Big Two

Big Two is a Chinese climbing game for two to four players. Although it plays much like Thirteen (tien len), it is unique among the climbing games in that it allows for the use of standard poker hands as valid combinations. For example, while most climbing games will let you play a five-card straight, only in Big Two could that straight be beaten by a flush or a full house!

Object of Big Two

The object of Big Two is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards. This is achieved by discarding cards as parts of valid combinations.

Setup

Anyone wanting to play a game of Big Two needs a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Of course, we’d absolutely love it if you chose a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You should also have something handy to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. Set aside any unused cards; they will have no effect on game play.

Card ranking

Big Two uses the card ranking order usually found in other climbing games of Asian origin: aces are high, and 2s are even higher than the ace. This gives a full ranking of (high) 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low).

Ties in rank (as when single cards or pairs are played against each other) are broken by suit. Suits rank in the following order: (high) spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds (low).

Game play

Combinations

Play of the hand in Big Two revolves around different combinations of cards. The valid combinations that can be played fall into four categories, which have no rank or standing relative to each other. These four categories are:

Within the category of five-card combinations, there are a number of valid combos based on poker hands, which do have ranks relative to each other. These combinations are more or less what you’d expect if you’re familiar with poker, with some caveats. From highest to lowest:

1. Royal flush
A royal flush consists of A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit. Ties are broken by the suit of the royal flush, thus the best five-card combination is the spade royal flush.
2. Straight flush
Five cards of the same suit, in sequence (example: 4-5-6-7-8♠). In straight flushes, 2s rank below 3s, as they do in most climbing games, and aces can be either high or low, but not both, so 6-5-4-3-2 is fine, but 2-A-K-Q-J and 4-3-2-A-K are not. The highest-ranking card is used to determine the rank of the straight flush; if two straight flushes have the same top rank, then the tie is broken by the suit of the highest-ranked card.
3. Four of a kind
Four of a kind consists of all four of a particular rank of card, plus one unmatched fifth card. (example: 5-5-5-5-J). Ties are broken by the rank of the cards (four 6s beats four 5s). Note that unlike in most other climbing games, four-of-a-kinds are not a valid combination by themselves, and must be played along with a fifth card.
4. Full house
A full house consists of three of one rank of card and two of another (example: 7-7-7-3-3). Ties are broken by the rank of the three matching cards (Q-Q-Q-9-9 beats 10-10-10-K-K).
5. Flush
A flush consists of five cards of the same suit, not in any particular order (example: 5-6-9-J-K♦). Unlike in poker, ties are broken by the suit of the flush. Only if two flushes are of the same suit is the rank of the highest card used in determining the which flush is higher.
6. Straight
A straight consists of five cards of any suit in sequence (example: 4♦-5♣-6♣-7♠-8♥). If all cards are the same suit, it becomes a straight flush. The rules for what constitutes a valid straight and how to rank it are otherwise the same as those for a straight flush.

Note that lower poker hands than straights cannot be played as five-card combos—there is no provision for playing a three-of-a-kind with two extra cards, two pairs, etc. These must be played by themselves as trips, pairs, or single cards.

Play of the hand

Game play begins with the player holding the 3♦, the lowest-ranked card in the game. If nobody holds the 3♦, then play starts with the 3♣, and so on upward to whoever is determined to hold the lowest card that’s actually in play. This player plays face up to the table any combination they desire that contains the low card. The next player to their left must then play a higher combination of the same length. That is, they must play a higher single card if the first player led with a single card, a pair if the first player led with a pair, etc. If the player cannot or does not wish to play higher, they may also pass, with the option to play again on their next turn.

This continues, with each player playing progressively higher combinations, until all of a player’s opponents pass to their play. (In a four-player game, this means three consecutive passes, or two consecutive passes in a three-player game.) When this happens, the remaining player is free to play whatever combination they wish. The next player to their left must then beat this new combination, as before, and the game continues on in this fashion.

Players must keep their hands visible at all times, and if asked how many cards they hold, must respond truthfully. This is to allow players holding high cards in reserve to play them to stop an opponent they fear may be able to play their last cards.

Ending the hand

The hand ends whenever a player runs out of cards. At this point, the hand is scored. Each player counts the number of cards they have remaining. If they have nine or fewer, they score one point for each card left in their hand. If they have ten through twelve cards left, they score two points per card remaining. An unlucky player left with all thirteen cards—having never played a card the whole hand—scores 39 points, three points per card!

The deal rotates to the left and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player reaches a predetermined score (such as 100 points). Whichever player has the lowest score at that point is the winner.

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Dou Dizhu

Dou Dizhu (斗地主), which roughly translates into English as Fight the Landlord, is a Chinese climbing game for three players. In Dou Dizhu, one player takes on the role of “landlord”, fighting to be the first to run out of cards. The other two players team up to try to dispense with their cards before the landlord does!

Dou Dizhu is a fascinating example of a climbing game because of the great flexibility the game affords players in choosing combinations of cards. This allows players to form complex strategies in planning their next moves. Because of this, the game is said to be easy to learn but hard to master.

Object of Dou Dizhu

The object of Dou Dizhu is to be the first player to run out of cards. (If playing with a partner, your partner being the first out is just fine too.)

Setup

To play Dou Dizhu, you need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards, with two jokers that are different from each other somehow. Happily, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards fit the bill wonderfully. One joker should be designated as the higher joker. (On Denexa cards, we recommend this to be the red joker, the one with the dragon.) You’ll also need some way of keeping score. A hard-score method, using counters like poker chips, works the best, but you can also keep score with pencil and paper or similar.

Shuffle the deck. Take the top card and flip it face-up, randomly inserting it somewhere into the middle of the deck. Each player in turn draws a card from the deck until each have seventeen cards in their hand. Note which player takes the face-up card. The remaining three cards become a widow and are left face-down in the center of the table.

Card ranking

As with many Asian climbing games, the cards rank in their usual order, with aces high, but with the 2 ranked even higher than that. The jokers rank even higher than the 2, with one joker (the red joker) outranking the other (the black joker). Thus, the full rank of cards is (high) , ★, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low). Suits are not relevant to game play.

Game play

The auction

The player who drew the face-up card in the deck bids first in the auction. They can choose to bid one, two, or three, or pass. The next player to their left then bids, and must bid higher than the first player or pass. A player can make a bid after initially passing. Bidding continues until either there are two consecutive passes or someone bids three. Once a winner has been established, they become the landlord. The landlord takes the widow into their hand, giving them a 20-card hand.

Combinations

Play of the hand in Dou Dizhu revolves around different combinations of cards. The valid combinations in Dou Dizhu are:

  • Single card
  • Pairs
  • Trips (three of a kind)
  • Straights (five or more cards in sequence, e.g. 3-4-5-6-7)
  • Quads (four of a kind)—but see restriction below
  • Consecutive pairs (three or more pairs in sequence, e.g. 3-3-4-4-5-5)
  • Consecutive trips (two or more trips in sequence, e.g. 3-3-3-4-4-4)

There are some restrictions on when the high-ranking 2s and jokers can be used. They can appear as single cards, or in pairs or trips. They cannot be used in straights or consecutive pairs or trips.

In addition, extra cards called kickers may also be attached to trips and consecutive trips. A kicker can be either a single card or a pair. For example, 7-7-7-5 and 7-7-7-5-5 are both valid combinations. When attaching kickers to consecutive trips, there must be one kicker or kicker pair for each triplet, each of which must be a different rank. For instance, 3-3-3-4-4-4-9-J and 4-4-4-8-8-8-7-7-Q-Q are both valid, but 3-3-3-4-4-4-9-9 is not (as this is one pair kicker for two triplets, not one single card for each triplet). Both 2s and jokers can be used as kickers, but not both jokers at the same time.

Quads must always be played with kickers to be used as a regular play. This can take the form of two single cards (5-5-5-5-8-K) or two pairs (5-5-5-5-8-8-K-K). Quads played without kickers are a special combination called a bomb (described below in “Bombs and rockets”).

Play of the hand

The landlord plays first. They may play any combination of cards they wish. The next player to the left then must play a higher-ranking instance of the same combination. To be considered the same combination, the same number of cards must be played: straights must be of the same length, consecutive pairs must have the same number of pairs, the same number of kickers must be played, etc. Combinations are ranked by the highest card present, with any kickers disregarded. For example, 7-7-7-5 is higher than 4-4-4-A (because the ace is a kicker and is thus not counted toward the rank of the combination). If a player cannot or does not want to play higher, they may pass.

This continues, with play continuing around the table, each player playing higher and higher combinations. Players may jump back into game play, even after passing, on their next turn. After two consecutive players have passed, the remaining player is free to play whatever combination of cards they choose (i.e. they are not compelled to play the same type of combination as before). As before, play continues to to the left, with the next player following up on the most recently played combination with a higher one of the same type.

Bombs and rockets

There are two special combinations in the game. These are the bomb, four of a kind with no kickers, and the rocket, which is a pair of jokers. Bombs and rockets may be played at any time, regardless of the combination being played. A bomb can only be beaten by a higher-ranked bomb or a rocket, and a rocket is unbeatable.

Ending the hand

Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. If that player is the landlord, each of their opponents pays them the amount bid (one, two, or three chips). If the landlord did not go out, the landlord must pay each opponent the amount bid. The payout is doubled for each time a bomb or rocket was played over the course of the hand.

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Big Three

Big Three, also known as Dig a Hole, is a Chinese climbing game for three players. Unique among the climbing games, Big Three starts each hand with a bidding round. The bidding round determines the stakes for each hand, as well as determining a temporary partnership for that hand only. The two players who lose the bid form an alliance to help each other defeat the high bidder.

Object of Big Three

The object of Big Three is to be the first player to discard all of your cards.

Setup

Big Three is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you choose Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, not only will we be happy, but so will you.

You also need something to keep track of the score with. The most convenient way of doing so is by having a pool of counters, such as poker chips, beans, buttons, coins, or any other comparable trinket. By mutual agreement, these may each represent some cash value. If so, collect money from each player and distribute the appropriate number of chips. If not, simply give each player the same number of chips.

The dealer shuffles and places the deck face down in the center of the table. Starting with the dealer, each player in turn draws one card. This repeats until each player has sixteen cards. Place the four remaining cards in the center of the table, forming the widow.

Card ranking

As in many other games in the climbing family, the cards rank out of order in Big Three. The 3 is the highest card, as you might expect from the title of the game. This is followed by the 2, then the ace, then the rest of the cards in their usual order. This gives us a complete ranking of (high) 3, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 (low).

Unlike in Thirteen and some other climbing games, the suits have no rank relative to one another. Cards of the same rank simply tie.

Game play

Bidding

A hand of Big Three begins with a bidding round to determine the partnerships for that hand. The player holding the 4♥, or the player holding the lowest heart if nobody holds the 4♥, bids first, and must make a bid of at least one unit. The next player to the left bids next, and may bid either two or pass and drop out of the bidding. This continues until either someone bids three, or two players have passed, whichever comes first.

The player that wins the bid plays solo against the other two players. The solo player then picks up the widow and adds it to their hand. While they now have 20 cards compared to their opponents’ 16, they can theoretically form more combinations with the extra cards, which will allow them to get rid of their cards faster. (This is where the name Dig a Hole comes from—the high bidder is digging themselves further in the hole by getting more cards, in search of treasure that will help them ultimately win the hand.)

Play of the hand

Play begins with the player who bid first (the holder of the lowest heart). That player lays a valid combination of cards, face up, in the center of the table. These are the permissible card combinations:

  • Single card
  • Pairs
  • Trips (three of a kind)
  • Quads (four of a kind)
  • Straights (three or more cards in sequence, e.g. 4-5-6)
  • A run of three or more consecutive pairs, trips, or quads (e.g. 4-4-5-5-6-6, or 6-6-6-7-7-7-8-8-8, etc.)

Aces, 2s, and 3s cannot be used in straights or runs of multiple pairs, trips, or quads.

The next player to the left must play a higher-ranking instance of the same type of combination. Straights and runs must be followed by another straight or run of the same length.  For example, a four-card straight must be followed up by another four-card straight, not a three-card or five-card or any other straight. The highest-ranking card present is used to determine the ranking of the entire combination.

Play continues to the left, each player playing higher than the most recent combination. If a player cannot or does not want to play higher, they may pass. They may play again when it comes back to their turn.

If there are two consecutive passes, however, the sole remaining player is free to play whatever combination of cards they choose (i.e. they are not compelled to play the same type of combination as before). The next player must then play higher than this new combination, and so on.

Settlement

Game play continues until one player has cleared their hand of all cards. If the solo player achieved this, both of their opponents pay them chips equal to the amount of the winning bid (a bid of one equals a one-chip payout, a bid of two equals two chips, and so on). If one of the solo player’s opponents exhausted their hand first, the solo player must pay the amount of the bid to both of their opponents.

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Daifugo

Daifugo (大富豪, in English, Grand Millionaire) is a Japanese card game for three or more players. Those who have played President will find its climbing-style game play and use of titles to reward winners and shame losers very familiar. Its simple mechanics, meanwhile, mean it is a good introduction to climbing-type games in general.

Object of Daifugo

The object of Daifugo is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards.

Setup

Daifugo is played with a standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Real grand millionaires would never be caught dead with anything other than Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

For the first round, determine the dealer randomly. Shuffle and deal the deck out as evenly as it will go. Some players may have more cards than others.

Card ranking

Daifugo uses the unusual card ranking common to other climbing games: (high) 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low). Suits are irrelevant.

Game play

Play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. They start by playing any number of cards of the same rank from their hand (as few as one card or as many as four). The player to the left must then play the same number of cards of the same rank, but higher than the previous player, or else pass. For example, if the first player began by playing three 5s, the next player must play any three of a kind of 6s or higher, or pass. Players who pass may not play again until the current round is over.

A round ends when all players but one have passed. The sole remaining player may then play any card or cards they wish to begin the next round.

As players run out of cards, they are assigned titles in order of their finish:

  1. Daifugo or grand millionaire (first to finish)
  2. Millionaire (second to finish)
  3. Commoner
  4. Poor (second-to-last to finish)
  5. Destitute (last player left with cards)

If playing with three players, use the Daifugo, Commoner, and Destitute ranks. With four, don’t use the Commoner rank. If playing with more than five players, use all the ranks, using Commoner as many times as appropriate.

The Destitute player is required to clean up the previous deal, shuffle, and deal the next hand. Many players also require the Destitute to carry out whatever task the other players require, such as fetching drinks or snacks. Before game play begins on the second and subsequent hands, the Destitute must pass their two highest-ranked cards to the Daifugo, who passes any two cards (usually low-ranked cards) back to them. The Daifugo then leads to the first round of the hand.

Game play continues until an agreed-upon stopping point, like a certain number of deals or a specified time. Whichever player was the Daifugo on the final hand is considered the winner of the overall game.

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President

White-house-1941-northPresident (also known under a number of colorful titles, such as Bum, Scumbag, and Asshole) is a game of Asian origin, bearing some similarity to Thirteen. Like Thirteen, the object of the game is to get rid of all of your cards, and play progresses with each player playing progressively higher ranks of cards (some group them together as climbing games). President has the novel feature of assigning each player a rank based on how well they did in the last round and having them rearrange themselves according to the ranking.

President is best for three to seven players.

Object of President

The object of President is to avoid being the last player to hold cards.

Setup

President uses the standard 52-card deck. You can use any deck of cards, but if you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you’ll definitely appear a lot more presidential.

You will need to establish a rank system, with one rank for each player. The top rank is something suitably impressive or positive and the last rank is typically something derogatory. One example for a six-player game would be President, Vice President, Governor, Lt. Governor, Citizen, Asshole. You could also use military ranks, ranks of nobility, job titles from your workplace—use your imagination. For the purposes of illustration, we will use the ranks just mentioned whenever the ranking system comes up.

You also need to establish chairs for each rank. The President should have the nicest and most comfortable chair, with the next-nicest sitting to the left and being occupied by the Vice President, and so on around the table to the Asshole, whose chair is to the President’s right and is the most unpleasant seat available—like a wooden crate, a backless stool, or the like. Some players also prefer to have silly hats that the holder of each rank is required to wear.

Shuffle and deal the cards as far as they will go. Some players may receive more cards than others. They’ll just have to deal with that, though.

Card ranking

President uses the same unconventional card ranking that Thirteen does. Aces rank high, but twos rank even higher than the ace. That means that the lowest card in play is the three, giving us a rank progression of (high) 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low). Unlike in Thirteen, however, suits do not matter.

Game play

The player with the 3♠ goes first. That player plays it face up to the table, either singly, or with any number of additional threes. The next player to the left plays the same number of cards of a higher rank (e.g. if the first player laid down a pair of 3s, the next player would have to lay down a pair of 4s or higher). The number of cards must match exactly with what the first player set down (so a pair must be followed by a pair, and not three of a kind, etc.). If a player cannot or doesn’t want to play on a particular turn, they pass, although they can still elect to play the next time it’s their turn.

Each player continues playing cards of ascending rank until all players pass except the last person to play. This player is then permitted to lead off, playing any number of cards of the same rank that they choose to.

The game continues in this manner until one player runs out of cards. This player is declared to be President, and play continues with the player to the left, as normal. This President-elect takes no further part in the hand. As more and more players run out of cards, they too receive titles and sit out of the game. Finally, the last player to run out of cards gets the last good rank, and the player stuck with cards becomes the Asshole.

Players now “take office” for the next hand, rearranging themselves to sit in the seats assigned to their new rank. The Asshole is required to perform the game-running duties for the next hand, including clearing the cards away from the last hand, shuffling, and dealing. The Asshole is also required to surrender their highest-ranked card to the President, who chooses any card they wish from their hand and passes it back to the Asshole. The next round begins, with the President playing first, leading with any card they wish.

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Thirteen

Thirteen, also known as tiến lên, is a quick and easy game originating in Vietnam (where it has been described as the national card game). It works best with four players, but you can play with as few as two or as many as six or so. A game takes about five or ten minutes, which means it’s great to play with a friend during a quick break from work or school (it’s a popular pastime among the staff in casino break rooms here in Oklahoma). Thirteen is played under several different sets of rules, so it’s important to ask the first time you play with someone what rules they are expecting. The rules laid out here are our favorite way to play, but feel free to experiment!

Object of Thirteen

The object of the game is to be the first to run out of cards. Alternatively, if your hand contains all four 2s or all four 3s, many players consider this to be an automatic win for the player holding them, since such a combination in one hand makes the game unbalanced enough that it’s best for the hands to be shuffled and redealt.

Setup

You will need a standard deck of 52 cards (we, of course, recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards). Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, deal out thirteen cards to each player. If you’re playing with more than four players, deal an even number of cards to each player. Set aside any unused cards.

Score is not kept in Thirteen, so you will not need a score sheet or pencil.

Card ranking

Thirteen is unusual among games most players are familiar with because of the unconventional ranking of the cards. Aces rank high, as they do in many other games, but twos rank even higher than the ace. That means that the lowest card in play is the three, giving us a rank progression of (high) 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low).

Another unusual feature of Thirteen is the fact that the suits play a vital role in card ranking. The suits break ties when cards have the same rank. Suits rank in the following order: (high) hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades (low). (If you’re having trouble remembering the order, just remember that the two black suits are lower than the two red suits, and that a garden spade is used to dig lower in the ground, and hearts represent love, which is highly sought after by most people.) So the 6♠ would be beaten by the 6♣, but the 6♥ would be beaten by a 7♠. The lowest-ranking card in the game is the 3♠, while the highest is the 2♥.

Game play

The first person to play is the person who starts the game with the 3♠. They play it, face up, in the center of the table, either by itself, or as part of a combination of other cards. These are the permissible card combinations:

The next player to the left must play a higher-ranking instance of the same type of combination. Straights must be followed by another straight of the same length (e.g. a four-card straight must be followed up by another four-card straight, not a three-card or five-card or any other straight), and cannot include 2s. The highest-ranking card present is used to determine the ranking of the entire combination. For example, if the first player were to begin play with 3♠-3♥ (a pair), the next player could not play 3♣-3♦, since the highest-ranking card present (3♦) is lower than the highest-ranking card (3♥) played by the previous player, although they could play 4♠-4♣, since the 4♣ is higher than the 3♥.

Play continues to the left, each player playing higher than the most recent combination. If a player cannot or does not want to play higher, they knock on the table, signifying such. Upon knocking, a player is temporarily out of the game, and play continues to their left. When all players but one have knocked, the sole remaining player is free to play whatever combination of cards they choose (i.e. they are not compelled to play the same type of combination as before), and all other players rejoin the game. As before, play continues to to the left, with the next player following up on the most recently played combination with a higher one of the same type.

When a player is out of cards, they win! Some players will continue to play out the hand, awarding second and third-place finishes to the remaining players. It should be established whether or not this is being done before the game, since it can alter players’ strategy considerably. If you play again, you can either let the winner go first (giving them the option to play whatever they choose), or start with the player holding the 3♠, as usual.

Chops

Two types of card combination are considered chops:

  • Quads (four of a kind)
  • Three or more consecutive pairs (e.g. 3-3-4-4-5-5)

A chop can be played at any time on a player’s turn, so long as they have not knocked, regardless of what has been played before. (Many players restrict chops to only being able to defeat combinations of 2s, limiting their power.) Chops can only be beaten by a higher chop of the same type, so, in most cases, they hand control of what type of combination will be played next to whoever played them. Chops are the most powerful combination in the game!

Playing with more than six players

Playing with more than about six players is generally not advised, since each player will receive such a low number of cards, that the game is essentially reduced to luck of the draw. However, you can accommodate about twelve players by shuffling in a second deck of cards. The second deck should have a contrasting back design (for example, Denexa playing cards come in two-deck sets, with red and blue backs).

Select one back design as the higher-ranked one (if you are using red and blue decks, this is usually the red one, to mirror the fact that the red suits are higher). If two cards of the same rank and suit come out, the higher-backed one will prevail. Keep in mind that your opponents will be able to see how many of each back type you have, and astute players may be able to judge the strength of your hand accordingly!

See also

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