How to Play Bringing Down the Landlord (斗地主)

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Bringing Down the Landlord, or 斗地主 (dòu dì zhǔ), is a Chinese card game which originated during the Chinese Communist Revolution. The game is played with three players, one acting as the landlord and the other two working in concert to take them down. The object of the game is to be the first to get rid of all your cards, though in the case of the peasants, both win if only one manages the task.

Game Setup

The game is played with a full deck of cards including jokers, for a total of 54 cards. The original version of the game, played here, only supports three players as 54 is not divisible by four. To start, find two friends to play with. One person should click the "Host Game" button to start a new game. The other two can click "Join Game" and punch in the game code generated by the first player. Because this game runs off WebRTC, which is purely a point-to-point communication technology, each player creates an independent connection with the host, rather than connecting to a centralized server (I don't have the server capacity for that yet). That's why separate game codes are needed. Sorry for the inconvenience.


Cards are shuffled and dealt with each player receiving 17 and the last 3 placed face down in the center. After looking at your cards, each round starts with a bidding process to see which player will be the landlord. Bidding begins with the winner of the previous round, though for the first round this is chosen randomly. The first player can bid 1 point, 2 points, or 3 points depending on how confident they are in their ability to win. A higher bid demonstrates a greater willingness to be the landlord. Priority is given to earlier bids. Thus, if the first player bids 3 points, they instantly become the landlord. If they do not, the next player has the chance to either outbid the first or pass. This continues until all three players have submitted a bid (or passed) and the landlord is chosen. At this point, the last 3 cards are flipped face up for all to see before being distributed to the landlord.

General Play

The game is a shedding-type game, similar to Uno. Players take turns either playing cards from their hands into the pile or passing. Unlike Uno, you do not have to discard a card - you may pass without consequence if you cannot play or even if you can but wish not to for strategic reasons. The only rule for playing cards is that your play must a) be the same type of play as currently being played, and b) must be strictly bigger than the last card(s) played (they must trump what is currently on the field). Suits are irrelevant. Cards are ranked 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A, 2, black joker, red joker (represented by stars in my deck). 3 is the smallest rank, 2 is the largest. The landlord gets to start, and thus gets to choose which type of play everyone must follow.

For example, if the landlord plays a triplet of 4s, then the next valid play can be a triplet of 5s, a triplet of Aces, etc. but cannot be, for instance, a pair of 2s. Types of plays are covered in detail in the next section.

Play continues in a circle until two people pass in a row. This means that whatever was played by the player before them was not trumped by either other player. The board is then cleared and that player has the privilege of starting again, choosing the type of play everyone must follow.

Types of Plays

Name Description Example Valid Trump
Singleton A single card 3 4
Pair A pair of cards of equal rank 3 3 4 4
Triplet Three cards of equal rank 3 3 3 4 4 4
Chain Five or more cards of consecutive rank 3 4 5 6 7 4 5 6 7 8
Sisters Three or more pairs of consecutive rank 3 3 4 4 5 5 4 4 5 5 6 6
Airplane Two or more triplets of consecutive rank 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5
Triplet + Kicker A triplet plus an unrelated singleton 3 3 3 K 4 4 4 9
Triplet + Kicker Pair A triplet plus an unrelated pair 3 3 3 Q Q 4 4 4 6 6
Airplane + Kickers An airplane where each triplet contains a different kicker 3 3 3 4 4 4 J Q 4 4 4 5 5 5 9 A
Airplane + Kicker Pairs An airplane where each triplet contains a different kicker pair 3 3 3 4 4 4 J J Q Q 4 4 4 5 5 5 8 8 A A
Bombs All cards of a rank,
capable of trumping all other plays (see below)
3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4

Wikipedia claims there's also moves where bombs have kickers - I've never seen this type of play before and my game does not recognize them as valid.

Note that the rank of the kicker cards are irrelevant - only the main cards are used to determine the validity of a play.
Also note that to trump a chain, sister, or airplane (and associated kicker variants), your chain or sister or airplane must be of the same length. 345678 cannot be trumped by 45678, only 456789.
Finally, know that jokers and 2s do not count as sequential cards for the purposes of chains, sisters, and airplanes. Thus, JQKA2 is not a valid chain, as the 2 is considered to be in a separate category and not a numbered card.


The only exception to the rule concerning following the play type is the bomb. A normal bomb is composed of any four cards of the same rank (for instance, 8888) and is a valid play to trump any other type of play. After the bomb is dropped, the type of play instantly switches to bombs, meaning a bomb can only be trumped by a bomb of higher rank. For instance, if someone played a triplet of 2s along with a pair of 4s as kickers, playing four 8s would be a valid move, bombing their play. The next player would have to either answer with a larger bomb, such as four 9s, or pass.

The largest bomb is a nuke, composed of two jokers. The nuke trumps everything else in the game and can be trumped by nothing else. Playing a nuke guarantees the player the ability to choose the next play type.

End Game

When one player runs out of cards, they or their team wins. At this point, when the players agree to continue, the cards are reshuffled and redealt. The landlord is also reselected, with bidding starting at the winner of this round. Some variants of the game involve a scoring system - mine does not.

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