This description is based on observations of games between Chinese players in Amsterdam. My thanks to Guo Juan for introducing me to the club where the game is played and for helping to translate my questions and the players' answers.
Players and objective
Quan Dui means "complete pairs". This simple Rummy-like game can be played by up to 6 players. Since the exact number of players is not important, it is possible for people to join and leave between hands. The object is to collect a 16-card hand consisting of eight pairs.
The cards used are called Dong1guan3 Pai2 (). Dongguan is the county in Guangdong province in China where this game is played. The pack has 120 cards. There are numeral cards from 1 to 9 in the three suits ben, suo and wan, and three odd cards, and the complete pack contains four identical copies of each card. Since the cards are somewhat hard to identify at first sight, the complete pack is illustrated below.
The cards of the wan suit are most easily recognised by the stylised Chinese numerals near the top right of the card. The meanings of the names of the odd cards are "big red" (do hong), "small red" (xiao hong) and "eight bundle" (ba shu) - though the ba shu card has nothing to do with the numeral eight, in this game at least.
There are two types of pair that can be formed:
- Dui is a pair of identical cards
- Ka is a pair consisting of equal numbered cards of different suits
The three odd cards count as ones, and can thus be paired with each other or with the ones of the three ordinary suits to make a ka. For example a ka can consist of a "1 suo" card with a "da hong".
The dealer shuffles - the technique is to divide the pack into two halves, held loosely, to push one half of the cards through the other half at an angle, and then to square up the pack. The player to dealer's left cuts. The top six cards are dealt to the dealer, and the deal is continued anticlockwise in fives for three rounds, ending with the player to dealer's left. Thus the dealer has 16 cards and the other players have 15 each. The remaining cards are placed face down, slightly spread, to form a stock.
The game is played anticlockwise, but in certain cases a player can take a discard out of turn, and in this case the turn jumps to the player taking the discard and continues anticlockwise from there. The dealer begins the game by discarding one card face-up, and thereafter each player ends their turn by discarding a card face-up. All these discards remain visible in the centre of the table, but only the card most recently discarded is available to be taken by another player. This discard can be taken, in order of priority, by
- any player who wishes to use the discard to complete a hand of eight pairs, thereby winning the game;
- any player who has an identical card in their hand and wishes to pair it with the discard, making a dui;
- the player to the right of the discarder, who may pick up the discard if no one else can use it.
If you take the discard to make an identical pair (dui) you place the pair face up in front of you and then discard another card from your hand face up. The player to your right is now the next player in turn to play.
If two people both want to take the discard to form a dui, the player whose next turn to play would have been sooner - i.e. the one nearer to the right of the player who just discarded - has priority and takes the discard. The same applies if two people want the same discard to complete a hand. But a player completing a hand of eight pairs (even if the final pair is only a ka) has priority over a player wanting the discard for a dui.
If no one wants the discard to make a dui or complete their hand, the next player in turn (the player to the right of the one who discarded) can choose between picking up the discard or drawing the top card of the face-down stock. In either case, the card is added to the player's hand, and the player then discards a card face-up.
Winning the game
The play continues in this way until someone collects a hand of eight pairs, exposes their cards and wins the agreed stake from each other player. (In the games I saw, the stake was one Dutch Guilder). If all eight pairs are dui, the winner collects a double stake for "quan dui".
If you have a hand of eight pairs that are a mixture of ka and dui, you do not necessarily have to claim a win. If you wish, you can continue playing in the hope of achieving quan dui and collecting a double stake. If you do this, of course you risk that someone else will win meanwhile. This rule does not apply if you claimed a discard to make your final ka - in that case you would have to expose your hand, winning just a single stake.
The winner deals the next hand.
I did not see it happen, but presumably it is possible that the stock will run out without anyone winning. I assume that in this case the hand is a draw and the same dealer deals again.