total than the player who called "Yaniv", the situation is known by some players as "Asaf", which is another Hebrew name.
Each game is composed of rounds, with score being kept between them, and the goal of the game is to keep your score to a minimum. Players with more than 200 points drop out of the game, which is then continued until there is only one player left.
Yaniv can be played by 2 or more players. It is said to be best for 2-5 but in theory up to 8 or more people could play, though with a large number of players the game would be very slow.
A 54 card deck is used - the standard international deck with two jokers. When there are four or more players, some people prefer to use two such decks shuffled together, to avoid running out of cards. In that case you continue to use the double deck even after the number of players is reduced below 4.
Each card in the deck has a value: each ace is worth 1; cards 2-10 are worth their face value; pictures (J, Q, K) are worth 10 and jokers are worth zero.
Deal and play are clockwise.
Any player may shuffle deal the cards. Five cards are dealt to each player, one at a time, face down. The remaining cards are placed face down in the middle to form a drawing stock. The top card of the stock is turned face up and placed alongside it to start the "Dump Pile".
The players look at their cards.
The starting player for the first round should be chosen in advance by some random method, since the starting player has an advantage. In subsequent rounds the winner of the previous round starts. The turn to play passes clockwise around the table.
In your turn you are allowed to do one of two things:
- Throw one or more cards from hand to the Dump Pile and then pick one card up;
- Call "Yaniv", ending the play, if the total value of your cards is less than 6, and you believe that the other players have higher total values.
A player can throw either:
- Any one card;
- A set of two or more cards of the same rank (two 9s, three Kings, etc.);
- A sequence of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit (for example 4-5-6). In sequences aces are always low: A-2-3 is a valid sequence, but Q-K-A is not. A Joker can be used in a sequence as a substitute for any card.
No matter how many cards you throw, you pick up just one card. The cards that can be picked up are:
- The top card in the Draw pile.
- One of the cards thrown to the Dump Pile by the previous player. If the last player threw several cards, only the first or last card of the set or sequence can be picked up.
For example if the previous player threw the sequence 4-5-Joker-7, you could pick up the 4 or the 7 but not the 5 or the Joker. If Joker-8-9 was thrown you could pick up the the Joker or the 9.)
When throwing a run, the cards must be thrown in sequential order - for example 2-3-4-5, not 3-5-4-2 - so that the card that can be taken by the next player is the lowest or highest of a sequence. You could throw 8-9-Joker either in that order or as Joker-8-9, but players try if possible to avoid throwing a sequence ending in a Joker, since the Joker is too valuable to the next player.
Sets of equal ranked cards can be thrown in any order, protecting the middle card(s) from being picked up by the next player. For example if 8-8-8 is thrown, the next player can pick up either black 8 but not the heart 8.
Note that (unlike Rummy) you always discard before you pick up.
If at the start of your turn you have 5 points or fewer in your hand, and you think you have the lowest total, you may call "Yaniv". (The usual expression is actually "go down on Yaniv", which I am told is as suggestive in Hebrew as in English.) This ends the play and everyone exposes their cards.
Note that you are not obliged to call Yaniv when your total is 5 or less. You can throw and pick up if you wish, and play continues. Also, you cannot call Yaniv when it is not your turn. If after throwing and picking up you think you have the lowest total, you must wait for your next turn in order to call "Yaniv".
If the drawing deck is empty and no one has yet called Yaniv, all the cards of the dump pile except for the last player's discard are shuffled and stacked face down to make a new drawing deck.
The object is to score as few points as possible, and in particular to keep your cumulative total below 200.
When "Yaniv" is called, all players immediately reveal their cards.
- If the caller succeeded (had the lowest number of points in their cards) - the caller scores 0 points, and the other players score however many points they have in their hands.
- If any other player has the same number of points or fewer points than the caller, the caller scores 30 penalty points plus whatever they had in their hand, and the other players score whatever they had in their hands as points (in this case even the player with the lowest hand scores points). Some people call this situation "Asaf".
The player with the lowest card point total for that round starts the next round. If two or more players had the equally low totals, the starter of the next round will be the first of them, counting clockwise starting to the left of the caller.
The player's total scores are kept from round to round. Any player who has more than 200 points is eliminated from the game, which then continues with the remaining players, until only one survives.
If a player's score is exactly 200, it is reduced to 100. In the same way, if a player's score is exactly 100 it is reduced to 50. It is possible to aim for these numbers by calling Yaniv when you expect to lose - for example with a score of 166 you might well call Yaniv with 4 points in your hand hoping to lose and score 34.
It theoretically can happen that the last two (or more) players in the game are eliminated at the same time, as a result of a wrong call of Yaniv. For example the scores are 198-168, the player with 168 points calls Yaniv with 3 points, but the opponent also has 3, so now both are on 201. It is not clear what should happen in this situation. The only solution seems to be to play another round. If the final scores were different, say 201-202, one could say that the player with the lower score (201) was the winner.
Some play that when a set of equal ranked cards is thrown, the next player may pick up any of those cards, irrespective of the order in which they are thrown. In this variation it is still only possible to pick up the end cards of a sequence.
Many play with different point limits for calling Yaniv. Some play that you can call Yaniv with 6 or fewer points, others set the limit higher, at 7, 10, 11 or 13. The higher the limit the faster the game, so higher limits may be better for larger groups of players. Some play with no limit at all, so that you could even call Yaniv on your first turn if you thought the other players all had higher point totals than yours.
There are several different versions of the scoring rule about reducing your score when it exactly hits a certain number:
- Some play that if you hit 200 exactly you go back to 150 (not 100); if you hit 100 exactly you go back to 50 as usual.
- Some play that when you hit any multiple of 50 exactly (50, 100, 150 or 200), your score is reduced by 50.
- Some play that your score is halved if you hit 100, 150 or 200 exactly: for example from 150 you go back to 75.
Some play that if you manage to "Go down" successfully (i.e. scoring 0 points) three times during a game (not necessarily in a row), 20 points are deducted from your total score. This rule is suspended when only two players remain, otherwise the game may well never end!
A open source Windows version of Yaniv is available from Daniel Evans' sourceforge project.