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CEKI
(or KOWAH)


A TRADITIONAL GAME FOR 2 - 6 PLAYERS


CONTENTS

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COMPOSITION OF THE DECK
THE OPENING DEAL
RULES OF THE GAME
THE END OF THE GAME




COMPOSITION OF THE DECK

Ceki decks have the same composition as most Chinese "money-suited" packs, though the quantity of each card is fewer, and with less honours. This relation is due to the fact that the game is played especially by Malay ethnic groups of Chinese descent.

Each pack is made of 60 cards (30 different patterns, each one repeated twice). For the game, though, two packs are required, so each single card will be repeated four times.

Value cards are divided into three suits whose western names are usually Coins, Strings and Myriads (a more detailed description of these suits and their graphic style can be found in the Chinese gallery). Each suit has nine value cards (no courts), running from 1 to 9.
Three "special" cards (or honours) are called White Flower, Red Flower and Old Thousand.

All patterns are in black & white, but three cards feature a red stamp: the 9 of Strings, the Red Flower and the Old Thousand.

Ceki decks usually have plain backs.


suit
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
COINS
STRINGS
MYRIADS
HONOUR
CARDS

RED FLOWER

WHITE FLOWER

OLD THOUSAND

To western eyes, the arrangement of suit symbols appears very strange, and values might be difficult to tell; Myriads cards even state their value by a small Chinese numeral. Nevertheless, this should not represent a problem in playing the game, because in modern decks the central part of the illustration is encircled by a thick black frame, whose pattern changes according to the value of the card, more or less as numeral indices do in ordinary playing card decks. And since the aim of the game is to collect sets of cards with identical value, regardless of the suit they belong to, players not accustomed to the deck's traditional patterns may simply rely on these peculiar "indices".

Two of the honour cards, Red Flower and White Flower, have a frame with the same pattern as 1s, while Old Thousand has no frame, but it is clearly recognizable.
Therefore, two cards might still cause doubt: the White Flower, easily mistaken with the 1 of Coins (the latter has three rows of small dots), and the 9 of Strings, which might be mistaken with the Red Flower because of its red stamp (though two clues are the frame pattern, which is the same as other 9s, and the big dot which most Strings cards have).
A little practice will soon enable to recognize these cards without any problem.



White Flower

1 of Coins

(notice the three
rows of small dots)
(notice the "9" frame,
and the big upper dot)








9 of Strings

Red Flower


Ceki decks are not easy to obtain. In case of unavailability, a good replacement can be a Mah Jong deck, taking out Winds, Seasons and Flowers, or a Dongguan deck, taking out the Gui cards (see the Chinese gallery for details about both patterns): the pack will have 120 cards, with three suits, whose values run from 1 to 9, plus three "special" cards, each one repeated four times.






THE OPENING DEAL

Any number of players from 2 to 6 can take part.
A dealer, randomly chosen, shuffles the pack and asks the player on his right to cut it. He then deals two cards to each of the players, in clockwise direction, repeating the operation four times for a total of eight cards.
Players are not allowed to look at them until the deal has been completed.
The undealt cards are placed in a pile, face down, in the middle of the table, and the first player (on the dealer's left) opens the game by taking his turn.





RULES OF THE GAME

Ceki is an easy game, quite similar to Mah Jong (from which it might have originated), though its structure is more simple, and each round requires a much shorter time to be played.

The aim of the game is to form three sets of three cards of the same value: for example, three 5s, three 9s and three 1s. In forming sets, suits are given no consideration, so a 7 of Coins and two 7 of Myriads (as shown in the picture), would make a set of 7's.
It is easy to form these sets by matching the cards frames, because all three should have the same frame pattern.
Honour cards only form sets of the same kind (i.e. three White Flowers, three Red Flowers, three Old Thousands).

Each set is worth the sum of the cards it is made of, so the same one shown on the right would be worth 7+7+7 = 21 points.

set of 7
(worth 21 points)

Honour cards are only worth 1 (each set scores 3 points), so the most cherished combinations are the ones made of three 9s, worth 27.


The simple principle on which sets are built is that each player, at his turn, can choose whether to draw a covered card from the pile, or to pick the last discard made by a previous player. In the first case, he can decide to keep what he has found, discarding one of the cards he already holds in hand, or to discard straight away the one he has just drawn. Therefore, at the end of his turn, each player always remains with eight cards.

All discards must be piled in a heap, close to the uncovered cards, but only the uppermost one (i.e. the last discard left on the table) can be taken by other players.



a set of White Flowers
(only worth 3 points)
Obviously, with eight cards held in hand, only two full sets and a couple can be obtained. Any player who suceeds in making this arrangement, calls "ceki".
In doing so, he places his couple face down in front of him, as shown below: the call is a declaration to warn other players that he is waiting for the last card to win. From this moment, his only goal will be to obtain the third card which matches his couple, and he is no longer allowed to make further changes to his two full sets.
In taking his turns, he may find the last card by either drawing from the pile, or by picking another player's discard.


the couple face down
+


In case any of the two sets held in hand by the player who called ceki has the same value as his couple (for example, he holds a set of 3's, a set of 9s, and has a couple of 3s), he will have to lay face down not only the couple, but all five cards of the same value, i.e. the five 3's in this example, illustrated below.

+ +
in case a player calls ceki with these cards...

...he will keep in hand only the three 9s, laying face down all the 3's


During the game, other players may call ceki, as soon as they obtain two sets and a couple. The first player to complete three sets is the winner.




THE END OF THE GAME

When a player who has called ceki obtains the last card he is looking for, he turns all his cards face up, showing the three sets: he is the winner of the hand, and the only player to score points.
  • If the last card comes from the previous player's discard, it is a plain win, only scoring the total made by the sum of the three sets.

  • If the player wins by using a card which the previous player had been holding in hand, it is a double win, and his total is multiplied by two.

  • If he wins with a card drawn directly from the pile, it is a triple win, and his total is multiplied by three.
These three situations are summarized in the following diagrams:


PLAIN WIN
player C draws a card, but
discards it straight away (1),
enabling player D to win (2)

DOUBLE WIN
player C keeps the card he draws (1),
thus discarding one of his (2),
which enables player D to win (3)

TRIPLE WIN
player D draws the winning card
directly from the pile (1)




Therefore, as soon as a player calls ceki, all discards by the opponent on his right become crucial: in deciding whether to keep a new card drawn from the pile, he will have to assess the risk of an unlucky discard, which might enable the next player not only to win, but even to double his total.


At the end of each hand, players can settle their dues, the winner receiving from his opponents an amount of money corresponding to the points scored.
But Ceki can also be played by agreeing a total number of points: the winner will be the player who reaches this total after a variable number of hands.
Lastly, a third scheme may be to play a given number of hands, and the winner is he who in the end has totalized the highest score.

ENJOY THE GAME !



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Introduction
INTRODUCTION

Picture Gallery Index
PICTURE
GALLERIES
Multi-language Glossary
MULTI-LANGUAGE
GLOSSARY
the Fool and the Joker
THE FOOL &
THE JOKER
Index Table
INDEX
TABLE
Playing Card Links
PLAYING CARD
LINKS





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