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Rules of Koi-Koi


Koi-koi is a game for two players at a time. If more than two are playing, others sit out while two play. After completion of a hand, loser sits out and next player plays the winner of the previous hand.


Each player captures cards to build special bonus card combinations ("yaku").


Select the Dealer ("Oya") by any suitable method to begin. Dealer shuffles cards. Holding the deck in hand, dealer lets other player cut the deck. Other player grabs top of deck, then takes bottom of deck and places it on top. Deck is given back to dealer. Dealer deals the top 4 cards all at once to the opponent, then the next 4 cards to him/herself. (Note: do not pick up your cards yet.) Then the dealer places the next 4 cards face-up in the center of the table. Dealer repeats the process so each player has 8 cards, and there are 8 cards face-up on the table. Dealer offers deck to opponent; opponent cuts deck again. Deck is placed face-down on the table as a draw pile. At this moment, the non-dealer may request the dealer's hand (the dealer does not have to ask the player if s/he wants to do so). If the player requests this, the dealer will play with the opponent's hand, instead of the cards s/he dealt to him/herself.


After the deal and before commencing play, the players examine their hands for automatic wins, and the 8 face-up cards must be examined for 20-point cards and for any triples or quads.

· If there is a 20-point card face-up after the deal, the score for the hand will be doubled. Two twenties triples the score; three 20-point cards quadruples the score, etc.

· If there is a triple (three cards of one suit) face-up after the deal, a player gathers them together into one stack. Whoever plays the fourth card of that suit will take the stack.

· If there is a quad (all four cards of one suit) face-up on the table, the hand is declared void and the dealer redeals.

· If a player has a quad (all four cards of one suit) in the hand, the player automatically wins. Player is scored six points and takes the deal. (Note: Thanks to Graham Leonard for helping clarify the scoring on automatic wins, and a fine point about the rules below, on March 9, 2004.)

· If there are four pairs face-up on the table, the hand is declared void and the dealer redeals.

· If a player has four pairs in the hand, the player automatically wins. Player earns six points and takes the deal.


About the Dealer/doubler indicator -- It is easy to forget who dealt a hand, and it is easy to forget if there is a score doubler or tripler in effect. I like to use the blank card to indicate both of these things. The card should be placed on the side of the table closest to the dealer. The card is face-down if there are no doublers. Face-up means the score of this hand will be doubled. Face-up and turned sideways indicates that the score will be triple or higher.


Dealer plays first. A turn consists of two to three actions:

1. Place a card from the hand face-up in the center of the table. If the player has a card that matches (is the same suit as) a face-up card on the table, the player may play that card, placing the card atop its mate to capture it. Do not take the pair… yet.

Strategy tip: Don't just capture any old card that you can -- use your little gray cells to target which cards to capture, at what time, to build special "yaku" card combinations. This is not just a game of luck -- skill is important too!

2. Place the top card from the draw pile face-up in the center of the table. If the player has drawn a card that matches a face-up card on the table, the player places the card atop its mate, to capture it.

Strategy note: In addition to the strategy move (#1) the player also gets a luck move (#2)! Skill may be important in this game, but luck is not to be taken lightly.

3. If actions 1 or 2 resulted in any stacked pairs, the paired cards are melded face-up in front of the player in groupings of similar point values.

In this view of the table, the dealer (at the bottom) has captured and melded a 20, a 10, a 5, and three 1-point cards. By organizing them face-up by point value, both players can discern their progress toward achieving yaku.(bonus card combinations). Players don't necessarily have to put the twenties at the left and the ones at right as shown -- just be consistent in how you organize your melds. Whatever works for both of you. (Also, you may note that in this diagram I have shown the doubler indicator face-up and turned sideways -- indicating that the game being played is a triple-score game.)

After the dealer has melded (if any matches were made), it is the opponent's turn. The opponent plays a card from the hand and a card from the deck as described above for the dealer's turn, with the goal of capturing cards to meld..

Play progresses until a player has made a yaku (a combination of melded cards, such as ten 1-point cards or three 20-point cards, explained in detail below). When a player has made a yaku, s/he must decide to continue ("koi-koi" or "go")... or to stop the hand. Stopping is safe, but may result in a lower score. Continuing may result in a higher score, but the opponent may steal the win from you! You should only choose to continue if you believe that you can make a second yaku before your opponent makes a yaku. Announce your intention clearly. Say "stop" if you want to stop, and if you want to continue, you say "koi-koi." That's Japanese for "come on." Korean players say "go." When you say "koi-koi," get ready for excitement. Because if you win (get another yaku) after saying "koi-koi," your score is doubled! It's tripled if you go "koi-koi" a second time, and quadrupled if you go "koi-koi" three times.

Whoever says "stop" after scoring a yaku wins the hand. The other player scores nothing (even if s/he has a melded yaku and had previously said "koi-koi"). After noting the score, the winner deals the next hand (provided that the target score, 50 points, has not yet been reached).

If the players both use up all the cards in their hand, the game is declared a draw. No score is awarded to anyone, even if someone has a yaku combination melded (had previously said "koi-koi"). The deal remains with the same player for the next hand.

Click to go to the next page: Scoring

Click to see the yaku shown in pictures

Copyright 2000-2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. Reproduction by written permission of the author only.