Chinese Gambling Games at

Tien Gow

Tien Gow, which means Heaven Nine in Cantonese, is a challenging Chinese game for four players using thirty-two Chinese domino tiles.

Tien Gow must not be confused with Pai Gow, Goo Pai or Che Deng. Though all these games use the same set of tiles, they are totally different games.

Tien Gow is a fast-paced game. Each hand only starts with eight tiles and up to four tiles can be played in a trick, each round of the game can be very short and incredibly exciting.

Playing Tien Gow is quite simple. The banker leads the first trick. The other players, in counter-clockwise order, try to win the trick by playing a higher ranking set of tiles of the same suit, or forfeit the trick by discarding the same number of tiles face-down. Tile of the wrong suit loses regardless how high its rank.

Subsequent tricks are led by the winner of the previous trick. (It is like playing No Trump in Bridge without a partner.) The winner of the last trick wins the game and becomes the banker for the next game.

Some tile combos are winners when they lead the trick, but are loser when they follow the wrong suit. A hand with high ranking tiles does not guarantee a winner if you don't play it right.

Players who have not won any trick are not allowed to play the last trick unless it is a multi-tile trick. In other words, the winner must have won at least 8 tiles out of 32 by the end of the game.

Since only the winner of the last trick collects the points (or money), the whole idea of the game is about taking or releasing control at the right time, plus saving the strength to take over again and win at the last trick. With skill, sometimes you can shut out some or all opponents and win a game with a low ranking piece.

You collect a bonus or double your winnings if you manage to shut out all three opponents. Counting which tiles have already been played is important, because some lower ranking tiles may win a game if other players are out of your suit.

Since forfeited tiles are played face-down, the counting can never be 100% accurate. And you have to guess what other players keep in their hands.

Tien Gow's complex scoring rules make the game more thrilling. Players can double, even quadruple their winnings by playing certain tiles at the last trick. This adds a lot of excitement and unpredictability to Tien Gow.