What it is:

Choi Dai Di is a fast paced, strategically complex, Chinese card game. If you're bored and looking for something fun to do, check it out.

What it means:

Roughly translated it means "destroy the big 2", or "eliminate the big 2". In Cantonese the Chinese characters translate literally to:

Choi = to weed out; to hoe
Dai = big
Di is actually written as the letter D, but means 2 for some reason


Many people, especially gweilo, call Choi Dai Di "Big 2", "Chinese poker", or just "Dai Di". However it is not the Chinese poker you might see in a casino...unless that casino is located in Macau. IIRC Chinese Poker is really pai gau.

Where it's played:

Choi Dai Di is a very popular game in different regions of Asia including (but not limited to) Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and mainland China. There are countless variations on the rules, both regionally and depending on who you play with. I'll describe the most common version I played in Hong Kong. At the same time I'll try to point out the sections where the rules can be improvised. These sections tend to be the places the major variations differ. If you play using different rules by all means append them. It's a great game and is very addictive, regardless of your Choi Dai Di dialect.

Goals and scoring:

The goals of Choi Dai Di are (1) to get rid of all your cards before your opponents do, and (2)to do so as quickly as possible. When someone goes out they win. The winner then receives payments from the other players based on the number of cards in their hands. This payment can be in the form of a score, or a predetermined amount of money. In either case, it's usually based on a value per card and optionally some type of multiplier.

The whole payment system can get rather complex, so people will agree on any additional rules prior to play. For example, if you're gambling you might decide each card is worth $5, but if someone has 10 or more cards left in their hand they pay $10 per card, or if they have 13 or more $15 per card. It's completely flexible, and people improvise the payment/scoring scheme all the time. You can even omit it if it if you like. BTW, this is probably a good idea until you learn the game.


Choi Dai Di can be played with as few as 2 people, or as many as 4. If you're playing with 2-3 people, each person is dealt either 13 or 17 cards (like the payment scheme, this is agreed upon before play). If it's a 4 player game, each person is dealt 13 cards. Any unused cards in the 2-3 player games are left face down for the duration of the game.

An overview of the game:

Players take turns making plays in a clockwise (or if you prefer, counter clockwise) direction, until somebody goes out. Each player has two options when it is their turn to play:

(1) play a set of N cards, that beats the previous set of N cards played, or
(2) pass

There are four basic card sets you can play, characterized solely on the number of cards, N, in the set:

(a) single cards
(b) pairs of cards
(c) triples
(d) various 5 card groups.

The only time a player can switch to a different set size is if all their opponents pass on their last play. That player can then decide whether to play 1,2,3, or 5 cards.

If you're not sure how this works intuitively, let me give you an example with a 3-player game:

PlayerA starts the game playing pairs.
PlayerB plays a pair that beats PlayerA's pair.
PlayerC could beat that pair, but decides not to, she passes.
PlayerA plays a pair that beats PlayerB's pair.
PlayerB plays a pair that beats PlayerA's pair.
PlayerC passes.
PlayerA passes.
PlayerB can now decide to play either singles, pairs, triples, or 5 cards. He decides to play singles.
PlayerC plays a single that beats PlayerB's single.
PlayerA plays a single that beats PlayerC's single.
PlayerB passes

Clear now? Good. ;)

Things you can play:

Choi dai di uses plays like pairs, straights, flushes, full houses quadruples, and straight-flushes pretty much exactly like you'd find in poker. But unlike poker, there is a rank associated with each possible play. I'll get to the ranking in a minute. For now just note that these are your legal plays:

(a) singles: just one card, e.g. 4d
(b) pairs: two cards with the same face value, e.g. (4d, 4c)
(c) triples: three cards with the same face value, e.g. (4d,4c,4s)
(d) five card groups:
  1. straight: 5 cards whose face values form a successor function-ish sequence, regardless of the suit, e.g. (3c,4d,5d,6s,7h) or (9d,10s,Jh,Qc,Kd)
  2. flush: 5 cards of the same suit, regardless of their face values, e.g. (4s, 8s, 9s, Js, As)
  3. full house: a triple and a pair. see above
  4. quadruple + 1: 4 cards with the same face value plus any other card, e.g. (4d,4c,4h,4s,6d)
  5. straight flush: A combination of a straight and a flush. See above. e.g. (3d,4d,5d,6d,7d)

What beats what:

To understand the vast majority of this you only need to understand how single cards are ranked. To do that just remember these two things:

So, combining those two rules it's pretty easy to see that the cards are ranked, from low to high:

3d, 3c, 3h, 3s, 4d, 4c, 4h, 4s, 5d, 5c, 5h, 5s, 6d, 6c, 6h, 6s, 7d, 7c, 7h, 7s, 8d, 8c, 8h, 8s, 9d, 9c, 9h, 9s, 10d, 10c, 10h, 10s, jd, jc, jh, js, qd, qc, qh, qs, kd, kc, kh, ks, ad, ac, ah, as, 2d, 2c, 2h, 2s

And now you know where the "big 2" originates.

Singles: These are easy. Higher ones beat lower ones. See above.

Pairs: Look at the highest card in the pair. That card determines the rank of the pair. E.g. (3d,3s) beats (3c,3h) because 3s > 3h.

Triples: Look at the highest card in the triple. That card determines the rank of the triple.

Five card groups: These are a little bit different. As mentioned above there are several different groups here. There is a ranking based both on the type of group and the cards within the group. Here's how it works:

any straight < any flush < any full house < any quadruple+1 < any straight flush

Additional rules come into play only when dealing with groups of the same type. For example, when you're trying to beat a full house with another full house. Under these circumstances use these rules:

straights: Look at the highest card in the straight. That card determines the rank.

flushes: This one tends to differ. Some people play where the suit is the main determinant of rank. So any diamond flush < any club flush < any heart flush < any spade flush. Under this variation, if you're comparing two flushes of the same suit you then (and only then) look at the highest card in the flush. Other people simply use the highest card in the flush to determine the rank of the flush as a whole. It's up to you to decide, and agree upon before play.

full houses: These are simple since they're exactly like triples. You ONLY look at the triple, and completely ignore the pair. See above.

quadruples + 1: Similar to full houses. You only look at the quadruple and ignore the single card.

straight-flushes: These combine the rules of straights and flushes, as described above. Whatever flush rule variation you decide to use apply it to your straight-flushes as well.

General rules not mentioned earlier

  • There's no wrap-around. You can't construct straights or straight flushes from 2 back to 3.
  • If you have only one card left, you should announce it.

But you said it was strategically complex

Ah! but it is!

At first glance it seems to be a boring game dictated solely by chance. Well, play against someone who is a master, and you will be humbled repeatedly, even if you consistently get very high cards in your hand and they only get mediocre ones. Roughly 40% of the game is chance, and the rest is strategy. You need to be able to constantly re-evaluate the cards you hold and be able to adapt to the playing styles of your opponents. After you play a few games it will become apparent that much of the game revolves around force: forcing people to pass, forcing people to get rid of certain cards, forcing people to stop playing certain types of groups, etc.

I think of it as a form of mental kung fu. Become good at it, and you will see what I mean. :)

General heuristics and tips:

Think of these as little zen koans or something.

  • Try to keep your highest ranked plays for last.
  • Pay attention to the number of cards in your opponents' hands at all times.
  • Passing is a very powerful strategy.
  • Exploit the weaknesses in your hand. They will become strengths.
  • Manipulate your opponents by studying their play style
  • Learn how to chain together forced plays.
  • Experiment with large and small rank gaps.