Dou Di Zhu - Learn how to play the most popular Chinese card game

“Stick it to the Man”, (or in Chinese, Dou Di Zhu), is a popular, widely known and fun card game in China. Outside China, the game is virtually unknown. It is reminiscent of an American card game called "President".


Dou Di Zhu is an extremely addictive game. Do not read any further especially if you have an insatiable desire to play fun card games for hours on end. In Chinese.

You can easily make lots of inroads with your Chinese friends by playing this game.

It's engaging, competitive and it even has a co-operative element. And most Chinese people know how to play. You might find Chinese cashiers or receptionists who appear to be busy at work. Meanwhile they sneak online for a multiplayer game of Dou Di Zhu.

People gathered around a computer playing cards online in China.

Shall we play a game?

What you need:

The suits in Dou Di Zhu don't matter. If you have a deck of cards without suits, you can use it to play Dou Di Zhu.

To play Dou Di Zhu, you need three players and a deck of cards. The deck must contain both jokers. Another thing - you must be able to distinguish between the jokers. The colored one is ranked higher than the black & white one.

In fact, here are all the card rankings from lowest to highest:

  • 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K,A,2, Black Joker, Color Joker

The Deal:

The cards are shuffled. Each player is dealt 17 cards. The remaining three cards are left face down on the table.

Why? Those cards are for the Big Boss.

Who's da Man?

Up until now, each player is equal. Now it's time to split into teams. One player becomes the Big Boss, and the other two players are the Workers.

How do you decide who will be the Boss?

By auction.

Take a look at your cards. If you have a good hand, bid high. The top bid is 3 points.

Dou Di Zhu Vocabulary

“Pass” = Guo (pronouced “go-ah”, if you know French, then it rhymes with trois)

“Pass” = Bu yao (pronounced “Boo Yow” (Yow rhymes with Now))

“I bid 3” = San Fen (pronounced “Sun Fun”)

“I bid 2” = Liang Fen (pronounced “Lee-Young Fun”)

“I bid 1” = Yi Fen (pronounced “E-fun”)

You're probably wondering who gets to bid first? Good question. I've seen a couple of variations:

  1. Before dealing the cards, you can insert a single card facing up. Stick it randomly in the middle, and whoever receives that card will be the first to bid.
  2. Whichever player won the previous game gets to bid first.
  3. - OR -

  4. One player turns over a card. Look at the number. You then count Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe style up until you reach the number on the card (J is 11, Q is 12, K is 13, and if you turn over a joker, just flip another card). Of course whoever you're pointing at when you hit the number on the card is the lucky first bidder.

Simply put, the first player to bid 3 points is the Boss. If two players in a row “pass” then the remaining player becomes the Boss. And hey, if everyone passes? Then you scrap everything and go back to step, re-deal and re-bid.

Once you have a Boss, then she takes those three face-down cards and turns them face up. They become part of her hand, even though everyone can see them.

The Rounds:

Now for the part you've been waiting for - that's right, the fun part.

The Big Boss goes first. She puts down a card combo. The next player in rotation (usually counter-clockwise) can either play a higher card combo of the SAME TYPE or “pass”.

When I say 'put down a card combo', I actually mean:

  1. Put the card combo in your hand.
  2. Raise your hand as high in the air as you can.
  3. Whip the cards down onto the table as fast as you can.
  4. Make an appropriate sound effect.

What's more, even if you can make a legal play, you are allowed to pass. You could pass, and later on in the same round... play!

Play continues until two players in a row “pass”. The winner of that round gets to start the next one.

And when one player uses up all the cards in their hand - they are the winner. If the Big Boss wins, then each of the Workers have to pay up. If the Workers win, then the Boss pays each of them!

Card Combos:

Combo Type




A single card

3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10(T), J, Q, K, A, 2, Black Joker, Color Joker


Two equally ranked cards (from two 3's up to two 2's)

33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA, 22


Three equally ranked cards (from three 3's up to three 2's)

333, 444, 555, 666, 777, 888, 999, TTT, JJJ, QQQ, KKK, AAA, 222

Triple + a single

A triple together with a single

333+4, 555+8, 777+A, QQQ+8, and so on...

Full House *

A triple together with a double

888+QQ, AAA+77, 555+88, 333+44, and so forth...


At least 5 cards in sequence... from 3 up to ace (two's and Joker's not allowed)

3+4+5+6+7, 5+6+7+8+9+T+J+Q+K, 9+T+J+Q+K, ...get the idea?

Double Run


At least 3 doubles in sequence - from 3 up to ace (two's and Joker's not allowed)

33+44+55, 88+99+TT+JJ+QQ, etc...

Triple Run

Two or more Triples in sequence

333+444, 999+TTT+JJJ, etc...

Triple Run + Singles (Plane with wings)

Two or more Triples in sequence, and any different single card for each Triple

333+444+555+T+A+7, 777+888+3+9, and so on...

Full House Run (Plane with wings) *

Two or more Full Houses in sequence. Yes, only the Triples need to be in sequence.

555+666+TT+AA, QQQ+KKK+33+77, etc...

Quadruple + 2 Singles


Quadruple + 2 Doubles

Four equally ranked cards and any two Singles.

8888+3+Q, 4444+9+5, TTTT+A+Black Joker, 5555+88+TT, 8888+33+QQ, and so on...


Four equally ranked cards. A bomb can be played on top of any other combo. It beats everything except for a Nuke.

3333, 4444, 5555, 6666, 7777, 8888, 9999, TTTT, JJJJ, QQQQ, KKKK, AAAA, 2222.


Both Jokers. A nuke can be played on top of any other combo. It can beat anything.

Both Jokers.

*As with many popular card games, local Dou Di Zhu rules will vary. Often the Full House combos are dropped from the game completely - although some people use them.

The Payout:

At last, the payout. Who says it doesn't matter if you win or lose?

Remember at the start of the game, you held an auction. The high bid was either 1, 2 or 3.

That high bid now determines the payout. For example, if the high bid was 2, and the Boss wins, then he receives 2 points from each of the other players. If either one of the Workers wins, then the Boss pays out 2 points to EACH worker.

The game becomes more interesting the very instant a Bomb or Nuke is dropped.

Here's where it gets more exciting. For every Bomb and every Nuke that was played, the payout doubles. The payout also doubles if the Boss played so amazingly well that the Workers did not drop even a single card.

If after the Boss plays his first card, the Workers play so amazingly well that the Boss is unable to drop any other cards, then the payout is doubled.

And if that weren't enough, the doubling is compounded.

For example, if the initial high bid was 3, and 4 Bombs were played during the round...the payout is 3 x2 x2 x2 x2! Which makes 48!

If you were the Boss, and you won - each Worker would pay you 48 points!

Needless to say, the game becomes more interesting the very instant a Bomb or Nuke is dropped.

Where to play:

A popular place to practice Dou Di Zhu online is through QQ game. There are hundreds of players online at all hours of the day and night.

A screenshot of the online version of the most popular Chinese card game.

The only catch is setting up a QQ game account. If you don't read Chinese, you may need a friend to help you with this.

As with many card games, sometimes the local rules vary. So use this as a guide to understand gameplay, but be ready for variations or different rules each time you play with new people.

Dou Di Zhu too complex? Here's another popular Chinese game that's way easier to learn...and fun too!

Chinese symbol for love

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