Dou Dizhu (斗地主)

Introduction

Fight the Landlord (Dou Di Zhu) is a climbing game primarily for three players, but also playable by four. In each hand one player, the "landlord", plays alone and the others form a team. The landlord's aim is to be the first to play out all his cards in valid combinations, and the team wins if any one of them manages to play all their cards before the landlord. The game is said to have originated in Hubei province but is now popular all over China, and is also extensively played on line.

Players, Cards and Deal

The three-player game will be described first. The differences in the four-player game are explained near the end of the page.

This game uses a 54-card pack including two jokers, red and black. The cards rank from high to low:
     red joker, black joker, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.
Suits are irrelevant.

As in most Chinese games the cards are not really dealt, but taken from the deck by the players.

One of the players shuffles the cards, gives them to the player to his left to cut, and stacks them face down in the middle of the playing surface. One card is turned face up and inserted somewhere near the middle of the stack - this will determine who starts the auction. The dealer then draws the top card from the deck, looking at it but not showing it to the other players. The player to his right does the same, then the third player, then the dealer and so on counter-clockwise around the table until each player has 17 cards. The last three cards are left face down on the table until after the auction. It saves time if you look at your cards and sort them as you pick them up.

Auction

There is an auction to determine which player will be the landlord, and play alone against the other two. The possible bids are 1, 2 and 3. The player who drew the face up card in the "deal" is the first to bid. Each player in turn may either pass or bid higher than the highest bid so far. If everyone passes the hand is thrown in and there is a new deal. If there is a bid, the bidding continues counter-clockwise, each player passing or bidding higher than the previous bidder, until there are two consecutive players pass or someone bids 3, which ends the auction since it is the highest possible bid. The final and highest bidder is the landlord. This player now picks up the three face-down cards from the middle, for a total of 20 cards.

Play

The landlord plays first, and may play a single card or any legal combination. Each subsequent player in anticlockwise order must either pass (play no card) or beat the previous play by playing a higher combination of the same number of cards and same type. There are just two exceptions to this: a rocket can beat any combination, and a bomb can beat any combination except a higher bomb or rocket - see definitions below. The play continues around the table for as many circuits as necessary until two consecutive players pass. The played cards are then turned face down and put aside, and the person who played the last card(s) begins again, leading any card or legal combination.

In this game, there are thirteen types of combination that can be played:

  1. Single card - ranking from three (low) up to red joker (high) as explained above
  2. Pair - two cards of the same rank, from three (low) up to two (high)
  3. Triplet - three cards of the same rank
  4. Triplet with an attached card - a triplet with any single card added, for example 6-6-6-8. These rank according to the rank of the triplet - so for example 9-9-9-3 beats 8-8-8-A.
  5. Triplet with an attached pair - a triplet with a pair added, like a full house in poker, the ranking being determined by the rank of the triplet - for example Q-Q-Q-6-6 beats 10-10-10-K-K.
  6. Sequence - at least five cards of consecutive rank, from 3 up to ace - for example 8-9-10-J-Q. Twos and jokers cannot be used.
  7. Sequence of pairs - at least three pairs of consecutive ranks, from 3 up to ace. Twos and jokers cannot be used. For example 10-10-J-J-Q-Q-K-K.
  8. Sequence of triplets - at least two triplets of consecutive ranks from three up to ace. For example 4-4-4-5-5-5.
  9. Sequence of triplets with attached cards - an extra card is added to each triplet. For example 7-7-7-8-8-8-3-6. The attached cards must be different from all the triplets and from each other. Although triplets of twos cannot be included, a two or a joker or one of each can be attached, but not both jokers.
  10. Sequence of triplets with attached pairs - an extra pair is attached to each triplet. Only the triplets have to be in sequence - for example 8-8-8-9-9-9-4-4-J-J. The pairs must be different in rank from each other and from all the triplets. Although triplets of twos cannot be included, twos can be attached. Note that attached single cards and attached pairs cannot be mixed - for example 3-3-3-4-4-4-6-7-7 is not valid.
  11. Bomb - four cards of the same rank. A bomb can beat everything except a rocket, and a higher ranked bomb can beat a lower ranked one.
  12. Rocket - a pair of jokers. It is the highest combination and beats everything else, including bombs.
  13. Quadplex set - there are two types: a quad with two single cards of different ranks attached, such as 6-6-6-6-8-9, or a quad with two pairs of different ranks attached, such as J-J-J-J-9-9-Q-Q. Twos and jokers can be attached, but you cannot use both jokers in one quadplex set. Quadplex sets are ranked according to the rank of the quad. Note that a quadplex set can only beat a lower quadplex set of the same type, and cannot beat any other type of combination. Also a quadplex set can be beaten by a bomb made of lower ranked cards.

Note that passing does not prevent you from playing on a future turn.

Example Player A (the landlord) leads 3-3-3-9 to get rid of some low cards, player B passes, player C plays 5-5-5-7, player A plays K-K-K-J and player B plays A-A-A-3. C and A pass, so B can start again with anything. He leads a single 4.
Note B could have played his aces on his the first turn, but preferred to pass to give his partner a chance to get rid of some cards. C will now play if possible, so as not to give the landlord (A) a free chance to lead again. Having beaten A's second play, B leads a low card to give C the choice of playing another unwanted card or putting the landlord under pressure by playing a high card.

Scoring

If the landlord runs out of cards first he has won, and each opponent pays him the amount of the bid - 1, 2 or 3 units - provided that no bomb or rocket was played. If one of the other two players runs out before the landlord, the landlord loses and must pay the amount of the bid to each opponent. For each occasion when any player played a bomb or rocket, the payment for the hand is doubled. So for example in a hand in which two bombs and a rocket were played, a player who bid 3 will win 24 points from each opponent for going out first, or pay 24 to each opponent if another player goes out first.

Note that since the opponents of the landlord stand to win or lose equally, they form a temporary partnership. When playing against the landlord it is just as profitable to help your partner to run out of cards first as to win yourself. Because of this the partners will usually not beat each other’s cards, and the weaker partner will play to help the stronger partner.

Four-Player Game

The four-player form of Fight the Landlord 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:

  • Single card attachments are not permitted - i.e. combination types 4 and 9 are exluded.
  • There are no quadplex sets - combination type 13 is excluded.
  • A bomb (type 11) can consist of four or more cards of equal rank, and a bomb with more cards beats a bomb with fewer cards irrespective of the ranks of the cards.
  • For a rocket (type 12) you need all four jokers.

You cannot play a red and a black joker together as a pair, but you can use a pair of red jokers or a pair of black jokers either as a pair by itself or to attach to a triplet.

The payment for a hand is doubled for each bomb of 6 or more cards and for each rocket, but bombs of 4 or 5 cards do not affect the payment.

Other Dou Dizhu Web Pages

The Wikipedia page on Dou Dizhu includes rules and some information on the history and popularity of the game.

Software and Online Games

The Viwawa online games site provides an online Dou Dizhu game under the name Harvest Time.