Play these 3 Chinese Games to Have Fun and Sharpen the Mind

Playing games is a great way to have fun with your friends, and these top three picks are sure to stretch your imagination in ways you never thought possible. (Image Credit: Pexels/ Public Domain)

Want to sharpen your mind and have fun doing it? Chinese games are the perfect way to get started. These games can help you out immensely, giving you an awesome double-whammy of endless entertainment and improved brain dexterity. If you’re itching to get in on the fun, we’ve got the three perfect pastimes for you. 

Amp Up Your Gaming Experience with Pai-Gow

Most likely, you’ve already heard of Pai-Gow. Nobody knows exactly when it came into existence, but experts tend to trace its origins to somewhere between 960 and 1279. Though this ancient Chinese gambling game is shrouded in mystery for most of us, the truth is that you can learn to play in a jiffy with a bit of determination and a sprinkling of skill. 


Just recently introduced to the western world, Pai-Gow is quickly gaining popularity in casinos and online card rooms around the United States and Canada. What exactly does it entail? The game is played with a total of 32 numbered tiles. At the beginning, the tiles are shuffled and bets are made. Then, the tiles are divided into groups of four and are distributed among the players and the dealer.

Players and dealer make two hands of two tiles each out of the set of four that they are dealt. The object of the game is to get a combination of tiles in both hands which add up to the number nine, or as close as possible, and beat the dealer’s hand. Sounds easy enough, right? Think again. 

Pai-Gow is one of the most difficult games to learn, especially for those who don’t speak the language. In fact, you will have to learn a bit of the language to get started—that’s because the hand rankings, pairs, and general lingo are all in Chinese.

As you can see, each group of tiles is divided into Chinese-language categories based on their ranking. It’s imperative to learn the names of the groupings in order to play the game. (Infographic by Wikihow)

If you want to learn Pai-Gow, you’ll have to do some studying, memorization, and language-learning. Of course, this is a great boon to those hoping to increase mental dexterity. According to scientific research, learning a new language can prevent cognitive decline, increase memory function, and even help you make better life decisions. This makes it the perfect game for those looking to smarten up while having their fun. 

Put a Spring in Your Step with Chinese Poker

Another fun game you might want to try out is Chinese Poker, which offers a unique way to play and some pretty exciting opportunities. Though it may not be as well-known as Pai-Gow, the far eastern version of everyone’s favorite gambling card game has been gaining major traction recently. Want to get in on the fun? It’s imperative to read up on all the buzz surrounding Chinese poker and learn some basic rules to help you get started on the road to becoming a master. 

The good news is that this game is very beginner-friendly. If you’re accustomed to playing poker already, you can easily hop on the Chinese poker train. You only need a basic understanding of poker hand rankings to get started, and a little bit of know-how to ease your transition into a new playing style. 

Like western poker, Chinese poker is played using standard decks of cards and poker hand rankings. However, it differs in regards to playing style and rules. (Image Credit: Pixabay/ Public Domain)

There is no betting or bluffing in the game. Each player is dealt 13 cards, which are made into two 5-card hands and one 3-card hand. Flushes and straights do not count in the 3-card hand, and each hand played must go up in strength. This means you wouldn’t play your strongest hand first, but last. Once the hands are set, you’ll compare them with the corresponding hands of your opponents. Whoever has the stronger hand wins the game. 

Chinese poker is great because it sets a nice rhythm. Like those rapid games of Blackjack, it requires you to think quickly on your feet and employ memory and mathematical skills. Rapid decision-making is essential for forming your hands, but the repetition of the game will soon allow you to become an expert.

Chinese poker requires a lot of luck as well as quick thinking, but this is good for beginners. Even if you aren’t playing for money, you can still experience the thrill of a win against an opponent who may be stronger when luck is on your side. Want to up your chances of success even more? Try out some positive affirmations to increase your chances of winning and bring on the good energy during Chinese poker gameplay. 

Have a Battle of Wits with Mahjong

Mahjong is another tile-based game, but unlike Pai-Gow, this one is played with a staggering set of 136 to 144 tiles and requires four players to make the game. If you want to play traditional Mahjong, it might seem like a pretty daunting task—after all, there is a lot to learn, and the tiles are not at all familiar to the western eye.

Mahjong looks quite complicated at first glance, but powering through and learning how to play this game will leave you with some valuable mental prowess and a can-do attitude. (Image Credit: Yui/Wikimedia/ CC BY-SA 2.0)

Though it seems strange at first glance, Mahjong is actually a close cousin of the western card game rummy. In fact, players have to form pairs and sets of ordered tiles in a way which is quite similar to the way cards are formed in rummy. It may help you out to consider the tiles as playing cards for the purposes of learning.

The tiles are shuffled and each player starts with thirteen, with the player who will play first drawing an extra tile to start off the game. At the end of each player’s turn, they must discard an extra tile as well. As with rummy, you can pick up the discarded tiles to make the sets you need.

Want to learn how to play Mahjong the easy way? The South China Morning post gives a short introduction to this fascinating game. ( Source: South China Morning Post)

The object of the game is to divide the tiles into sets and pairs based off the symbology each one displays. To win the game, you must make four Mahjong suits and one pair. The difficult aspect of Mahjong lies in understanding the Chinese symbology of the game and memorizing all the different tiles which, when combined, can make a suit.


In order to succeed, you will have to work your brain. Mahjong requires energy and concentration, but that’s a good thing. Intense bursts of concentration during games like this can help you achieve focus in other areas of your life, like work or school. This means that playing Mahjong will not only broaden your mind through exposure to a different language and culture, but it could help you become a better employee or student as well. 

Now that you know some games to play that can help you increase your mental dexterity and brain function, you’re ready to start learning and have fun while doing it. The cards could be in your favor for a win, so what are you waiting for? Grab a few motivated friends and set out on the road to becoming a master today.

 
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