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Guide to Omi: Sri Lanka's Favourite Card Game

Gambling Cards

Omi is a popular traditional card game that is an integral part of Sri Lankan cultural and social events. Designed for four players, the game is organized into fixed partnerships, with partners sitting across from each other. Omi uses a 32-card deck, and all suits include cards from Ace to Seven. The game is played in a counter-clockwise direction. The excitement of the game lies in the strategic bidding and skillful card play. Players must bid to select the trump suit and strategically play their cards to win tricks based on the declared suit. Omi encourages critical thinking and enhances decision-making skills, providing both challenging and social experiences. Omi remains a beloved staple among Sri Lankan card games, enjoyed by both experienced players and novices alike.

Omi, also known as Oombi in some regions, is thought to be similar to the Dutch game Hombre and is believed to have evolved from it. However, it has developed into a unique game in its own right. Omi is essentially a strategy-based partnership game akin to Whist and shares some gameplay elements with Court Piece, which is popular in India and Pakistan. The game particularly highlights how trumps are selected based on the first hand dealt. This selection process is a critical component of the strategy and challenge in Omi.

Basic design

Omi utilizes a 32-card deck, which includes cards ranging from Aces to 7s. Scoring in Omi is uniquely managed through the use of scoring tokens, represented by the cards numbered 2 to 6 in two colors, black and red. During game setup, one player is responsible for distributing these tokens as payouts to opponents, while their partner is tasked with collecting tokens from the opposing team. This system of handling tokens adds an additional strategic layer to the gameplay.

The first player is randomly selected, and the deal then rotates to the right. After shuffling, the dealer offers the player to his left the opportunity to cut the deck before dealing the cards. Initially, each player receives four cards. The player to the right of the dealer is then required to choose and declare the trump suit based on their hand, a decision that significantly influences the strategic gameplay that follows. After the trump suit is declared, another set of four cards is dealt to each player, completing their hands with eight cards each.

Players and cards


In this card game, four players form fixed partnerships, with partners sitting opposite each other as North and South versus East and West. The game is played with only 32 cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7 of each suit) from a standard 52-card international pack, and the play proceeds in a counter-clockwise direction.

The remaining 20 cards are used as scoring tokens. These consist of the 2 to 6 of clubs and spades (black) and hearts and diamonds (red). For instance, one player, such as North, manages the ten black scoring cards, while an opponent, such as West, handles the ten red scoring cards. These cards serve as tokens of equal value. The other players, South and East, are tasked with collecting tokens won from the opponents. Consequently, black tokens move from North to East and red tokens from South to West, ensuring that the two colors of tokens are never mixed.

Play begins with the player to the dealer’s right leading the first trick. Players may follow suit if they choose, but they are otherwise free to play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump played; if no trumps are played, it is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of the trick collects the cards and leads the next trick, and this cycle continues throughout the game.


Scoring in Omi is dynamic and directly related to the number of tricks won. If the team that declared the trump suit wins 5 to 7 tricks, they earn one token from the opponents. Winning all 8 tricks results in a significant gain of three tokens. Conversely, if the team wins fewer than 4 tricks, they must give two tokens to their opponents. In the event of a tie in the number of tricks won, no tokens are exchanged, but it leads to increased stakes in the subsequent round.

Strategic considerations

Choosing the trump suit is a crucial decision in Omi. A player must consider not only the strength of their hand but also their ability to cooperate with their partner. It is important to remember which cards have been played and to strategically manage your hand to support your partner’s potential plays. Effective partnership communication, often non-verbal, can significantly influence the outcome of the game.

Cultural significance

Omi is not just a game in Sri Lanka; it is an integral part of social gatherings and family reunions that reflect the strategic and cultural aspects of local traditions. It serves as a bridge across generations, teaching young players strategic thinking and decision-making. Omi offers a perfect blend of strategy, skill, and social interaction, making it a favorite among card games in Sri Lanka. Its depth and accessibility ensure it remains a staple at gatherings, providing entertainment and challenges for all participants. Whether you are a seasoned player or new to traditional card games, Omi offers a rich and engaging experience.

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