Buraco

Introduction

This page is about the card game Buraco as played in Brazil. Similar games are played in some other countries, and there are separate pages about:

Buraco is a game related to Canasta, and in some ways similar to Samba, in that the aim is to meld combinations of seven or more cards that can be either sets of equal rank or sequences in a suit. Like several of the newer games of this family it also features a second hand of cards which is picked up by the first member of a partnership who disposes of all the cards from their first hand.

Buraco originated in South America, probably in the 1940's, and is still widely played there. A similar game Burako is played in Argentina using tiles instead of cards, and since the 1990's a variation Burraco has become extremely popular in Italy.

Several versions of Buraco are played in Brazil, where the game is also known as Canastra, Biriba or Perida. Buraco Aberto (open buraco) will be described first, then the differences in Buraco Fechado (closed buraco), and finally some other variants.

Players and Cards

There are normally 4 players in two fixed partnerships. The deal and play are clockwise. A 108-card pack is used, consisting of two standard 52-card packs with four wild jokers, known as curingão. The twos, known as curinga can be used either as wild cards or as natural twos in sequences. The card values are:

  • Each joker: 20 points
  • Each two: 10 points
  • Each ace: 15 points
  • Each K, Q, J, 10, 9 or 8: 10 points
  • Each 7, 6, 5, 4 or 3: 5 points.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by drawing cards and thereafter the turn to deal passes to the left. The player to dealer's right cuts the cards and forms two 11-card piles (mortos) from the cut portion: these are put aside to be taken by the first player of each team who runs out of cards. The dealer deals the cards one at a time from the remainder of the pack: 11 to each player. The remaining 42 cards are stacked face down to form the draw pile (monte). The game begins with the discard pile (lixo or bagaço) empty.

Melds

The aim of the game is to score points by putting down melds. Each team keeps its melds together. Players can add cards to their own team's melds but not to melds put down by their opponents.

A meld consists of a sequence (seguida) of three or more consecutive cards of a suit. For this purpose the cards rank A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A. It is possible to have a 14-card sequence with an ace at each end. A meld can contain at most one wild card (a joker or a two) as a substitute for a missing card. A two of the correct suit can alternatively be used as a natural card, immediately below the three, and it is possible for a sequence to contain a wild two or joker in addition to a natural two.

A sequence that contains a wild card is dirty (suja): a sequence consisting entirely of natural cards is clean (limpa). A sequence of seven or more cards is called a canastra, and the team scores a bonus for this.

In Buraco Aberto there are no sets of equal cards, only sequences.

Play

The first player, to the right of the dealer, takes the top card of the draw pile, looks at it, and decides whether or not to keep it. The options for the first player are:

  1. Keep the first card; possibly put down one or more melds; discard one card froim hand face up to end the first player's turn.
  2. Discard the first card face up; take a second card from the draw pile; possibly put down one or more melds; discard a second card face up on top of the first to end turn.

Thereafter, the turn to play passes counter-clockwise and each turn consists of:

  1. Taking either the top card of the face-down draw pile or the whole of the face-up discard pile.
  2. Optionally putting down melds or adding cards to melds already put down by the player's team.
  3. Discarding one card face up on the discard pile.

In this open game, the cards of the discard pile are overlapped, so that all their values can be seen.

Note: the special procedure for the first player is almost equivalent to having turned up a card after the deal to start the discard pile and giving the first player a normal turn, choosing between this and drawing an unknown card from the stock pile. The only real difference is that if the first player keeps the first card drawn, the other players do not know what it was.

The first player who gets rid of the last card from his or her hand picks up takes the first morto of 11 cards to use as a new hand. The second morto is taken by the first player of the other team who runs out of cards. Running out of cards is known as a batida and there are two types:

  1. batida direta (or batida seco) in which all the player's cards are melded. The player picks up the morto and carries on melding, until the turn is ended by discarding from the new hand.
  2. batida indireta: when a player discards his or her last card to claim a morto, the new 11-card hand cannot be used until the player's next turn.

When a team has taken its morto, either player of that team can end the play with a second batida if the following conditions are fulfilled:

  • The player melds all but one card from hand, and discards this last card.
  • The team has melded at least one canastra limpa - a clean sequence of seven or more cards without a wild card.

If the draw pile runs out before both the mortos have been taken, then a morto is converted into a new draw pile of 11 cards, and play continues. If the draw pile becomes empty and both mortos have been used, the play ends. The turn of the player who took the last morto is completed, and the points are then counted.

Scoring

When the play ends, both teams score as follows:

cards in melds on the table plus card value
cards in players' hands minus card value
canastra limpa (clean sequence of 7+ cards) 200 points extra
canastra suja (7+ card sequence including wild card) 100 points extra
canastra meia real (clean 13-card sequence) 500 points extra
canastra real (clean 14-card sequence) 1000 points extra
for going out (closing) 100 points extra
if one team has not taken its morto, that team scores minus 100 points

If a player takes a morto after discarding (batida indireta), but never plays a turn with it because someone else goes out before the player's next turn, the team is charged the 100 point penalty for the unused morto, rather than adding up the values of the cards in it. Note that if neither team has taken its morto, the 100-point penalty does not apply to either side.

The game is normally played to 3000 points: when a team reaches or passes this total, the team with the higher score wins.

A team whose cumulative score is at least half the target score (at least 1500 when playing to 3000) is said to be vulnerable. The first meld(s) put down by a vulnerable team must have a card value of at least 75 points.

Buraco Fechado

This game is called "closed buraco" because the cards of the discard pile are stacked so that only the top card is visible. It is usually played with several other differences from the above rules.

  • It is possible to meld a set of three or more equal cards, known as a lavadeira or charuto or tripa. At most one wild card can be included in the set. A set of seven or more forms a canastra suja or canastra limpa, depending on whether it contains a wild card, and scores accordingly. It is possible to meld a set of twos, and a canastra of twos scores 1000 points.
  • The discard pile can only be taken if its top card is immediately used in a meld. This meld can include other cards from the pile, and if the team is vulnerable, meldable cards from the pile can be used towards the 75 points to justify its first meld. If the top card of the discard pile is a wild card (two or joker), the pile can only be taken is the wild card is used as part of a new meld.
  • A player can go out if the player's team has taken its morto and made at least one canastra - the canastra does not have to be clean.

Variations

Some play to a target of 2000 or 3500 points rather than 3000.

Some players round all scores up to a multiples of 10 - for example 485 is recorded as 490.

Some play without vulnerability - there is no minimum meld value.

Some play that jokers are worth 50 points each rather than 20.

Some score 150 for a dirty canastra and 300 for a clean canastra.

In buraco fechado, some count any clean set of all 8 cards of a rank, such as eight 9's, as a canastra real, worth 1000 points.

Some award a bonus of 100 points to the non-dealing team if the player making the cut does so in such a way as to leave exactly 44 cards, so that the dealer has exactly enough cards to deal to the players. However, when playing with this rule, if the cutter leaves the dealer with fewer than 44 cards, the cutter's team is charged a 100-point penalty.

Some play that the person who cuts the deck can look at the bottom car from the upper portion of the cut. If that card is a joker or a 2 (that is, any wild card), they can keep it as a card for their hand. Dealing happens normally, but the person who cut and already has their first card is skipped during the first dealing round.

Other Brazilian Buraco websites

Descriptions of Buraco in Portuguese:

You can play Buraco on line at

  • the Brazilian Megajogos site
  • The Brazilian Jogatina site, which offers two versions of Buraco and a related game Tranca.
  • The Brazilian Ludopoli site, where you can play buraco aberto and fechado, tranca and other card games.
  • Game Desire