Hak Ga Luk Fu Pai Table

About the Cards

The card suits come in order of rank. Sip is higher than Gon which is higher than Sop and Ten. The latter is the lowest ranking suit. The aim of the game is to have 6 or more winning cards. This is achieved by winning against single cards or multiple card combinations. The game of Luk Fu can be visually summed up as a table of the cards according to their suit ranking and numerical value. The Leeten card is placed in a separate column and not attached to any suit because of its optionality.

Suits in decreasing rank Cards in decreasing numerical value Leeten
SIP 9 sip 8 sip 7 sip 6 sip 5 sip 4 sip 3 sip 2 sip 1 sip leeten
GON 9 gon 8 gon 7 gon 6 gon 5 gon 4 gon 3 gon 2 gon 1 gon
SOP 9 sop 8 sop 7 sop 6 sop 5 sop 4 sop 3 sop 2 sop 1 sop
TEN 9 ten 8 ten 7 ten 6 ten 5 ten 4 ten 3 ten 2 ten 1 ten

Card Combinations

The game hinges on single and multiple card combinations. When a single card is played, only a card of the same suit can be played against it. Looking at the above table, a card from the right will be beaten from one to the left, because numerically, the left side is higher than the right. If the player has no card high enough to beat the single card offered, then he or she will throw away a card from his own dealt hand faced down. This is known as Pug Pai ( Pug Pai = Discarding a bad card ).

In multiple card combinations, two possible classes are can be considered.

The minimum number of cards for a cluster is three for any combination. The maximum number of cards in a cluster is four of the same number (vertical combination) (with the exception of Ung Fu Ha San Ung Fu Ha San - Five Tigers Descending the Mountain which has 5 cards - 4 ones and one Leeten); or nine cards of the same suit (1:2:3:4:5:6:7:8:9) (horizontal combination). The higher ranking card combination beat any lower ranking card combination.

Clusters of the Same Numerical Value (Vertical Combinations)

Clusters of three or four cards of the same numerical value can only be beaten by matching number of cards with a higher numerical value. So, a triple eights may be beaten only by a triple nines clusters. Triple seven by triple eight and triple nine, triple six by triple seven, triple eight, and triple nine and so on. The exception is triple ones. This combination always has at least one red card, and it can only be beaten by a triple nines cluster. Triple one can never beat any combination at all. The same applies in four cards of the same numerical value. Quadruple eight is beaten by quadruple nine and so on.

Special exception is made when four people are playing, and the Leeten card is included. If a player holds all four of the regular value one cards, and also the Leeten card, then the Leeten card may be used in combination with these ones to form a five card cluster. Since there are only four of every other number, there are no combinations which can beat this. This is known as "Ung Fu Ha San" or "Five Tigers Descending the Mountain" ( Five Tigers Descending the Mountain ). Any player holding this combination wins by default, no matter if he is the first or last to have been in the order of the deal.

In the Hakga dialect, the use of same numerical value combinations is known by the word pronounced Gok (Same Numerical Value combination) which means "all". The number usually is included after the word, so when there is a three's combination, we say Gok Sam or "all threes". It does not matter whether there are three or four cards when using this word phrase. The following are all the possible combinations:

Gok Zau All one's
Gok Ngee All two's
Gok Sam All three's
Gok See All four's
Gok Ung All five's
Gok Luk All sixes'
Gok Tid All seven's
Gok Bad All eight's
Gok Giu All nine's

When winning a round, or game, we say Da Yang (or Da Zang) (Da Yang = Wins). Here are some examples of same valued clusters in offer and winning combinations

5 sip 5 gon 5 ten Eights combination ->
<- Fives combination
8 gon 8 sop 8 ten

2 sip 2 gon 2 sop 2 ten Three's combination ->
<- Two's combination
3 sip 3 gon 3 sop 3 ten

1 sip 1 gon 1 sop Nines combination ->
<- Ones combination

This is a special case where only a nines
combination can beat the ones combination.
If there were four ones, only four nines may beat it.
9 gon 9 sop 9 ten

Ung Fu Ha San = Five Tigers Descending the Mountain
Five Tigers Descending the Mountain
1 sip 1 gon 1 sop 1 ten Leeten
The Ung Fu Ha San winning hand.

Clusters of the Same Suit (Horizontal Combinations)

Again, at least three consecutive members of a pack makes a cluster. 1:2:3 or 3:4:5 or 7:8:9 are examples. But sometimes, if suring the luck of the deal you get, say, 3:4:5:6:7:8, this is perfectly valid if they are of the same suit. The maximum combination, therefore, is 9 in a row. It is possible to have a red card in a cluster and be beaten by a cluster of non red cards. Please note that the numbers follow in sequence where the next card is numerically 1 higher than the previous. Sequences which do not count in steps of one are not allowed.

In the Hakka dialect, there are two possible names for these same suitd combinations, depending on the suits. The highest three ranking suits, Sip, Gon and Sop, use the word Sun ( Sun - Same Suit Combination in Sip, Gon and Sop suits ). So the cards 345 (or any numerically increasing combination - see above) of the Gon suit is known as a Gon Sun. For the lowest ranking suit, it is usual to call them Kia (Kia - Same Suit Combination in the Ten suit only), or Ten Kia. Below are the four possible Horizontal combinations:

Sip Sun Sip combination
Gon Sun Gon combination
Sop Sun Sop combination
Ten Kia Ten combination

Examples of same suit clusters.

5 sop 6 sop 7 sop Low ranking Sop suit combination is beaten by
a higher ranking Gon suit combination, though
the numerical value of the cards are lower
2 gon 3 gon 4 gon

1 ten 2 ten 3 ten 4 ten Low ranking Ten Suit is beaten by higher ranking
Sop suit, even though there is a red card. This
is one case where a red value one card becomes an
ordinary card with no Lao Sui priviledge.
3 sop 4 sop 5 sop 6 sop

By extraordinary good luck, it is possible to have been dealt the contents of an entire suit. This suit can be played as a same suit combination.

Red Imprint Cards and Lao Sui Pai

sip9 sip8 gon9 sop9 ten9 sip1 ten1 leeten

Generally, red cards are high or Lao Sui Lao Sui = Old Age or Invincible cards. However, for 8 Sip, it can only become Lao Sui if 9 Sip has been revealed. Lao Sui Pai may only be downed if it is used singly or in combination to beat an offer from another player. They can be downed to accumulate winning cards contributing towards the goal of the game (having six or more winning cards). They can not be downed without reason, because that would make the next highest number card Lao Sui. A good reason for downing a red card is when a Lao Sui Pai from the highest ranking suit remains after all ordinary cards have been played. This is because all cards of high ranking suits must be used up before one resorts to playing a card from the next highest ranking suit. During this move, the lead player downs the Lao Sui Pai, and all other players must discard a bad card or Pug Pai, and declares he is moving onto the next highest ranking suit going on to lead the next card after the others have discarded.

Cards which have no red imprints become lao sui only when cards of the same suit that are numerically higher have been revealed during play. This is a handy thing to spot because you can add towards the number of winning cards.

Playing the Game

Place Settings

The game can be played by three or four people. For three people, the Leeten () card is not included. If there are four people playing, the Leeten card is used. The game as outlined below is for the four player game, but its rules apply equally to the three player game.

The place settings of the players is as below. The Chinese characters are the usual terms for the players. South is called Tdiu Ga or the head person. (Ga can mean family, and also used like -er in paint-er.) East is Ngee Ga or the second person, West is Mui Ga or the final person. North is called Tsuk Mung ( Tsuk Mung = Holding the Dream ) (literally holding the dream).

Tsuk Mung
Mui Ga
Hakka Luk Fu player seatingsEast
Ngee Ga
Tdiu Ga


The dealer S deals himself first, then anticlockwise E, N, W around the table, giving N only one card at any point during his anticlockwise deal. The active players are South, East, and West and the cards are dealt in this order (see diagram: 1 2 3). S, E and W will have 12 cards each when the dealer has finished dealing. The act of dealing is known as Fun Pai ( Fun Pai - dealing the cards ).

Before dealing, the pack is shuffled. W is allowed to cut the shuffled cards, so he has part of the deck and so does the dealer (S). Cutting the deck is known as Tsed Pai ( Tsed Pai = Cutting the Deck ) W's half of the pack is placed under the dealer's half and cards are dealt out anticlockwise from the dealer (S) to E the one card to N, and then to W. The fifth card is dealt to the dealer, the sixth to E and the seventh to W and continues S, E, and then W until the end of the deck. Since W is always recieves the last card, he may see the card immediately after he has cut.

A variation to this dealing, is to wait till sometime in the middle of the dealing to deal N the single card. This is sometimes thought to be a more random selection, though it is up to the whim of the dealer. Again, the card at the bottom of the deck belongs to W.

The Tsoh - Um Tsoh Ritual.

After all players have recieved their cards and have sorted them out into the best possible combinations, the dealer at South is the first to say whether he will or will not play literally 'Tsoh - Um Tsoh' ( Tsoh M Tsoh ), literally Do or Not Do (i.e., play or not play). If he thinks he has a good chance of winning, that is if he thinks he has enough cards to win, he will say Tsoh, and if not, then Um Tsoh. When someone has enough cards to win, it is known as Giu Pai ( Giu Pai = Enough Cards to win ). During play the question Giu Um Giu ( Giu Um Giu = Whether or not there are enough cards to win ) may be asked, referring to whether a player has or has not enough cards to win.

Supposing his cards are not so good, he will pass on the buck to the next active player at East. The same happens if East has a bad hand. It is now down to West to decide. If he has a bad set of cards also, he will say Um Tsoh, and the pack of cards is gathered and reshuffled, to be dealt out once again. Supposing East or West decides that they have a good hand, then the first player to lay down a card must be the dealer.

Starting Play

The first player to put down a card is the dealer. His offer is given to the person to the right (E) and E either beats his offer, or throws a bad card without revealing the cards he has discarded. The act of throwing away bad cards is known as Pug Pai ( Pug Pai = Discarding bad cards ). The player at N does not play, so the last person to put down a card is W. This person either beats the dealer (S) or E's offer, or throws a bad card down. The winner of this round keeps the card in front of him on the table and deals the next card to be played. At the end of each stage in the game, each active player (S, E, W) have exactly the same number of cards. The winner is first to have six or more winning cards. If the holder of the single card at N, matches any of the winner's cards in numerical value, then he is entitled to any winnings. During play, if anyone has more cards than the others at the end of a round, then they must discard cards until his hand hold the same amount of cards as the other active players.

It is not necessary to start the game with a combination. A single card will do, but this requires that the next player beat it or not with a single card of the same suit. In fact each offer must be beaten by the same number of cards, or an equal number of cards is discarded. There are three conditions which are laid down.

The winner of the game announces the number of winning cards that s/he has. This involves saying the total number and and "Fu" to indicate how many winning cards there are. You can check the phrases in the scoring system page.

Important Points During Play

During play there are etiquettes to observe.

Breaking Combinations

When a player has placed down a combination for the other players to beat, and the next player sees that it will break up any of his or her own combinations, he or she must break their combination to reply, if it can beat the previous player's cards. So, if S came out with the combination 345 Gon, and E had 23456 Sip, he will need to use three of his five card combination to beat it, i.e. 234 Sip. This breaking up of a combination is called Tag San Pai ( Tag San Pai = Breaking up a Combination ). It also occurs for same numeral card combinations, eg, if S played 6 Sip, and E had triple 7, one of which is 7 Sip, and he had no higher Sip cards, he is obliged to break up his 7's combination to beat the 6 Sip. His other two 7's now become useless.

Lao Sui Pai

The concept revolves around the "unbeatability" of a card, because all higher cards have been revealed. Supposing that the cards 3456789 of the Sip suit has been revealed. What happens to the 2 and 1 Sip? By logic, 2 Sip is Lao Sui because there are no more Sip cards which can beat it because the numerically higher value cards have already been revealed. This is only true, if 2 Sip were played as a single card. In combination of three cards each of numerical value two, then it has no Lao Sui status.

Supposing the above case were encountered, and South plays 2 Sip. If E holds the 1 Sip, it is numerically less than 2 Sip, and therefore, it cannot be played even though it is alread a red imprint Lao Sui card itself. E must throw away a bad card.

The reverse to this is that if South had only the 1 Sip and someone else had the 2 Sip, then he must not down his 1 Sip unless he is completing his 6 or more to win. Even though the next active player may have 2 Sip which is numerically higher it cannot be played if South during this move. South must declare himself winner by announcing the total number of cards he has winning for it to be allowed. If he does not have enough cards to win, he must retain his 1 Sip card until the time when he can make the move just mentioned.

However, when a person has only the Lao Sui 1 Sip Yau Bak Tsu left, and knows that there are higher Sip cards still unrevealed, he can only reveal this card if he runs into the situation that it is his last card of the highest ranking suit, and having play from the next highest ranking suit in the following move. Since 1 Sip is definitely Lao Sui when used by itself, no cards can be played against it when it is played in this way.

The trivial case must be explained for completeness, that if someone's last card of the highest ranking suit was say 2 Sip card, while higher value cards of the same suit remains unrevealed, this card can be beaten by these other cards.

Only the person who says Tsoh can down any of the Lao Sui cards when he chooses. All the others must abide by the above rules. The reason for this is that if the person who says Tsoh does not win because someone else has, then the Tsoh person is liable to pay all the losses whilst the other losing player does not. By paying out the losses of another player is known as Bao Su (Bao Su = Forfeiting a double point loss because having said Tsoh you've lost), literally "enveloped by a lost game".

When someone can win by downing Lao Sui cards, each of the cards Leeten, Yau Bak Tsu (1 Sip), Zau Ten (1 Ten) are Yid Fu Tded ( Yid Fu Tded = One Tiger of Steel ), meaning One Tiger of Iron, because they are impervious to attack.

Leeten and Ung Fu Ha San

Ung Fu Ha San has already been mentioned. The Leeten card can only be used with all four of the other value one cards if they are present. It may not be used to be combined with two or three other value one cards to form a combination. Otherwise an unfair advantage is obtained. The Leeten card cannot be beaten, because it is not a numerical value card when it is by itself. It may be downed singly as a Lao Sui card because it has a red imprint.

Card Play by the Dealer and Players

To decide who becomes the first dealer, the deck of cards is first shuffled and then split. Whoever gets the highest card by numerical value (and by rank if more than one draws a high card) gets to be the dealer that is, the person who wins the cutting of the cards becomes the dealer.

The dealer has the responsibility of opening the game with a card singly or by combination. If someone other than himself say Tsoh, then he must open the game by playing cards which are not impossible to beat. For instance if he came out with triple ones, when the only combination which can beat it is triple nines, this is frowned upon, and the person who has said Tsoh has the right to not pay up when someone else wins. Also, if the dealer, being the first person to play, can put forward any card he so chooses. Any other player must use the cards of his higher ranking suits first before resorting to lower suits, so if East or West has no Sip card, he can open with Gon, failing that Sop or Ten, depending on his situation.

Pug Pai

Any card which has been discarded in Pug Pai fashion may not be overturned and revealed at any stage during the game. They remain face down. Any card which has been revealed, stays revealed, even though it has been beaten.

Winning and Beaten Cards During the Game

When there is a card of single or multiple combination which has been won, it is placed infront or to one side of the player, and revealed for all to see. Cards which have been beaten and those which have been discarded through Pug Pai are placed in the center of the table to accumulate during play.

Summary of Pro's and Con's

Since anyone can win the game if they have the right set of cards to win, the dealer moves around the table and so everyone gets to be in any of the four table positions. The pro's and con's are summarised below.

North : Tsuk MungDoes not need to do anything - Cannot loose or forfeit any pointsMust sit out the game not playing
South : Tdiu Ga

First active player

The Dealer begins the game, and like most games the opening influences how the game proceeds. He also takes the first decision to say Tsoh or Um Tsoh. He can play any card from any suit he feels like, so long as it can be beaten.Has to do the physical work of dealing the cards. Is restricted in some ways as how he plays the opening if he is not the person who says Tsoh.
East : Ngee Ga

Second active player

E's reply may be too high for West to beat, in which case he can then become the person who plays the next hand.His offer may be beaten by West.
West : Mui Ga

Third active player

Gets to Split the deck and sees a card of his own before all the others. If W says Tsoh, the dealer is obliged not to play a high valued card or combination to be played as a matter of courtesy.Has to wait till last to reply to S and E's play.

The person who thinks itself as having the best chance of winning

This player gets some breaks depending on if he is in S, E or W when the game starts.To balance his perks, he also has the threat of the loss of double points if he looses.

Hakka Playing Cards : Scoring Scheme Shorthand for Recording Luk Fu
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This page was last updated on Thursday 22nd October 1998
and continuously revised since Saturday 15 March 1997.

© Dylan W.H.S. 1996-1997
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