Can Kuwaiti Card Game Kout Bo 6 Go Global Like Poker?
Kout Bo 6 is a traditional card game from Kuwait that is played all over the Gulf region. In recent years, it has experienced huge growth in popularity thanks to online versions of the game and is particularly popular during Ramadan when tournaments are often held. But can it ever compete with poker on a global scale?
To answer that question, we need to learn a little more about the two games, the similarities between them, and why they are popular.
Rules of Kout Bo 6
This entertaining game of Kout Bo 6 uses a standard 52-card deck of cards with one black and one red joker. Much of the game’s popularity can be attributed to the fact it is very easy to learn and is played in teams.
The first thing to know is that the cards are ranked by value from the smallest to biggest in the following way: (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, ace, black joker, red joker). The exception is the ace trump card, which 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.
The game is normally played counter-clockwise with each player being dealt nine cards to begin with. 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 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 start of a hand 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 eight, the player can start with the red joker; if they bid nine, they can start with either joker.
If a joker is played at the start, the other players must lay trump cards. 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 follow. At all other times, the joker can be used on any suit.
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 is popular all over the Gulf, and players can now play online via dedicated websites and apps. One popular Kout Bo 6 website claims to have close to 300,000 registered users. However, the number of total players on and offline is thought to run into the millions. Despite this, the game has yet to break out into the global market in the same way as poker.
Similarities with the rules of poker
In the popular Texas Hold’em version of poker, each player aims to create a hand of up to five cards that is of a higher value than their opponent’s. The players are dealt two cards and then a betting process begins.
The dealer then turns over three community cards that can be used by all of the players to make a hand. Another round of betting is held before two more community cards are revealed amidst two more rounds of betting. Players can choose to remain in the game and bet or drop out (fold) at any time. Of the players remaining, the one with the best combination of five cards wins the hand.
The bidding process in Kout Bo 6 has similarities with the way that betting works in many forms of poker, including Texas Hold’em, seven-card stud, Omaha Hi/Lo and stud 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 and one of the reasons why it is so popular in the Gulf region. Having said that, the single-player aspect of poker makes it more suitable for online play where the majority of poker fans now 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 makes it comparable to poker is the turn of the cards. As each card is turned, the tension mounts as the advantage swings from one player or team to another. 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.
However, poker is so embedded in Western culture (with even TV celebrities getting in on the action) that it is hard to see any card game ever reaching the same levels of popularity. It would need a remarkable set of circumstances for any card game to compete with poker, but if enough casino and gaming websites were to adopt Kout Bo 6 and promote it well enough, it could still be a smash hit.
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.