What is this?
This is a fun card game that’s easy to learn. Each player tries to discard all the cards in their hand. When someone discards their last card, the others are penalized points for the cards left in their hands.
Before playing, the players agree to play to a certain score maximum. (Usually 100.) Once any player reaches the maximum the game is over. The player with the lowest score is the winner.
Chinese Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards. Three 2s and one ace are removed, leaving a deck with 48 cards. Suits and color do not matter. Only the values of the cards matter. Aces beat kings. When played individually, the two is the high card. (It will beat an ace.) When played in straights, the two is the low card.
Cutting for the First Deal
Each player selects a single card from the deck. Aces are high during the cut. The owner of the high card gets the deal. The dealer also gets to make the first play. (“Plays” are described below.) The play the rotates clockwise around the table.
- 2 Players: The dealer deals out 3 hands of 16 cards each. Then the dealer gets to choose any one of the three hands. The other player then gets to select one of the remaining two hands.
- 3 Players: The dealer deals out 3 hands of 16 cards each. Each player plays the hand they are dealt.
- 4 Players: The dealer deals out 4 hands of 12 cards each. Each player plays the hand they are dealt.
First Play: The current player may discard a valid “hand” from his whole hand, or choose to pass. To discard a hand, place the selected cards face up on the table to show the other players. They will have to beat this hand or pass. Valid hands are described below.
Subsequent Plays: Each subsequent player may discard a better hand of the same type as the one shown on the table (if they have such a hand) or pass. For example, if the current play on the table is a pair of 8s, the only play that may be discarded to beat that hand is another pair of a higher value (9s and up). (Four of a kind is a wild hand, an exception, and is described below.)
If everyone passes, then the player who discarded the most recent hand may discard a new hand of any type. (As in the first play.) Once a player discards his last card, he has won the round and each player has to tally his own score. The winner of the round gets to deal the next round. (This can be very frustrating if you’re not the winner!)
Valid Hands to Discard
- Single Card: A single card may be discarded as a hand. 3 is the lowest and 2 is the highest.
- Pairs: A single pair, or sequential pairs, may be discarded as a hand. Any number of pairs may be discarded in a hand, as long as they are sequential. (E.g., 445566 is a valid hand, while 445577 is not because 7 does not come immediately after 5.)
- Three of a Kinds: As pairs, three of a kinds may be played individually, or in groups of sequential values. (E.g., 333444.)
- Full House: A pair accompanied by a three of a kind. One the value of the three of a kind needs to be beaten in the subsequent play. (99944 beats 777KK because 9s are higher than 7s.)
- Straight: Straights must be at least 5 cards long. They may be as long as 13 cards. The 2 is the low card in straights. To beat a straight, you must play a higher straight of exactly the same number of cards. (E.g., 456789 beats 345678.)
- Four of a Kind: Four of a kinds must be played with a fifth card. The value of the fifth card is the value to be beat by another four of a kind. (E.g., 84444 beats 6JJJJ because 8s are higher than 6s.) Four of a kinds are wild hands and may be played on any other kind of hand!
Each time somebody has won a round, the other players have to count the number of their remaining cards, and add points to their current score according to the following rules:
- All cards caught in the hand: 50 points.
- All cards but one caught in the hand: 40 points.
- All cards but two caught in the hand: 30 points.
- Otherwise: Add 1 point for each card caught in the hand.
The game was taught to us by Derek and Pei Fluker. We know this is not the same as another gambling game called Chinese Poker.
In 1993, I created what may be the world’s first online card game with a GUI interface. Here’s the “About” window for the classic Macintosh version.