Big A (打大A)

Players: 5
  2x52+4J

A double deck Chinese climbing card game for five players in which the holders of two identical Aces are partners against the other three players.

Class: Climbing games

Related games: Băo Huáng (保皇)

Browse classification network

Region: China

Introduction

Big A ( 打大A : dă dà A) is a climbing game for five players with variable partnerships, played with two packs of 54 cards. On each deal, the holder of a certain Ace will team up with the holder of the identical copy (rank and suit) of this ace. Points are scored for how quickly this team manages to get rid of all of their cards.

This description is based on information collected by George Witty from the web pages and videos listed under sources below. The video descriptions suggest that the game originated in Inner Mongolia.

Players and Cards

There are 5 players and two packs of 54 cards are used. Each pack consists of 2 to A in each suit plus two distinguishable Jokers - red and black. In each hand the two Aces of one suit are chosen as Big Aces. Apart from this and the distinction between red and black Jokers, the suits and colours of the cards are irrelevant.

Deal and play are anticlockwise.

Deal and partnerships

The cards are shuffled and stacked face down. Players draw cards one by one as in other Chinese games. Players look at their cards as they draw them, except for the very last card drawn by each player, which is temporarily kept face down. Not all players will have the same number of cards: the first three players to take cards will have 22, and the other two players will have 21.

We are not sure what method is used to choose who draws the first card. We suggest that for the first deal the starter is chosen by some convenient random method and for subsequent deals the player who was the first to run out of cards in the previous deal draws the first card. (For other possibilities see below.)

At any time during drawing cards, any player can expose an Ace that they hold to make that Ace the "Big Ace". This player becomes the declarer and the holder of the other Ace of the same suit becomes the declarer's partner, but does not at this point reveal who they are. If the declarer has both copies of the Big Ace, for example because they drew the second copy after exposing the first, they will play without a partner against a team of four opponents, though the opponents will not initially realise this.

After an Ace has been exposed, any player can overcall by exposing a pair of identical Aces, in which case these become the Big Aces, and the player who exposed them becomes the declarer, playing alone.

If a player who has exposed an Ace and has not yet been overcalled obtains the second identical Ace, they can expose the second Ace to reveal that they are playing alone and protect themselves from an overcall.

After the Big Ace has been decided, each player picks up their final card and adds it to their hand. At this point a player can reveal themselves as a partner (or as the lone player) by exposing the the Ace that matches the Big Ace exposed by the declarer. This increases the score for the game.

After everyone has drawn their cards and looked at all except the last one, if nobody has yet exposed an Ace then each player in turn, starting with the player who drew the first card, is asked whether they hold an Ace of hearts. The first player who has one must expose it as the Big Ace, thereby becoming the declarer. Then each player picks up their final card and in this case the partner of the Big A is not allowed to expose their Ace to increase the stake.

It may occasionally happen that no one exposes an Ace and both Aces of hearts are among the five face down cards. In this rare case we suggest that the five face down cards should be exposed to verify that they really do include both heart Aces, after which the whole deck should be shuffled for a new deal with the same starting player.

Playable combinations

Cards can be played singly or in combinations. There are two types of combination: ordinary combinations and bombs. The details of the combinations allowed and which cards and combinations beat which are as follows.

Single cards and ordinary combinations

1. Single card
These rank from high to low: Big A, Red Joker, Black Joker, 3, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4.
2. Pair
Any two cards of the same rank: they do not have to be the same suit. Ordinary pairs rank from high to low 3, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4. A pair of Threes is the highest of these since two Big Aces or two Jokers make a bomb (see below). A Big Ace with an Ace of another suit makes an ordinary pair of Aces, ranking lower than a pair of Twos.
3. Sequence
At least 3 consecutive cards, using the ranking order A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A. Suits do not matter. A sequence can be beaten by a higher sequence of the same length, but not by a longer (or shorter) sequence. Note that the ranking is different from that of single cards - the 3 and 2 are not high cards, and Aces can be used as either a high card next to the King or a low card next to the 2. So for example the lowest type of 3-card sequence is A23 and the highest type of 4-card sequence is JQKA. Jokers cannot be used in sequences and a Big Ace in a sequence has no special power but counts as an ordinary Ace.
4. Double sequence
At least 3 consecutive pairs, using the same ranking order as for single sequences, for example 667788. Jokers cannot be used and Big Aces count as ordinary Aces when used in a double sequence. A higher double sequence beats a lower double sequence of the same length - for example 6-6-7-7-8-8 can be beaten by 7-7-8-8-9-9 or J-J-Q-Q-K-K but not by 8-8-9-9-10-10-J-J.

Bombs

Bombs differ from ordinary combinations in that they can beat any ordinary combination (with a few restrictions explained below) and any lower type of bomb. In ascending order they are as follows.

5. Triplet (called an Egg)
Any three cards of the same rank, ranking from high to low 3, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4. A triplet can beat
  • any lower ranked triplet
  • any single card except a Joker or a Big Ace
  • any ordinary pair
  • any single sequence
A triplet cannot beat a Joker, a lone Big Ace or a double sequence.
6. Four of a kind
Any four cards of the same rank, ranking from 3 (highest) down to 4 (lowest). A four of a kind can beat any lower ranked four of a kind, any triplet, any ordinary combination and any single card except a Big Ace.
7. Five of a kind
Any five cards of the same rank, ranking from 3 (highest) down to 4 (lowest). All bombs that are five of a kind or better beat all single cards and ordinary combinations, all lower types of bomb, and all lower ranked bombs.
8. Six of a kind
Any six cards of the same rank, ranking from 3 (highest) down to 4 (lowest). Fours, fives and sixes of a kind are collectively known as Big Eggs.
9. Two Jokers
Any two Jokers (can be one red and one black). Two red Jokers beat two black Jokers.
10. Triplet sequence
Exactly three consecutive triplets, such as 444555666, ranking in the same way as single and double sequences, so AAA222333 is lowest and QQQKKKAAA is highest.
11. Fake Eight
Two consecutive fours of a kind, such as 44445555, ranking in the same way as sequences so that AAAAKKKK is the highest of these and 2222AAAA the lowest.
12. Seven of a kind
Seven cards of equal rank, ranking from 3 (highest) down to 4 (lowest).
13. Eight of a kind (also known as a True Eight)
Seven cards of equal rank, ranking from eight 3's (highest) down to eight 4's (lowest).
14. Three Jokers
15. Four Jokers
16. Big Ace pair
This highest bomb, consisting of both Big Aces, can of course only be used if the declarer is playing alone.

Note that one or both Big Aces can be used to help make up a bomb (a set of three or more Aces or a triplet sequence or fake eight) but in this case they have no special power and count just as ordinary Aces.

Play

If the declarer's partner has exposed their Ace, then the partner begins play. Otherwise, the declarer begins. 

They begin by leading any single card or playable combination. In anticlockwise order each player in turn either passes or plays a combination that beats the previous play. This continues around the table as many times as necessary until four players pass in succession. Passing does not prevent a player from playing cards at a future turn.

When four players pass in succession, all the played cards are set aside and the player who played the last and highest combination leads again with any single card or playable combination.

Sets of Fours

A combination consisting of a set of two or more Fours has a special power. A set of Fours can be played to capture an Egg or a Big Egg containing exactly one more card than the set of Fours. So a pair of 4's can capture three of a kind, three 4's can capture four of a kind, four 4's can capture five of a kind, and five fours can capture 6 of a kind. The player picks up the captured bomb and adds it to their hand, and then puts the set of Fours on top of the play pile. Play then continues as usual, treating the Fours as an ordinary pair, triplet, etc. depending how many are in the set.

For example player A plays a pair of Aces. Player B plays a bomb: 777. Player C plays a pair: 44, and adds the 777 to their hand. Player D now can play a pair of 5s or higher to beat the 4's.

Note that:

  • sets of 4s can also be played in the normal way, as a pair, triplet or a part of a multiple sequence, etc. - they do not have to be used to capture cards;
  • a set of three or more 4's can be captured by another set of 4's that is one smaller;
  • a player cannot use a set of fours to capture a bomb that they themselves played, because after four passes the play pile headed by the bomb is cleared away and the player of the bomb must now lead a new card or combination;
  • sets of 4's cannot capture sets of more than 6 cards, nor can they capture sets of Jokers.
  • a set of 4's can capture an Egg of 3 to 6 Aces, which may sometimes include one or even both Big Aces, but this not alter the makeup of the teams. The declarer and partner are the players who originally held the Big Aces, even if these are later captured by another player.

Endgame

A player who runs out of cards drops out of play. The others continue to play, skipping players who have already run out of cards. If no one beats a player's final card or combination, the lead passes to the next player in turn who is not known to be their opponent. When all the players who still have cards are on the same team, the play ends.

Examples.

  • The declarer plays their last card(s) and everyone else passes. If the declarer's partner has shown their Big Ace, the turn to lead passes to the partner. If the declarer's partner is not known the turn to lead passes to the nearest active player to declarer's right.
  • The declarer's partner plays their last card(s) and everyone else passes. The declarer leads next.
  • An opponent of the declarer plays their last cards and everyone else passes. The turn to lead passes to the next player in anticlockwise order who has not shown a Big Ace.

Scoring

This is a zero sum game. Positive and negative points are scored based on the order in which players from the two teams run out of cards. In general, the team of the player who runs out of cards first wins, the team of the player who runs out of cards last loses, but if the first and last players belong to the same team there is no score. Specifically, if the second Big Ace is not exposed at the start the scores are as follows.

Result for Big Ace team Declarer's score Partner's score Opponents' score
1st and 2nd +6 +3 -3 each
1st and 3rd +4 +2 -2 each
1st and 4th +2 +1 -1 each
1st and 5th 0 0 0
2nd and 3rd 0 0 0
2nd and 4th 0 0 0
declarer 2nd and partner 5th -2 -1 +1 each
partner 2nd and declarer 5th -4 -2 +2 each
3rd and 4th 0 0 0
declarer 3rd and partner 5th -2 -1 +1 each
partner 3rd and declarer 5th -4 -2 +2 each
4th and 5th -6 -3 +3 each

If the declarer's partner revealed their identity exposing the second Big Ace before the beginning of play the total amount won or lost by each team is doubled, but the win or loss is shared equally between the members of the Big Ace team. The scores are as follows.

Result for Big Ace team Declarer's score Partner's score Opponents' score
1st and 2nd +9 +9 -6 each
1st and 3rd +6 +6 -4 each
1st and 4th +3 +3 -2 each
1st and 5th 0 0 0
2nd and 3rd 0 0 0
2nd and 4th 0 0 0
declarer 2nd and partner 5th -3 -3 +2 each
partner 2nd and declarer 5th -6 -6 +4 each
3rd and 4th 0 0 0
declarer 3rd and partner 5th -3 -3 +2 each
partner 3rd and declarer 5th -6 -6 +4 each
4th and 5th -9 -9 +6 each

If the declarer holds both Big Aces and plays alone, the declarer wins by coming first or loses by coming last: otherwise there is no score. The score is doubled if the declarer exposed both Big Aces, so that everyone knows from the start that the declarer has no partner. The scores are:

Declarer's result Declarer's score Opponents' score
1st (both Big Aces exposed) +64 -16 each
1st (only one Big Ace exposed) +32 -8 each
2nd, 3rd or 4th 0 0
5th (both Big Aces exposed) -64 +16 each
5th (only one Big Ace exposed) -32 +8 each

Variations and Uncertainties

Since some of the rules of this game have been deduced from watching video clips and playing with apps, there are several details about which we are uncertain, especially procedural matters such as choosing the dealer.

Deal

We are not sure how the dealer is chosen for the second and subsequent hands. In the video clips it looks as though the same player always draws the first card, but that would be unfair and surely cannot be the usual rule. We have suggested that the player who goes out first draws first in the following game. Other possibilities would be that the declarer in each game draws first in the next or that the turn to draw first simply rotates anticlockwise after each hand.

Partnerships

The rules we have seen do not cover the rare case where both heart Aces are among the last five cards and no one exposes an Ace. Exposing the five cards and redealing seems to be the only fair solution. Most other methods open up the possibility that a player with a poor hand might not admit to holding a heart Ace when no other Aces are exposed.

Combinations

Some players recognise additional types of bomb. For example the rules at homygames.com include five additional types, the ranking of the most powerful bombs in ascending order being:

  1. Two Jokers
  2. Sequence of 3 triplets
  3. False Eight
  4. Seven of a Kind
  5. Three Jokers
  6. * Sequence of 4 triplets
  7. * False Ten (two consecutive 5's of a kind such as 5555566666)
  8. True Eight
  9. * Sequence of 5 triplets
  10. * False Twelve (two consecutive 6's of a kind)
  11. Four Jokers
  12. * False Fourteen (two consecutive 7's of a kind)
  13. Big Ace pair

where * marks the extra bombs not included in the basic game. Note also that in this version True Eight ranks higher than Three Jokers. Since these extra bombs are estremely rare, adding them makes very little difference to the game and the extra complexity is therefore probably not worthwhile.

Fours

An obvious extension of the capturing power of Fours would be to allow a set of six Fours to capture Seven of a Kind, and a set of seven Fours to capture a True Eight, but the Chinese rules we have seen do not mention these possibilities. Our interpretation is that Fours cannot capture a set of more than 6 equal cards, but it is possible that some players may allow them to capture 7 or 8, and that the rules do not mention this only because it is a very rare occurrence.

Scoring

Some play that if the declarer's partner exposes their Big Ace, the scores are simply doubled but not shared equally between declarer and partner.

Sources of Information

Rules pages:

Videos of 我是大A王 (found for example here 腾讯视频 (qq.com))

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2023. Last updated: 1st February 2024

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