Omi

This page is mainly based on information from Thushara Wickramasinghe.

Introduction

Omi is a popular card game played in Sri Lanka: in some regins it is known as Oombi. The name suggests some connection with Hombre in the distant past, but if this is so, little trace of the influence of Hombre remains. Omi is a straightforward partnership plain-trick game of the Whist type, somewhat similar to the Indian and Pakistani game Court Piece in that the first player has to choose trumps on the basis of a the first few cards.

Players and Cards

There are four players in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite (North and South play against East and West). Deal and play are counter-clockwise.

A standard international 52-card pack is used, but only 32 of the cards are used for play. These cards rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7 in each suit.

The remaining 20 cards are used for scoring. One player (say North) takes charge the ten black scoring cards (2-6 of clubs and spades) and an opponent (say West) takes charge of the red scoring cards (2-6 of hearts and diamonds). These cards are used as tokens, each card having the same value. The other two players (South and East) are in charge of collecting tokens won from the opponents. So the red and black token cards are never mixed: in this example black tokes are transferred from North to East and red tokens are transferred from South to West.

Deal and Making Trumps

Any player may deal first, and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

The dealer shuffles the 32-card pack and offers the cards to the opponent to the left to cut. The dealer then deals a batch of four cards to each player.

The player to dealer's right looks at the four cards and must decide (without help from any other player) and announce which suit will be trumps. The dealer then deals a second batch of four cards to each player, so that everyone has eight.

Play

The player to dealer's right, who announced the trump suit, leads any card to the first trick. The other players play in turn, anticlockwise around the table, and must follow suit if able to; a player who holds no card of the suit led may play any card.

If no trumps are played, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit that was led. If any trumps were played the highest trump wins the trick. The winner of the trick gathers the four cards, stacks them face down in the team's trick pile, and leads any card to the next trick.

Scoring

After the eighth trick, the tricks won by each team are counted.

  • If the team that chose the trump suit have 5, 6 or 7 tricks, they win one token cards from the opponents' supply.
  • If the team that did not choose the trump suit have 5, 6 or 7 tricks, they win two token cards.
  • If either team wins all 8 tricks, they win three token cards. This is known as Kapothi, or in the south as Basthe.
  • If the teams take 4 tricks each, no token cards are transferred, but an extra token card is won the next time a team takes more than 4 tricks.

The winners are the first team to win 10 or more tokens. So when a team runs out of token cards in their supply, or does not have enough token cards to pay the winning team, they have lost the game.

Tactics

When choosing trumps, one should select the suit in which one has most cards. Between two equal suits one of which contains the ace, it is better to make the other suit trumps, since the ace is likely to win a trick whether it is a trump or not.

As in any partnership trick-taking game, it is important to remember what cards have been played and to co-operate with your partner. So for example you should not normally beat or trump your partner's card when your partner is likely to win the trick.

If your partner plays a winning card and you have no card of that suit, you may discard a card of the suit that you would like your partner to lead next, either because you have the highest card of that suit, or because it is your only card of the suit and you will be able to trump it.

Holding the ace and a queen of a suit that is led by another player it is often worth finessing, playing the queen rather than the ace, which can gain a trick when the opponent to your left has the king.

It is difficult to choose trump when holding four cards of different suits - essentially one has to trust to luck. Some players pick the suit of the lowest card in this situation. Some players, holding four cards in three suits, with two low cards in one suit, will choose as trumps the suit in which they have no cards, hoping either to get trumps in the second part of the deal, or that partner will get them.

Variations

Some play that in order to win 3 tokens for taking 8 tricks, you need to announce before the seventh trick that you intend to win all eight tricks. If, having announed this, you then lose one of the last two tricks you have to give 4 tokens to the opponents.

Software

Here is a free computer version of Omi Sinhala for Windows.