Joker (ჯოკერი) is a card game played in Georgia in which each player tries to predict exactly how many tricks they will win. It is closely related to Oh Hell!, Romanian Whist, and other games of similar type, but with the key difference that the 36-card pack includes two Jokers which may be used as either high cards or low cards at the choice of the player.
This page is based on information from Alexander Tvaladze, with some additional variants from BigDiesel2m's web page.
Players and Cards
A standard deck of 36 cards is used, with Jokers substituted for the two black Sixes. The remaining cards in each suit rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-(6).
There are normally four players, each playing for themselves. It is possible for 3, 5 or 6 to play, and the necessary modifications are described in the Variations section.
The deal and play are clockwise, and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.
A complete game consists of 4 sets of hands, with varying numbers of cards dealt to each player.
- In the first set there are 8 hands. In the first hand just 1 card is dealt to each player, in the second 2 cards, then 3, 4 and so on up to 8 cards each in the 8th hand.
- In the second set there are 4 hands with 9 cards dealt to each player.
- In the third set there are again 8 hands, with 8 cards each dealt in the first hand, 7 each in the second, the 6, 5 and so on until in the last hand of the set only 1 card each is dealt.
- The fourth set is like the second set: 4 hands with 9 cards dealt to each player.
So there are 24 hands in all. Before each hand the dealer shuffles the cards and the player to dealer's right cuts. Then the dealer deals out the appropriate number of cards one at a time to the players. The next card is turned face up to indicate the trump suit and the remaining cards are set aside.
In the second and fourth sets, when there are no cards remaining after dealing 9 each to the players, the dealer's last card is dealt face up and indicates the trump suit.
If the trump indicator card is a Joker, the hand is played with no trumps.
Starting with the player to dealer's left, and continuing clockwise, each of the players must state how many tricks they intend to win. A bid of '0' tricks can also be indicated by saying 'pass'.
The total of the tricks bid by the players is not allowed to be equal to the number of cards dealt to each player. This ensures that at least one player's bid will fail. Therefore the dealer, who speaks last, is not allowed to bid a number that makes the total tricks bid equal the number of bids available. For example if two cards each were dealt and there have been two passes and one bid of '1', the dealer is not allowed to bid '1' but must bid either '0' or '2'.
The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick, and thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next.
Any card may be led. The other players in turn must follow suit if able to (or play a Joker). A player who has no card of the suit led must play a trump (or a Joker). A player who has neither cards of the suit led nor trumps may play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trumps by the highest card of the suit that was led.
A Joker may be played to any trick, and the person playing it must announce whether it is high or low. If a Joker is led to a trick, the player also specifies the suit that must be followed.
- If a Joker is led and announced as high, each of the other players must play their highest card of the specified suit (or the other Joker).
- If the specified suit is trumps, a player who has no trumps may play any card (not necessarily a high one).
- If a non-trump suit is specified, then a player who has no cards of this suit and does not play the other Joker must play a trump if possible (any trump, not necessarily a high one) or holding no trumps and no card of the specified suit may play any card.
- If a Joker is led and announced as low, the other players must play cards of the suit specified by the leader if possible (they do not have to play their lowest cards), or if they cannot follow suit they must trump if they can. As always, the holder of the other Joker may play it instead of following suit or trumping.
A Joker played as high always wins the trick except in two cases:
- A subsequent player plays the other Joker as high in the same trick: if two Jokers are played as high in the same trick, the second of them wins.
- A joker is led as high specifying a non-trump suit and another player, having no card of the specified suit, plays a trump. In this case the highest trump wins the trick, beating the Joker.
A Joker played as low always loses the trick except in one case: if a Joker is led to a trick as low and no one else plays the specified suit or a trump or a high Joker, the Joker that was led wins the trick by default.
A player who wins the exact number of tricks they bid scores 50 points per trick bid and won plus 50 bonus points.
A player who wins more or fewer tricks than they bid scores 10 points per trick won.
A player who bids to win all the tricks and succeeds scores 100 points per trick bid and made.
There is a bonus for the player whose bids succeed in every hand during one of four sets. This player gets an additional score equal to the highest amount they scored on any one hand during the set. (This sometimes happens in the four-deal sets - the second and fourth. In the longer first and third sets it is very rare.)
A player who passes and loses every trick scores 50 points. A player who passes and wins two tricks scores 20 points. A player who bids one or more trick and takes none scores nothing.
In a 4-card deal:
- a player who bids 3 and wins three tricks exactly scores 200 points (3×50 + 50),
- a player who bids 3 tricks and wins 4 scores 40,
- a player who bids 4 tricks and wins 3 scores 30,
- a player who bids 4 tricks and wins 4 scores 400 (4×100).
Instead of using Jokers, some play with a standard 36-card pack including black Sixes and use the black Sixes as Jokers.
Some play with a 38-card pack including the black Sixes and two Jokers. In this case the black Sixes function as ordinary Sixes - the lowest cards of their suits. In this version the trump suit in the second and fourth sets is determined by turning up one of the two undealt cards, not one of the dealer's cards.
Although the game is probably best for 4 players, it is possible for more or fewer people to play.
- With three players, the first and third sets consist of 11 deals (increasing from 1 to 11 cards each and decreasing from 11 to 1). The second and fourth sets have 3 deals of 12 cards each.
- With five players, the first and third sets consist of 6 deals (increasing from 1 to 6 cards each and decreasing from 6 to 1). The second and fourth sets have 5 deals of 7 cards each.
- With six players, the first and third sets consist of 5 deals (increasing from 1 to 5 cards each and decreasing from 5 to 1). The second and fourth sets have 6 deals of 6 cards each.
Some play that in hands where all the cards are dealt, instead of turning up one of the dealer's cards, the hand is played with no trumps. Others in this case allow the player to dealer's left (who bids and plays first) to choose the trump suit (or no trumps) after looking at just the first three cards dealt to them.
In some groups there is a penalty known as a hist for a player who bids 1 or more tricks but wins none. In sets 1 and 3 the penalty is to lose 200 points: in sets 2 and 4 the penalty is to lose 500 points. The word 'hist' is derived from Georgian 'hishti' (ხიშტი) which means bayonet.
Some play that if all of a player's bids in one of the sets is successful, not only is that player's highest score in that set doubled, but also every other player has to erase their highest score in that set.
Some play that if the card turned up to determine trumps is a Joker, the player to dealer's left, after looking at their hand, can opt either to play the hand without trumps or to demand a redeal for double score. If a Joker is again turned for trumps in the redealt hand, the first player can play no trumps for double score or demand a redeal for triple score, and so on. The doubling, tripling, quadrupling, etc. applies to all scores except the score for a successful pass winning no tricks, which always scores just 50.
There may be some variation in the rule on who wins the trick when a Joker is led as high specifying a non-trump suit and another player plays a trump. In the related Russian game Расписной покер, although players who cannot follow suit must trump, some may play that the led Joker still wins the trick. It may be that some players of Georgian Joker also use this rule.
Software and Online Games
At jok.ge there is an online Joker app for Android, iOS or web browser.
Gamifications's online Joker app is available for Androis or iOS.