This page is based on information from Veselko Kelava.


Žandari is a fishing game played in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The name Žandari is also used for the Jack, which can capture all the cards from the table. The name is thought to derive from the French or Italian word gendarme meaning a policeman.

Players and Cards

There are usually 2, 3 or 4 players. When there are 4, they play in partnerships. It is also possible for 6, 8 or 12 people to play, forming two teams, with each player sitting between two opponents. Deal and play are clockwise.

A standard 52-card pack is used. For capturing purposes the Aces count as 1, 2 to 10 have face value. Kings and Queens have no numerical value and Jacks have a special power to clear the table.


Any player may deal first, and after all the cards have been played and scored the turn to deal passes to the left.

The cards are shuffled by the dealer, and the person to the dealer's right must cut. There are no exceptions to this, and the cut must be at least 4 cards from each end of the pack. The player who cuts draws the bottom four cards from the upper part of the deck (the part that was lifted when making the cut) and places them in a row face up on the table. The new bottom card is not looked at by any player.

Now, if any of the 4 cards on the table are Jacks, the player who cut draws another card from the deck to replace it, and takes the jack for himself. However many Jacks are placed on the table, that player who cut takes them all as a reward for cutting in the right place and replaces each of them with a new card drawn from the deck, so that 4 face-up cards are left on the table.

When the cut is completed, the dealer deals a hand of 4 cards to every player, in a single batch, starting from his left and going around the table clockwise, finishing with himself. If the cutter took any Jacks, correspondingly fewer cards are dealt to this player, so that everyone begins the play with 4 cards. When all players have played their 4 cards, the dealer will deal everyone a new hand of 4 cards from the remaining deck, and continue in the same way until the deck is depleted.


The player to dealers left plays first, after which players take turns in clockwise order.

On his turn each player plays one card from his hand face up onto the table, and if possible captures some or all of the cards and places them in a pile that belongs to him (his team). Capturing is done in following manner:

  • If a player plays a card that matches a card by rank on the table, both of the cards are captured.
  • If the card matches more then 1 card on the table, only one of them is captured, not all.
  • If the card the player plays is a sum of two or more cards from the table, they are all captured. Player can only capture one set of cards whose sum is equal to the card he played (for example if there are 9 and two aces on the table, he can only capture a 9 and one of the aces if he plays a 10).
  • If the card played can capture by matching or by addition, the player is free to choose which cards to capture, but he must capture if possible. (This is important, because some players might wish to leave an Ace on the table while there already is an Ace there, so they could later capture both with the club2 - the "little one" - and score a point.)

If the card played does not capture anything it remains on the table and can be captured by a later player.

A King can only capture a King, and a Queen can only capture a Queen. They have no numerical value, unlike in Tablić.

Playing a Jack captures all the cards on the table. If the table has no cards on and you are forced to play a Jack from your hand (probably because it's your last card in hand) then you capture nothing and your Jack is left on the table. Other players will find this amusing and will mock you, happily saying that your Jack has dried up. Your Jack will stay on the table until somebody plays another Jack and captures all the cards, or until the end of the game.

Cards that are left on the table when everyone has played their four cards are not taken by any player if there are more cards left in the deck. They remain on the table while the dealer deals another four cards each, and then the player to dealer's left continues the game.

When all players have played their cards and the deck is empty, the player who was the last to take any cards from the table wins all the remaining cards that are left on the table.


The scores are calculated in the following manner:

  • The team (or player) with most cards gets 2 points. If tied, no points are scored for cards.
  • The team (or player) with most clubs gets 1 point. With 3 players they can be tied for no score.
  • The team that takes the "little one" (2 of clubs) gets 1 point.
  • The team that takes the "big one" (10 of diamonds) gets 1 point.

Thus there are 5 points to be scored every hand. The match is played until a team or player reaches the agreed target score, which can be 11, 21 or some other number depending on the length of match desired.

When counting score some players use the following method which allows you to count the cards and the clubs at the same time. Take your pile of captured cards in your left hand with the cards facing you. Grab the first card you see with your right hand and pull it of, then grab the second card from your left hand, so that it goes on top of the first card you moved, and the third will go on top of the second one and so on. You count the cards while you perform these actions. When you see a card that is a club, you move it to your right hand and you place all the cards from your right hand in a pile face up on the table. Once you finish counting all the cards in your pile you will be left with several face up piles on the table, each one with a club on top. Now you just count the clubs you see.

Other than with 3 players, 26 cards is a draw or "pat", 27 is "the cards" worth 2 points. Seven clubs is 1 point.

Tactics and Signals

Since this game is usually played by partners, most of them have their own signals they exchange during the game. This is done while the opponents are not watching, and although you will probably be accused of cheating if caught, rarely will it be considered a big deal. Signals are therefore something semi-legal. Common signals are:

  • Big one: briefly blow out your cheeks.
  • Little one: briefly show the tip of your tongue.

Most basic strategies include capturing any twos on the table (so that the opponents won't be able to save their little one if they have it), not leaving any cards that add up to ten (so that the opponents won't be able to save their big one), playing the little one when the table is empty (if the opponent doesn't have a 2 or a Jack, he can't capture the little one, and he'll be forced to play another card, which can be added to the little one to get it home), and so on.


After placing the initial row of four face up cards, some groups show the new bottom card to all players. Some dishonest players may be able to glimpse it anyway, in which case it is fair to let everyone have this information.

When Jacks appear in the initial row of face up cards, some groups place these Jacks on the bottom of the deck rather than giving them to the cutter. This way they end up in dealer's last hand, but most players feel that dealer should not be rewarded for a lucky cut by his opponent.

Some groups allow Aces to be counted as 1 or 11 as the choice of the player playing or capturing the Ace. This rule is borrowed from Tablić.

Another variation, rarely played, is that a card can capture more than one card or set of cards at the same time (provided that the sets are disjoint). For example with A, 2, 3, 5, 8 on the table you could play an 8 and capture either 8, 5, 3 or 8, 5, 2, A.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2014. Last updated: 10th August 2014