This version of the rules adapted from Daniel Spivak
Durak (Russian: дурак, fool) is a Russian card game played according to the following rules:
- Durak is played with a standard deck of fifty-two playing cards. The ranks, in increasing order, shall be: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. At the players' discretion, the game may be played with a smaller deck, formed by removing all cards with rank less than or equal to a given rank.
- The game begins with the distribution of six cards to each player. Cards are dealt face down from a shuffled deck. The remainder of the deck is denoted the draw pile. Immediately after dealing, the dealer shall draw the top card from the draw pile, flip it face-up, and place it at the bottom of the draw pile, perpendicular to the rest of the deck so that its rank and suit are visible to all. The suit of this card is denoted the trump suit for the current game. Note that this card is still part of the draw pile, and is in fact the last card in the draw pile.
- Gameplay proceeds in a series of rounds. Each round is started by a unique player. The player who starts the first round shall be determined by the following rules: (a) If this is the first game in a series of games, or the previous game in the current series of games did not conclude with a unique loser, then the identity of the player who shall begin the first round is established by the following process: first, the players determine whether any player holds the card of trump suit and lowest rank in the deck; if so, the process terminates and this player starts the first round. If not, the players then establish whether any player holds the card of trump suit and second-lowest rank in the deck; if so, the process terminates and this player starts the first round. If not, the process continues in increasing order of rank until a player is found to possess a card of trump suit; that player shall start the first round. If it is discovered that no player holds a card of trump suit, then this process is repeated starting with the card of the other suit of the same colour as the trump suit and lowest rank in the deck. If it is discovered that no player holds a card of that suit, either, then the first round shall be started by the player immediately clockwise from the dealer. (b) If this is a subsequent game in a series of games, and the previous game in the current series of games concluded with a unique loser, then the first round of the current game shall be started by the player immediately counterclockwise from the loser of the previous game.
- If a player is dealt the card of trump suit and lowest rank in the deck, that player shall be entitled to swap it with the bottom card; that is, the bottom card shall be taken into the player's hand, and the low trump shall be placed face-up at the bottom of the deck, perpendicular to the other cards, with its rank and suit clearly visible to all. If this player is also to start the first round of the game, they may only swap before beginning the first round. If a different player is to start the first round of the game, they must not do so until the player holding the card of trump suit and lowest rank in the deck has been given an opportunity to decide whether or not to swap.
- A card is said to beat another card when: (a) the two cards are of the same suit, and the first card is of greater rank than the second; or (b) the first card is of trump suit, and the second is not.
- In each round of the game, the player who starts the round is initially denoted the primary attacker, the player immediately clockwise from the primary attacker is initially denoted the defender, and all other players are initially denoted the secondary attacker(s).
- The round begins when the primary attacker selects one or more cards of equal rank from their hand and places them face-up in front of the defender; this constitutes an attack against the defender. At any point after this initial attack occurs in any given round, any attacker may augment the attack with additional cards from their own hands, provided that each additional attacking card is of rank equal to that of a card previously played during the same round.
- The defender may counter any attacking card of the current round by selecting a card from their own hand and placing it face-up on top of the corresponding attacking card. This card is said to be the defending card for the corresponding attacking card and the attacking card is said to be countered. The defending card for any given attacking card must beat that attacking card in order to counter it; otherwise, the play is invalid. Each attacking card can only be countered once. Cards played by the defender in order to counter attacking cards enable attackers to augment the attack with additional cards of the same rank, in accordance with the previous Rule.
- If all attacking cards in the current round are of equal rank, and no defending card has yet been played, and the defender holds one or more cards of the same rank as the attacking card(s), the defender may choose to pass the attack on instead of countering by selecting one or more cards of that rank from their hand and placing them face-up alongside the current attacking cards. Cards played in this manner become additional attacking cards. When this occurs, the defender becomes the primary attacker of the round; the player immediately clockwise from them becomes the defender of the round; and all other players become (or remain) secondary attackers. Passing may occur up to three times in a given round with successive shifts in roles.*
- At any given time in any given round, the number of so far uncountered attacking cards must not exceed the number of cards remaining in the defender's hand. In particular, no attack may be performed or augmented if this rule would be violated,** nor may passing occur if this rule would be violated. For example, it is not possible to pass an attack onto a player whose hand contains only one card, because then the attack would contain at least two then-uncountered cards.
- If the defender counters every attacking card, and no further attacks occur, then the defender is said to have successfully defended against the attack; all cards played during the current round are discarded face-down. If the defender is unable or unwilling to counter every attacking card in the current round, the defender shall pick up all cards (both attacking and defending) that have been played during the current round. Once the defender begins to pick up, the decision to pick up all the cards is irrevocable; furthermore, the attackers may augment their attack even though the defender has already abandoned the defense, provided that the previous Rule is still satisfied. In either case, the round ends. (Note that a round ends immediately when the defender runs out of cards, since no further attacks are then possible.)
- Once a round ends, the player who started the round (not necessarily the primary attacker, if passing has occurred) shall draw cards from the draw pile, adding them to their hand, until either that player's hand contains at least six cards, or the draw pile is empty, unless that player was the defender at the end of the round. The player immediately clockwise from that player shall then likewise attempt to replenish their hand to at least six cards, unless that player was the defender at the end of the round, and so on. Whichever player was the defender at the end of the round always attempts to replenish their own hand last.
- If, after the replenishing process described in the previous Rule, a player holds zero cards, that player is said to have gone out and is no longer a player of the current game. (a) If there are two or more remaining players, gameplay proceeds to the next round, which is started by: (i) the defender of the previous round, if they successfully defended; or (ii) the player immediately clockwise from the defender of the previous round, if said defender picked up. If the player due to start the next round has gone out, then the first player clockwise from that player who remains in the current game shall begin the next round. (b) If there is one remaining player, that player is denoted the loser of the game, and the game ends. (c) If there are no remaining players, a tie for last place has occurred, and there is no unique loser.†
- If there is a unique loser, the loser shall incur a penalty agreed upon before the beginning of the first game in the series. The players may exercise their discretion to determine whether, in the case of a tie for last place, all players who went out in the last round shall incur the penalty.
* Passing can only occur three times in a single round simply because there are only four cards of any given rank.
** These Rules differ from standard Durak in two ways: (a) In standard Durak, when multiple attackers wish to augment the current attack, but they may not all do so because this rule would be violated, the primary attacker is given priority of attack, followed by the secondary attacker immediately clockwise from the defender, then the secondary attacker immediately clockwise, and so on. In these Rules, however, no such priority order exists, and whichever attacking card first touches the table is considered to have priority; when there is a dispute over which attacking card touches the table first, then the standard rule shall be used to establish priority. (b) Standard Durak additionally limits the total number of attacking cards in any given round to six; this restriction is not present in these Rules.
† For example, if only two players remain in the game at the beginning of a round, the draw pile is empty and each player holds one card, then there are two possibilities. The attacker plays their only card against the defender, of course; now, if the defender's card is able to beat the attacker's card, then the defender counters the attacking card, the round ends, and both players go out; this is a tie for last place. If, on the other hand, the defender's card is unable to beat the attacker's card, then the defender, in theory, must pick up both cards, whereas the attacker goes out. Since the defender is now the only person who still has cards, they are pronounced the loser. (In practice, the defender does not need to actually pick up both cards, as it should already be obvious that they have lost.)
‡ The penalty is typically consumption of a fixed amount of an alcoholic beverage.