Monday, 2 January 2017

車九 -- Koo Kiew (Che Jiu), A Chinese gambling game

I have recently been reading C. T. Dobree's remarkable The Gambling games of Malaya. This book, published in 1955. Dobree was the Assistant commissioner of police in Malaya at that time, and he intended the book to be used as a guide for policemen prosecuting illegal gambling dens [!]

There are several games of cards that are mentioned in this book, that have are otherwise unrepresnted in the english literature on this subject ( to my knowledge). One such game Dobree calls " Koo Kiew", or 車九. He also tells us that it is also called "Ten Kiew" 象九, and "Soo Kiew" 仕九

  Note that Dobree seems to be giving the names of the games in a variety (Hokkien? Teochew?) of Chinese. In standard Chinese (Mandarin) the names are rendered "Che Jiu", "Xiang Jiu" and "Shi Jiu" respectively.
 Regardless of the variety of Chinese, the names of the game all allude to the various ranks in the deck of cards used in the game. 車九 literally translates to as "Chariot-Nine", 象九 means "Elephant-Nine" and 仕九 means "Valet-Nine". The "Nine" in the name probably alludes to the highest point-score that can be obtained ( See below)

In Dobree's words: “ No skill at all is required for this game"; and for that reason I feel that it is ripe for reveival as a party game. It is a game that shares similarities to poker and baccarat.

This game is played with a deck of 四色 ( four colour) cards. For a description of this deck, see and . If you do not have such a deck, you can follow the instructions at the bottom of the page for making one.

Up to 56 people can play at this game. Before play starts, a banker is selected.
The cards are shuffled. Two cards are dealt to every player, face down.
Without looking at the cards, all players stake whatever amount they please.
When all the stakes have been placed, all cards are revealed. Players whose cards score lower than the banker lose their stakes. Players whose cards score higher than the banker receive a payout.
In cases of ties with the banker, the banker wins.

A pair is two cards of the same rank and colour.
A mixed hand is a hand that contains anything other than a pair (this includes hands which contain two cards of the same rank, but of differert colours)

1. Pairs of the same colour take precence over any mixed hand.
2. For pairs, the ranks are valued as follows:
Highest:  将, ( General)
               士  (Valet)
               相/象  ( Minister/ Elephant)
               車   ( Chariot)
               馬 ( Horse)
              炮   (Cannon)
Lowest  卒  ( Soldier)
So, a pair of yelow valets beats a pair of yellow cannons, a pair of Red generals beats a pair of red ministers.

3. The colours (or "suits") rank as follows.
Highest : Yellow
Lowest:   White.
So,  a pair of green vales beats a pair of white valets, and a pair of yellow valets beats a pair of red generals.

4. When comparing mixed hands, each card is assigned a point value. Hands with the higher point value wins.

将, ( General) -- 1 pt
士  (Valet)-------- 2
 相   ( Minister)-- 3
 車   ( Chariot)--- 4
馬 ( Horse)------- 5
炮   (Cannon)---- 6
卒  ( Soldier)-----7
Note that  the point value is directly opposite to that of the rank.

5. If the point value of a hand exceeds 10, then only the last digit is considered. So a score of 14 rekons as 4, and a score of 10 reckons as 0.

6. When the point values are tied, then the hand that contains the higher-ranking colour (as decided by rules 3 and 4) wins.

Here are some examples.

Case 1: Hand A:  Pair of Yellow horses
Hand B: Pair of Yellow generals
Hand B wins, as a pair of Generals outranks a pair of horses ( Rule 2)

Case 2: Hand A:  Pair of Red Soldiers
Hand B: Red general, and White general
Hand A wins. Pairs of the same colour outrank those of different colours, regardless of the rank (Rule 1)

Case 3: Hand A:  Pair of Green Generals
Hand B: Pair of Yellow Soldiers. 
Hand B wins, because the yellow suit outranks the green suit ( Rule 3)

Case 4: Hand A:  White General, and White Minister
Hand B: Red General, and Red Minister
Hand B wins, because the Red suit outranks the White suit ( Rule 3)

Case 5: Hand A:  Green Soldier, Red Valet
Hand B: Red Horse, and White Chariot. 
Point score of both hands is equal, being 9 points. 
Hand A wins, because its highest-ranked card( Red Valet) is greater than that of hand B (Red horse)

Case 6: Hand A:  Red Chariot, Green horse 
Hand B: Yellow Chariot, White horse 
Point score of both hands is equal, being 9 points. 
Hand B wins, because its highest-ranked card( Yellow Chariot) is greater than that of hand A (Red Chariot) ( Rule 6)

Case 7: Hand A:  White Chariot, Red horse 
Hand B: Green General, Red general. 
Hand A wins, as point score of hand A ( 9 points) is greater than that of hand B ( 2 points) ( rule 4)

Case 7: Hand A:  Red horse, Yellow Soldier
Hand B: Green Valet, White Chariot
Hand B wins. Although hand B has a score of 12 , the initial "1" is dropped. Thus the final score is 2 points.(rule 5)  


If you do not have access to a deck of four-colour cards, you can make one yourself using four decks of normal playing cards. 
Remove, the 5s,6s,7s,8s and 9s from each of the decks. The remaining cards ( shown below) are used in the game:
                    Corresponds to
King------------ General
Queen---------- Valet
Jack------------ Minister
4--------------- Chariot
3--------------- Horse
2--------------- Cannon
Ace----------- Soldier

For The  ranking of the suits, you may use the system adapted in Bridge: 
                             Corresponds to
Spades-----------   Yellow
Diamonds-------      Red
Hearts-----------     Green
Clubs ------------    White

Of course, you can come up with your own system. 

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