Joker Karo

With thanks to Enoch Liu for finding sources of information about this game.

Introduction

The Indonesian card game Joker Karo is also commonly known as Leng, which means dragon. It is played mostly by the Batak people of northern Sumatra. It is less often played than in former times because of increasingly tight restrictions on gambling.

The players aim to get rid of their cards by laying them down in sets and runs similar to those used in Rummy, but in Joker Karo, unlike Rummy, there is no drawing and discarding to collect playable combinations. Most of the cards are dealt to the players at the start, and are played as the opportunity arises.

The rules on this page are based on descriptions on several Indonesian websites. However these descriptions unfortunately leave some details unclear. Some of these are mentioned below in italics. I would like to hear from any players who can provide more information on these details.

Players and Cards

Joker Karo is said to be best for 4 to 6 players, but it can be played by more or fewer, adapting the number of cards dealt as appropriate.

It is played with two international 52-card packs, each with 2 Jokers, for a total of 104 cards. The four Jokers and the two Aces of spades are also wild cards that can be used as a substitute for any card needed to complete a sequence.

Deal

The cards are shuffled thoroughly and then dealt to the players.

  • 4 players are dealt 24 cards each (12 cards remain undealt).
  • 5 players are dealt 20 cards each (8 cards remain undealt).
  • 6 players are dealt 16 cards each (12 cards remain undealt).

The undealt cards are set aside and not used until the next deal.

Play

The direction of play is clockwise. In the first round each player in turn must either pass or lay down one sequence (run) of 3 or more cards of the same suit from their hand face up on the table. The order of the cards in each suit is A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A. An Ace can be used at either end of a sequence (A-2-3 or Q-K-A) but not in the middle (K-A-2). A Joker of an Ace of spades can be used as a substitute for any card needed to make up a sequence.

After everyone has had one turn the rules change. From their second turn onward each player can

  • lay down one or more new sequences of 3 or more cards in a suit as above,
  • lay down one or more sets of 3 or more of the same rank (known as POK) in any suits - for example diamond3-club3-heart3 or heartQ-spadeQ-spadeQ-clubQ,
  • add one or more cards to extend a sequence that is already on the table,
  • add one or more equal ranked cards to a set,

or any combination of these possibilities. As is the first round a Joker or an Ace of spades can be used as a substitute for any card in a sequence. Cards may be added to any combination on the table laid down by any player, provided that the result is still a valid set or sequence. However, sets or sequences that are already on the table cannot be broken apart or rearranged.

A player who cannot or does not wish to play any cards simply passes and waits for their next turn.

Some details are not clear from the sources we have found.

  • Can more than one wild card be used within the same sequence - for example club5-Joker-club7-Joker-club9? My guess: no.
  • Can a wild card be used in a set (POK) - for example diamond6-diamond6-Joker? My guess: no.
  • Can a wild card be moved from one end of a sequence to the other when extending it? For example a sequence Joker-heart5-heart6 is on the table and I have a heart8. Can I move the Joker to play my heart8 and make heart5-heart6-Joker-heart8? My guess: no.

Scoring

As soon as a player gets rid of their last card, the game ends and that player is the winner, also known as 'Leng'. The other players count the value of the cards they still have in their hands as follows:

Each Ace of Spades 40 points
Each Joker 20 points
Each Ace of diamond, club or heart 11 points
Each King, Queen or Jack 10 points
Each pip card 10 - 2 face value

The player with the smallest value of unplayed cards is the second placed player, then the player with the next higher value comes third, and so on. Or the value of unplayed cards can be used to determine how much each player has to pay to the winner.

It would be good to know more details of how the payments at the end of the game are calculated.

Some sources imply that the Ace of spades, as well as carrying a high penalty if it is not played, brings an increased victory if a player wins with it. For example the description at dewapokertogel.net says "Kemenangan dengan AS Sekop menambah pengalian kemenangan kita." but gives no further details. My provisional guess would be that if you play an Ace of spades in your last turn when getting rid of all your remaining cards, you collect a double payment from the other players.

Other Pages

This rules on this page are based on descriptions in Indonesian at websites such as

Unfortunately most of these websites have the same or similar text and thus omit many of the same details. I am not sure which of them is the original.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2020. Last updated: 30th March 2020

HomeA-ZSitemapPolicy