Interaction – Beat the Landlord

Today, I want to teach you how to play ‘Beat the Landlord,’ (斗地主Dou di zhu) the most popular card game in Chongqing, if not the whole country.

While some individuals do indeed fritter away countless sums of money in the Macanese casinos, only a tiny majority play the more international games like blackjack or poker. Don’t even bother asking about bridge, cribbage and the like.

Beat the Landlord originates from the revolutionary period of the twentieth century, and embodies the spirit of land redistribution of that time in history.

Out and about, you’re likely to spot people killing time this way on their mobile phones, or on office computers, such as photoshops where staff play a round or two whenever there’s a spare moment.

In parks or on street corners, you may well see older people or laborers playing beat the landlord with paper card sets, with exaggerated vigour in their words and gestures to create a sense of atmosphere.

It’s usually the men that play cards more, wheras women tend to prefer mahjong. In any case, though, a good knowledge of Beat the Landlord will certainly endear you to locals no end.

Commercialised gambling is outlawed in mainland China, but friends and family often set up stakes to add a little spice to the game. As a visitor or resident, you don’t need to do this. Just play for the fun!

There are many Beat the Landlord platforms, but the most popular online version is on QQ, where you play live with two other individuals you don’t normally know.

I want to make a difference in this post by recording myself playing Beat the Landlord on a mobile app. The rules are fairly easy, but remember that I can only teach you how to play, not necessarily to play well!

In my video, I’ll play two computer characters on a downloadable app, as I want to give you a practical demonstration of the game itself, and explain the reason for my choices. Playing a live character this way would annoy the hell out of them!


Basic Rules


Don’t worry if you don’t quite understand at first, things will become clear when you watch me demonstrate in the video below.

Cards – The entire deck of cards is used, including both jokers, making 54 in total.

Direction – Beat the Landlord is always played clockwise, player to player.

Aim – Basically, the landlord wins by playing all his cards before the other two players, or loses if either tenant plays out all his cards first.

Players – Three players per game. Depending on the strength of hand, one decides to be the landlord, and the other two work together to defeat him, but without revealing each other’s hands.

Card Value – In order of lowest to highest, the card values are 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A, 2, black and white joker, coloured joker. Note that 2 is a high value card in this game.

Singles单牌, pairs双牌 – Each time any two players can’t or don’t play a hand, the third player has free choice to play any single card or grouping of cards. After the hand is played, the others follow suit by playing higher value cards until the two others don’t play a hand. Joker cards can be played as a single.

Triples – There are variations on this rule, as some people don’t allow triples taking an additional pair, so it’s best to confirm before the game begins. It’s possible to play three cards of the same value, either by themselves, or with a single card or pair of cards of the same value.

Single Runs链子 – When any player has control of the hand, he can play a minimum run of five cards, such as 3,4,5,6,7 or a maximum of 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K,A. Cards of the value of 2 can’t be used in runs. In response to a run, other players must play a higher value run of the same number of cards.

Double Runs – When a minimum of three pairs of equal value cards in incremental succession are played, it’s a called a double run. For example, 33, 44, 55 and on are possible, up to a maximum of AA.

Triple Runs (Known as an ‘Airplane飞机fei ji’) – If you have two or more triple sets of equal value cards, you may play them and tag on a single card or pair each, depending on the rules you agree upon. For example, you could play 777 and 888, with a 3 and 4, or 33 and 44 tagged on. The maximum value for a run is A.

Bombs炸弹 – Playing four cards of the same value or both joker cards is called a bomb. A bomb can be played at any point, and wins control of the hand unless somebody plays a higher value bomb. Each time a bomb is played, the stakes are doubled.

Spoils – When the landlord wins, the tenants both give up their stakes, squared by the number of bombs played in that round. When a tentant wins, the landlord divides his stake equally between the tenants, according to the number of bombs, again.




It’s a vital principle to remember that the tenants work together to beat the landlord.

This means the the tenant before before the landlord should make life difficult by playing higher value cards, while the first tenant plays lower value cards for his partner. At the same time, you should give way to a fellow tenant when the landlord has no cards to play against him. Remember, if one tenant wins, so does the other!

Card counting can definitely give you an edge, as you can plan out the best sequence to which your opponent finds hardest to respond.

Luck plays an important part, but a poor hand doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose as a tenant, so you shouldn’t fixate on the strength of your hand so much, but rather the best tactics for your situation.


Who Plays the Landlord?


There are varations on how the landlord and tenant roles are settled, so just confirm before or just go with the flow.

Voluntary methods;

  1. Once each player receives his hand and expresses his level of confidence by saying one of ‘Buyao不要 (Don’t want)’ or one, two, or three points (1,2,3分 fen). Any player who says ‘three’ automatically becomes the landlord. Otherwise, the player who speaks the highest number plays the landlord role. Should nobody offer a number, the deck is reshuffled and dealt out.
  2. Sometimes, one card in the deck is turned up, and whoever the card is dealt to has first choice on being the landlord. When a player turns down the opportunity, the player sat to the left has second choice, and so on. Alternatively, a non playing card can be mixed into the deck, and whoever receives it follows the same procedure.

The Involuntary method;

Before the cards are dealt, one player, or winner from the previous round turns up a random card in the deck. Revealing the cards 4, 7, 10, K, A, 2 or a joker means that player is automatically the landlord. Numbers in between designate a player either side. For example, a 3 card means the choice goes to the right, and a 5 to the left.


Dealing the cards


One player deals the cards in any fashion. Typically, he deals himself the first card, followed by one each in a clockwise direction until three cards remain.

The final three cards are placed side by side on the table, and revealed to everybody by the landlord, who then adds them to his hand. This way, the landlord always starts with three more cards than either tenant.

Sometimes, a group likes to increase the number of bombs by dealing out large numbers of cards at once to the same player, as many as 17!

From here on, the game continues as long as the players desire.




Hit me with a message if there’s still anything you don’t understand, and I’ll modify my post for you.



Please take a moment share with friends!