Clabber is a four player trick-taking card game
Card game
A card game is any game using playing cards as the primary device with which the game is played, be they traditional or game-specific. Countless card games exist, including families of related games...

 that is played in Southwestern Indiana
Southwestern Indiana
Southwestern Indiana is a 11-county region of Indiana located at the southernmost and westernmost part of the state. As of the 2000 census, the region's combined population is 465,338. Evansville, Indiana's third largest city, is the primary hub for the region as well as the primary regional hub...

, near Evansville, IN. Clabber is a member of the Jack-Nine
Jack–Nine card games
The Jack-Nine card games, also known as the Jass group, form a family of trick-taking games in which the jack and nine of the trump suit are the highest-ranking trumps, and the tens and aces of all suits are the next most valuable cards...

 family of card games that are popular in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. The game is a four player variation of Klaberjass
Klaberjass or Bela is a widespread international trick-taking card game that is most popular in Jewish communities. In its basic form it is a 6-card trick-and-draw game for two players using a 32-card piquet pack....

, which was brought to the area by 19th century German immigrants. The game differs from Euchre
Euchre or eucre, is a trick-taking card game most commonly played with four people in two partnerships with a deck of 24 standard playing cards. It is the game responsible for introducing the joker into modern packs; this was invented around 1860 to act as a top trump or best bower...

in that you are not awarded the number of tricks you take, but the actual point value of cards in those tricks. Additional points can also be scored for a combination of cards in your hand.

Players & Cards

Clabber is played by four players in fixed partnerships with partners sitting opposite. The deck consist of 24 of the standard 52 playing card deck: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten, Nine of each of the suits Clubs , Diamonds , Hearts and Spades . The card ranks from hight to low and their values are as follows:
Trump Points Non-trump Points Melds
Jack 20 Ace 11 Ace
Nine 14 Ten 10 King
Ace 11 King 4 Queen
Ten 10 Queen 3 Jack
King 4 Jack 2 Ten
Queen 3 Nine 0 Nine

The team that takes the last trick scores an extra 10 points, so that without melds there are a total of 162 possible points. Notice that in the trump suit the Jack and Nine move from the lowest rank to the highest rank and are the only cards to change in point value.


A meld is a scoring combination of cards in the hand of a player.
The rank and point values of possible melds are:
Meld Description Points
Mule Four Jacks 200
Nines Four Nines 100
Aces Four Aces 100
Tens Fours Tens 100
Kings Four Kings 100
Queens Four Queens 100
Hundred Sequence of five in one suit 100
Fifty Sequence of four in one suit 50
Dad Sequence of three in one suit 20
Bell King and Queen of trumps 20


The deck is shuffled by the dealer and offered to the player to the right who must cut the deck with at least four cards in each stack. The dealer then deals all the cards clockwise one at a time with every player receiving six cards. The last card, which is part of the dealer's hand, is turned face up in front of the dealer. After the hand has been played, the turn to deal passes to the left.


Bidding is the part of the game that determines the trump suit. The team that makes the trump suit must score more points than their opponent, including melds, or score nothing. A player must have at least one card of a suit to make it the trump suit. There are two rounds of bidding in Clabber. The first round of bidding begins with the player to the left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Each player declares whether to "play" or "pass" on making with the suit of the dealers face up card the trump suit. As soon a player says "play", the bidding ends, and the cards are played. If all four players pass in the first round of bidding, the dealer picks up the face up card and there is a second round of bidding, also beginning with the player to the dealers left and moving clockwise. In this round, the trump suit may be chosen from any of the three suits that were not the suit passed in the first round of bidding. If all four players pass again then the cards are not played and no points are scored for that hand and the deal passes to the next player.


The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. Rules dictate what what cards may be played on a trick. The first, or lead, card, may be any card in the leader's hand. The basic rules of play are as follows:
  1. Players must always play a card of the same suit as the lead card when possible. The is called "following suit".
  2. If unable to follow suit, a trump card must be played. This is known as "trumping in".
  3. If unable to follow suit or play trump, any other card may be played. This is called "throwing off (suit)".
  4. Any trump played must beat the highest trump already played to the trick when possible, even if the highest trump was played by the player's partner. This is known as "overtrumping".
  5. When a non-trump is led there is no obligation to beat the cards previously played to the trick when following suit.

Each trick is won by the highest trump played to it, or, if it contains no trumps, by the highest card of the suit led. The team winning the trick collects the four cards and turns them over to be counted later. The player who won the previous trick then leads the first card of the next trick. This is repeated until all six tricks have been played.

Declaring Melds

During the first trick, players announce melds, scoring combinations of cards that they hold. The team with the highest ranking meld scores all their melds, while the other team scores nothing for melds. The rank and point values for melds are listed above. No card may be used in more than one meld. Among sequences of equal length, the one with higher cards wins; if the rank of the cards is also equal, a trump sequence beats a non-trump sequence. If both teams have a sequence of equal rank and length in non-trump suits as their highest meld, neither team scores for meld on that deal. In order to score any meld, the player must announce it just before playing a card to the first trick. If both teams have announced the same kind of meld as their highest, then at the end of the first trick each must declare the rank, and if those are equal, whether or not the meld is in trump. The members of the team with the highest meld must show all the melds that they declared just before playing to the second trick. If the player does not announce the meld before playing the first trick or show the meld before playing the second, the meld is not scored.


Bell (King and Queen of trumps) is treated differently from other melds. If a player holds Bell it can always be scored, irrespective of any other meld announced and scored by either team. Bell is announced when the second of the two cards is played or shown. Cards of a Bell can also be used in another scoring meld - for example a player holding K-Q-J of trumps can score 40 points for "Dad 'n' Bell" provided that the Dad is not beaten. In this particular case the Bell is announced when the Dad is scored, because the holder must show both cards of the Bell in order to score the Dad; if the Bell cards are not used in meld, the Bell is announced when the second of the cards is played.


Infractions of the rules of bidding, melding and play are known as reneges. In case of a renege, the play ends, and the opponents of the team that reneged score 162 points plus meld. If both teams renege in one hand, the hand is not scored and must be redealt by the same dealer. Possible reneges are:
  • Failing to follow suit, trump or overtrump when able to do so.
  • Advising or signaling your partner in any way during the play.
  • Looking at any previous trick after a card has been played to the following trick.
  • Making the trump suit without any cards of the trump suit.
  • Announcing or showing meld out of turn.
  • Exposing cards, except to play them or show a scoring meld.


At the end of the play, each team totals the value of the cards in the tricks that they won, plus any score for melds or Bell. The team that takes the last trick scores an extra 10 points. If the team that made trumps in the bidding has more points than their opponents, then each team scores the points they made. If the scores are equal, or if the team that made trumps have fewer points than their opponents, the trump making team scores zero points, written as "XX" on the score sheet and known as "turkey tracks", while the other team scores whatever points they won in tricks and melds. In this case the team that made trump is said to be "set" or "hicked". If the trump makers' opponents score no points, their zero is written on the score sheet as "-". The game ends when either team's cumulative score reaches 500 points or more.

External links

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