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Tarbish Card Game Rules

Tarbish is a popular card game in Nova Scotia.
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Tarbish is a card game popular in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. The game involves taking tricks or hands in order to reach a score of 500 points. The exact origins of the game are unknown, but similar games exist in Europe and the Middle East. Tarbish is also known as Tarabish or Bish.

Before The Game

Usually, four players divide into two teams of two. Teammates sit opposite each other at the table. Tarbish uses a single deck of cards, with two through five of each suit removed. One player from each side cuts the deck. The player with the higher card becomes the dealer. The next dealer is the player on the dealer's left.

The Deal

After shuffling the deck, the player to the right of the dealer cuts the deck. The dealer gives each player nine cards, three cards at a time. Dealing proceeds clockwise. The players look at the first six cards, but the last three must remain face down until the trump suit is determined. The player on the dealer's left may choose trump or pass. If the player passes, the player to his left has the same choice. Traditionally, if the other three players refuse to name a trump suit, the dealer must determine trump.

The First Trick

After the trump suit is established, the player on the dealer's left places a card on the table. Play continues clockwise, with each player laying a card on the table. Players must follow the suit of the first card if possible. If a player plays a card from the trump suit, the next player must follow suit and use a higher value card if possible. After all four cards are placed on the table, the player with the highest value card wins the trick. Trump cards always beat non-trump cards. The winning player takes the four cards and places them face down off to the side. At the end of the round, all points from all tricks are added and awarded to each team. The tricks continue until one team reaches 500 points.


After each round, players add up and receive points for each trick won. Teammates scores are added together to create the team score. The lowest possible total of point for a round is 162; the highest is 282. The team that named the trump suit has to achieve a score of 82 points for the round or else they forfeit their score to the opposition. Teams play as many rounds as necessary for one side to reach 500 points. Trump cards receive the following score values: a jack is worth 20 points, a nine is worth 14 points, an ace is worth 11 points, a 10 is worth 10 points, a king is worth four points and a queen is worth three points. Eight, seven and six are each worth zero points. Non-trump cards receive the following score values: an ace is worth 11 points, a ten is worth 10 points, a king is worth four points, a queen is worth three points, a jack is worth two points. Eight, seven and six are each worth zero points.


A combination of three or four cards of one suit equals a run. Three card runs are worth 20 points and four card runs are worth 50 points. A player holding a run has to announce it and the point value before the first card of the trick is played. A player who doesn't announce a run loses the points for the run. Only one player can receive points for a run per round. Four-card runs beat three-card runs and trump runs beat non-trump runs.

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