Hasiera · Home
Ezaugarriak · Features
Oharrak · Notes
Sarrera · Introduction
Kirolak · Sports
Musika · Music
Janedanak · Gastronomy
Tokiak · Places
Historia · History
Politika · Politics
Albisteak · News
Nahas Mahas · Misc

buber.net > Basque > Sports > Mus
For security reasons, user contributed notes have been disabled.


The Basque Card Game

Mus is a card game of Basque origin which makes use of a deck of forty cards (the 8's, 9's, and 10's are not used). And, with most things Basque, it is not certain exactly where or when the game originated. This is usually of little consequence since Basques have been able to fabricate a variety of stories or explanations. In this particular case, conflict arises over which is the "real way" of playing this entertaining game.

There are regional variations of the game. One version accepts the 3's as kings and the 2's as aces making eight kings and eight aces in the deck. Another version takes this step further and makes the five of diamonds an additional king, totaling nine kings. Then there is "Mus Royal" with one king and three 7's which is unbeatable when playing the "Jokoa" portion of the game. The version used for the annual NABO tournament which gathers the local champions of each club recognizes four kings and four aces.

Mus can be played between two or more players, up to six, forming teams of two or three players each. The most common and most interesting form is between four players split into two teams. Once the players are gathered, it must be understood which "version" will be played. (Is it four or eight kings?) A probable theory is that each player will prefer whichever version he or she first learned. For example, players in California maintain that four kings and four aces is the only "real" way to play, while Basques in Idaho chose to play with eight kings and eight aces and believe it to be the better version. This little impasse can lead to some heated debate or players can just chose one version and deal the cards and play.

Despite variations of the game, the basic rules remain the same. The rules at first may seem complicated (but remember that Basques like to do things their own way). It is best that the player first learn the order of play and that he or she learn to play the game in the Basque language. Below is a short list of Basque words which are used to play the game. Yes, there is a variation in some of the words used but do not despair, you will soon understand what is meant.

Hitzak: Vocabulary

  • mus - call for new cards
  • hasi/mintza - start the game
  • han - I defer to my partner
  • altza/tira - decline to bet
  • geiago/beste - raise another...
  • hordago - bet for the entire game (throw down cards and best hand wins, or forfeit last be made)
  • enbido - min. bet of 2 pts.
  • mediak - three of a kind
  • dobleak/dubleak - two pairs
  • parea bai - yes I have pairs
  • parea ez - I have no pairs
  • jokoa bai - yes I have game
  • jokoa ez - I have no game
  • euki/edoki - hold the bet
  • hamarrako - represents a game piece worth 5 pts.
  • bai - yes
  • ez - no
  • paso - pass
  • esku - hand
  • joko - game
  • haundia - big
  • txikia - small
  • pareak - pairs
  • puntuak - points

  • bat - 1
  • bi - 2
  • hiru - 3
  • lau - 4
  • bost - 5
  • sei - 6
  • zazpi - 7
  • zortzi - 8
  • bederetzi - 9
  • hamar - 10

Order of Play

The game has four parts and they are always played in the same order as follows:

Kings, Queens, Jacks, etc. Most number of high cards in one hand (Kings are the highest card).
Aces, (2's, 3's) four's etc. Most number of low cards in the hand (Aces are lowest).
Each player must first state whether he or she possesses some type of pairs before betting begins. Two pairs are better than three of a kind, three of a kind is better than one pair, and a pair of kings is better than a pair of queens, etc.
Each player must first state if he or she possesses the game. Jokoa is 31 or better: face cards (maybe 3's also) are worth ten points, others are their own value. This is a Basque game, so the order of the best to the least preferred hand for jokoa is 31, 32, up to 40, then 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, and 33.
If no player has jokoa (31 or better), then puntuak is played. The hand closest to/or 30 points is the best.

"Kenuak": Signs

A player cannot show his partner his hand, but you can send signs to notify the other of what you possess. This can be helpful because one player could simultaneously play both your hand and his/her own, confusion the opposition. The trick is to send signs while the other team is not watching you, and in turn, you watch them to see if they try to send any. Teams can only utilize the accepted signs and they are as follows:

  • biting the lower lip - indicates a pair of kings
  • sticking out the tongue - indicates a pair of aces
  • twitching the mouth to one side or the other - indicates three of a kind for pairs
  • raising the eyebrows or twitching both ends of the mouth outwards - indicates "dobleak"
  • winking either eye - indicates 31 for game, or if no game is had, it indicates 30 for "punteak"

Betting and Scoring

The minimum bet in Mus is "enbido" (2 points). Teams begin with zero points and the first team to gather the total decided (usually 40 or 50) wins the game. A player may chose to either pass or make a bet, when it is his/her turn to bet. One bet speaks for the team the opposing team may either "tira," "edoki," "beste hiru" (raise 3 points for example), or bet the entire game with "ordago" (and you thought it was just a great musical band!). Here's the nice feature of the game for the underdog. The other team may be many points ahead, but if they accept your challenge of "hordago" and either of your team's hand is better than either of the other team's hand, you win the game!

If a team makes a bet and your team declines ("tira"), then the other team receives one point. Other scoring for the last half of the game is as follows:

  • pareak - 1 point
  • dobleak - 3 points
  • 32, 40, 39 ... - 2 points
  • mediak - 2 points
  • 31 - 3 points
  • 4 thru 30 - 1 point
  • * Plus the bet, if any

Remember that your team cannot collect the above points for your hands if you did not defeat the opposing team when the betting was open. Here is another fun feature of the game - bluffing! Your hand may be superior to your opponents, but if you decline his bet because he/she bluffs you, then they get the above points for their hand and you watch them collect and kick yourself for being fooled. Be patient, you will get them back next time!

Many Basque clubs are now in the process of playing Mus in preparation for the NABO tournament in May. For you avid Mus players, you should know that two new Mus rules have been adopted by NABO. They are as follows:

  1. during the distribution of the first 16 cards in a phase (Karta Aldia), should the dealer mistakenly overturn a card, it is voluntary Mus only (Nahi Duena Mus). Should the overturning of a card occur later in the phase, the game will continue and the incident will be disregarded.
  2. during the distribution of the first 16 cards in a phase, should the dealer mistakenly deal the wrong number of cards, all cards are to be collected and redealt. Should this occur later in the phase, the hand of the person holding the incorrect number of cards does not count, and only the cards of those holding the correct number of cards will finish the phase (Karta Aldia).

Taken from Hizketa (NABO Newsletter), Winter 1992.

This page is part of Buber's Basque Page and is maintained by Blas Uberuaga.
Please report any problems or suggestions to Blas.
Eskerrik asko!