Teka is said to be the most popular social game in Afghanistan. It is a whist-based game for four players, with an auction in which the team that undertakes to win most tricks has the right to choose the trump suit.
This page is mainly based on information from Gyula Zsigri who learned the game in 1992 from Sherzod Lukmoni, an Afghan of Persian descent living in Germany.
Players and Cards
There are four players in fixed partnerships, each player sitting between two opponents. A standard international 52-card pack is used, the cards of each suit ranking from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. The deal and play are counterclockwise.
Cards are only shuffled before the first deal. The dealers for the successive deals are allowed to cut the pack but may not shuffle.
The player to the left of the dealer always cuts the pack before the deal (and after the dealer's cut). 13 cards are dealt to each player, all 13 cards at once. A player without any high cards (A, K, Q, J) can ask for a new deal.
Beginning with the player to dealer's right, each player in turn has just one opportunity to speak. The possible calls are:
- a number from "8" to "13", offering to make trumps and committing the team to win at least that number of tricks;
- "double 13", offering to make trumps and win all 13 tricks, playing alone;
- "pass" or "ter" (meaning "through") or "behi ter" (meaning "completely through"), if the player does not want to make trumps.
Each ordinary number bid must be higher than the previous number bid. Any player may bid "double 13", which supersedes all previous bids, but can irself be superseded if later player also bids "double 13".
A "pass" by either of the first two players shows a hand that is not strong enough to bid "8" but nevertheless has the potential to take some tricks. A call of "ter" shows a worse hand, which cannot be relied on for any tricks. A call of "behi ter" shows an even worse hand. These different forms of pass by the first two players are used to encourage their partners to bid or discourage them from bidding. The third and fourth players simply say "pass" if they don't want to bid - there is no need to distinguish between "pass" and "ter" since their partners have already called.
If the first three players all pass (or ter or behi ter) the fourth player must bid at least 8 tricks.
The last and highest bidder becomes the declarer, chooses the trump suit and leads to the first trick.
The declarer is obliged to lead a trump to the first trick. If the declarer has the Ace of trumps the first lead must be a trump that cannot be beaten - for example holding the Ace, King and Queen the declarer can begin by leading any of these cards. If the declarer does not hold the Ace of trumps, any trump may be led to the first trick and the holder of the Ace must play it or some other trump that in unbroken sequence with the Ace. So the winner of the first trick is known to hold all trumps that are higher than the one they played.
Players must follow suit if possible. A player who is unable to follow suit may play any card. Each trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trump by the highest card of the suit that was led, and winner of the trick leads to the next. From the second trick onwards any card may be led and there is no requirement for the holder of the highest card of the suit to win the trick.
At any point during the play the declarer may propose to increase the number of tricks bid, and if the opponents accept this the bid is raised to the new value. As soon as the declarer's team have won the number of tricks required by the bid (or raised bid) or their opponents have won enough to make the bid unachievable, the play ends. The bid cannot be raised after it has been won.
During the play, limited communication between partners is allowed through the manner in which cards are played. All such communication must be public - partners are not allowed to make secret signs.
- Slamming a card on the table when playing it is a request to partner to lead that suit at the next opportunity.
- If a player presses one edge of the card they play to the table with their fingers, lifts the other edge with their thumb, and then suddenly releases the lifted edge so that it hits the table with a sound, that is a request to partner to lead the "associated suit". For this purpose hearts are associated with spades, and diamonds with clubs.
- Releasing a played card above the table so that it falls onto the table indicates that the player has no more cards of that suit.
A won bid scores as many points as many tricks were bid. For a lost bid the declarer's opponents normally score twice the number of tricks bid. However, a failed bid of 8 tricks by the fourth player after the other three have gives only 8 points to the opponents.
A "double 13" bid scores 26 points if won, or 52 to the opponents if lost.
The game is won by the partnership that first achieves a cumulative score of 104 points or more.
In some groups the dealer will give the cards a very light overhand shuffle before dealing, but the principle is still not to mix the cards too much. When the cards are dealt 13 at a time, cards that were played consecutively should often remain together, resulting in extreme distributions and more competitive bidding. Players who remember the play of the previous hand will also have an advantage in guessing the likely location of the cards in the new deal.
Some play with just two signals: slamming a card on the table shows confidence in that suit, and tossing a card on to the table shows a weak suit.
Some play to a target score of 100 rather than 104 points.
Some award 26 points for any successful bid of 13 tricks, and presumably 26 to the opponents if it fails. This is known as a "Lawreece".