Sam Sip

Introduction

Sam Sip or Pa-Som Sip is a draw and discard game played in Thailand and Burma. The aim is to collect pairs of cards that add up to 10, pairs of 10's and pairs of equal picture cards. The Thai name ผสมสิบ means something like "mixing tens".

The first description on this page is based on a report by Dan Glimne of a version he learned in May 2001 from a group of four teenage girls on one of the small islands off Phuket.

Players, Cards and Stakes

The game is possible for 2–6 players and best with 4 or 5. It uses a standard Anglo-American style pack with three jokers: 55 cards in all. Deal and play are counter-clockwise.

The players should agree the stakes. In this game the stake was 5 5 baht, immediately paid by the losers to the winner of the deal. For the next deal the stakes were raised to 10 baht, then to 15, then 20, 25, 30 and so on, always paid immediately to the winner of the deal, until one player was forced out for lack of money. The stakes then dropped back to 5 baht and kept going up again, until another player was knocked out and so on. Eventually a single winner emerges.

Deal

The dealer shuffles and offers the cards to one of the other players to cut. The cutter lifts off about one third of the deck and puts this portion face down in the middle of the playing surface.

The dealer then, starting with himself, deals five cards to each player in a counter-clockwise direction, one card at a time, from the remainder of the deck. The next card is then turned up and put face up on the playing surface for all to see. Finally the dealer stacks the remaining undealt cards face down on top of the cards previously placed by the cutter, thus completing the cut after dealing. The face up card serves as a wild card indicator, as described below.

The winner of each hand deals the next.

Play

Dealer starts by taking the top card from stock to his hand, so that it now contains six cards. He then discards one card (any card) from his hand, and puts it face up in front of the next player to his right. This player may pick up either this card or the (unknown) top card of the face down stock and add it to his hand. Now his hand consists of six cards, so he discards any one of them, putting it face up in front of the next player on his right.

Play continues like this, in counter-clockwise order. Note: a player always has five cards in hand, except when he has picked up the discarded card from the player on his left or the top card from stock, at which brief time he has six before discarding himself. As the game progresses, a pile of unused discards accumulates in front of each player. At his turn, a player can only pick up the top stock card or the top card of the discard pile in front of him (the card just discarded by the previous player). Earlier discards in his own pile and all cards in the other players' discard piles are inaccessible.

Winning

As soon as a player has six cards in hand in three "pairs", he has won the deal. A pair consists of either

  1. two cards adding up to 10 (a 3 and a 7, or an Ace and a 9, or two 5's, etc. - Aces count as 1), or
  2. two equal court cards (two Jacks or Queens or Kings) or two Tens.

A wild card can be used as a substiture for any needed card, so a wild card togewther with any other card makes a pair. There are two types of wild card

  • the three Jokers
  • the three cards equal to the card turned up after the deal.

For example, if a Four was turned up, all Fours and Jokers are wild. If a Joker is turned up, there are no extra wild cards. The wild card indicator card that was turned up after the deal may of course never be picked up by a player.

In addition there are two special types of winning hand:

  1. a hand containing three Aces and any three other cards
  2. a hand consisting of all six cards in the same suit, for example six spades.

Variants

Korat version

Marcus Bradley describes a different version of the game, played in villages north of Korat NE Thailand. A 52 card pack is used, without Jokers. The deal begins as above, but after dealing five cards to each player the dealer turns up two cards, one placed in front of himself and one in the middle. The card in the middle is the wild card indicator, and is called the joke.

Before the deal, each player must place one or two bets. The first (compulsory) bet goes in the main pot, which is taken by the winner of the game. The second (optional) bet goes in the joke pot, which is won by having a wild card (equal to the joke card) in one's original five-card hand. The sizes of the bets are fixed in advance - for example 10 baht for the main pot and 5 baht for the joke pot. After the deal, any player who has contributed to the joke pot and has a wild card may show it and take the pot. If one player has two wild cards and another has one, the player with two wild cards wins the pot. If two or three players have one wild card each, the card in the highest suit wins, the suits ranking from high to low: spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. If no one who has contributed to the joke pot has a wild card, the pot is carried over to the next deal. When there is already money in the joke pot, players who have not contributed to it may add their stake. Those who already have a stake in the joke pot do not have to pay again.

Whether the joke pot was won or not, the dealer starts the play by picking up either the top card of the stock or the face up card in front of him, and discarding one of his six cards in front of the player to his right. It continues counter-clockwise, just as in the Phucket version described above. The aim is to make three "pairs", a "pair" being two cards that add up to 10 or two 10's, two jacks, two queens or two kings. Cards of the same rank as the wild card indicator can be used to represent any desired card. If the stock is exhausted, the discards are gathered and shuffled to make a new stock, and the game continues.

Key card. If the wild card indicator is an ace, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 or 9, the cards that would normally make a total of 10 with this card if it was not wild are called key cards (or shit cards). For example if a 3 is turned up as the wild card indicator, all the 7's are key cards. A key card cannot be used in a winning hand. The only thing you can do with a key card is to discard it.

The special hands of three aces or six cards of a suit are not recognised. Instead, any player who is dealt three equal cards in their initial five-card hand wins the main pot without play. If no one has three of a kind, and any player is dealt two key cards in their five-card hand, the cards are thrown in and that player becomes the next dealer. In both these cases (three of a kind or two key cards), the joke pot may be won by a player who has contributed to it and was dealt a wild card. After a hand that was thrown in because a player had two key cards, the main pot stays for the next deal, and as usual anyone who does not already have a stake in the joke pot may contribute to it.

In the unusual case where two players are deal three-of-a-kind, the higher three wins the main pot, the cards ranging from high to low K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A (Ace low). Any four-of -a-kind beats any three-of-a-kind, and if several players have four-of-a-kind, the higher ranking set wins.

Variant: Sam Reynolds reports a game similar to the above but simpler, which is played in Chiang Mai. In this version there is no joke pot and any card (including the key card) can make a pair with a wild card. Also the special hands including three of a kind or two key cards are not recognised.

Bangkok version

Alexey Lobashev describes a simpler version played in Bangkok, which was explained to him by his guide Wisit.

This game uses a 52-card pack without jokers. It may be played clockwise or counter-clockwise, as the players agree. The first dealer is chosen by dealing a card face up to each player: highest deals, ace counting high in this case, and the suits ranking from high to low spades, hearts diamonds, clubs if two or more players have equally high cards.

If playing for money, then before each deal each player places an fixed stake in the pot. The dealer first places a card face up in the middle, then deals five cards to each player and places the remainder of the pack face down beside it to form a stock.

If any player is dealt a card of the same rank as the turned up card, that player is paid an amount equal to the initial stake by each opponent. If several players have such a card, only the card in the highest suit wins, the suits ranking as above.

There are no wild cards or key cards in this version. The dealer begins, and may take either the top card of the stock or the face up card in the middle, and then discards one card face up. Discards are placed in a single pile in the middle, overlapping so that all can be seen.

The winner is the player who first gets three pairs, a pair being two cards that add up to ten, or a pair of 10's, Jacks, Queens or Kings. There are no special hands in this version. If the stock is exhausted and no one has won, the game is a draw and the pot is carried over to the next deal.

Burmese version

Matt Glasspole describes a version he learned from some Mon Burmese friends. A standard 52-card pack is used and play is clockwise.

Seven cards are dealt to each player, so four pairs are needed to win. At your turn you draw either the top card of the stock or the card discarded by the previous player, and discard one card face up in front of the next player (to your left).

Players may meld pairs at any time, placing them face up beside them. A pair consists of two pip cards adding up to ten (Ace = 1) or two 10's, Jacks, Queens or Kings, but a player is not allowed to meld more than one pair of picture cards (J, Q, K). There are no wild cards.

A player who has only one unpaired card remaining in his hand must declare that he is "waiting". If he succeeds in drawing a card that forms a pair with this card, he then melds this final pair and wins.