In the spirit of Dashain, I wanted to post about the Nepali card game “Marriage.” As I’ve mentioned before one of the favorite pass-times of Dashain (besides eating of course) is gambling, and it is not unusual for families to spend the holiday playing cards. We were at a Dashain party at R and S’s over the weekend and there was card playing/gambling from 10:30pm until 5 in the morning!
There are several favorite games to play for Dashain’s “taas” (card playing)– “Kitty,” “Call Break” (which is similar to the American game Spades), and probably most famously “Marriage.”
I grew up in a card playing family (at least on my dad’s side) but I’m forever forgetting the rules of “Marriage.” A quick google search led me to realize there wasn’t a good listing of the rules out there in internet-land, (although there is a website where Nepalis can play “Marriage” online). So I thought it would be useful to try and explain the rules of the game in a nutshell for anyone who might find themselves pulled into a game during this Dashain season.
If I have misunderstood any of the rules or I forgot something, I encourage readers familiar with the game to comment. Also special thanks to N who took the time this evening to play a round with me and explain the rules in detail.
Marriage is all about the “points” (each point is money that the players have to pay each other), strategically knowing what to throw and what not to, and trying to figure out the “joker” (or wild card).
1 point is a unit of money, whether it is 1 rupee, 1 penny, 10 cents, etc.
The game is played with three decks of playing cards and can be played with 2-5 players. The dealer deals 21 cards to each player. The players look at their hand to see if they have any sequences (either three-of-a-kinds or same suit trials of three). If you have a three-of-a-kind it is called a “tanella” and you can put the cards out in the open. Each player must pay the person with the tanella 5 points. If multiple people have tanella than multiple people are paid 5 points by each player. If you don’t call your tanellas at the beginning before the game begins, you are not able to collect your points.
The play begins with the person sitting to the right of the dealer. The top card of the un-dealt pile is turned over and the player has a choice to pick up this card, or take the next card. If the player wants the card then they take it into their hand and discard a card they do not want. The cards in the discard pile are spread out so all can see the cards that are no longer in play (this can be strategically important).
The game continues in that fashion until someone gets three sequences (either three-of-a-kind or same suit trial of three). The person who gets the sequences lays them out face up and gets to blindly choose the “joker” or wild card amongst the unused portion of the deck, looks at the joker, and places at the bottom of the pile.
Knowing the joker is a key aspect to the game, and players will only get a chance to look at the joker after they get three sequences.
The joker can be used as a wild card to complete sequences where you are lacking a card. Since you are playing with three decks it is possible that there might be two other of the exact same joker in play, but the same joker of any suit is also usable (just not worth points later on). Also the exact card above the joker and the card below the joker (called “maal”) can be used as wild cards and are also worth money later on. So an example– if the “joker” is the 5 of diamonds than all 5’s are also wild cards (although only diamonds are worth points), and the 4 of diamonds and 6 of diamonds are wild cards (“maal”) worth points as well.
The play continues with picking cards, discarding and making sequences (keep sequences in your hand except for the three original sequences that allow you to look at the joker). The person who first makes all the sequences in their hand discards their final card, lays out the sequences and starts counting points.
The key to the game is in the points:
So you get points for being the first person to complete all sequences in your hand– 10 points from any player that hadn’t made the initial 3 sequence that allowed them to look at the joker, and 3 points from everyone else.
But then other people can get points too…
Anyone who has the exact joker (5 of diamonds in the example above) gets 3 points from each person, and anyone who has a “maal” card (4 or 6 of diamonds in the example above) gets 2 points from everyone.
There is an alternate version as well where you could get 5 points if you have a joker of a different suit but same color (meaning 5 of hearts in the example above) but there are no “maal” points for the same color different suit variation.
After counting up points, and exchanging money, the deal moves to the person on the right and the whole process starts again. The game continues until people decide to stop, there is no definitive end… unless maybe someone runs out of money ;)
Of course there are many other intricacies to the game, but at least this will get you started on the right path…
So happy gambling, and happy Dashain! (Luckily I’ve only lost $5 so far…)