Everything You Didn’t Know About Saudi Arabian Baloot

Baloot is a popular card game in the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. The Saudis consider it an integral part of their culture, and the government even televises its annual Baloot Championship. The popular trick-taking card game is renowned for improving mental abilities and thinking capacity. Baloot originated in modern-day France, as Belote, roughly 200 years ago and slowly made its way to other countries, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Saudi Arabian baloot!

What Is Baloot?

Baloot is a card game whose primary objective is to outplay or outsmart your opponents. It is played with a deck of 32 cards. The dealer removes the cards numbered 2 to 6, so players can only use cards numbered 7 to 10 or the face cards. Baloot involves four players who are divided into two teams. 

The Baloot Championship

Owing to the card game’s popularity, Saudi Arabia organized and televised its first successful Baloot Championship back in 2018. The tournament was a massive success, and the winning team collected a staggering SR1 million cash prize!

Consequently, the General Entertainment Authority and the Saudi Federation for Mental and Electronic Sports organized the Riyadh Winter Baloot Championship in 2019 and 2020. One of the defining features of the tournament is that it provides a platform for women to compete against men, which was unheard of in the Arab community. 

As a result, the Baloot Championship has allowed Saudi Arabia to promote gender equality and women’s rights. 2020’s edition of the event received more than 16,000 players, and a total of approximately SR2 million was awarded to the winning team!

How to Play Baloot?

This next section is for everyone interested in learning about baloot. You can even learn how to play Baloot from Saudi Arabian gaming sites. The game’s main objective is to outsmart the other team and accumulate the most points. 

One of the four players is appointed as the dealer before the game starts. The dealer then shuffles the 32 cards and deals them from right to left. Each player receives five cards, three cards in the first round and two in the second round. The 21st card is placed face-side up on the table, while the deck is stored face down until after bidding. 

Bidding is done to decide who takes the exposed card. The team that wins the bidding process becomes the declarer and makes two important decisions. They determine which suits become trumps (Hokum) and whether the hand should be played with or without trumps. There are four possibilities when bidding:

  • Pass: the player does not make a bid
  • Hokum (trump suit): the player plays with the suit of the exposed card as trumps. If the bid stands in the first round, the player who played Hokum becomes the “declarer” and takes the exposed card from the table. After a bid with Hokum is made, all remaining players are allowed to bid “Sun” even if they passed their turn during the first round. Sun always supersedes Hokum.
  • Ashkal: Ashkal is only available to the dealer or the third player to their left. Ashkal is like the “Sun” bid and takes precedence over Hokum. However, the partner of the player who bid Ashkal picks up the exposed card and becomes the declarer.
  • Sun (non-trump suit): the player that bids “Sun” plays with no trump cards. All players are allowed to make the bid, whether during the rounds or as an overcall. The last player to make the bid becomes the declarer and is allowed to collect the exposed card.

The objective is to collect the exposed cards to make a sequence in your hands. Here are the cards in ascending order of strength: 7,8,9, Jack, Queen, King, 10, and Ace. The trump suit, or Hokum, has the following rankings, also in ascending order: 7,8, Queen, King, 10, Ace, 9, Jack.

Consequently, the player who wins the bid plays the first trick. All other players must play the same suit that the dealer leads with or play with a Hokum card. The player with the highest card in the suit wins the trick. However, if one of the players used a Hokum card, they would win the trick, as trump cards take precedence over non-trump cards. 

Finally, the values for the collected tricks are calculated, and the team with the most accumulated points wins. It should be noted that the number of collected tricks does not matter; rather, the value of the cards!

Baloot is a fun game and is extremely popular in the Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. It can seem challenging to learn on paper, but it’s easy when you gain hands-on experience. So, what are you waiting for? Go try it out!

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