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Origin Lebanon
Type Trick-taking
Players 4
Cards 36
Deck French
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) J 9 A 10 K Q 8 7 6 (trump)
A 10 K Q J 9 8 7 6 (suit)
Playing time 20 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games

Tarabish, also known by its slang term Bish, is a Scottish trick-taking card game of complex rules derived from Belote, a game of the Jass family. The actual pronunciation of the name is "tar-bish", even though it can be spelled "tarabish". It is played primarily by the people of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in Canada, where it was brought in 1901 by a Lebanese immigrant George Shebib.


The game is over when one or both teams accumulate 500 points or more. Points are counted at the end of each hand and both teams always count their points. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

The deck

A Tarabish deck consists of a normal deck of playing cards with the 2 through 5 of each suit removed. In preparation for the hand the dealer shuffles the cards in the usual manner. When finished the person to the right of the dealer cuts the cards. The cut must leave at least four cards in each portion of the deck. Once the cards have been cut, no further shuffling is allowed.

The 36 Tarabish cards are dealt in groups of three beginning to the left of the dealer and proceeding clockwise until all the cards are passed out. The four players look at their first six cards; the last three, called the kitty, remain face down until after the bid is complete and a trump suit has been chosen.

Cards value

The cards have a strict point value in trumps:

  • J = 20 points
  • 9 = 14 points
  • A = 11 points
  • 10 = 10 points
  • K = 4 point
  • Q = 3 point
  • 8 7 6 = no value

The order and value in a non-trump suit are:

  • A = 11 points
  • 10 = 10 points
  • K = 4 points
  • Q = 3 points
  • J = 2 points
  • 9 8 7 6 = no value

The bid

The bid is the process of determining the trump suit for the hand. The player to the left of the dealer has the first option of choosing the trump suit. If they pass the decision passes to the next person and so on. In the most popular variation, if the bid passes to the dealer, the dealer is forced to choose a trump suit. The less popular variation allows the dealer to pass in which case the hand is complete and the deal passes to the next player.

The team that goes must accumulate more than half of the points for that hand. If they get less than half, it is termed a bait and their points go to their opponents. If they get exactly half the points it is termed half-bait in which case they count zero while their opponents of course get to count their own.

The play

Play begins with the player to the left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise until each player has played a card. Each player must follow suit by playing a card of the same suit as the first card of each trick. If you don't have a card of the same suit you must play a trump if you have one. If you don't have a trump you can play anything. Any time you play a trump you must beat any other trumps on the trick if you can. The person with the highest card on the trick collects the cards and makes the first play for the next trick.

When you collect tricks it is important to keep them neat as they may need to be referred to in the event of a mis-play. Completed tricks must be kept face down. You may suspend play at any time and ask to see the last completed trick but none before it. Once a trick is turned over it is considered complete.


Failure to comply with the rules outlined in the preceding sections is called a ‘’mis-play’’. If you suspect someone has mis-played you can stop the hand and ‘’call a mis-play’’. You must then prove it by examining the over-turned tricks and identifying the trick where the mis-play occurred.

As an example, consider a trick where the King of trump is lead and the second player places a 6 of trump on the trick. If later the second player plays the 9 of trump, a good tarabish player will remember that the second player didn't beat the King on the opening trick.

If you are successful in proving the mis-play your team gets all of the points for that hand, including any cards that have not yet been played. However, if you cannot pick out the mis-play, your opponents get all the points.


Upon completion of each hand, teams count the points in their winning tricks to determine the scores. Base score for a hand is 162 points, before any runs or "Bella" is counted. This is derived from 62 points in trump values, 90 points in non trump values, and 10 points for taking the last trick.

The calling team must be able to score at least one more than half the points available (82 by default), otherwise all points are awarded to the opposition. This is known as "going bait".

The highest possible score for a team in 1 hand is 282 (2 "50's" and Bella) since only the highest straight is counted, but a single player can have more than 1 straight if their hand contains the highest straight among players.


There are two types of runs. Runs in tarabish are according to the customary card rank as in Poker (6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K,A). So the three best trumps (J,9,A) do not make a run.

One player can have multiple runs, but only one player can count runs in a hand. If more than one player announces a run, the player with the "best" run according to the following will get to count all of their runs. If a player has multiple runs, their best run is used for the following comparison:


Bella (or Bells) is when a player has a king and queen of the trump suit in the same hand and is worth an additional 20 points when called. The player MUST call bella when playing the last of the 2 cards to get the points. Common practice allows to instead call the first of the bells rather than the last. This is advantageous in remembering to call it, but gives others information about one's hand and may be detrimental in giving away points if going bate.

In the event that bella is part of a valid run, the player has the option to announce "Bella" when they show their run or wait until played.

Tarabish terms

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