QiuQiu

Introduction

This domino gambling game, whose name can also be written KiuKiu, is an Indonesian relative of the Cantonese game Pai Gow. As in Pai Gow the basic objective is to divide a four-card hand into two two-card subsets, such that the total number of spots in each subset has a units digit that is as close as possible to 9. The word Qiu or Kiu is derived from a Chinese dialect pronunciation of the word for 9, so that the name of the game means 9-9, which would be the best possible hand if it were not for several special combinations that are ranked higher.

It seems that QiuQiu is played throughout Indonesia. This page is mostly based on information from Sherly Himawa, who is from Northern Sumatra. Fred Eiseman's book on traditional games from South Bali has a short, incomplete description of Ceblok Kyu, which appears to be a simpler version of the same game. Ceblok / jeblok is a word for nothing or falling into a hole, so this name has the sense of 0-9.

Players, Cards and Stakes

QiuQiu is played with a deck of 28 Indonesian dominoes, which are normally printed on thick card, about 5.5cm ×2.9cm. The structure of the deck is the same as that of a Western double-6 domino set: each card has from zero to six spots on each end, and there is one card with each possible combination from [0-0] to [6-6].The spots are red, and the 1-spot is significantly larger than the spots for the other numbers - see illustration.

Indonesian dominoes

There can be from 2 to 6 players. The game works better with more players and 6 is the ideal number for a game. Deal and play are clockwise.

Before beginning to play, the players should agree on the amount of the ante and the minimum and maximum bets during the game.

Hand Ranking

A complete hand consists of four cards. There are four types of special hand which beat all other hands. From highest to lowest, these are:

  1. Enam Dewa (Six Gods). A hand consisting of the four cards that have 6 spots: [3-3], [4-2], [5-1], [6-0]. This is the best possible hand.
  2. Empat Balak (Four Doubles). Any four of the seven doubles, for example [6-6], [4-4], [1-1], [0-0]. This beats everything except Six Gods. 9
  3. Murni Besar (Pure Big). A hand with at least 39 spots, for example [6-5], [5-4], [5-5], [6-3].
  4. Murni Kecil (Pure Small). A hand with not more than 9 spots, for example [0:0], [0:2], [2:1], [2:2].

Note that a tie between special hands is not possible. For example the eight largest cards have only 77 spots in total so not more than one player can have as many as 39. Similarly the eight smallest cards have a total 19 spots so only one player can have 9 or fewer.

If no one has a special hand, the best ordinary hand will win. Each player divides their hand into two sets of two cards, and the value of each pair of cards is the units digit of the total number of spots. For example [6-1]+[5-2] together have 14 spots, so the value is 4. [3-2]+[4-0] together have 9 spots, so the value is 9, the highest possible. [3-3]+[4-0] have 10 spots, so the value is zero.

When comparing two ordinary hands, the higher valued pairs are compared first, then the lower valued pairs. So each player makes the highest total they can with two cards, if possible 9, and the value of the other two cards will be used only if there is a tie for the best high pair. For example 8-2 beats 7-7 because 8 is greater than 7, and 9-5 beats 9-4 because the 9's are equal and 5 is greater than 4

The best ordinary hand is 9-9, which gives rise to the name of the game. For example [3:1], [6:6], [5:0], [5:2] would be arranged as [3:1]+[5:0], [6:6]+[5:2] making 9 and 9. The hand [6-6], [6-2], [5-2], [3-3] would be arranged as [6-6]+[5-2], [6-2]+[3-3] so that the pairs total 9 and 4.

Deal and Betting

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient method, and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Before the deal every player who wishes to be dealt a hand places the agreed ante in the pot.

The dealer shuffles the cards, after which any other player who wishes to shuffle may do so. When all are satisfied, the dealer deals 3 cards face down to each player. The dealer can choose the method of dealing. The first card(s) can be given to any player, and the deal continues clockwise from there. The cards can be dealt singly, or a round of 1 card each followed by a round of 2 cards each, or 2 cards followed by one card, or in batches of 3 cards.

The players look at their three cards and there is a round of poker-like betting, in which the dealer is first to act. If there has been no previous bet in the current round the options are:

  • check, putting no more money in the pot, or
  • bet, adding an an amount to the pot and requiring other players at least to match this amount if they want to stay in the hand.

After there has been a bet or raise, the three options are:

  • fold. The player puts in no more money, throws away their hand face down, and gives up the chance to win the pot.
  • call. The player adds enough money to the pot so that their total contribution to the pot is equal to the amount contributed by the player who most recently bet or raised.
  • raise. The player adds more money than would be required to call, requiring other players to match their contribution if they wish to stay in.

The round continues for as many circuits as needed until either there is only one surviving player, all the other players having folded, or until everyone has had a chance to act and all the surviving players have an equal amount of money in the pot.

Further details of poker-style betting can be found on the poker betting page.

If more than one player survives after this first betting round, the dealer deals one more card face down to each of the surviving players. They look at these cards and there is a second betting round, beginning with the dealer or the first player clockwise from the dealer who has not dropped out.

If at any stage of the game only one player survives, all the others having folded, the surviving player collects the whole pot without showing any cards, and the turn to deal passes to the next dealer.

If at the end of the last betting round there are two or more players in the game, they show their cards in turn, beginning with the dealer or the first survivor in clockwise order from the dealer, and declare their hands. The player with the highest ranking hand, as explained above, collects the whole pot. If there is a tie for highest hand - for example two players each have 9-7 - then they split the pot equally between them.

Variations

There are numerous local variations of this game. Therefore when playing with unfamiliar opponents it is important to agree the rules in advance.

Special Hands

Seri. Some play with an additional special hand 'seri' (straight or sequence), which is a hand whose cards have spot totals in a consecutive sequence. For this purpose the full totals are counted, not just the units digit. for example [6-4], [5-4], [6-2], [4-3] is a seri 10-9-8-7. A seri ranks immediately below 9-9: it beats 9-8 and all lower hands. If two players each have a seri, the one with more spots is better. Note that in practice 10-9-8-7 is the best seri, because 12-11-10-9 would be played as a murni besar and 11-10-9-8 would be played as a 9-9.

Some players do not recognise enam dewa (six gods) as a special hand, and some rank the hands in a different order. For example the Kiu Kiu Wikipedia page gives only three hands that beat 9-9: the highest is murni besar, then murni kecil, then empat balak.

Some have different point limits for murni besar and murni kecil, but the limits given above are the most logical, since they ensure that two players cannot make the same special hand.

Fred Eiseman's description of the variant Ceblok Kyu from South Bali does not mention any special hands at all.

Special Cards and Combinations

Hui. Some use the [2-1] and [4-2] as 'hui', each of which can represent the other. That is, each of these cards can be counted as either 3 or 6 at the player's choice. So for example [5-1], [4-2], [6-2], [1-0] can be played as 9-9, counting the [4-2] as 3 spots. This power cannot be used to make special hands: for example the [2-1] cannot be counted as a 6 to make an Enam Dewa (Six Gods) hand, the [4-2] cannot be counted as 3 to make Murni Kecil (Pure Small) and when maing a Seri (Sequence) the [4-2] is always 6 and the [2-1] always 3.

Three doubles. Some play that three doubles can be used together as a 9 (kiu), counting the fourth card singly. In this case, for example, [0-0], [2-2], [3-3], [6-3] can be counted as 9-9. Without this rule it would only be 9-5.

Comparing Hands

Some play that in case of a tie where one or both hands contain doubles, the hand containing the highest double wins.

Some play that when comparing hands in which no pair of cards is worth 9, each of the pairs is compared. The pot is split between the player with the best high pair and the best low pair. If there is a tie for highest pair that half of the pot goes to the player with the higher low pair, and if there is a tie for low pair that part of the pot goes to the player with the higher high pair. However, if just one of the players has a 9, that player wins the whole pot irrespective of the value of the other pair. Example: 8-4 against 7-7 is a tie, but 9-4 beats 8-8. With this rule the order in which players declare their hands can be important. Suppose player A has [2-2], [3-0], [6-6], [6-5] and player B has [3-3], [3-1], [2-0], [6-4]. If player A declares first as 7-3, player B can win with 8-4. But if player B declares first with 8-4, player A could arrange her cards as 5-5 to split the pot. If player A declares first with 5-5 player B can win with 6-6, but if player B declares first with 6-6 player A can tie with 7-3.

Deal and Number of Betting Rounds

Some players deal two cards each first, followed by a betting round, then one more card, then a second betting round, then a fourth card, and finally a third betting round.

On the other hand, some play with just one betting round after the first three cards are dealt, and no betting after the players receive their fourth card,

Other Websites

Sherly Himawa's Online QiuQiu page has a description of the game in Indonesian and links to a site where you can play QiuQiu online.

The Wikipedia page on KiuKiu describes another version of the game in English.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2019. Last updated: 22nd June 2019

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