Âs Nas is the game from which modern Poker may have sprung; its earliest record dates back to the 17th century. Its popularity kept growing between the 1700s and the 1800s, two centuries during which Persia had frequent contacts with Western countries; then, gradually, the interest for this game subsided. Few decks made during the first half of the 20th century have been reported, but the country's Islamic revolution (1979) gave the finishing blow to Âs Nas: following the strict enforcement of religious laws, that frown upon gambling, as well as upon any pastime considered "futile", it is very unlikely that either cards or players may still exist. Therefore this game too should be considered fully Persian, rather than Iranian.
Âs Nas is played with a set of five subjects, all courts, each of which is repeated either four or five times, for a total number of 20 or 25 cards. Therefore, there are no pip cards, nor suits, as well. Usually As-Nas cards were hand-painted on cardboard, and then laquered.
The subjects, ordered from highest to lowest, are called Âs ("ace", featuring a lion), Padishah ("king"), Bibi ("queen"), Sarbaz ("soldier") and Lakkat (the lowest card in rank, more often featuring a dancer). As a variant, in some decks the dancer is replaced by the Kouli ("huntsman"). The five personages are more often portrayed in ovals, as the sample shown in this page, but in some editions they are featured in full figure.
Padishah, the king Bibi, the queen
The background colors change according to the rank; they may have worked well as an index, allowing the subjects to be easily identified from the corners, provided that the Persian players held the cards in fan position, as the Western ones do. Usually the lion has a black background, or a darker color than the others, the king has green, the queen has yellow, the soldier has gold or orange, and the dancer has red. Slightly different schemes are reported in a minor number of editions.
Unlike most other games described in this section of suit less cards, Âs Nas is a gambling game, based on betting. The original method of play has long since been oblivion ed, but game researcher Modar Neznanich, author of the Medieval Games page, investigated original sources, from which he devised the following set of rules, certainly not too different from the old ones.
Sarbaz, the soldier Either 20 or 25 cards are used, according to whether four or five players take part, respectively. At the beginning of the hand, the dealer gives each player two covered cards, starting from the one on his left. In turn, each player decides whether to place a bet; not doing so causes him to withdraw. Two more cards are dealt to the players still in the game, and a second series of bets takes place, eventually bringing a further selection. The active players receive a fifth card; after a further round of bets, the combination's are revealed, and the holder of the highest point takes all.
Lakkat, featuring a dancer
The possible combination's, from the highest to the lowest, are as follows:
one card of each kind
straight flush five identical subjects
five of a kind (only with dice) four identical subjects
poker three identical subjects and a couple
full house three identical subjects
three of a kind two identical subjects (a couple)
Âs Nas has less combination's than Poker due to the lack of suits, but the analogies are evident. Speculations have been made on how the Persian game might have reached the Western countries, in particular France or the the United States, thus leading to the creation of Poker; however, no evidence that this really happened has ever been given.