Exploring the world of Dabbu

Exploring the world of Dabbu
Dabbu pieces arranged in the middle of the board as the game is about to start.

Dabbu, despite of having a tarnished reputation, is a part of Karachi’s culture. The game is known to be a source of entertainment for people belonging to lesser-privileged sections of the society. The game has such bad name probably because of the different localities where it is played. However, seasoned player, Habib Ur Rehman who is also known as Viki, categorically denies this perception. “The perception about dabbu is totally wrong that it is only played by lower class or uneducated people,” he said. “The truth is that it is played by people belonging to different social classes and education backgrounds. Whoever likes this game, plays it; the tag attached to it is far from truth.”

It is an open secret that betting takes place on this game and fights do break out. But, there is not any obligation regarding betting, one can play friendly games with his friends just to have fun. “Betting is quite common in this game. Spectators as well as the players put their money on the game. It can be Rs 100 or higher, there is no rule regarding it. There are also players who play friendly games,” he further told. “We play with friends to relax and have fun and never felt anything negative in it,” he added.

Dabbu basically has two variations, one is called ‘Game’ and the other is called ‘Century’. “In Game, the first colour piece (Gote in Urdu) that you pot, you have to play the same colour throughout the game. Whereas, in Century, you need to pot the Queen (the orange or red piece) first to open the account and then can target both the colours,” explained Moiz.


Usually, people tend to play this game with their friends, which may involve betting or they can be just friendly contests. But, there are also big tournaments hosted in different parts of the city, especially in Lalukhet. “Big dabbu tournaments in Karachi take place in Lyari, Malir, Shahfaisal, but Lalukhet stands out in hosting such tournaments,” told Moiz.

These tournaments are huge in terms of winning prize. The entry fee can differ from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000 for tournaments that have winning prize as big as Rs. 0.1 million. “The entry fee and winning prize depend on the kind of club hosting the tournament, locality, number of participants and similar other factors. However, winning sum can vary from Rs 10,000 to Rs 100,000, big tournaments have entry fee of around Rs 5,000 to Rs. 10,000,” Habib shared. These tournaments are hosted by shop or club owners or by local players.

Winning tournaments requires sheer skills. It is quite easy to play against the players from the same locality as you are well aware of their playing style and skills. However, when you go out to play in other areas, disadvantage of playing away from home comes into the equation. You play against players, whom you do not know, on boards with which you are not familiar with. In that situation, a known partner comes handy, who understands your game and plays according to your strengths and weaknesses. “Partnership is very important in dabbu. If you have good chemistry with the partner and know each other well, you play according to the strengths and weaknesses of your partner. Having a same partner improves your game, it becomes a strength for you,” told Habib Ur Rehman.

Moreover, to improve your game as a player, you need to work on your aim. As per Moiz, “Aim is everything in this game, you have to perfect it. If your aim is perfect, you can craft any shot with that. To hone the skills, you need to practice each shot multiple times, otherwise you cannot become a local legend.”

dabbu is a variety of Carrom, it uses board sized from 65’x65’ to 72’x72’ made of either marble or wood. “Wood from North Indian Rosewood (Sheesham) is used to make these boards, the pieces used for these boards are also made from wood, in contrast to plastic pieces used on marble boards,” enlighten the shop owner, Sohail. A good board is the one that has dry wood and strong borders. Old boards (dabbus) are preferred over new as they are much smoother in play. The best quality board can be purchased in around Rs. 28,000. As any other sporting equipment, these boards also need maintenance and if they are polished after every two to four weeks, they can last longer.