Does the card game have the potential to come close to poker globally?
Card games are popular world over and each country has its own card game format. Kout Bo 6 is a one such traditional card game from Kuwait that is played all over the Gulf region. Off late, the card game has grown in popularity thanks to its online avatar and is particularly popular during Ramadan when tournaments are held. Will this traditional card game have the potential to scale to the level poker has reached globally?
Kout Bo 6 is popular because it can be learnt very quickly and is played as a team sport. It uses a standard 52-card deck of cards with one black and one red joker. The first thing tounderstand is the ranking value of the cards. It goes in ascending order and goes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, ace, black joker, red joker. The only exception is the ace trump card that beats all the other aces and the black joker.
The game involves six players who are split into two teams (A+B) of three. The players from the teams are seated alternately as such: A, B, A, B, A, B, A
Played counter-clockwise, the game begins with each player being dealt nine cards to. Following the deal, a bidding process begins. The player to the right of the dealer must bid the number of tricks their team undertakes to win.
The lowest bid is five (Bab) and the highest is nine (Bawan). Each bid from the bidding team must be higher than the last or they can pass. If all players pass, the last player on the team must bid a minimum of five (Malzom).
The last bidder chooses the trump suit (Hokm) and begins the first trick by laying a card. The other players must follow suit, and the player with the highest card wins the trick. If any player does not have a card of the right suit, they can use a trump card and will win the hand unless a higher trump card is laid.
The joker cannot be played at the beginning unless all of the picture cards (including the ace) of the trump suit have been played or if their team bid eight or nine. If they bid an eight, the player can begin with the red joker; if they bid a nine, they can start with either red or the black joker.
If a joker is played at the beginning, the other players must follow suit and lay trump cards only. However, if a player has no option but to start a hand with the joker when the conditions to do so have not been met, it counts as a zero card, and the next suit laid is the one to be followed.
To win a hand, the bidding team must win the number of tricks they bid. If they do, they win the same number of points that they bid, unless the bid was a Bawan, in which case they get 36 points. If they fail, the other team gets double the points that were bid, unless the losing bid was a Malzom, in which case the other team only gets five.
The game ends when one team scores 101 or more or reaches 51, while the other team remains on zero. A winning Bawan in the first round also ends the game.
The popularity of Kout Bo 6
The game original to the Gulf has a wide user base with dedicated websites and apps. A popular Kout Bo 6 website claims to have close to 300,000 registered users. The game has yet to break out into the global market like poker has.
Similarities with the rules of poker
The bidding process in Kout Bo 6 has similarities with the way that betting works in many forms of poker with the bid going around the table and the number either being raised or passed.
However, in poker, the player is not part of a team. Instead, they make the decision on their own and compete against everyone else at the table. The team element is one of the strengths of Kout Bo 6. However, the single-player aspect of poker makes it more suitable for online play.
The aim of both games is to beat the value of other players’ cards. But while poker relies on the player having a winning combination of cards, Kout Bo 6 just needs one member of the team to beat everyone else with a single card.
The other key element of Kout Bo 6 that draws a resemblance to poker is the turn of the cards. Only when the final card is turned is the ultimate outcome revealed.
Can Kout Bo 6 ever achieve global popularity?
Kout Bo 6 is nowhere near as popular as poker, but there is a case to be made that it could catch on outside of the Middle East. There are similarities between the two games (the bidding process, the turn of the cards etc.) that would appeal to poker players, but there are also enough differences (the team element, the use of the joker etc.) to make it stand out.
One of the obstacles could be the team element, which changes the dynamic of the game online. Players must hook up with a group of friends, limiting when they can play, or join a team of strangers to compete against others.
However, poker is so embedded in Western culture that it is hard to see any card game ever reaching the same levels of popularity.