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Prostoy Durak

This game is now much less widely played than its relative Podkidnoy Durak, but is still known by many people who learned it from their parents. Prostoy durak means "simple fool". The game is also played in Poland, where it is known as Dureń Piątkowy (five card fool). As in all forms of Durak, the objective is to get rid of all your cards, and the "fool" is the last person left with cards after everyone else has run out.

Players and cards

Two, three or four people can play. There are no partnerships. A 36 card French suited pack is used, the cards in each suit ranking from high to low: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.

The deal

Anyone can deal the first hand; thereafter the loser of each hand deals the next. The work of dealing is regarded as the fool's punishment for having lost the previous hand. If any other player touches the cards before the deal is complete, they take over the role of fool and the job of dealing. The dealer shuffles the cards, but there is no cut.

The dealer deals five cards to each player, one at a time, clockwise. The next card is placed face up on the table; its suit is trumps. The remaining stock of undealt cards is placed face down, crosswise on top of the face up card, so that the rank and value of the face up trump remain visible.

The play

The play is clockwise. At any moment during the game, there is an attacker and a defender, who is the player to the left of the attacker. The player to the left of the dealer attacks first.

The attacker must play one, three or five cards face up on the table, side by side. The cards played must conform to one of the following patterns:

The defender may beat some or all of the cards played by the attacker, by placing better cards on top of them. Any card can be beaten by a higher card of the same suit, and any non-trump card can be beaten by any card of the trump suit. Each attack card is beaten separately, and the cards used for beating do not have to form any particular combination. For example if hearts are trumps and the attacker plays 9-9-Q, these cards could be beaten by the K, 6 and A respectively. Any cards not beaten by the defender must be picked up and added to the defender's hand.

There are three possibilities.

  1. The defender beats all the cards played by the attacker. All the attack and defense cards are set aside face down in a discard heap, and not used again until the next deal. The defender becomes the new attacker, and the next player in turn is the new defender.
  2. The defender beats some but not all of the cards played by the attacker. The beaten cards and the cards used to beat them are put aside face down in the discard heap, and the unbeaten cards are taken into the defender's hand. Having picked up cards, the defender does not have the right to attack; the player to the defender's left becomes the next attacker and the person to this player's left is the new defender.
  3. The defender beats none of the attack cards, but picks them all up. The turn to attack passes to the player to the old defender's left, and the new defender is the player to the left of the new attacker as usual.

Example: There are three players - A, B and C - and diamonds are trumps. A leads J, J, 9; B beats the 9 with the Q, trumps the J with the 6 and picks up the J. Because B did not beat all three cards it is now C's turn to attack, and A will be the new defender.

If after playing the attack cards, the attacker has fewer than five cards in hand, the attacker must draw sufficient cards from the top of the stock so as to hold five cards again. In the same way, if after beating some or all of the attack cards and picking up any unbeaten cards the defender has fewer than five cards, the defender's hand must be replenished from the stock after the attacker has done so. Until the stock is exhausted, all players must hold at least five cards. The trump card is drawn as the last card from the stock.

A player who holds the trump six, either having been dealt it or having picked it up from the stock, can exchange it for the face up trump card at any time before the stock is exhausted.

The endgame

The object of the game is to get rid of all one's cards. When there are no cards left in the stock, players no longer replenish their hands after attacking or defending, so may have fewer than five cards. A player who has no cards left in hand when there are no cards left in the stack drops out of the game, and the other players play on.

An attacker is never allowed to lead more cards than than the defender holds, so for example if the defender has four cards, the attacker can lead one card or three, but not five. Some play that a defender who has fewer than five cards must announce the number of cards held, to warn the attacker not to play too many cards

If as a defender you use all of your cards to beat an equal number of cards played as an attack against you, and there are no cards in the stock, you drop out of the play, and the turn to attack passes to the player to your left.

When all players but one have run out of cards, the last player holding cards is the loser. Sometimes the game is played for matchsticks, the loser of each game taking a matchstick. The object is then to collect as few matchsticks as possible over a series of deals. The loser must also shuffle the cards and deal the next hand.

A draw is possible if there are just two players left in the game, and they hold an equal number of cards each (one, three or five). If the first player attacks with all their cards, and the second is able to beat all of these cards, so that nether has any cards left, the game is a draw. In this case the loser of the previous game remains the loser and deals the cards for the next game. In Russia they say: "One old fool is a bigger fool then two new fools".


A more complicated variant, combining this game with some features of Podkidnoy Durak was played by some people in Warsaw in the 1980's and possibly invented by them. It is now described on the page Dureń Piątkowy - Warsaw variant in the Invented Games section of the