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Dou Dizhu

Origin Chinese
Alternative names Fight against the Landlord or Landlord
Type Gambling, Shedding-type card game
Players 3
Cards 54; 17 for each of the two Peasants and 20 for the Landlord
Deck Anglo-American
Play Counterclockwise
Playing time Around 5 minutes per game
Random chance Easy
Related games
Big 2, President, Winner

Dou Dizhu, (simplified Chinese: 斗地主; traditional Chinese: 鬥地主; pinyin: Dòu Dìzhǔ; Jyutping: dau dei zyu; literally: "Fighting the Landlord") is a card game in the genre of shedding and gambling. It is one of the most popular card games played in China.

Dou Dizhu is described as easy to learn but hard to master requiring mathematical and strategic thinking as well as carefully planned execution. Suits are irrelevant in playing Dou Dizhu. Players can easily play the game with a set of Dou Dizhu playing cards, without the suits printed on the cards. Less popular variations of the game do exist in China, such as four-player and five-player Dou Dizhu played with two packs of cards.

History

The class struggle during the Cultural Revolution in China reportedly authorized the peasants to violate the human rights of the landlords who were among the Five Black Categories and Stinking Old Ninth, hence the name Dou Dizhu. China's Generation Y, who are among one of the most enthusiastic player groups, has no personal experience of the class struggle. Nowadays, the name of the game carries no negative connotation. The actual place of origin for the game is in Hubei Province.

Objective

Dou Dizhu is played among three people with one pack of cards, including the two differentiated jokers. The game starts with players bidding for the Landlord (地主) position. Those who lose the bid or don't bid enter the game as the Peasants (农民) team competing against the Landlord. The objective of the game is to be the first player to have no cards left.

Game play

A shuffled pack of 54 cards is dealt to three players. Each player is dealt 17 cards, with the last three leftover "地主" cards detained on the playing desk, face down.

All players first review and appraise their own cards without showing their cards to the other players. Then, players take turns to bid for the Landlord position by telling the other players the risk stake they are willing to accept.

There are three kinds of risk stakes, 1, 2, and 3, with 1 being the lowest and 3 being the highest. Generally, the more confident a player is in the strength of one's cards, the higher the risk stakes one is willing to bid. In most of the online game rooms, the first bidder is chosen randomly by the system. In reality, players usually make up their own rules as to who gets to bid first. For example, some rules stipulate that the player who gets hearts three is the first bidder. If hearts three is in the "kitty" cards, the first bidder will be the one who gets hearts four and so on.

A player may accept the prior player's bid by passing their turn to bid or one may try to outbid the prior player as long as the prior player did not bet 3 as the risk stake. The highest bidder takes the Landlord position; the remaining players enter the Farmer team competing against the Landlord. The three leftover wild cards are then revealed to all players before being dealt to the Landlord.

The Landlord wins if he or she has no cards left. The Peasant team wins if either of the Peasants have no cards left.

Features of the game

The rules are not complicated; basic knowledge of poker hand rankings helps players get started. However, many of Dou Dizhu's rules are different from Poker and Big Two.

There is an element of luck involved, but what counts is not only luck but also skill of playing and strategy. Poor players with great hands may be defeated by skillful players with poor cards.

Rules

A few fundamental and exceptive rules are essential for understanding the game play of the game. Some rules are structured differently from the other popular card games. Players who have prior experience with other card games, such as poker, and Big Two, often prejudice the rules.

The Rocket and the Bomb

The Rocket and the Bomb are groups of cards that work differently in terms of game play.

Special Category Description Example Special Note
Rocket Colored Joker and black-and-white Joker Colored Joker + black-and-white Joker It can beat everything in the game.
Bomb 4 cards of the same rank 3-3-3-3 (the lowest ranking Bomb)
2-2-2-2 (the highest ranking Bomb)
It can beat any other category and individual card except Rocket or another Bomb with a higher or equal rank.

Category of hands

The game uses the concept of hands, similar to the hands in poker, except there are more variations and not necessarily consisted of only five cards.

The Longest Chain possible column is only applicable to a hand with twenty cards, which the Landlord possesses after seizing the three leftover wild cards.
Category Description Example
Primal with (w/) Kicker Chain Lowest rank
and/or Shortest Chain
Highest rank
and/or Longest Chain possible
Solo Х - Any single card 3 Colored Joker
Solo Х Chain ≥ 5 consecutive individual cards 3-4-5-6-7 3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A
Pair Х - Two matching cards of equal rank 3-3 2-2
Pair Х Sisters ≥ 3 consecutive Pairs 3-3-4-4-5-5 5-5-6-6-7-7-8-8-9-9-10-10-J-J-Q-Q-K-K-A-A
Trio - - Three of a Kind: Three individual cards of the same rank 3-3-3 2-2-2
Airplane - Chain ≥ 2 consecutive Trios 3-3-3-4-4-4 9-9-9-10-10-10-J-J-J-Q-Q-Q-K-K-K-A-A-A
Trio Solo - Three cards of the same rank with a Solo as the kicker 3-3-3 w/ 4 2-2-2 w/ Colored Joker
Trio Solo Airplane ≥ 2 consecutive Trios with each carries a distinct individual card as the kicker 3-3-3-4-4-4 w/ 5-6 10-10-10-J-J-J-Q-Q-Q-K-K-K-A-A-A w/ 7-8-9-2-Colored Joker
Trio Pair - (Full House) Three cards of the same rank with a Pair as the kicker. 3-3-3 w/ 4-4 2-2-2 w/ A-A
Trio Pair Chain ≥ 2 consecutive Trios with each carries a pair as the kicker 3-3-3-4-4-4 w/ 5-5-6-6 J-J-J-Q-Q-Q-K-K-K-A-A-A w/ 8-8-9-9-10-10-2-2
Bomb Four must carry a Kicker. Four cards of the same rank without the Kicker is called Bomb, which defies category rules, even beats Four /w a Kicker. 3-3-3-3 2-2-2-2
Four Dual Solo Х Four cards of the same rank with two distinct individual cards as the kicker 3-3-3-3 w/ 4-5 2-2-2-2 w/ A + Colored Joker
Four Dual Pair Х Four cards of the same rank with two sets of pair as the kicker 3-3-3-3 w/ 4-4-5-5 2-2-2-2 w/ K-K-A-A

Chinese Name Literal Translation

Individual Cards(单牌)

Hook(钩) The Jack, Chinese call it based on the shape of J

Circle(圈) The Queen, Chinese call it based on the shape of Q

K The King

Tip / Spear / Pointy (尖 or 枪) The Ace, Chinese call it based on the shape of A

King(王) Joker cards

One pair(一对)

Chain(顺子 or 单顺) ≥ 5 Consecutive individual cards

Consecutive pairs / Pairs chain(连对 or 双顺) ≥ 3 Consecutive Pairs

Trio with single card(三带一) Trio with an Individual card as kicker

Trio with pair(三带二 or 三带一对) Trio with a Pair as kicker

Airplane(飞机 or 三顺) ≥ 2 Consecutive Trios

Airplane with small wings(飞机带小翼) ≥ 2 Consecutive Trios with Individual cards with the same account of Trios as kicker

Airplane with large wings(飞机带大翼) ≥ 2 Consecutive Trios with Pairs with the same account of Trios as kicker

Four with two single cards(四带二) Fours with 2 Individual cards as kicker

Four with two pairs(四带两对) Fours with 2 Pairs as kicker

Space shuttle(航天飞机) ≥ 2 Consecutive Fours

Space shuttle with small wings(航天飞机带小翼) ≥ 2 Consecutive Fours with Individual cards with the same account of Fours as kicker

Space shuttle with large wings(航天飞机带大翼) ≥ 2 Consecutive Fours with Pairs with the same account of Fours as kicker

Bomb(炸弹) Four cards of the same rank

Rocket / Nuke / King Bomb(核弹 or 火箭 or 王炸) Colored Joker and Black & White Joker cards

Illegal Play with the Kicker

Beginners and players who are familiar with some other card games with similar but different hand's rules often misinterpret some of the rules that involve the Kicker causing illegal play.

Illegal Play Example Correction
Rank of the Kicker = Rank of the Primal cards Trio Chain /w Solo is 3-3-3-4-4-4 /w 3-K When using any Kicker attached to Primal Cards, the Kicker card cannot be the same card rank of any Primal Cards used.
Dual Solo = Pair Four /w Dual Solo: 3-3-3-3 /w J-J Dual Solo must consist of two cards with different ranks, such as J-K. Otherwise, it is counted as pair which is different.
Dual Pair = 4 Cards of the Same Rank Four /w Dual Pair: 3-3-3-3 /w J-J-J-J Dual Pair must consist of two sets of pairs of different ranks, such as 3-3-7-7.
Rocket = Kicker cards Four /w Dual Solo: 3-3-3-3 /w Colored Joker + black-and-white Joker. Only one of the Jokers can be used as a Kicker card in a Single or Dual Solo Kicker.

Scoring rules

There are at least 4 elements that will affect the score in a round (There might be more rules which affect the scores in some regions): Bid of the risk stake, the position of the player (Landlord/Peasant), Rocket and/or Bomb, No deals played a.k.a Spring.

Since there are so many elements affecting score of the game in a round, it is hard to predict how big one will win or lose.

Basic strategy

Variation

Four-handed Dou Dizhu

The four-player version of Dou DiZhu is played mainly in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, including Shanghai. It uses a double deck, including two red and two black jokers - 108 cards altogether. Each player takes 25 cards and 8 cards are left over for the Landlord, who plays alone from a hand of 33 cards against the other three players in partnership.

The combinations that can be played differ from those in the three-player game, listed above, as follows:

Dou Dizhu with wildcards

Another variation of Dou Dizhu is the edition with "wildcards". Like the original settings, after the determination of the "landlord", four of the kind will be randomly selected as "wildcards" (癞子). Those wildcards can be replaced as any of the cards, except the Jokers.

Some games even feature two sets of "wildcards". The first set of wildcards would be drawn before the bid for the "landlord", then another ones would then be drawn out.

Tournaments

In 2005 117,931 people participated in the Dou De Zhu online tournament held by GICQ, an online game development and operation company in China.

In 2006 another Dou Dizhu online tournament held by www.vnet.cn, attracted 200,000 players to compete with each other.

In September 2007 YunNanHong held a traditional competition of Dou Dizhu in Kunming, China, where over a hundred people competed for the first prize (source: yndaily.com).

Dou Dizhu tournaments are held in Chinese cities every year, the winners not only receive high prize but also become popular experts in Dou Dizhu.

Popularity

Dou Dizhu was once just a provincial game in China, originating in the Huangshan District and Anhui. Thanks to the debut of Dou Dizhu online, Dou Dizhu has become more widespread and is now a national game in China. The popularity of Dou Di Zhu has increased substantially, from 50,000 in December 2002 to 100,000 in 2004 and 17,900,000 players being the loyal fans of the casual game while Dou Dizhu leading the core place in 2005. There are almost 1 million concurrent Dou Dizhu players on the Tencent QQ game platform alone. It is more popular than other Chinese poker games like Chinese poker and Big Two.

Year Popularity in China Source
2002 50,000 players GICQ(ourgame.com)
2004 100,000 players GICQ(ourgame.com)
2005 17,900,000 players being the loyal fans of the casual game while Dou Dizhu leading the core place. Chinese Online Game Research Report in 2005 made by iResearch
2006 +1,000,000 online player play it concurrently Tencent QQ game platform in China
2008 roughly 1,450,000 online players per hour in Tencent QQ game platform Tencent QQ game platform in China
2008 roughly 76,000 online players per hour in GICQ GICQ

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Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy