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Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Dominate in Chinese Poker (Big Two - Chaw Dai Di)

If you didn't know this was a card game then you obviously are not Chinese. This is a game familiar to both young and old and may possibly be the most popularly played Chinese card game out there. This game has occasionally and mistakenly been called "Chinese Poker" which is a completely different game that Chinese people refer to as "13 Cards (Sup Saam Jerng)". For those interested in learning how to play or those who know how to play but never really learned the exact rules, here are the basic rules for a four player Big Two game (more detailed rules can be found here):
1) How to Win: Be the first to get rid of all of your cards.

2) Cards and Suit Rules: A regular 52 card deck is used and the order for the suits from high to low is Spades > Hearts > Clubs > Diamonds

3) Playable Combinations: Legal Hands in Big Two
  • Single Cards - Two of Spades is the highest and Three of Diamonds is the lowest.
  • Pairs - Again Twos are the highest and Threes are the smallest. Among same numbered pairs, the pair containing the spade is the higher pair.
  • Triples - Yet Again, Twos are the highest then Aces all the way down to Threes.
  • Five Card Hands - If you play regular poker you should have no problems but here are the hands from weakest to strongest:
    • Straight - five cards of consecutive numbers with mixed suits. (Ex: KH-QC-JC-10H-9D), usually A-2-3-4-5 is the highest straight but there are variations.
    • Flush - any five cards with the same suit. (Ex: 9H-7H-6H-5H-3H). Some people play flushes by suit while others play by the highest card within that suit.
    • Full House - Consists of a Triple and a Pair where the higher numbered triple determines the strength of the hand. 8-8-8-5-5 beats 3-3-3-A-A.
    • Four of a Kinds (Quads) - Consist of all four cards of a certain number plus one fifth card of any number. Some people allow Quads to be played as is (four of the same number by themselves without the fifth card) but others do not so it is important to find out the custom rules for each game).
    • Straight Flush - pretty much a combination of a straight and a flush, which is five cards of consecutive numbers with the same suit (Ex: AS-KS-QS-JS-10S)
  • You can only play combinations within the same group. So triples cannot beat pairs and single cards can only beat single cards.
4) Dealing the Cards: At the start, players pick cards to see who deals first. Highest card picked deals first. After the first round, the winner of each round becomes the dealer. The dealer shuffles and the player to the right cuts. After the cut, the dealer randomly shows one card within the deck (card is shown by lifting the top part of the deck and showing the bottom card and then putting the top part back so the order of the cards remain the same) to determine who gets the first card of the deal. This is done by counting the numerical value of the card starting from the dealer and moving counter clockwise until the number is reached (Ex: if the card is 8, then you count 1 dealer, 2 left, 3 across, 4 right, 5 dealer, 6 left, 7 across, 8 right - so the first card is dealt to the person to the dealer's right). Deal and play are usually counterclockwise. A good thing to remember to speed the deal is Ace, 5, 9, and King are all cards where the dealer deals himself/herself first.

5) How to Play: The player holding the three of diamonds will go first and put down a playable combination that includes the diamond three. Then the person to his right plays a card within that combination group that can beat the first combination put down and so on around the table. All cards are placed down face up. If you can't or don't want to beat the current combination, you can pass and the player to your right will go until three of the four players pass. Then the player who put down the "unbeatable" combination will be allowed to put anything he wants. Usually the cards from the previous round is turned over but most people just leave them as is. Everyone is allowed to know how many cards the other players have in their hands at any time so if asked you have to answer honestly. When a player has only one card left, he must announce "last card" and the player right before him must play his highest single card ("Ding Dai") or a non single playable combination (pair, triples, etc). Failure to "ding dai" results in a penalty discussed in the scoring section. The first player to get rid of all the cards win. Usually the game ends here but there are variations that play on until there is only one loser.

6) Points: Usually if you play with only one winner, penalty points are given to all the other players. The penalty is one point per card if you have 8 cards and under, 9-10 cards are double points (18 and 20, respectively), 11-12 are triple points (33 and 36, respectively) and 13 is quadruple points (52). Of course, these breakpoints can be moved around, many people play 1-9 as single point, 10-12 as double point and 13 being triple points. People usually play this game for money. When they do, everyone agrees on a money value per point (Ex: $1 per point). At the end of the entire session, the differences in the score determine the payout. When playing for money, if a player does not "ding dai" (#5), he has to pay the losses for all three players of that round.
After reading this post, you now know how to "Chaw Dai Di" (play big two). There are a ton of variations to this game of rules #2 to #6. There are differences in straight and flush strengths, direction of deal and play, point systems, game play nuances and much more. The rules listed above are the most common rules that I have encountered but when you do play, make sure you ask if there are any variations.

You can find the Big Two computer game here at Tray Games or here at Netbig2

Remember: Knowing how to play and playing well are two different things. Also, playing for money and playing for fun have very different strategies.

Look out for future posts on Big Two strategies.

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