Wei-Hwa's Barbu Home Page

What is this page for?

Wei-Hwa Huang likes to play a particular variation of Barbu that he learned when he was a student a Caltech, but got really annoyed at the fact that while many sites have different rules for Barbu, no site allows Wei-Hwa to easily print out his variation for others to read.

So, Wei-Hwa adapted information from John McLeod (john@pagat.demon.co.uk)'s page on Barbu, modified it to show his rules. Apparently the description was from Nick Wedd. Well, this won't be the first thing Wei-Hwa's stolen from him.

Table of Contents


Barbu is a skillful card game for four players. It uses a standard 52-card pack as for bridge or poker, ranking as usual from highest to lowest A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 in each of the four suits. In the course of a session, each player will declare each of the eight contracts once, so that there are 32 hands played in all.

The initial declarer, who is also the dealer, is chosen at random. For the first hand, this player will be declarer. The cards will be shuffled by the player on declarer's left, and cut by the player on declarer's right. After every hand, declarer moves to the left (clockwise).

Each time a person is declarer, they must declare a contract. A person may not declare a contract that they previously declared themselves (the contracts declared by other players have no restriction on a declarer's own contract). Declarer may look at her cards before declaring a contract.

In each of these contracts, each player is playing for herself. Declarer chooses the contract, but there is no reason for the other players to cooperate against her. The rules about doubling are symmetrical with respect to declarer (see below).

The Eight Contracts

There are six "negative" and two "positive" contracts.

In negative contracts, there are no trumps. The declarer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible - a player who cannot follow suit may discard any card. The winner of a trick leads to the next. In certain contracts there are restrictions on what card may be led to a trick. The negative contracts are:

The positive contracts are:

The scores are cunningly chosen so that the total over seven hands is 0.


After the contract has been chosen, each player in turn, starting on declarer's left, has an opportunity to double the declarer. After all players have had a chance to double, declarer may decide to "redouble the board," i.e., double all players who have doubled her. No intra-player doubling is allowed, nor may declarer only redouble some players but not others.

A double is, in effect, a side-bet between the two players involved about which of them will do better than the other. Double the dealer if you expect to score better than the dealer. Redouble as dealer if you expect to do better than the players who doubled you.


The doubles are recorded on the score sheet (with an x) as they are made; a redouble converts all x's to double x's.

At the end of a hand, it is scored. First of all, the points won or lost by the players are written down. Then the effects of the doubles are calculated for each player:

  1. If the player has not doubled declarer, there is no side-payment.
  2. If the player doubled declarer but was not redoubled, the difference between their raw scores is calculated, and this difference is added on to the score of the one who did better and subtracted from the score of the one who did worse.
  3. If the player doubled declarer and was also redoubled, the difference between their raw scores is calculated and doubled, and this difference is added on to the score of the one who did better and subtracted from the score of the one who did worse.

For example, here is a score-sheet, with 16 hands already played and scored by four players: Mary Beth, Mary Lou, Harry, and William.

Deal Cont Mary Beth Mary Lou Harry William
MB B 0 0 X 0 0 X 0 0 -21-21
ML Q 0 0 -12-12 0 0 -12-33
HRC X 0 0 0-12 +24 24 X -48-81
WL2 0 0 -30-42 X 0 24 0-81
MBT,D -14-14 +21-21 +14 38 X 70-11
MLL2 -30-44 0-21 X 0 38 0-11
H Q -8-52 XX+32+11 -64-26 XX +8 -3
W B 0-52 -21-10 0-26 0 -3
MB H 0-52 X 0-10 -2-28 -28-31
MLRC X+12-40 -36-46 X+12-16 -12-43
HL2 -10-50 X 0-46 +20 4 X-40-83
WFT,Q +10-40 XX-25-71 0 4 +10017
MBRC 0-40 -24-95 X 0 4 0 17
MLT,C +21-19 +35-60 +14 18 +21 38
HLT -9-28 -21-81 -9 9 0 38
WT,S X+56 28 X+42-39 X+14 23 -21 17

On the first hand, Mary Beth was declarer and chose Barbu. An "X" is written in the MB column and B row of the Contracts table, so that Mary Beth will not choose that contract again. The contract was also written in the scores. Mary Lou and Harry decided to double but William did not. Mary Beth decided not to redouble. As it turns out, William took the King of Hearts, and therefore took -21 points. As Mary Lou and Harry scored the same amount as the declarer (Mary Beth), the doubles had no effect.

On the second hand, Mary Lou chose Queens. No one doubled, and Mary Lou and William each took two.

On the third hand, Harry chose Ravage City, and he was doubled by Mary Beth and William. William "got ravaged", and took -24 in raw points. Mary Beth scored 0 as well as Harry in raw points, so Mary Beth's double was ineffective. However, William's double backfired and he took another -24 (difference between his score and Harry's) while Harry reaped and extra +24. Note that Mary Beth's score is still 0 for that hand.

Skipping ahead, on the seventh hand, Harry chose Queens, was doubled by William and Mary Lou, and he redoubled them back. At the end, Mary Beth took one queen, Harry took two, and William took one. Mary Beth, who did not double, got her raw score of -8. Mary Lou, who was redoubled by Harry, "took" 32 points (twice 16) from Harry. William took 16 points (twice 8) from Harry, which added to his raw score of -8 gave him a net +8 points. Harry had -16 in raw points, lost 32 to Harry and 16 to William, for a net change of -64 points.

And in the last hand, William chose Trumps with Spades, and everyone doubled. Mary Beth took five tricks (+35), Mary Lou took four tricks (+28), and Harry and William took two tricks (+14) each. Mary Beth then reaped 21 points from William and Mary Lou took 14, leaving William with a net of -21.

Last Updated August 12, 1999 by Wei-Hwa Huang