Big Two is thought to have originated around the coast of China in the mid 1980’s, and from there its popularity spread like wild fire across the country before conquering the rest of Asia. As a “shedding” style card game, the aim of the game is to be the first player to rid themselves of all their cards. Play all of your cards first and you are the winner.
Simple right? But what is Big Two? How do you set up a game and what are the rules? We cover all of these details and more.
Alternative names for Big Two
Big Two has so many aliases you could be forgiven for thinking it was a Mexican drug kingpin. It is also known as:
- Big Deuce
- Cap Sa – Hokkien
- Chinese Poker
- Chor Dai Di
- Da Leo Er – Mandarin, translates to Big Old Two
- Dai Di – Cantonese
- Hannah Game – Canadian
- Pusoy Dos – Phillipino, translates to Poker Two
- Shao Tai TI
- Top Dog
How to play
Big Two is played with a traditional 52 card playing deck. The ranking of the cards in Big Two is a little different from the traditional value of a playing deck. Card ranking in descending order of value is two, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four and three being the worst card. The suits in Big Two are also graded with Spades being the high suit, followed by Hearts, Clubs and finally Diamonds.
Big Two is traditionally played between four people with each player being dealt 13 cards each. If you are playing with more or less than four people than each player is to be dealt an equal number of cards each. If there are any left over cards, they go to the player who holds the lowest card (three of diamonds).
The dealer can be chosen at random at the beginning of the game and they are to begin dealing one card at at time to the player on their right, dealing in an anti-clockwise fashion. Whoever is holding the three of diamonds gets play underway.
There are five legal options when it is your turn. You can either:
- Pass: put down no cards.
- Place a single card: Highest ranks determined by card value and suit. A higher ranked card obviously beats a lower ranked card.
- Place two cards: any pair of cards may be placed. Higher ranked pairs beat lower ranked pairs.
- Place three cards: any triple may be place. Higher ranked trips beat lower ranked trips.
- Place five cards: Any legitimate five card poker hand. In descending order of value the possible five card hands are straight flush, four of a kind (any quad and any other card), full house, flush or straight.
There is also a rare sixth option: the dragon. The dragon is a 13 card straight hand: 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3, suited or not. This is an instant win.
Your hand is placed face up in the center of the table. Each new hand must be higher than the previous hand to be placed down. Each player continues on in this fashion until there is an entire round where every player, bar one, who passes because they are unable to produce a hand higher than the last one played.
When this happens, the pile in the middle of the table is put aside, and the player to put down the last hand on the pile commences play again. This continues until one player has played all of their cards. This player is the outright winner.
Scores in Big Two
Scores are then tallied of the remaining players cards. Scoring is as follows:
Nine cards or less: one point per card.
10, 11 or 12 cards: two points per card.
13 cards: three points per remaining card.
When betting on the game, it is usually agreed before hand that each point will carry a dollar or cent value.
Clarify the rules
Are you playing Smack Down’s and Smack Back’s? (a hand of six cards containing consecutive pairs, ie. 2, 2, 3, 3, 4,4). Are you able to play the next hand after a pass or not?
There are so many different variants and rule changes possible within Big Two’s, so it is a very smart and recommended move to always double-check and agree on what the rule variation is to avoid any confusion during the game.
No two people have the same interpretation or understanding of the rules, so it’s always good to check before starting. It should be defined what is the highest straight for example (2, A, K, Q, J or A, K, Q, J, 10 or even A, 2, 3, 4, 5).