JEDDAH: The 2020 Baloot Championship is underway in Riyadh with over 18,000 players participating.
For the first time, 40 female groups will participate in this, the championship’s third edition, that commenced on Thursday, Feb. 13, and will continue on until Feb. 22.
Organized by the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) and supported by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), this year’s winners will go home with SR2 million ($533,234). There are 600 judges monitoring the teams.
In 2018, the first every Baloot Championship took place under the patronage of the GEA with 2,000 participants. The winners received a prize of one million Saudi riyals.
Many apps of the popular game are available to download on Apple Store and Google Play, with over 2 million downloads.
Believed to have been brought to the Hijazi region from Indian immigrants through trading routes during the time of the Ottoman Empire, the origins of the game could also have come from France where it’s known as “Belote” and migrated during the Ottoman Expansion in the region.
The objective of the game is to outsmart and outplay your opponent. For decades, Baloot has been one of the most popular games in the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia in particular. Men and women alike have played the game in which four players are divided into two teams, two players each. The rules are strict and straight forward. The game uses 32 cards, includes the Joker card and excludes the numbers 2 and 6. There are two systems, Hokom and San, with the latter being the strongest set.
The key component of the game is to constantly be vigilant, no speaking allowed and players must keep a poker face.