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:
, 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.
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.