Klabberjass

This page is based on a contribution from Günther Senst.

Introduction

There are many related but slightly different games that go by names similar to Klabberjass. For example there is the international two-handed game Clobiosh, also known as Klob, Bela or (in some books) Kalabriasz, there is the Dutch national game Klaverjassen, and there is Clabber, a game played in Indiana, USA. There are also closely related games with other names - some of these are listed on the Jass group page.

This page describes the version of Klabberjass played in a specific region of northern Germany. "Das Alte Land" is a stretch of marshland 25km long and 8km wide on the southern bank of the lower Elbe river, between Hamburg and Stade. "Das Alte Land" literally translated means "The Old Country", but in this context the word "old" means that the land was considered worthless. Only after Dutch settlers drained it and protected it with dykes could it develop into the largest and most productive fruit growing region of northern Germany. In this region and on the edges of the neighbouring higher lying heathland, the people play Klabberjass. The game is so well-known there that tournaments are held.

In spring 1990, Günther Senst took part in a tournament organised by Messrs S Koschinski and Karl-H Brückner. Each tournament is advertised in a local paper, and if enough people register interest it takes place. On that occasion the entry fee was DM 20. This money was used to buy various large hams and sausages for prizes for the winners. There was also a small sausage as a consolation prize for the loser.

All the players who Günther Senst consulted considered that tournament Klabberjass, with three active players, was the most interesting version of the game; but after the tournament was over most people played Klaberjass for four or two players or played Skat. We know of no other written version of the tournament rules for Klabberjass, but among the players at the tournaments that Günther Senst has visited there was no doubt or disagreement about the rules; all were unanimous.

Rules for three-player tournament Klabberjass

Players and cards

The game is played with a 32 card French suited Skat pack - the suits are clubs, spades hearts and diamonds and the cards in each suit are ace, ten, king, queen, jack, nine, eight, seven. Where possible three players sit at each table. If the number of players is not divisible by three, the last one or two tables can have four players. At a four player table the dealer of each hand sits out while the other three play.

The deal

The deal and play are clockwise. After the dealer has shuffled, the player to the dealer's right must cut. For the first game of a session the cards are dealt singly until everyone has 9 cards. In subsequent games the players still receive 9 cards but they are dealt in batches of three.

The 5 cards remaining after the deal are stacked face-up on the table. The top card of the stack is turned crosswise so that the second card is also visible. The bottom three cards of the stack stay concealed and unknown to the players.

Ranking and point values of cards

Klabberjass is a point-trick game with trumps. The ranking and values of the cards are different in the trump suit from the other three suits, and there is yet another ranking that applies when the cards are melded in sequences. The rankings from high to low and the point calues are shown in the following table.

in trumpsin non-trump suitsin melds
jass20
mi14
ace11
1010
king4
queen3
80
70
ace11
1010
king4
queen3
jack2
90
80
70
ace
king
queen
jack
10
9
8
7

The jass is the jack of trumps and the mi is the nine of trumps.

Winning the last trick is worth an extra 10 points, so that there are a total of 162 points in the game if no combinations are melded.

The auction

There are one or two rounds of bidding.

The first round of bidding
The top card of the stack determines the trump suit for the first round of bidding. Beginning with forehand (the player to the left of the dealer) and going around the table clockwise, each player can say whether he would like to play with this trump suit or whether he passes. If any player accepts this trump with the words "Ich spiele" (I play), the bidding ends. This player plays alone against the other two players, and there is no second round of bidding. If all three players pass, the second round of bidding begins.
The second round of bidding
Each player - again beginning with forehand - can say whether he wants to play "Ein Kleines" (a small game). This means that he will play alone with a trump suit other than the suit of the top card of the stack. If a player says "Ein Kleines", the right to play alone can only be taken from him by a subsequent player saying "Besser" (better), so undertaking to play alone with the prioriy suit clubs as trumps. It follows that if the top card of the stack was a club, then the second round of bidding ends as soon as someone says "Ein Kleines", because clubs is no longer available as a trump suit.

If all players pass in both rounds, the same dealer deals again, as often as necessary until someone undertakes a game.

Robbing and melding

If the suit of the top card of the stack becomes trump, the player who holds the seven of this suit is allowed to exchange it for the top card of the stack. This exchange must be made (if at all) before the holder of the seven announces meld or plays to the first trick.

Announcements of the combinations "Terz" (or "Terze") and "Halbe" must also take place before the holder plays to the first trick. A Terz is a sequence of three consecutive cards; it is worth 20 points. A Halber (meaning half a hundred) is a sequence of four or more cards, and is worth 50 points.

The player with the best sequence scores this and all the other sequences that he has in his hand; no other player can score for sequences. If more than one player has a sequence they are compared according to the following rules:

  1. Any Halbe beats any Terz.
  2. A Terz with a higher top card beats one with a lower top card (for example 9-10-jack beats 8-9-10).
  3. Between equally high Terzen in diferent suits, a Terz in the trump suit is better.
  4. Between equally high Terzen, neither of which is in trumps, the winning Terz is the one held by the player whose first to turn to play is earlier (i.e. forehand has highest priority and dealer lowest).
  5. The ranking order of Halben is determined in the same way as that of Terzen.

If you wish to announce a sequence, you just say that you have some meld, without specifying what, before playing your card to the first trick. When all three cards of the trick are on the table, players who have announced mels give sufficient information about their sequences to determine who has the best one. The holder of the best sequence then shows this and any other sequences he has, and the cards of the first trick are then collected by the winner of the trick.

"Belle" - the king and queen of trumps - is also a meld worth 20 points. It is always scored, even if a different player has scored for the best Terz or Halbe. Unlike the other melds it is not announced until you play one of the cards to a trick. You then say "Von der Belle" to claim your 20 points. If you forget to announce it you cannot claim any points for it.

If you hold the king, queen and jack of trumps, then you have a Terz that is potentially worth 20, another 20 for the Belle, and another 20 for the jass, which is bound to win a trick as it is the highest trump. For this reason this combination is called a 60-Terz.

All late announcments are invalid.

The play of the tricks

Forehand (the player to the dealer's left) leads to the first trick. It is compulsory to follow suit, to trump, to overtrump and to undertrump. This means that:

  1. You must play a card of the suit led if you have one; if trumps are led you must play a trump.
  2. If you cannot follow suit you must play a trump.
  3. If trumps are led, or if a side suit which you do not have has been led and trumped, you must if possible beat the highest trump so far played to the trick - even if this highest trump was played by your partner.
  4. In the above situation, if you cannot beat the highest trump played, you must still play a trump even though your trump will not win the trick.
  5. Only when you are unable to follow suit and you have no trumps are you allowed to play any card you wish from another suit.
The trick is won by the highest trump played, or if contains no trumps, by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next. Each player collects their own tricks.

The scoring

Each player counts the total points in the tricks they have won, plus any meld they have scored. When counting points remember that the jass is worth 20 points, not 2 like the jacks of the other suits, and the mi is 14.

In order to win, the lone player must have more points than either opponent individually. If either opponent has at least as many points as the declarer, the opponents win. Note that opponents wins ties. The value of the game (the amount scored for winning or losing) depends on the trump suit. The values are as follows:

Original clubs  +8 points
Original spades  +7 points
Original hearts  +6 points
Original diamonds  +5 points
Small clubs  +4 points
Small spades  +3 points
Small hearts  +2 points
Small diamonds  +1 point

"Original" means that the game is played in the suit of the card on top of the stack, "small" means another suit chosen in the second round of bidding.

If the lone player wins, the value of the game is added to his score. If the opponents win, the lone player loses twice the value of the game and each opponent wins two extra points.

At a three-player table, two series of 24 deals are played; at a four-player table two series of 32 deals. Each player's cumulative score is recorded in a column, and to the right is an extra column in which the value of the current game is noted. Here is an example for the first round of a three-player game. The players are A, B and C:

ABCSpiel
1.-16+2+2-16(A loses an Orgi - i.e. Original - in Clubs)
2.-+9-+ 7(B wins an Orgi in Spades)
3.--+3+ 1(C wins a small game in diamonds)

Additional tournament rules

  1. There is no Kontra or Re, and no giving up (in contrast to the informal games described below).
  2. Every hand must be played out to the end.
  3. Shortened game: in order to save time the declarer - but not an opponent - may place his hand face up on the table and play the remaining tricks with exposed cards. This does not oblige him to win all the remaining tricks.
  4. If anyone breaks the rules of play by failing to follow suit, trump or overtrump when required to, the opposing team immediately wins the game.
  5. Any hint as to the distribution of the cards (such as an offer to give up), is punished by immediate loss of the game.
  6. Illegible or incorrect score-sheets are disallowed when awarding prizes. (Normally player No 1. at each table keeps score, but all players at the table are responsible for ensuring that the score is kept correctly.)
  7. The tournament director's decision is final. If necessary the tournament organiser can - after issuing a warning - disqualify a player from the tournament.

Three player Klabberjass - the money game

This is the informal version of the game, played between three individuals for money, rather than as an organised tournament.

The game is played with kontra, re and the possibility of giving up (schenken), as in the four player game. Apart from this and the scoring, the rules are the same as in the tournament game described above.

Any Orgi costs DM 1,-- irrespective of the trump suit; any small game costs DM 0,50.

Examples:

  • Orgi lost with Kontra and Re: the declarer loses DM 16, that is Orgi costs DM 1, lost DM 2, Kontra DM 4, Re DM 8 - and he has to pay DM 8 to each opponent.
  • A small game won: the declarer collects DM 0,50 from each opponent.

Klabberjass for four

The partnerships

To determine the partnerships, at the start one player deals out the cards face up in front of the players until an ace appears, and then continues dealing, omitting the player who received the first ace, until a second ace is found. The two players to whom the aces were dealt are partners against the other two. The players change seats if necessary so that partners are sitting opposite each other.

The deal and play

Each player receives eight cards, dealt in batches of three, two and three cards. The dealer exposes the second to last card - that is the middle card of the last batch of three - and places it face up on the table. The suit of this card is trump for the first round of bidding. After the first round of bidding, the dealer adds this exposed card to his hand.

The play of the cards follows the same rules as in three-player Klabberjass. Sequences are announced immediately before each player plays to the first trick, and the team which has the best sequence scores all the sequences held by both partners, the other team scoring nothing for sequences.

Kontra, Re and Schenken

The game is always played with Kontra and Re. If an opponent of the team that selects the trump suit thinks that the trump makers will lose, that player can double the score for the game by saying Kontra before playing a card to the first trick. Before play continues, either the trump maker or his partner can, if confident of winning, announce Re, which doubles the score again.

The players must agree before the session whether "Schenken" is allowed. Schenken is an offer to give up the game, and can be made only by an opponenet of the trump maker, immediately after the auction. If a player offers to give up, he thereby indicates that he has a weak hand. His partner can agree to give up or refuse. In any case he will know his partner's cards are weak and will be cautious about giving a Kontra.

Scoring

Partners keep their tricks in a single heap and at the end each team counts the number of points they have won. The trump makers win if they have more points (in cards plus melds plus the last trick) than the opposing team - so in the absence of melds they need at least 82 points. If there is a tie for points, or the opponents of the trump makers have more, then the trump makers lose.

If the side that makes trump wins the game, they win one game point if there was no kontra. A kontra doubles the score to 2 game points and a rekontra doubles it again, making 4 game points. If the trump makers' opponents win, they score twice what the trump makers would have won - that is 2 points for a game without kontra, 4 points for a kontra'd game, and in 8 points for a rekontra'd game. It makes no difference to the score what suit is trumps or whether the trumps is made in the first or second round of the bidding.

There are two methods of keeping score.

First method
The first team to accumulate six or more game points over as many deals as it takes wins the game and is paid a fixed stake.
The score is kept using two dice. Each team has a die in front of them, and the uppermost face indicates their current score. A 6 uppermost represents zero or six, so each team starts with their die showing 6. After each hand the winners turn their die to show their new score.
Second method
Each hand is paid for separately in cash, according to the number of game points won or lost.

Klabberjass for two

To begin with each player is dealt six cards, in two batches of three. The 13th card is turned face-up, and placed crosswise under the talon of undealt cards to determine the trump suit for the first round of bidding. When the bidding is over and the trump suit has been chosen, each player is dealt another batch of three cards, so that they have nine each.

The play and scoring is the same as in the four-player game.