Sri Lanka is a multicultural country full of heritage, and history. With unique customs and traditions passed down over generations. Yet as we've entered into a fast-paced, commercialized modern age. With many technological advancements altering the course of our lives, man's interests and hobbies have also varied. Amongst everything new, the introduction of video games and consoles has led to the demise in popularity of games once cherished by older generations. But one card game has managed to stand the test of time and evolve into the digital era. It is the card game popularly known as "Omi."
Omi, also known as Oombi in different regions of the island is a 4 player card game. It is a partnership trick-taking game with similarities to games such as Whist and Court Piece.
How to play Omi
The game is played amongst 4 players in 2 fixed partnerships. The players are positioned to have your partner sitting right across you. While your opponents will be seated perpendicularly to you, facing each other.
A standard international 52-card pack is used, but only 32 of the cards will be in play. The cards in play will be ranked from high to low in the following order, in each suit: (high) A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7 (low).
The remaining 20 cards will be used as tokens for scoring. With one player from each team taking possession of either the ten black scoring cards (2-6 of clubs and spades) or the 10 red scoring cards (2-6 of hearts and diamonds). And each token card will hold the value of 1 point. The remaining two players of each team are in charge of collecting tokens won from the opponents. To prevent the mixing of the red and black token cards.
The dealer may be chosen randomly to begin with but will be rotated anticlockwise after each hand.
The dealer will shuffle the 32 playing cards and offer the cards to the opponent to the left to cut. Who could either opt to cut the deck as they desire or leave it to be dealt as is. Afterward, the dealer deals a batch of four cards face down to each player in order, starting from the player to the right of the dealer.
The player dealt first will be calling the Trumps. They must inspect their cards, select a suit without communicating with their partner, and announce it. Upon which the dealer will then deal with another batch of 4 cards to each player.
If the first hand dealt to the person calling trumps only contains number cards, they can call for a reshuffle.
Before starting play ensure that each player has 8 cards in hand.
The player to the dealer's right, who announced the trump suit, begins play by placing any card of choice on the table. The other players play in turn, anticlockwise around the table, and must follow suit if able. On the occasion a player does not hold a card of the called suit, they may play any card.
If no trumps are played, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit that was called. If any trumps were played the highest trump wins the trick. The winner of the trick gathers the four cards, stacks them face down in the team's trick pile. And begins the new trick by playing any card of choice.
The 4 cards of the last played trick from either team's trick pile may be viewed by the opposition, upon request at any instance.
If you are in possession of a card from the called suit and you are caught not playing it, it would be regarded as cheating. And you will be penalized 5 token cards.
Upon playing all 8 cards in hand, both teams will count the number of tricks won by each in their respective piles. And if:
- The team that chose the trump suit has 5 or more tricks, they win 1 token card from the opponents' stack.
- The team that did not choose the trump suit has 5 or more tricks, they win two token cards.
- Both teams win 4 tricks each. This is known as "Reporu", neither team will lose token cards, but an extra token card is won by the team winning the next hand. And in the instance, the following hand also ends in a Reporu. They will cancel each other out and no extra token cards will be won.
- Either team wins all 8 tricks, they win three token cards. This is known as "Kapothi", or as "Basthe."
The objective of the game
The partnership to collect 10 token cards first wins the game. So if a team runs out of token cards in their stack, or does not have enough token cards to pay the winning team, they have lost the game.
Omi Master – the mobile game
Omi master is an android mobile game that is free to download on the google play store. It is very well designed and extremely easy to play. Given below is a gameplay tutorial of the app:
You can download Omi Master from Travel Partner in Google Play Sore
Tactics in Omi
When selecting trumps, select the suit in which you have the most cards. And when choosing between 2 suits of equal amounts with one containing an Ace, select the other suit as the Ace will guarantee a win in most instances regardless of not being a trump.
In the case that your initial hand contains all 4 different suits, your next hand largely depends on luck. So some players opt for the suit with the lowest card while the safer option would be to select the suit with the highest card.
It is important to keep track of which cards have been played and to cooperate with your partner. For instance, you should not beat or trump your partner's card when your partner is likely to win the trick if possible. Or when your partner plays a winning card and you have no card of that suit. You may discard a card of the suit that you would like your partner to lead next, either because you have the highest card of that suit, or because it is your only card of the suit and you will be able to trump it.
If you have 4 or more high trump cards along with high cards in other suits, lead with the trump cards. This will cause your opponents to lose their trump cards and negate any chance of your cards being cut by a trump.
All over the island, some people play with slightly different rules, but the most common variation is regarding Kapothi. With some playing with rules that require you to announce before the fifth trick that you intend to win all eight tricks, in order to win 3 token cards. If having announced this, you then lose at least one of the tricks, you will have to give 4 tokens to the opponents.
Another variation allows any player after viewing their 8 cards to announce that they will win all 8 tricks on their own. Thereby, stopping their partner from playing. And allowing them to receive the partners 2 best cards in exchange for 2 cards of their choice. They are also given the the ability to pick trumps. In the instance they are successful, they will win 3 token cards while losing at least 1 trick causes a loss of 5 tokens. This is referred to as "'partner close."
Terminology used in Omi
Trump – Suit selected to rank above the others.
Reporu – A draw, both teams win 4 tricks each.
Kapothi/Basthe – Claiming to win all 8 tricks.