Neil Trentham — Barbu Corner

Barbu rules

In the version of barbu we play online, the full game consists of 28 deals. The dealer for the first deal is chosen at random. Each of four players  is dealt 13 cards, as at bridge. The dealer then selects the first game from the following seven, having looked at their cards:


(Negative games – all trick-taking games)

misere – a player tries to win as few tricks as possible

barbu (or “no king of hearts”) – a player tries to avoid winning a trick containing the king of hearts

no queens – a player tries to avoid winning a trick containing a queen.

no hearts – a player tries to avoid winning a trick containing a heart. This is the same game as “hearts” he said that there is no penalty for the queen of spades and there is no shooting the moon.

no last two – a player tries to avoid winning either of the last two tricks.


(Positive games)

dominoes – the player who chooses the game chooses an initial start card. Suppose he chooses a seven. The first player to play a card (declarer) can place any seven on the table. Suppose they place the seven of diamonds. The next player can play the six or eight of diamonds or any other seven. Suppose they play the eight of diamonds. The next player can play the six or nine of diamonds or any other seven. The game progresses as each player can play adjoining cards to the ones on the table. The objective is to get rid of all your cards. If you can play a card, you have to. If you cannot play a card, you can pass. Aces are high. The winning player is the one who gets rid of their cards quickest. This is the only gamethat is not a trick-taking game.

trumps – the player who chooses the game also chooses the trump suit. This is like bridge, each player trying to win the most tricks they can. It is not possible to choose No Trumps.


The other players then bid in clockwise rotation. A player may double any of the other players (Including declarer) at negative games or double the declarer at positive games. If they have already been doubled by one of the other players, they may redouble that player. Once the other three players have bid, the declarer may redouble anyone who doubles them if they wish. Declarer then leads to the first trick. The deal is then played out and scored up.


The scoring is as follows:

misere -2 per trick

barbu -20 for the trick containing the king of hearts

no queens -6 for each queen won

no hearts -2 for each heart won other than the ace and -6 for the ace of hearts

no last two -10 for the penultimate trick and -20 for the final trick

dominoes +45 for the player who gets rid of all their cards first, +20 second, +5 third, -5 fourth

trumps +5 for each trick


Your score on each deal is your total corrected for the difference in points with each player you are doubled with and twice the difference in points with each player you are redoubled with. For example, at misere where N gets 2 tricks, E gets 6 tricks, S gets 4 tricks and W gets 1 trick, N if they are doubled with S and redoubled with W gets -4 corrected by +4 for the action with S and corrected by -4 for the redoubled action with W. Therefore North’s final score is -4.


The deal then passes to the next player, who chooses a game similarly. Then the next two players choose a game. Then the deal passes back to the original declarer, who may now choose one of the remaining six games (the original seven minus the one they have chosen already). The game then progresses until each player has dealt seven times and chosen one of each of the seven games.


During a game, each player must double the other three players at least twice when that other player is declarer.


During the play at trumps, you are required to play a trump card higher than the one currently holding the trick if you can and trumps have been led. Also, you are required to trump if you are void in a suit that has been led and overruff if you can (you are not required to underruff). At no hearts and barbu you cannot lead hearts until you have only hearts left . The software we use for the online game takes these considerations into account when deciding what cards you are allowed to play. What it does not do is require you to play the king of hearts in situations where you need to (you cannot save it for a particular player, unless you have doubled or redoubled action with that player). If in doubt, please ask the other players.


Slightly different versions of barbu are played in different countries. The above version is how many people play in the UK and is the basis of the online game.The different ways people play the game are listed in


In the next few days I will outline how to join an online game and also outlines some strategies.

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