Go-Stop is a game normally played by two players at a time. It can also be played by three players at a time.
Each player captures cards to build scoring combinations of cards. (The Japanese term for "scoring combinations" is "yaku;" I may occasionally use that term in this description.)
Choose who will be first Dealer by any method you like. Dealer shuffles cards. To shuffle hwa-tu, hold the deck in the left hand, face-down, cupped between the fingers and thumb (face of bottom card resting on palm). With the right hand, grab a random hunk of cards from the deck, pull them out, and stack them on top. Repeat several times. With enough practice, you can do it rapidly.
After shuffling, the dealer holds out the deck to the non-dealer. At this point in the Japanese game, the non-dealer has the option of cutting the deck. In the Korean game, though, it's customary for the non-dealer to simply snap a finger on the deck, signifying "I trust you." Holding the index finger back with the thumb, release the thumb which causes the index finger to strike the top card with the flat of the fingernail. (Of course, if you don't trust the dealer, ask to cut the deck. See the three rules on table rules.)
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 5 cards face-up in the center of the table. This center area of the table is called "the desk." Dealer repeats the process so each player has 8 cards, and there are 10 cards face-up on the table. (Note: some people deal 8 cards to the desk, rather than 10. Some online Go-Stop games deal 10 cards to each player and 8 to the desk. When playing with 3 players, deal 7 cards to each player, and 6 to the desk. See the three rules on table rules.)
Deck is placed face-down in the center of the table (between the face-up cards) as a draw pile. Looking down on the table:
CHECK FOR JOKERS, TRIPLES & QUADS:
After the deal and before commencing play, the players pick up their cards. Each player should examine his hand for jokers, triples and quads (3 or 4 cards of one flower suit), and the eight face-up cards must also be examined for any jokers, triples or quads.
- If there is a triple (three cards of one suit) face-up after the deal, the dealer gathers them together into one stack. Whoever plays the fourth card of that suit will take the stack. This is called a "puk."
- I didn't learn how the Korean rules handle the existence of a quad (all four cards of one suit) face-up on the table. In the Japanese game, the hand would be declared void and the dealer would redeal. Based on my observations of the Korean game, it's possible that the dealer takes the quad and adds the cards to his exposures, temporarily becoming "president" (described below). I imagine it makes more sense to redeal. Until you encounter someone who tells you how it should be handled, use whichever above procedure seems most appropriate to you. See the three rules on table rules.
- If a player has a triple (three cards of one suit) or a quad (all four cards of one suit) in the hand, the player can "shake." He reveals to the opponent the existence of the triple or quad in the hand. The cards are kept in the hand. Shaking doubles the score if the player wins the hand. In the case of a triple, the cards must be played one by one, unless the fourth card appears on the desk - then the player can puk (play the triple all at once on the single). In the case of a quad, the player can, at his sole option, request a redeal (voiding the hand) - or may at any time play the quad as a bomb.
- If there is a joker face-up on the desk, the dealer can take it, and place it face-up among his exposures. (This rule may vary depending on locale or "house rules." Some electronic Go-Stop games may also use different rules.)
- If a player has a joker in the hand, the player can use it on his next turn.
Dealer plays first. A turn consists of two to three actions:
1. Place a card from the hand face-up on the desk (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 places 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 scoring combinations. This is not just a game of luck -- skill is important too!
2. Draw the top card from the draw pile and place it face-up on the desk. 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 player takes the newly paired cards. The paired cards are melded (exposed) face-up in front of the player in groupings of similar point values.
Exception: If the card drawn in move 2 matches the pair created in move 1, the drawn card is placed atop the pair, and the triplet remains on the desk. This is known as a "bug." Later, a player who obtains the fourth card can capture the other three (a "bomb"). Another special case is known as "daduk" (it's okay with me if you pronounce this "the duck" - see the three rules on table rules). If there is a pair on the desk (such pair having been created during the deal) and a player plays a hand card on the pair, then draws the fourth from the deck, that's "daduk" - and now you're "the President!"
In this view of the table, the dealer (at the bottom) has captured and melded a bright, an animal, a ribbon, and three junk cards. By organizing them face-up by point value, both players can discern everybody's progress toward achieving scoring combinations. Notice that in this example, both players' brights are at the same side of the table. It doesn't have to be done this way (each player can place his brights at his left and junks at his right, if so desired, and provided the opponent doesn't object).
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 draw pile as described above for the dealer's turn, with the goal of capturing cards to meld.
Although Korean hwa-tu decks usually come with five jokers and a specially-marked rain junk card, most players (and most electronic versions of Go-Stop) just use a couple of the joker cards in play. The other jokers, and the special rain junk card, are left out.
Most players (and some electronic Go-Stop games I've played) use only the "Two Pi" and "Three Pi" jokers (the two on the right, above). You can choose to use the "Two Pi" and "Plus One Pi" jokers if you so desire! If you are not sure of the meaning of the specific joker cards in your deck, designate them in any way you like, until you meet someone who can read Korean. See the three rules on table rules.
Jokers in the hand may be played on your turn. Expose the joker and put it among your melds (usually with your junk cards). Then draw a replacement card from the draw pile, and put it in your hand. I believe you can do this more than once in a turn, if you are holding more than one joker in the hand. There are probably different table rules governing how multiple jokers may be handled.
When you draw a joker from the draw pile after playing a hand card on the desk, you may take the joker and place it among your exposures; no replacement draw. In one arcade Go-Stop game I played, though, the drawn joker was placed atop the matched pair. Then a replacement card was drawn - and if the replacement card matched the pair, that card was placed atop the pair-plus-joker stack, creating a very nice "bug" for somebody later to turn into a really big "bomb!" Since there is no one universal standard practice, you are free to choose which practice you prefer. See the three rules on table rules.
Of BOMBS and KISSES - Of WINE CUPS and PRESIDENTS
Here's a glossary of some of the terms you'll encounter in Go-Stop.
- BUG - Player has played a hand card on a desk card to create a pair, then drew a matching card from the draw pile. The triplet must remain on the desk.
- PUK - Player has played a card (either from the hand or from the draw pile) atop a desk triplet (sa-tta), and has obtained four of a kind. When a player makes a puk, he becomes the president (see below).
- BOMB - Player has played a hand triplet atop a desk single, and has obtained four of a kind - or has played a shaken quad to the desk. When a player makes a bomb, he becomes the president (see below).
- DADUK - Player has played a hand card on a desk pair, creating a triplet (sa-tta), and in the same turn, drew the fourth (matching) card from the draw pile. He becomes the president (see below).
- KISS - Player has had to discard a card (placing a hand card on the desk without making a pair), then picked a matching card from the deck. When this happens, the opponent must give the player one of his exposed junk cards, if he has one. (I wasn't told what to do if the opponent doesn't have one. You are free to handle this situation in any way both players can agree on - see the three rules on table rules.)
- WINE CUP - The Wine Cup card (the animal card of the Chrysanthemum suit, called "sake cup" in the Japanese game) can be used either as two junk cards or as one animal card, at the player's discretion.
- PRESIDENT - When a player has made four of a kind, he is "president," and the opponent must give the president one exposed junk card, if he has one. (I wasn't told what to do if the opponent doesn't have an exposed junk card. Perhaps the player will have to hand over the card when it comes in, or perhaps the debt is cancelled. I assume there are different table rules on this. You are free to handle this situation in any way both players can agree on - see the three rules on table rules.)
- SANG-PI - Double Junk (optional table rule). Like the Wine Cup card, the Rain junk card ("Lightning"), or the odd-colored Paulownia junk card (the one that looks very different from its two siblings).
- SA-TTA - A triplet on the desk, just waiting for somebody to puk it.
- SHAKE - To reveal to the opponent the existence of a triplet or quad in the hand. The cards are kept in the hand. Shaking doubles the score if the player wins the hand.
GOING... and STOPPING
Play progresses until a player has made scoring combinations that add up to the minimum score requirement. When I played with Taesun (using all five of the jokers), he set the minimum score at 7. When I played Go-Stop at the arcade (using just two jokers), the minimum score was 3. You can set the minimum to whatever you like. See the three rules on table rules.
Scoring is detailed on the following page, but here's an example. Let's say the minimum score is 7, and the player has exposed the following:
These three bird cards form the Korean combination "godori." Godori may be worth 3 or 5 points, depending on the table rules in use. Let's say it's worth 5 for the purposes of this example. And below the godori, we see that the player has a set of all three blue poetry ribbons, which is worth 3 points -- for a total score of 8. The player also has other cards exposed, but those other cards do not add anything to the score. Not yet, anyway.
Since the player has 8 points, he's met the minimum requirement. He now must choose whether to STOP (and collect his winnings) or to keep GOing, effectively betting that he can amass more points before his opponent can. The player says either "Go" or "Stop" at this point.
Stopping is safe, but may result in a lower score. Going may result in a higher score, but the opponent may steal the win from you! You should only choose to go if you believe that you can make more points before your opponent makes the minimum. When you say "Go," get ready for excitement. Because if you get additional points after saying "Go," your score is increased. Say Go once, and you add a point. Say Go twice, and your score is doubled. Say Go more than twice, and your score is multiplied by the number of times you said Go.
Whoever says "stop" is the winner. The other player scores nothing (even if s/he has valuable exposures and had previously said "Go"). After noting the score, the winner deals the next hand. Japanese players use two decks (one with brown backs and one with black backs, so the two never get accidentally mixed), so one deck can be shuffled while the other is in play (thus reducing the delay between hands). Korean decks just come with red backs. You're allowed to use the Japanese practice if you want.
If the players both use up all the cards in their hand, each player's points are tallied. Higher score wins. If you are using the double-score joker (below), and are holding it when your score is higher, your score is doubled.
The overall structure of a Go-Stop game wasn't explained to me. Players might just continue playing as long as both wish to continue, or you can do what I suggested in my description of the Japanese game of koi-koi; end the game when one player's score totals 50 points (or when one player runs out of Monopoly money).
An alternative interpretation of Korean Go Stop rules and terminology can be found at pagat.com.
Big thanks to Tae Sun Yeom for information presented herein. Thanks also to Rick Wohlschlag. For later information (emails posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A bulletin board), see below:
Korean Go-Stop, part 2
>Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2011
>Subject: Re: Heungdahn, Chungdahn
>From: Evan M
>There's also a phrase they would use when things were going in their favor. "Kurochi" cooruhchee. Which loosely translatea to "hell yeah!"
>Not in any official sense part of the game but fun to add in for some gusto.
>Sent from my Samsung...
May the cards be with you.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
March 10, 2011
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Copyright 2003, 2011, 2012, 2016 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. Reproduction by written permission of the author only.