Clabber Card Game (Rules and Instructions)

Clabber is a trick-taking game for four players testing your memory and tactic skills. If you’ve never played it before, my Clabber card game rules explain it step by step.

Trick-taking card games are popular all over the world. However, Clabber (also known as Klob, Clobber, or Dad) is particularly famous in the state of Indiana, US. 

The game’s origins are uncertain, but it may be related to the European game of Klaberjass, which can be played by two players, whereas Clabber is a four-player game. 

This Clabber card game rules guide will cover the following:

  • What is Clabber?
  • What you’ll need to play Clabber
  • Clabber Rules
  • How to play Clabber (video tutorial)
  • FAQs
  • Other similar games to Clabber (our guides)

Continue reading and learn how to play Clabber following my step-by-step instructions.

What is Clabber?

Clabber Card Game Info image

Like any other trick-taking card game, Clabber centers around the tricks each player tries to win by playing more powerful cards from their hand than their opponents.

However, in Clabber, it’s not only about the number of tricks won but also about the value of the cards they contain. Moreover, there are also unique card melds worth even more points. 

Number of Players: 4 players

Ages: 10+

Difficulty: Moderate

Length of Play: 15 – 35 minutes

Category: Trick-taking card game

Similar to: Euchre, Belote, Klaberjass

Main Objective: Win 500 points by taking tricks and melding cards to beat the opposing team.

Why We Love It: Clabber is played on the classic principles of trick-taking games, but it comes with many unique rules and details making it very original.

What You’ll Need to Play Clabber

The game of Clabber can be played anytime and anywhere, as it only requires a single 52-card deck

You are not going to play with the entire deck, though. Sort out ace, king, queen, jack, ten, and nine of each suit to get a 24-card Clabber deck

Besides the cards, I recommend having a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. You are going to need them to keep your scores.

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Clabber Card Game Rules and Instructions

Clabber is quite a simple game, but if you are playing other trick-taking card games often, it may take a while to adapt to Clabber’s unique and sometimes surprising rules.

Starting the Game

Start your preparations by sorting the card deck, as I have explained in the previous section. Next, set up your table and seat the players in their places.

Four players in two teams play Clabber. The teammates should always sit opposite each other across the table.

Pick a player who will act as a dealer in the first round of the game. Then, once they shuffle the deck thoroughly, they let the player to their right cut it.

Now the dealer gives each player six cards, one at a time. The last dealt card (the dealer’s sixth card) is flipped over. It will be used in the first bidding round as a trump.

How to Play Clabber

Before I explain the gameplay, let’s look at Clabber’s distinctive card ranking and points value charts.

Cards Ranking & Value

In Clabber, the cards have different values and rankings depending on the scenario.

If you’re dealing with trump cards, the ranking and points value goes as follows:

  • Highest–>Lowest: J – Nine – A – Ten – K – Q 
  • Points: J = 20, Nine = 14, A = 11, Ten = 10, K = 4, Q = 3

If you’re dealing with non-trump cards, use the following ranking and score chart:

  • Highest–>Lowest: A – Ten – K – Q – J – Nine
  • Points: A = 11, Ten = 10, K = 4, Q = 3, J = 2, Nine = 0

If you’re dealing with card melds, this is how they are ranked:

  • Highest–>Lowest: A – K – Q – J – Ten – Nine

I will discuss the scores of each card meld in a separate Melds section.

Bidding

The game of Clabber always begins with a bidding round. The bidding starts with the player sitting to the dealer’s left. 

Players are bidding to find out who accepts the trump (the dealer’s last card) and take on the challenge to score more points than the other team in the upcoming round. 

When bidding, each player may play or pass. If everyone passes, the second round begins, in which anyone willing to play declares a new trump.

This new trump must be different from the previous one, AND the player who declares it must own at least one card of this suit.

The game can finally begin when a player accepts the challenge and picks the trump.

Gameplay

  • The player to the dealer’s left opens the game, leading with the card of their choice.
  • The game continues clockwise, with each player aiming to follow the lead suit whenever possible. 
  • If you don’t have any lead suit cards, you must play some of your trump cards.
  • If more trumps are in play (or if the leading suit is a trump suit), you must try to beat the other trump cards with a higher-ranking one. 
  • You can play any other card if you do not have any lead suit cards or trumps.
  • The highest-ranking card/trump card wins the trick. 
  • The winner of the trick then leads a new one.

In the first trick and BEFORE a player plays the card of their choice, they announce all their possible melds (I will explain them shortly). 

But only the team with the highest-ranking meld can score all their melds, whereas the other team scores none. There is one exception, though, a meld called Bell (see below).

Melds

Melds are certain combinations of cards that can earn their owners large amounts of points. 

But, as I have already mentioned, they must be declared during the first round, and only the team with the highest ranking card meld will score their points.

If teams end up in a tie with the same highest-ranking melds, no one scores any points for the melds in this round. 

Here’s a list of all the valid melds in Clabber, including their points value:

  • Four Jacks = 200 points
  • Four Nines = 100 points 
  • Four Aces = 100 points 
  • Four Tens = 100 points 
  • Four Kings = 100 points
  • Four Queens = 100 points
  • Five cards of the same suit = 100 points
  • Four cards of the same suit = 50 points
  • King and Queen of trumps (Bell) = 20 points

Note that the Bell meld is declared only when the player plays the second of these cards. They always earn scores for them regardless of the team they are in.

Clabber Scoring 

The round ends when the players play all the tricks (use up all their cards). Continue playing new rounds, writing down the points each team scores for their tricks and melds. 

​​If the winning bidders complete their bid and earn higher scores than their opponents, they can score all their points. If not, they cannot keep any points. 

The player who wins the last trick of the round earns extra 10 points.

The first team to score 500 points wins the game of Clabber.

How to Play Clabber – Video Tutorials 

(coming soon)

Clabber Frequently Asked Questions

Are Clabber and Clobber the same game?

No, the games have nothing in common. Clobber is an abstract strategy game played with stones and a checkerboard, while Clabber is a trick-taking card game.

Are players penalized for cheating in Clabber?

Yes. If a player cheats or makes a mistake, the round ends instantly, and the opposing team earns 162 points plus any score for any melds they might have.

What if everyone passes two times in the Clabber’s bidding round?

When all the players pass two times, the dealer collects all the cards and reshuffles them to start a new round. The dealer’s role is then moved to the left.

Other Similar Games to Clabber (Our Guides) 

Do you enjoy playing Clabber? Here are our guides to some terrific Clabber alternatives you should try too:

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