Tichu Strategy: How to Play the Dragon

By Brian Durkin
The Dragon
If I had to pick one card I would love to open with I would pick the Phoenix; however, I will never complain if I draw the Dragon instead. His ability to win any single trick creates crucial information knowledge for you and possibly your team. With great power comes great responsibility. Do you keep it for yourself or pass it to your partner? Do you bomb your own Dragon for the points, or do you let the opposing team take the points in the trick? Which opposing player will receive the Dragon trick? Considering these questions will improve your ability to maximize the Dragon when your team controls it.
Who Gets It?
You can answer almost any question about Tichu with just one simple phrase: it depends. In the majority of tricks you win with the Dragon you will pass it to an opposing player. Only someone with an amazing hand or reckless player will bomb their own Dragon for points. Convention suggests passing the Dragon trick to the player on your right. The theory argues that if you go out the lead passes to the left, if each person goes out once they receive the lead then the player to your right will go out last. Follow this convention when in doubt, but you should consider some other factors. Count how many cards each player holds. If the player on your left still holds ten cards while his partner only possesses two cards, then you probably should give the Dragon trick to the player on your left. Try to study each of your opponent’s play styles and skill level. If the player to your left appears new to the game you may benefit from exploiting his or her lack of experience.
Standard American Convention
New players and most seasoned players will follow the most common Tichu convention: pass the Dragon to your partner. The Dragon will benefit the team no matter who holds it, so the theory suggests passing it so your team will know each hand which team holds the Dragon. With such a common convention popping up in almost every partnership, you should learn how to meta game this strategy (using imperfect information and projections about future events as a basis for decision making). Count how many hands you know you can win and afford to lose since your team does not possess the Dragon. If your team does not follow this convention you will need to pick up on tells to figure out who holds the Dragon. If the opposing team follows the convention and knows they control the Dragon, one of the them might play a single Ace with authoritative confidence; confidence you can pick up on and infer that your partner did not keep the Dragon for himself.
You Don’t Follow the Convention?
Do not forget to assess your partner’s ability and play style. When playing with a new partner or new player the information knowledge of the Dragon or passing the Dragon may not benefit the team. Some players do not feel confident to call Tichu or just assume the opposing team always monopolize good cards like the Dragon. Playing with a timid teammate could change your mind on whether or not to pass the Dragon, but building up his or her confidence with the traditional Pass the Dragon convention might benefit that player’s growth. Assuming you allow players on your team to keep the Dragon, you usually want to keep it in any hand if you feel you need it to win a (Grand) Tichu bet. Even without a Tichu call, one player on the team will hold better cards and the other player will end up facilitating their partner’s goal of going out. Keeping the Dragon in a lesser quality hand that contains low single cards or the Dog could help your partner if he or she ends up in trouble. You can steal the lead from the other team and your next play will help pass the lead back to your partner. The Dragon also guarantees that you will interact with the table. Some hands contain all combinations but none that provide a good way to win the more popular types of tricks. The Dragon allows you to enter the game and start playing the types of combinations you need to see in order to empty you hand.
Today’s Challenge
You opened the following fourteen cards after deciding not to call Grand Tichu.
Dog, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, Q, Q, Q, Dragon
How would you play the hand above? What do you pass to each player? Would you ever consider calling Tichu under any circumstances with this hand? If an opposing player calls a (Grand) Tichu before the pass, does that change which cards you pass? Do you try to play a supportive role on the team or do you take a position of trying to go out first?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about Tichu check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Tichu? Try the following links.
Amazon:Tichu.
The above link provides the first edition. For red card backs, use the Amazon link with the picture to the side of this information.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with just about anyone. The entire staff and most of the MtG community knows how to play this game and enjoys it.

Tichu Strategy: Going First

By Brian Durkin

Mah Jong
“Who has the Mah Jong?”
Anyone who plays Tichu can testify to hearing or asking the previous question. When you answer this statement by revealing the Mah Jong, what will you lead?
“You Can Lead Something Other Than the Mah Jong?”
Yes! Leading something other than the Mah Jong (or a straight including the Mah Jong) sometimes can benefit you later in the game. Usually a player will do this if he calls Tichu. A Tichu hand usually includes many plays that will give the player the lead, but sometimes a player can play a hand multiple ways depending on what he thinks the opposing team holds; therefore, playing a few tricks first to gain more information knowledge can aid your ability to wish for a more devastating card.
“Do You Have Any … Sixes?”
Pay attention to what you pass the player on your left. This allows you to always fish your wish when naming a card for the Mah Jong. This traditional play keeps the player to your left from benefiting from your pass card, no matter what you pass them (assuming you do not pass them any animals: Dog, Dragon, or Phoenix). Besides naming the card you passed, you can try naming something else you think will break up his or her hand. I like this play if you need the player to your left to lose a high card early, if you want to start the single card count high, or if you did not see a particular low card in the pass. For example, maybe you needed a three to make a straight. If no one passes you a three, then maybe the player to your left needed it to enhance his or her hand. Of course wishing without perfect information runs the risk of hurting your partner, because the player on your left could pass to force your partner to satisfy the wish (assuming the player on the left cannot satisfy the wish); however, unless he or she holds a two, this forces the player on your left to not make a play in order to set this up. Making successful wishes based on imperfect information comes from practice and knowing how your opponents like to play.
“Why Do I Have to Have the Mah Jong?”
Because someone passed it to you (hopefully not because they know you hate it) or you did not pass it away. When should you pass the Mah Jong? I recommend giving up the Mah Jong any time you feel like your wish for a card will not hurt an opposing player’s hand or going first on the first trick does not provide the most advantageous position. If you feel that most of the pass cards will not combine with the cards you already hold, you can pass the Mah Jong to the player on your right. This play bets on the opposing player wishing for the card he or she passed you, which you assume will provide marginal help given what you already hold. You can pass the Mah Jong to the player on your left any time you want to act last on the first trick of the game. This can provide you more time on whether or not you want to call Tichu. Passing the Mah Jong to your partner not only gives you more time to decide on a Tichu call, it also gives your partner the first chance to call Tichu. Do not assume that when your partner calls (Grand) Tichu before the pass that he wants the Mah Jong. Try to learn his play style in determining whether or not he will benefit from the Mah Jong when he or she calls Tichu.
Today’s Challenge
You decided not to call Grand Tichu and opened up the following 14 cards:
Mah Jong, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 9, 10, 10, Q, Q, K, K
Mah Jong, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 9, 10, 10, Q, Q, K, K
How would you pass? Do you keep the Mah Jong, and if not who do you pass it to? What do you wish for, if anything? Assuming you will make a wish, how would the cards you receive affect your choice of which card to name? What cards would you need to receive to call Tichu?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about Tichu check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Tichu? Try the following links.
Amazon:Tichu.
The above link provides the first edition. For red card backs, use the Amazon link with the picture to the side of this information.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with just about anyone. The entire staff and most of the MtG community knows how to play this game and enjoys it.

Tichu Strategy: How to Pass the Dog

By Brian Durkin
The Dog
Aaron Fuegi writes, “The Dog is a bad card for the player who has it but a great card for his partner. It is one of the very best tools you can use to support your partner’s Tichu call. If you have quite a good hand and are considering calling Tichu (or have already done so), pass the Dog to your partner. Passing the Dog to an opponent who calls (Grand) Tichu before the pass will hurt that player’s bid but could lead to their side going out 1st and 2nd.”
You can find the full article here: Tichu Strategy.
So do you keep the Dog or do you pass it? If you pass it, who do you pass it to? Aaron attempts to answer this question as best as possible. But like everything else in Tichu, how you play the Dog all depends on the situation; therefore, which situations warrant a different action with the Dog?
The Bark is Bigger Than the Bite
A new or lesser skilled Tichu player who does not want the ball should ironically stay with the Dog. If your drive to win surpasses your ability to make it happen, then pass the figurative ball to Lebron and let him score for the team. Keeping the Dog while partnered with a great teammate will make your opponents feel like they played two-on-two against Michal Jordon and Scottie Pippen. A great player can carry a team with help from his or her partner. That partner aids the superior player the most when he invests in the Dog.
Do not forget that you can take this stock play and “short” it. If the opposing team demonstrates a clear difference in skill level between the players, keep shipping the Dog to the stronger player. It can hurt the better player’s hand, but most importantly it forces the weaker player to lead and control the game. Be careful to avoid a pattern of passing the Dog with either of these methods because the opposing team might adjust their passing strategies to expect it. Do not fret too much about this fact. “Nothing can stop the Juggernaut,” and sometimes the same holds true for a hand in Tichu.
The Bite Surpasses the Bark
I agree with Aaron when he puts the Dog in the top eight most powerful cards in the deck. The best possible opening hand consists of Dragon, Phoenix, Dog, Mah Jong, and four Aces. Do not hesitate and call Grand Tichu. Starting the game with the Dog enhances the power level of your hand because it gives you a lot of information. After the pass you will know who possesses the Dog and which player might receive the lead again from a partner. If you want to set up a (Grand) Tichu hand, you usually pass the Dog to your partner for insurance that you will make your call. When your hand reaches epic power levels, keeping the Dog so you can end with it allows the lead to stay within your team. If an opponent calls (Grand) Tichu before the pass and you do not think you can over call him or her, send that player the Dog. Most of the time this hurts their hand because a player who calls Tichu wants to control the lead as oppose to give it away. Be careful with this play. You do not want to give the Dog to a player that might hold a hand so good that he or she will end with the Dog. But when do you know if you can take this risk? You need to ask yourself another question.
Who Collected the Most Bones?
The score always affects my decisions because it determines a lot of factors. Besides the score representing the obvious winning or losing game states, the closer a team reaches one thousand the sooner the game will end. If your team approaches the finish line with a big lead over the other team they will start calling (Grand) Tichu calls to try and make up the point difference before you end the game. I do not like giving the losing team the Dog in this situation. Depending on how many points your team leads by, you may not care if the opposing team makes their (Grand) Tichu calls; you need to prevent the opposing team from going out one-two. Going out one-two keeps your team from scoring, giving your opponents the best chance at a come from behind victory. I once won a game in two hands from a 225 to 975 deficit. The leading team kept passing me the Dog when I called Grand Tichu. I made my calls and the Dog aided my partner in consecutive one-twos to win the game by 50 points. I understand this example feels extreme, but it can happen to you. In Tichu, the game isn’t over until it’s over. With a big lead like 975 to 225, just keep the Dog and try to score 25 points to avoid a one-two.
Today’s Challenge
You picked up your opening 14 cards and prior to the pass the player to your right called Grand Tichu. You have the following cards:
 
2, 3, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, J, K, K, A, Dog

You drew the following cards:
2
, 3, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, J, K, K, A, Dog
How would you pass? What score, if any, would affect your decision? Explain your decisions by commenting below.
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information

For more information about Tichu check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Tichu? Try the following links.
Amazon:Tichu.
The above link provides the first edition. For red card backs, use the Amazon link with the picture to the side of this information.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with just about anyone. The entire staff and most of the MtG community knows how to play this game and enjoys it.