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How to play Tichu?

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Tichu is a card game, played by pairs of two partners with the players of each team sitting opposite one another. During the game, the partners try to help each other score points and gain the lead. The game is played over several hands with the goal to be the first team to score a specific amount of points, predefined before it starts.

Tichu deck consists of 56 cards and four suits. The suits are Jade, Swords, Pagodas, and Stars, with each suit having 13 cards of increasing values starting from 2 to 10, J, Q, K, and A. There are also four special cards, the Dragon, the Phoenix, the Hound, and the Mah Jong.


Each player is dealt eight cards and may call "Grand Tichu". Grand Tichu is a 200-point bet that the player calling it, will be the first to get rid of his cards. Once players have decided whether to make this call or not, six more cards are dealt (the remaining cards in the deck) and players may no longer declare "Grand Tichu". Now, and at any time prior to playing his/her first card, a player may call "Tichu", a 100-point bet that he (not his partner) will be the first to get rid of his cards. The differences between Grand Tichu and Tichu are when they may be called, the number of cards you've seen, and the number of points involved.

After dealing all 56 cards to players (14 cards to each one), the exchanging phase begins, where all players must pass one card (face down) to each of the other players. That means that all players will pass three cards in total (one to each opponent and one to the partner) and also receive another three cards from the other players. 

After the card exchange, the player with the special card "Mah Jong" leads the first trick. He/ She can play any valid combination (more information about Tichu valid combinations are provided below) and all other players can either pass or play a similar combination of higher value (the only exception to this rule are the "Bombs" that we'll discuss further on). A single card can thus only be beaten by a single card of higher value, a sequence of two pairs only by a sequence of two higher pairs, a sequence of seven cards only by a higher sequence of exactly seven cards, a full house only by a higher full house (in full houses the value of the trio is what counts). When all other players with cards on their hands pass, the player who played the last (highest) combination gathers in the trick and leads a new combination. If this player has no cards left, he has "gone out" and the right to lead passes to his right-hand neighbor (passing further to the right if the latter has gone out as well). The round ends when 2 teammates have no cards left on their hands, meaning that at least two if not three players in total need to "go out". If there is only one player left with cards in his/her hand, then he gets a penalty and gives his/her hand cards to the opponent's won tricks deck and his/her won tricks deck to the player who has gone out first.

The game ends when a team reaches or exceeds a specific amount of total points, predefined before the start of the game.

Combinations of Cards

  • A single card: 3, 4, 5, 9, Α
  • A pair of cards with equal rank: 4-4, 8-8, Κ-Κ
  • A sequence of pairs of adjacent value: 4-4-5-5, 8-8-9-9, J-J-Q-Q, 6-6-7-7-8-8. Being adjacent is crucial, for example, 3-3-6-6 is not considered valid
  • A trio of cards of equal rank: 3-3-3, 7-7-7, Α-Α-Α
  • A full house, meaning a trio with a pair: 2-2-2-5-5, 8-8-8-3-3, Q-Q-Q-10-10. The value of the trio is what counts, so for example, 7-7-7-2-2 wins 6-6-6-Κ-Κ
  • A straight, meaning at least five cards in a sequence, but not of the same suit: 2-3-4-5-6, 7-8-9-10-J, 4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K.

Notes: a) Sequence of pairs and straight are the only combinations whose number of cards is not specific. The leading player of the trick is the one who determines the number of cards that a sequence of pairs or a straight must have in order to be valid on the current trick. For example, if a leading player begins with 3-4-5-6-7-8 (straight), the rest of the players can strike him/her only with another 6-card straight of higher value, such as 5-6-7-8-9-10. A 7-card straight cannot be played during this trick.
b) The value of the non-special cards increases from 2 to 10, J, Q, K, A. Ace has the highest value among the non-special cards and cannot be used in a straight before a 2.


Bombs are sequences of cards that defeat any combination and can only be hit by more powerful bombs.
There are two types of bombs:

  • Four of a kind: 3-3-3-3, 9-9-9-9
  • A straight flush of at least a five-card sequence of the same suit: 2-3-4-5-6 Jade, 5-6-7-8-9-10 Pagodas, 3-4-5-6-7-8-9 Stars

The power of the bomb is determined first by the number of cards, and then by the value of the cards in it. As a result, any four-of-a-kind bomb is weaker than any straight flush bomb, and any five-card straight flush bomb is weaker than any six-card straight flush bomb. Bomb examples of increasing power: 2-2-2-2 < 5-5-5-5 < Q-Q-Q-Q < Α-Α-Α-Α < 6-7-8-9-10 Pagodas (five-card straight flush) < 8-9-10-J-Q Swords (five-card straight flush) < 4-5-6-7-8-9 Stars (six-card straight flush) < 2-3-4-5-6-7-8 Jade (seven-card straight flush).

They are a special combination that does not follow the standards, as they can be played at almost any time to take a trick, even if it's not that player's turn. When played, the turn order changes and the player who plays next is the one sitting on the right of the player who dropped the bomb.

The only cases in which a bomb can not be played (at any time) are the following: a) When it's not the turn of the player who has the bomb and at the same time there are no cards on the table to be hit with the bomb. b) When the special card "Hound" is played, with which the turn order changes as we're going to see later on.

Finally, bombs can be played even to hit yourself. If, for example, Player 3 has dropped the last pair on the table and for the time being seems to be winning the trick (let's say A-A), the same player can then drop a bomb to hit himself/herself.

Note: As we going to see next, the Phoenix special card can be played as a wild card, for example, 2-2-P (trio), 5-P (pair), 4-P-6-7-8 (straight). However, it can never be used to form a bomb.

Special Cards

- Mah Jong

The player with the Mah Jong leads the opening trick but is not required to play Mah Jong in the first trick. The Mah Jong may be played as a 1, either by itself as a single card or in a M2345+ straight. When the Mah Jong is played, the player may make a Wish, meaning request a card number between 2-A. The wish remains active until it is fulfilled. Each player who can fulfill the wished card must play it, if possible. If the wished card cannot be played on its own or within a straight but can be played as part of a bomb, the player is obliged to drop the bomb that includes it. If Mah Jong opens a trick as a straight, the next player must play a straight containing the wished value, if possible. If a straight can only be constructed with the Phoenix (as a wild card, not the wished value), you must play it. Remember: if you can, you must.

- Hound

The Hound has no trick-taking power at all. It can only be played by the leading player as a single card and it transfers the right to lead to the player’s partner. If the player’s partner has already gone out, the lead passes to the partner’s right.

 - Dragon

The Dragon is the strongest card and may only be played in a single card trick. The player wins the trick, unless the Dragon is bombed. If the trick is won with the Dragon, the trick is given to one of the player's opponents (he/she chooses which one). It is the card of the highest point value (25 points) as we will see in the next article. Furthermore, if the dragon is bombed, the player who played the largest bomb on the trick takes the entire trick for himself/herself (which includes the dragon).

- Phoenix

The ever-changing Phoenix is the most powerful card in Tichu. However, it counts minus 25 points. It may be played as a single card with value +0.5 higher than the previous card played (i.e. after 5, Phoenix is played as 5.5, while after A, it is played as A.5, meaning that only dragon or a bomb could beat it if it's played after an Ace), or as a wild card replacing a non-special card in any other combination, like in the following examples: 5-P (pair), 5-5-P (trio), 8-8-9-P (sequence of pairs), 8-8-P-2-2 (full house), 3-4-P-6-7 (straight). However, it can not be used in combination with Mah Jong or Dragon to create a pair and can not be used to make a bomb. Finally, the Phoenix can not go above the Dragon, does not satisfy the Mah Jong wish, even if it gets the value of the requested card, and if it's played on its own as the first card of the leading player, it has a value of 1.5 (meaning that even 2 has a higher value).

You can play Tichu on Web and Android & iOS devices.