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Origin"Evansville, Indiana"
Skills requiredMemory, Tactics
Card rank (highest first)A 10 K Q J 9
J 9 A 10 K Q (trump)
Playing time25 Minutes
Random chanceMedium
Related games
Klaverjas Belote

Evansville Clabber is a four-player trick-taking card game that is played in southwestern Indiana near Evansville. Clabber is a member of the Jack-Nine family of trick-taking card games that are popular in Europe. The game is a four player variation similar to that of klaberjass. The game also plays similar to Euchre, with a few differences being that points are not awarded based on the number of tricks taken, but rather on the actual point value of cards in those tricks. Clabber also doesn't use a left Bower, as does Euchre; other differences are that players don't use Bidding, instead, the trump makers must score at least eighty-two points to keep from "going set", where they don't score any of their points. Additional points can also be scored for a combination of cards in a hand, which would assist in "making it", or, not going set.

The origin of the game, as played in Evansville, and surrounding areas, has not yet been established with any certainty. Some lend its beginnings with the European game Klaberjass, while others have said it was brought to the Evansville Ohio River banks by African-American steamboat workers. Clabber, as played locally, dates back to at least 1913, when several articles were printed in the local newspaper referring to private games. One such article referred to it as "a negro card game". During WWII, many of the manufacturing plants, such as Servel, Republic Aviation and others began challenging each other to games.

In 1944, the Evansville Clabber League was formed by Servel Inc., Bucyrus-Erie, the Order of Owls, Order of Eagles, Order of Moose, West Side Sportsmans Club, Germania Maennerchor and Knights of Columbus. [1] One long time Clabber champion was Elbert D. Mackey.

Players and cards[edit]

Clabber is played by four players in fixed partnerships with partners sitting opposite (on tables where the length is longer than the width, players arrange themselves around the table, two on each side, with partners sitting diagonally opposite one another). Cards are dealt, from left to right (or clockwise), to opponent then partner, opponent to dealer. The deck consist of 24 of the standard 52 playing card deck: ace, king, queen, jack, ten, and nine of each of the suits. The card ranks from high to low, and their values are as follows:

Trump Points Non-trump Points Melds
Jack 20 Ace 11 Ace
Nine 14 Ten 10 King
Ace 11 King 4 Queen
Ten 10 Queen 3 Jack
King 4 Jack 2 Ten
Queen 3 Nine 0 Nine

The team that takes the last trick scores an extra 10 points, so that, without melds, there are a total of 162 possible points. In the trump suit the Jack and Nine move from the lowest rank to the highest rank, and are the only cards to change in point value.


A meld is a scoring combination of cards in the hand of a player. The rank and point values of possible melds are:

Melt Description Points
"Two Hundred", a.k.a. "Mule" Four jacks 200
"Hundred" Four nines 100
"Hundred" Four aces 100
"Hundred" Fours tens 100
"Hundred" Four kings 100
"Hundred" Four queens 100
"Hundred" Sequence of five in one suit 100
"Fifty" Sequence of four in one suit 50
"Dad" Sequence of three in one suit 20
"Belle" King and queen of trump 20



The deck is shuffled by the dealer, and offered to the player to the right who must cut the deck with at least four cards in each stack. The dealer then deals all the cards clockwise, one at a time, with every player receiving six cards. The last card, which is part of the dealer's hand, is turned face up in front of the dealer. After the hand has been played, the turn to deal passes to the left.

Declaring Trump[edit]

Declaring trump is the part of the game that determines the trump suit. The team that makes the trump suit must score more points than their opponent, including melds, or score nothing. A player must have at least one card of a suit to declare a suit trump. There are two rounds of declaring in clabber. The first round begins with the player to the left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Each player declares whether to "play" or "pass" the suit of the dealer's face up card as the trump suit. As soon a player says "play", the suit of the dealer's up-card becomes trump, and the cards are played. If all four players pass in the first round, the dealer picks up the face up card and there is a second round, also beginning with the player to the dealers left and moving clockwise. In this round, the trump suit may be chosen from any of the three suits that were not the suit passed in the first round of bidding. If all four players pass again, then the cards are not played and no points are scored for that hand and the dealer must deal again (the deal does not pass to the next player in this case).


The player to the dealer's left leads to the first trick. Rules dictate what cards may be played on a trick. The first, or lead, card, may be any card in the leader's hand. The basic rules of play are as follows:

  • Players must always play a card of the same suit as the lead card when possible. This is called "following suit".
  • If unable to follow suit, a trump card must be played. This is known as "trumping in".
  • If unable to follow suit or play trump, any other card may be played. This is called "throwing off (suit)".
  • Any trump played must beat the highest trump already played to the trick when possible, even if the highest trump was played by the player's partner. This is known as "overtrumping".
  • When a non-trump is led there is no obligation to beat the cards previously played to the trick when following suit.

Each trick is won by the highest trump played to it, or, if it contains no trumps, by the highest card of the suit led. The team winning the trick collects the four cards and turns them over to be counted later. The player who won the previous trick then leads the first card of the next trick. This is repeated until all six tricks have been played.

Declaring melds[edit]

During the first trick, players announce melds, scoring combinations of cards that they hold. The team with the highest ranking meld scores all their melds, while the other team scores nothing for melds. The rank and point values for melds are listed above. No card may be used in more than one meld. Among sequences of equal length, the one with higher cards wins; if the rank of the cards is also equal, a trump sequence beats a non-trump sequence. If both teams have a sequence of equal rank and length in non-trump suits as their highest meld, neither team scores for meld on that deal. In order to score any meld, the player must announce it just before playing a card to the first trick. Immediately before playing, or leading a card to the second trick, he/she must show it. If the player does not announce the meld before playing the first trick, or show the meld before playing the second, the meld is not scored.


Belle (king and queen of trump) is treated differently from other melds. If a player holds belle, it can always be scored, irrespective of any other meld announced and scored by either team. Belle is announced when the second part of it is played, or when shown in a meld. Cards of a belle can also be used in another scoring meld - for example a player holding K-Q-J of trumps can score 40 points for "dad 'a' belle" provided that the dad is not beaten. In this particular case, the belle is announced when the dad is scored, because the holder must show both cards of the belle in order to score the dad; if the belle cards are not used in meld, the belle is announced when the second part of the belle is played.


At the end of the play, each team totals the value of the cards in the tricks that they won, plus any score for melds or belle. The team that takes the last trick scores an extra 10 points. If the team that made trumps in the bidding has more points than their opponents, then each team scores the points they made. If the scores are equal, or if the team that made trumps have fewer points than their opponents, the trump making team scores zero points, written as "XX" on the score sheet and known as a "hick", a.k.a. "turkey tracks", while the other team scores whatever points they won in tricks and melds. In this case the team that made trump is said to be "set" or "hicked". If the trump makers' opponents score no points, their zero is written on the score sheet as line ("-"). The game ends when either team's cumulative score reaches 500 points or more.


Infractions of the rules of declaring, melding, and play are known as reneges. In case of a renege, the play ends, and the opponents of the team that reneged score 162 points plus meld. If both teams renege in one hand, the hand is not scored and must be re-dealt by the same dealer. Reneges must be called before the last trick has been turned over. Possible reneges are:

  • Failing to follow suit when able; failure to trump when necessary, and able.
  • Failing to beat the highest trump card played (over-trumping) when necessary.
  • Calling, and/or showing, a Meld out of turn. Announcing Belle before the second part of it has been played.
  • Leading, or playing, out of turn.
  • Declaring Trump suit with no cards of that suit.
  • Looking at a past trick after a card has been played to the next trick.
  • When claiming a renege against opponent, and not proving it.
  • Answering partner’s questions, or advising partner regarding play.
    • Examples: “What’s trumps?”; “Whose lead is it?”; “Is it my lead?”; “It’s your lead”, partner!”; “Who played it?”; “What was led?”; “Give me a lead, partner!!
  • Declaring trump, on the second time around, a suit previously passed by all players on the first round.


  • A card exposed during the deal requires a re-deal, with the same player dealing again.
  • Dealing out of turn is a misdeal, but must be claimed before the last card is dealt.


  1. ^ Davis, Rich. "CLABBER CRAZY" : IT TRUMPS AND STUMPS...AND RANKS UP THERE WITH BRAIN SANDWICHES, STOPLIGHTS AND MARCIA YOCKEY (Evansville Courier & Press, Evansville, IN : November 28, 1993

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