Everywhere But Home

News and musings from wherever my crazy life takes me. My body may be back in Illinois, but at least for now, my mind is still in Mongolia.

How to Play Cards with Mongolians


If you visit Mongolia at any point, you will probably find yourself playing a lot of card games. Mongolians love their cards and rarely pass up an opportunity to play or to learn a new game. I almost always have a deck with me, because a) It allows you to interact with those around you even when the language barrier is too great to allow meaningful communication, b) It takes up next to no space and can be used to play a huge variety of games, and c) It’s a great teaching/learning tool, no matter what the target language; I played Liar with Mongolian friends to practice my Mongolian numbers and Go Fish with my students to reinforce English numbers and “have.” Even if you forget your cards, they’re easy to acquire; most delguurs sell them, usually for no more than 300-500 MNT ($.15-.25, about the price of a cup of tea).

There are many Mongolian games, some of them quite similar to ours: the game they call “Liar” closely resembles BS, and another whose name I’ve forgotten is much like Crazy Eights. But if you’re asked if you’d like to play cards, the game you’ll most likely find yourself playing is Хөзөр (khuzur), which is also the name for playing cards in general.

  1. Remove the 4s, 5s, and 6s from the deck, but make sure you have the jokers.
  2. Amaze the surrounding Mongolians by shuffling Western-style. Most people here shuffle by holding a small portion of the deck longways above the rest and gently shaking the cards until they fall in randomly, though a few will pull out the center section of the deck and slap ever-smaller portions of it atop the rest of the deck. My only guess as to the reason for the popularity of these methods is that they do not bend the cards. This greatly contributes to their longevity, since the playing cards available in Mongolia are typically not plastic-coated.
  3. Don’t forget to let someone else cut the deck, or you will be called out for it.
  4. Deal five cards to each player; up it to seven if only two are playing. Put the rest of the deck in the center, face down.
  5. Flip the top card and tuck part of it beneath the deck. This card marks your trump suit and should remain untouched until the deck is exhausted, at which point it may be drawn. The player holding the 7 of the trump suit may, however, exchange it for this card at whatever point he or she wishes.
  6. The first player may play one or three cards if all players have five cards in their hand; he may also play five if all players have seven cards. If playing three cards, two must be a pair; if five, two pairs must be played, and so on. The entire hand cannot be played until the entire deck has been drawn.
  7. The player draws until he once more holds five cards. All players should have at least five cards in hand until the deck runs out.
  8. Play continues in a circle. The second player must beat all cards played by the person before him, either with a card of higher value in the same suit, or with any card from the trump suit. The cards, in decreasing order of value, are as follows: 3 2 1 A K Q J 10 9 8 7. A card in the trump suit beats any in another suit, regardless of numerical value; jokers beat trump; red joker beats black joker, making it the most valuable card in the deck. Once the appropriate number of cards has been played, the player draws to refill his hand.
  9. If a player cannot beat all the cards played, or if he wants to save his trumps for later, he must take all the cards in play. This forfeits his turn, and the next player begins the next round of play.
  10. If the round makes it all the way back to the player who started it without being picked up, the cards are discarded from play, and the player who finished the round begins the next one. Thus, if a round was begun by player B and all players, including A, were able to beat the cards before them, A would start the next round.
  11. Once all cards have been drawn, players may begin attempting to go out. Players may play as many cards as they wish, so long as a) they abide by the pairs+1 pattern, and b) they do not play more cards than any player has in hand. If all players have at least five cards, up to five may be played, but if one player has only two, only one card may be played at at time.
  12. The first player to go out wins. When playing multiple games, the winner of the previous game begins the next.

Шинэ Үгс (New Words):

  • хөзөр – card
  • холих – to shuffle
  • тараах – to deal
  • авах – to take or draw; if you forget to do so, your opponents may cry, “Аваагүйштээ!” (that’s an approximate spelling)
  • чиний/таны элж – your turn!
  • хожих – to win; ялагч – winner
  • тамга – ace
  • хаан – king
  • хатан – queen

Cut and jack are notably absent from this list, I know. If you know them or have other words to submit, please share below!

Author: everywherebuthome

Linguist. Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Expat in Mongolia. Writer. Scout, dancer, gymnast, equestrienne.

5 thoughts on “How to Play Cards with Mongolians

  1. Pingback: Yanaa, Yassaa, Yahtzee: The Three Яs of Life in Mongolia | Everywhere But Home

  2. тамга (ace), ноён (king), хатан (queen), боол (jack)

  3. Pingback: Lopburi: An Unexpected Arrival | Everywhere But Home

  4. Pingback: First Trip Away From Site | Min in Mongolia

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