How to play Bielka – a Kazakh/Russian card game (+VIDEO)
Bielka (lit. squirrel, sometimes called Kozel, lit. goat) is a 4 player card game popular in countries of the ex-Soviet Union but especially in Russia and Kazakhstan. It is a simple game to learn and is guaranteed fun for all ages.
What cards do you need to play Bielka?
Bielka is played with 32 cards. 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s are completely removed from the pack and are not needed at all. 6s are paired with the same colour and are used to keep the score.
Things to remember
In Bielka, the relative strength of a card is different to the amount of points the card is worth. These two orders must be learnt before attempting to play.
– Jacks are the strongest cards (strongest in order: clubs, spade, heart, diamond). Jacks are special cards and therefore they are suitless (i.e. the Jack of hearts doesn’t count as a heart)
– 9, 8, 7
Number of points for winning each card:
Ace – 11 points
10 – 10 points
King – 4 points
Queen – 3 points
Jack – 2 points
9, 8, 7 – 0 points
Aim of the game
To win the game of Bielka, a pair (who will be sitting opposite each other) need to win 12 “eyes”.
Winning “eyes” is achieved by scoring more points than the opposing pair during one round.
The pair to win the first round achieve 2 eyes, then 1 point is awarded for every round won after that. Extra eyes can be won in a round on the following conditions:
-If the losing pair score less than 30 during a round (1 extra point)
-If the winning pair score more points despite the trump suit being selected by their opponents (1 extra point).
The Trump Suit
The trump suit is a suit of cards in each round that beats cards from all other suits except the Jacks.
For the first round the trump suit is always clubs. Thereafter each player is assigned a suit that will remain with them for the rest of the game. This is designated by the player in the first round who has the Jack of Clubs. This player will have the trump suit Clubs, the player to his right Hearts, the player opposite Spades and the player to his left Diamonds.
In all following rounds the player who has the Jack of Clubs must declare it at the beginning and the Trump Suit will be the suit that has been assigned to them.
How to play Bielka
All players are dealt 8 cards. Starting with the player on the left of the dealer, who plays a card in the middle, each subsequent player lays one card so that there are 4 cards in the middle. The player who played the strongest card wins all the cards and starts a new trick by laying another card.
Each team will try and win ‘tricks’ especially to win the cards with the most points (e.g. A, 10) If a player has a card of the same suit that begun the trick then they must follow suit. Only when a player doesn’t have a card of the same suit may they lay a card of a different suit (the exception to this is the Jack which can be played at any time as they are suitless). Once all the cards are played, each team counts their points, eyes are assigned and the game continues.
Is that all clear? If not, don’t worry, simply watch our demonstration video below and soon you will be a Bielka master, ready to battle with the Kazakhs…
written by: Jon