Banakil

Introduction

Banakil is a Rummy game played in Jordan and some other Arab countries. Banakil is the plural form of bankal / bankaleh, which is the Arabic word for the wild Two, Twos and Jokers being the wild cards in this game.

This page, based on information provided by Sultan Ratrout, describes the Jordanian version of the Banakil.

Players and Cards

Banakil can be played by 2 to 5 players. If there are 4 players they can play as partners, two against two, partners sitting opposite each other. Otherwise, all players play as individuals.

A pack of 106 cards is used, made up of two standard international 52-card packs plus two jokers. Twos and Jokers are wild cards; all other cards from 3 up to Ace are natural cards.

The deal and play are counter-clockwise.

Deal

Each player is dealt a hand of 18 cards. The next card is dealt face up to the table (also known as the ground) to start the discard pile. The rest of the cards are stacked face-down in the center of the table next to the face-up card to form the stock pile.

Play

The player to dealer's right begins, and the turn to play passes to the right.

A turn consists of picking up a card from the stock pile or one or more cards from the discard pile, optionally melding some cards from your hand by placing them face up on the table, and finally discarding a card.

Draw and discard

To begin your turn you must either

  1. draw the top card from the stock, and put it in your hand without showing it to the other players, or
  2. take one or more face up cards from the top of the discard pile. The cards in the discard pile are overlapped and spread out so that players can see all the available cards. You may take as many cards as you wish but if you take a card from lower down in the discard pile you must also take all the cards above it - i.e. all cards that were discarded after it.

It is always permissible to take a card or cards from the discard pile, even if the player has not previously melded. For example the first player may take the face up card that was dealt to the ground, even if it is a wild card (Two or Joker). There is no obligation to meld any card that is taken. You may take cards from the discard pile and keep them in your hand for later use if you wish.

After drawing, you may meld cards if you are able to and wish to - see below. If you have any cards left in your hand after melding you must discard one card face up on top of the discard pile to end your turn.

There is no restriction on what can be discarded. Wild cards can be discarded if not needed. It is even legal to take the top card of the discard pile, meld nothing, and put the same card back on the discard pile leaving the situation unchanged. If all players were to do this the game would be a stalemate and there would be a new deal. However it is very unlikely that this would occur in an actual game.

Melding

Melding (nzool) is placing a valid combination (meld) of three or more cards from your hand face up on the table. There are two types of meld: the sequence (siri) and the set or group (majmoo’a / groop). Each player has a specific area in front of him for melding his cards.

During your turn, after drawing from the stock pile or discard pile, you may meld any number of valid combinations, placing them face up in your own meld area. Provided that you already have at least one combination in your own meld area (which could have been placed in the current turn or a previous turn) you have two additional possibilities.

  1. You may expand a meld belonging to yourself or your partner by adding one or more cards to it.
  2. If a sequence meld belonging to yourself or your partner contains a Joker and you have in your hand the natural card that the Joker represents, you may place the natural card in the meld in exchange for the Joker, which you take into your hand.

These two options are explained in more detail below.

Please note that:

  • You are never allowed to meld in your opponents' meld areas, or to add or exchange cards in your opponents' melds.
  • You cannot start a new meld in your partner's meld area - you can only add to melds that your partner has put down. You are not allowed to add cards to your partner's meld or exchange a real card for a Joker melded by your partner before you have melded at least one valid combination of your own in your own meld area.
  • Partners' melds are kept separate. Any cards that you add to your partner's melds are placed in your partner's meld area and are scored exactly as though your partner had melded them.

Sequences

A sequence consists of three or more consecutive cards in the same suit. For this purpose the cards rank in order 3-4-5-6-7-8-9-T-J-Q-K-A, Three being the lowest card allowed in a sequence and Ace the highest. The cards of a sequence are laid out in ascending order from left to right from the point of view of the player who owns the sequence.

Twos and Jokers are wild. A Two or a Joker or one of each can be used as substitutes for any cards of a sequence, but not more than one Two and not more than one Joker in any given sequence.

A player who has melded may add a natural card to his own or his partner's sequence. For this purpose any Two or Joker in the sequence may be freely moved to another position in the sequence, provided that the sequence remains valid, consisting of consecutive cards.

A player may substitute the appropriate natural card from hand for a Joker in his own or his partner's sequence, provided that the cards in the sequence remain consecutive. The Joker can be used in another meld immediately of it can be taken into the player's hand and kept for later use. However, a Two cannot be removed from a sequence in this way.

A sequence that has been melded can grow to any length, up to 12 cards, but cannot be split apart into smaller sequences.

Examples

The following are valid sequences that could be melded:

  • heart7-heart8-heart9
  • spadeJ-spadeQ-spadeK-spadeA
  • club2-diamond5-diamond6 - the 2 represents the diamond4
  • club10-Joker-heart2 - the joker represents the clubJ and the 2 represents the clubQ

The following are not valid sequences, for the reasons specified:

  • diamondA-diamond2-diamond3 - sequences can only run from 3 at the lower end as far as Ace at the upper end. A Two cannot be used as a natural card in a sequence.
  • spade7-spade6-spade5 - technically invalid as the cards are in reverse order. If laid down running from left to right 5-6-7 it is valid.
  • spadeK-spadeA-spade2 - technically invalid as placed, but if the 2 is moved to the left hand end these cards form a valid sequence with the 2 representing the spadeQ.
  • diamond7-spade2-diamond9-diamond2-diamondJ - it is illegal to use more than one 2 in a sequence. If one of the twos were replaced by a Joker this would be OK.
  • Joker-clubJ-heart2-Joker-heartA - it is illegal to use more than one Joker in a sequence, but without the left-hand Joker the sequence would be valid.

Adding cards to a sequence:

  • To heart7-heart8-heart9 it is possible to add a 2 or a Joker at either end or the heart6 on the left or the heart10 on the right.
  • To club2-diamond5-diamond6 it is possible to add a Joker at either end or the diamond3 or the diamond7. The diamond4 can be added, displacing the club2 to either end, or the diamond8 can be added by moving the club2 so that it represents the diamond7.
  • To club10-Joker-heart2 no further wild card can be added, since it already has a 2 and a Joker, but club9 or clubA could be added. Also the clubJ could be added by moving the Joker to either end, or the clubQ by moving the 2 to either end. The club8 could be added by first moving the heart2 to the left-hand end to represent the club9. The club7 could be added by moving both wild cards to the left end to represent the club8 and club9.

Exchanging a card for a Joker in a melded sequence:

  • In the sequence heart4-spade2-heart6-Joker-heart8 it is possible to take the Joker in exchange for the heart7 from hand, or to take the Joker in exchange for the heart5 by first interchanging the two wild cards.
  • In the sequence club10-Joker-heart2 it is possible to take the Joker in exchange for the club8, club9, clubJ or clubQ by adjusting the position of the heart2 as necessary to make the resulting sequence valid.

Sets / Groups

There are just two types of group / set:

  • Threes (Taras): a set of three or four Threes of different suits.
  • Aces (Qsoos / Gsoos / ’Asoos): a set of three or four Aces of different suits.

Sets of other ranks are not valid.

One Joker can be used as a substitute for one of the cards in a set. A set cannot contain more than one Joker, and Twos cannot be used as wild cards in sets at all. A Joker melded as part of a set must remain there: it cannot be reclaimed in exchange for a real Three or Ace.

Examples

The following are valid groups (sets) that could be melded:

  • club3-heart3-spade3
  • clubA-heartA-spadeA-diamondA
  • heartA-spadeA-Joker

The following are not valid groups (sets), for the reasons specified:

  • clubK-heartK-spadeK - sets can only be made with Threes or Aces.
  • club3-heart3-heart3 - a set cannot contain two identical cards.
  • heartA-spadeA-diamond2 - a Two cannot be used as a set, not even as a wild card.
  • diamond3-spade3-Joker-Joker - only one Joker can be used in a set.
  • clubA-heartA-spadeA-diamondA-Joker - a set cannot contain more than four cards.

Adding cards to a group (set):

  • To the set club3-heart3-spade3 a diamond3 or a Joker can be added.
  • To the set heartA-spadeA-Joker a diamondA or clubA can be added.
  • If a set has four cards, nothing more can be added.

End of the play

When a player manages to dispose of all the cards in his or her hand, the play ends and scores are calculated. The play can end in on of three ways:

  1. A player draws a card, melds all but one card from hand, and discards the last remaining card.
  2. A player draws a card and melds all cards remaining in hand, leaving nothing to discard. This is the only case in which a player's turn can end without a discard.
  3. The last card of the stock pile is drawn, but after the discard at the end of that turn all players still have at least one card in their hands. In this case no one scores.

It is customary for a player who holds only one or two cards to warn the other players, saying 'one card' or 'two cards'. A player holding one card could end the game at the next turn by drawing a card that can be used to expand a meld. A player holding two cards could end the game if the drawn cards fits with those two to make a new meld. Of course it is also possible for a player with three or more cards to end the game by melding, especially if the player has chosen to hold back some valid melds, keeping them in hand for tactical purposes.

A player who ends the game by melding his or her entire hand in one turn, with or without a discard, having previously melded nothing scores a bonus. Melding all at once in this way is called 'dhamoon'.

Scoring

Before the game the players should agree on a target score. Each player or team keeps a cumulative score, and the first team to reach or pass the target wins. When four players play in partnership the target is usually 202, 303 or 404 points depending on the length of game desired. When players play as individuals the target is usually 150, 151 or 202.

At the end of the play scores are calculated on the basis of the cards in each player's meld area and the cards remaining in the player's hands. The card values are:

3, 4, 5, 6: ½ point each
7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K: 1 point each
Aces: 1½ points each
Deuces: 2 points each
Jokers: 4 points each

The basic score for each individual player is the total value of the cards in the player's meld area minus the total value of the cards remaining in the player's hand. This can result in a negative score.

The player who ended the play with no cards in hand has a bonus of 20 points added to his or her basic score. If the player melded his or her whole hand at once, putting down cards and ending the play in a single turn without previously having melded anything, the bonus is 40 points instead of 20.

A player who has melded nothing at all does not count the value of cards in hand but instead receives a fixed score of minus 20.

In an individual game the scores of each player are added to their cumulative totals. A player's cumulative total score can thus be negative.

In a partnership game the team of the winning player scores the winning player's score. The opposing team adds together their individual scores and subtracts the score of the winners partner.

Fractional total scores are rounded to the next whole number to the benefit of the player or team: a positive score is rounded up but in a negative score the odd half-point is ignored.

Examples

  1. Two-player game. Player A melded all his cards and the total value of the melded cards is 24½ points. Player B melded some cards for a score of 6 points but the cards remaining in B's hand have a value of 11½ points. Result:
    • A scores +45, made up of 24½ plus for melds plus a bonus of 20 for getting rid of all his hand cards: total 44½ rounded in A's favour to 45.
    • B scores -5. B scores +6 for melds but -11½ for cards in hand for a total of minus 5½ rounded in B's favour to -5.
  2. Two-player game. Player B melded his entire hand in one turn with a value of 21 points. Player A did not meld any cards. Result:
    • A scores -20, because he melded no cards. The value of the cards in A's hand is not counted.
    • B scores +61, made up of 21 for melds plus a bonus of 40 for going out all at once.
  3. Four-player partnership game. North and South play against East and West. West melded all his cards for 26½ points. East has melds worth 14 points and the remaining cards in East's hand are worth 6½ points. North has melds worth 17 points and just 2 points remaining in hand. South has not melded any cards. Result:
    • East and West score +47 points: 26½ for West's melds plus the 20-point bonus for going out, rounded up.
    • North and South score -13 points. North has 15 points: 17 for meld less 2 in hand. South scores the standard -20 for a player who has not melded. East scores 14 for melds less 6½ for hand cards, and the resulting 8½ points will be subtracted from opponents' total. 15 + (-20) - 8½ = -13½ rounded to -13.
  4. Four-player partnership game. South melded all her cards at once with a value of 25 points. North has not melded. East has just 3½ points for melds and 16 points in hand. West has 10½ points for melds and 9 points remaining in hand.
    • North and South score +65 points: 25 for South's meld plus the bonus of 40 for going out all at once.
    • East and West score +9 points. East's individual score is -12½ (3½ minus 16), West's score is +1½. North's score of -20 for not having melded becomes a positive score for the opponents. -12½ + 1½ + 20 = 9. No rounding needed.

Variant

In a partnership some play that each team adds together the individual scores of its members, and scores the rounded total. That is, the score of the partner of the player who went out is counted for that team's score rather than against the opponents. Using this method, the last two examples would be scored as follows.

  • Example 3. East and West score +55 (=26½+8½+20). North and South score -5 (=15-20).
  • Example 4. North and South score +45 (=25+40-20). East and West score -11 (=-12½+1½)

Other websites

At jawaker.com an online Banakil game is available, but the rules are somewhat different from those given here. We think they correspond to a version of the game played in Palestine. For example in the partnership game at jawaker.com, if a player goes out putting down all their cards at once, that player's team scores 51 points if the other team has melded or 101 points if they have not, while the opponents score nothing.