National and regional card games: Iran

Card games in Iran

Babak Mozaffari, Datis Khaje'ian and Ali Jahanshiri have told me about a number of card games currently played in Iran. All use the standard 52 card pack, sometimes with jokers. The suit of hearts is known as del , diamonds are khesht, spades are pik and clubs are geshniz (coriander) (gishniz in spoken Farsi) or khâj. The ace is known as tak (or âs), the king is shâh, the queen bibi and the jack sarbâz (soldier). The joker is sheytun (Satan).

  • Hokm is a whist-like game for four players in fixed partnerships, the aim being to win at least 7 of the 13 tricks.
  • Rok, also known as Shelem, is a point-trick game with bidding, possibly from the south of Iran. Aces and tens are worth 10 points, fives are worth 5 and each trick is worth 5. Both the name and the point structure of this game are so similar to the American game Rook that there must be a connection between the two games. I do not know how this came about or which game is derived from the other.
  • Ghahveh is a trick-taking game which seems to be a descendant of the American game Spades.
  • Ghârat (loot) is an unusual fishing game played with a single central pile, in which it is also possible to steal the other players' captures.
  • Pâsur (4 cards) is another fishing game, related to Basra and also sometimes known as Chahâr barg, Haft Khâj (seven clubs) or Haft va chahâr, yâzdah (7+4=11).
  • 9-5-3 is a trick-taking game related to Sergeant Major.
  • Rim or Râmi is a version of Rummy in which 13 cards are dealt and an initial meld of at least 30 points from each player is required. Penalty points are scored for unmelded cards when a player goes out and the winner is the player with fewest points when someone reaches the target score (300 or 500).
  • Blof (bluff) is similar to the Western game known as Bullshit.
  • Jarimeh (penalty) is a game similar to Hokm, except that there is a penalty for failing to take at least a certain number of tricks.
  • Poker in Iran is probably similar to the American game Poker.
  • Bisto Yek (21) is similar to Blackjack.

Here is an archive copy of the Farsi language site پاسور بازي (Persian Pasur), where rules of several of these games were available.

From around the end of the 18th century to the mid 20th century, As Nas was played, using a special 25-card pack consisting of 5 series of 5 cards. See the reference to Schindler on the Poker History page for some details of this game, and the Card Games article in Encyclopædia Iranica for some further historical background.

In the 16th and early 17th centuries, and perhaps even earlier, the 96-card Ganjafa pack was in use, with eight suits of twelve cards (two pictures and ten numerals in each suit). This is known from literary references - see the Encyclopædia Iranica article - but we do not know of any surviving cards, nor the rules of any of the games that were played. They were probably related to, and possibly ancestral to Indian Ganjifa cards and games.

In the period between World War II and the revolution, during the time of the Shah, Belote, Bridge, Poker and Blackjack were popular.

Pishe Pasha is a Jewish card game whose name seems to be Persian. Pishe Pasha means "close to the Pasha", "Pasha" being an honorary term used for a governor of a state or region. It is therefore possibile that this game is of Iranian origin, or has been popular there at some time. I would be grateful for any definite information on whether Pishe Pasha is or has been played in Iran, perhaps in the Jewish communities there.

This page is maintained by John McLeod (   © John McLeod, 2000, 2005, 2007. Last updated: 6th March 2011