# How to play Seven and a Half (Sebah ou Nus) – Arabic Card Game

Context:

He learned this game when he was around 10 years old from older relatives in Jordan, trying to mimic the adults playing Blackjack 21.

Game:

The game can have many players, and it requires a standard deck of cards without 8s, 9s, 10s, and Jokers.

In order to choose the dealer, each player draws a random card from the deck. Whoever has the highest number is the dealer. Picture cards–like Kings, Queens, and Jacks–are worth ½, and the Ace is worth 1. However, the Queen of Hearts can either be any whole number from 1-7, or ½, depending on the player’s choice.

The game is played similarly to Blackjack 21, so each player asks for cards until they feel like they will go over 7½, called “burn” here instead of “bust,” or until they get 7½, at which they must flip over all their cards. Each player places a bet on their card before taking another card from the dealer, called taking a “hit,” and the amount can’t be changed after they take a hit. When the player no longer wants cards from the dealer, they will say that they are “asleep.”

The dealer, after all the players are burnt or asleep, takes cards and “wakes” players (asks them to show their cards) as they please. If the dealer’s total is greater than the player’s who was woken up, the dealer gets the money placed on the card. If it’s the other way around, the dealer must pay the player the amount on the card. If the totals are equal, no money is exchanged. If the dealer burns while taking a hit, they must pay each player that is asleep the amount on their cards.

If a player gets 7½ in two cards, they become the dealer in the next round unless someone else gets it in two cards as well. In the latter case, they decide who becomes the dealer. The dealership can also be sold to another player by the current dealer even if they did not get 7½ in two cards.

(I added the parentheticals to the original explanation for the sake of clarity)

Thoughts:

This is one of my favorite card games; I learned it from my parents and grandparents when I was in middle school. Because the length of the game is not proportional to the size of the deck, but rather to the skills of the players, a single game can go for over an hour before somebody runs out of money. I remember we would play it whenever we knew that we could sit uninterrupted for a couple of hours, usually at night. Although it appears to be a child’s version of Blackjack 21, it can bring the whole family together, which leads me to believe that the reason this game has not been replaced by Blackjack 21 is because of how well it engages the whole family.

For other variations, see https://www.pagat.com/banking/sette_e_mezzo.html

# How to play Basra – Arabic Card Game

Context:

He grew up playing it in Jordan with his family, mainly on New Year’s Eve. At one point, he and his siblings were able to beat their parents.

Game:

The game can have many players, and it requires a standard deck of cards without Kings, Queens, and Jokers. Aces are worth 1 in this game.

After the players decide who the dealer is, the dealer gives each person 4 cards. After that, the dealer puts 4 cards face-up in the middle of where they’re sitting. The person who got a card first goes first, and it goes in order of who got their cards until the dealer goes and the cycle repeats.

During a turn, the player puts down a card on the middle area. If there is another card with the same number, they take it along with their card and put it in a pile near them. If there are multiple cards whose numbers add up to the number of the player’s card, they take those cards along with their card and put it in their pile. (If the middle has cards with numbers 2, 3, 4, and 6, and a player places down a 6, they can take their card back along with the 6, 4, and 2.)

If a player places down a Jack, they take everything in the middle and put it in their pile. If a player places down a number card that takes everything in the middle, they get a Basra; they have to stick the cards they took, along with their card, face-up and sideways in their pile. (An example of a triple Basra is if a player places down a 9 when the middle has numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9).

When the players run out of cards in their hand, the dealer passes out 4 more cards to each player in the same order as the first time. If there are not enough cards left in the deck, the group will decide what to do. When there are not enough cards left to deal, the player who last took from the middle gets the extra cards in the middle and dealing deck.

At the end of the game, each player counts the number of cards in their piles, and whoever has the most cards gets 3 points. Next, they count the number of Aces and Jacks, getting 1 point for each. If a player has the 2 of Clubs, they get 2 points. If a player has the 10 of Diamonds, they get 3 points. For any card that is part of a Basra (sideways in the pile and face-up), you add the card’s value to your points. Whoever has the most points at the end wins.

(I added the parenteticals to the original explanation for the sake of clarity)

Thoughts:

I remember playing this game many times with my family–my brother loves Basra. It’s a fun strategy game, since you have to be wary of which cards to leave in the middle (you do not want another player to get a Basra). Because the length of the game is proportional to the size of the card deck, and inversely proportional to the number of players, individual games of Basra can be very brief. Although the game does not bring the family together for long periods of time like Sebah ou Nus (Seven and a Half), it can do so during a lull in the day.

For other variations, see https://www.pagat.com/fishing/basra.html