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The Probert Encyclopaedia of Recreation

ZHENG FEN

Zheng Fen ('competing for points') is an interesting hybrid card game between a climbing game and a point- trick game. The mechanics are like those of Zheng Shangyou or Big Two but the primary aim is to win points rather than necessarily to get rid of cards as quickly as possible. The point values of cards are the same as in the popular Chinese point-trick game Da Bai Fen (Hundred). From three to six people can play and a 54 card pack is used, consisting of the standard 52 cards plus two distinguishable jokers, big and small. Generally the red or colourful joker is agreed to be the big one. The objective is to win valuable cards in tricks. The fives are worth 5 points each, and the tens and kings are worth 10 points each. All the other cards are worthless. There are therefore 100 points in total to be won on each hand. A target score for the game is agreed - generally 500 or (for a longer game) 1000. The winner is the first player whose score reaches or exceeds the target.
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ZHENG SHANGYOU

Zheng Shangyou is a Chinese card game whose name can be roughly translated as Struggling Upstream. The game exists in several variations, and has various alternative names. According to Zhang Shutai, the most interesting version is the partnership game for six players, also known as San jia xi (family of three) or Huojian (rocket). This is a skilful and light-hearted card game for four or more players, probably best with five or six.

Zheng Shangyou was brought to the UK by John McLeod, who learned it during a visit to China by some British Go players in 1979 from an interpreter Zhang Chuansheng. In Britain it was given the name Pits, which is easier to pronounce, and refers to the predicament of the losing players, who find themselves in a pit which is hard to escape from. A couple to whom Jonathan Norris taught it reported that they call it 'Unto him...'. It is closely related to several other games - the Japanese Dai Hin Min (or Dai Fugo), Vietnamese Tieng Len, Chinese Big Two and the Western derivative usually called Asshole or President. In fact you could argue that these are really all versions of the same game.

Zheng Shangyou uses a 54-card pack consisting of the standard 52 cards with the addition of two distinguishable jokers, referred to as Red and Black. The objective of each hand is to be the first to play out all one's cards and thereby gain two points, or second and gain one, towards a rubber-winning total of (usually) eleven.
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