Chor Voli / Ramchi
Gyula Zsigri learned the Afghan game Chor Voli (pronounced like "chore volley") from Sherzod Lukmoni in 1992. In 2011, Tilman Schieber described a similar game Ramchi which is said to have come from Pakistan where it is popular with Afghan refugees.
Chor Voli is a partition game, similar to the British game Crash. Each of the four players has 13 cards, which are used to form up to four 3-card hands, similar to Brag hands. These are then played out in a series of showdowns, starting with each player's strongest hand.
Players and Cards
This is a game for four players, each playing individually. A standard international pattern 52-card pack is used, and the direction of the game is counterclockwise.
Chips are normally used for scoring.
The valid three-card combinations in descending order of strength are the following:
- Three of a kind (highest)
- The highest of these is A-A-A, then K-K-K, Q-Q-Q, ... down to 3-3-3, 2-2-2 (lowest).
- Three-card straight flush
- Three consecutive cards of the same suit. The highest is A-K-Q, then 3-2-A, then K-Q-J, Q-J-10, ... down to 4-3-2 (lowest).
- Three-card straight
- Three consecutive cards of mixed suits, ranking in the same order as straight flushes.
- Three-card flush
- Three cards of the same suit, not consecutive. Compare the highest card first (ace high). If the high cards are equal compare the second cards, then the third. So A-K-J is highest and 5-3-2 is lowest.
- Three unrelated cards (lowest)
- Three cards of which no two are the same rank or the same suit. Compare the highest cards first, then if necessary the second and third cards. As with flushes, A-K-J is the highest and 5-3-2 the lowest.
Note: three unrelated cards must really be unrelated. If two of the three cards are of the same suit, or if two of the cards for a pair, they cannot form a combination of three unrelated cards.
Note. I am not certain what is the highest three of a kind. Possibly some or all players regard three threes as highest, beating three aces, as in Brag. Obviously it's worth checking this before playing. If anyone has information on this, please let me know.
Deal, Discard and Play
Before the deal, each player contributes 1 chip to the pool. Then they receive 13 cards each. It is up to the dealer how many cards he deals at a time.
If a player has four of a kind, there is no play and the player with the highest four of a kind wins all four chips of the pool. [When comparing fours of a kind, probably four aces are highest, followed by kings, queens, etc. down to twos (lowest). Another possible rule is that four fours are highest, followed by A, K, ... . Any information on this will be gratefully received.]
If no one has four of a kind, the players sort their hands into three-card combinations as described above and then discard face down the cards that are not part of a valid combination. Each card can only be used in one combination.
The number of the discards depends on the number of the valid combinations. A player who can form four combinations discards one card, a player with three combinations discards four, etc. It is illegal to keep cards that are not part of combinations in your hand.
After everyone has discarded at least one card, the first player (to dealer's right) puts his strongest combination face up on the table. (If he plays before everyone has discarded, it is only to his own disadvantage because everyone is allowed to rearrange his hand before discarding.) The other players follow with their strongest combinations counterclockwise. Whoever has the highest meld takes one chip from the pool and leads to the second round in which everyone plays his second strongest combination, etc.
Note: It is possible that two players will play equal highest combinations - for example two people have a straight flush of 9-8-7 in two different suits. I am not sure what happens in this case. I suggest that the first played of equal combinations should beat the second.
Players who have used all their combinations do not compete in later rounds. For example if only one player has four combinations then he automatically wins the last round of the play.
A player who wins the last round of the play shuffles and deals the next hand.
Chor Voli might at first sight seem to be a game of luck, but in fact there is significant skill in deciding how to divide one's hand into combinations. For example it is generally unwise to form a very strong first combination followed by three feeble ones. It is more profitable to make the first combination only slightly stronger than the second, and so on, because the later rounds are just as valuable to win as the first.
This game is similar to Chor Voli. The version Tilman Schieber learned was for three players, who are dealt 17 cards each. The remaining card is placed face up on the table and can be taken by the holder of the two of diamonds in exchange for that card. Each player can form up to five combinations, the remaining two or more cards being discarded.
The ranking of straights is different from that used in Chor Voli. A-2-3 is highest and the combination 2-3-5, which would be the lowest unrelated set in Chor Voli, is called a "ramchi" and counts as the second highest straight. So the rank of straights is A-2-3, 2-3-5, A-K-Q, K-Q-J and so on down.
For suited runs (straight flushes) the equivalent rule applies: A-2-3 is highest, then 2-3-5 (ramchi), then A-K-Q and so on down.
In the play the winner of the first round wins 1 point from each opponent, the winner of the second round wins 2, the third 3, the fourth 4 and the fifth 5. So there is a definite incentive to make five combinations, and for the later combinations not to be too weak. The points are worth about 1 Afghani each (roughly equivalent to US $0.02 in 2011).
Note that the combinations do have to be played in descending order of strength: it is illegal to play a combination that is stronger than what you played on the previous round.
Ramchi can also be played by four players, each receiving 13 cards and playing up to four combinations, in a similar way to Chor Voli.