Table of Contents

Object of the Game
To Start
The Deal
The Play
Special Plays
Order of Trump


A popular Chinese card game, Forty Points (Si Shi Fen) is highly exciting and very fun to learn and play.

Four people form two teams with partners across from each other and use one deck of cards with jokers.

Note: some decks of cards have jokers that are exactly the same. To distinguish between the big and little joker, one of them needs to be marked in some way to make them different from each other (for example, color added or some other difference added to the face of one of them).

Object of the Game

The team dealing is defending, "in the driver's seat," trying to keep the challenging team from getting points. The challenging team is trying to get points and to capture the deal. A game is completed when one team successfully plays through all the levels-of-play, including aces.

Note: since this can take quite a while, it would be easy to do a partial game by all agreeing ahead of time to play either (1) for a specified amount of time or (2) to a certain level-of-play.

To Start

One player cuts deck. The numerical value of the card showing determines who will become the first dealer (including face cards, aces count as one for this purpose, and jokers count as 1 (dealer plays)). Beginning with the player who cut deck, count counter-clockwise until number on the card is reached. For example, if an "eight" were drawn, that would mean that the person to the left of the player who cut would become the first dealer, since counting counter-clockwise to eight would end with that person.

Note: the Chinese count and play counter-clockwise.

The Deal

The dealer shuffles the cards, then an opposing player cuts the deck. The deck is placed in the center of the table. The dealer draws the first card and, going counter-clockwise, each player draws a card in turn until all players have 12 cards. At any time during the draw any player may declare the trump suit by displaying the number card of the level-of-play.

Note: A player does not have to declare a trump suit with a level-of-play card even if he could do so. If no one displays a level-of-play card to determine trump suit after all players have twelve cards, the following is done: From the six cards in the kitty, the dealer begins turning them over one-at-a-time until a level-of-play card of any suit appears. This then determines trump suit. However, if no level-of-play card comes up after all six cards are shown, trump suit becomes the suit of the highest of the six cards shown. If there are two cards that are the highest, then the first card drawn becomes the trump suite. Game then proceeds from that point.

As long as the dealer/defender team remains the same (continuing to successfully defend and move up their level-of-play after each hand) the two team members alternate dealing the hands. Whenever they lose control, the new dealer becomes the person to the right of the most recent dealer.

The Play

The dealer starts by playing a card from his hand. All players have to follow suit unless they are out of that suit, in which case they may play any of their cards. If a trump card is led, all players have to follow with a trump card if they have one, but if they are out of trump, they may play any card.

Note: level-of-play cards are considered trump cards and not part of any suit.


The only cards with point value are "kings", "tens" and "fives". "Kings" and "tens" each count 10 points and "fives" count 5 points each. This gives a total point count of 100 points. However, all points captured in the kitty by the challengers on the last play are doubled.

Special Plays

There are three special plays that can be successful if done early during a hand. If the dealer or a person who has the lead:

  1. Has all four cards of the same number (e.g. all four "sixes"), this person may lay down all four of these cards at the beginning of that trick. All other players in turn play one card from each suit. If they don't have any from a suit, they can then play another card from any of the other three suits. Four trump cards can not take this hand. The only way another player can take this is if he plays four cards of the same level that are higher than the first four (e.g. four "eight's", which is higher than four "sixes").
  2. Has a high sequence in a single suit, this person can play all these cards at the beginning of one trick. Each other player then has to play a matching number of cards in that suit or all they have of that suit and cards from other suits to total the same number laid down by the original player of the sequence. The only way another person can beat a sequence is if the second person is totally out of the original suit plays all trump cards equal the number of cards in the sequence. (A third person could capture the trick from the person playing all trump if she/he played all trump that included a trump that was higher than the highest one in the second person's trump cards.)

    Note: A sequence in the trump suit can not be done unless the player has all of the highest trump cards that are still not played.

  3. Play a few high cards of a suit not in sequence, but player knows that these cards are the highest ones remaining in play in that suit. Play continues as number 2 above.


If the dealers/defenders keep the challengers from getting 40 points, dealers jump up to the next highest level (number). If the dealers/defenders capture all of the points, keeping the challengers from getting any in a hand, they have "skunked" the challenger and skip a level of play (for example, from playing "fours" to "sixes," skipping "fives").

If challengers capture forty to seventy-five points they become dealers/defenders playing at the last level they were playing. If challengers capture 80 to 95 points they become dealers/defenders, moving up one level above where they last played. If the challengers capture 100 points or more they become dealer/defenders and move up two levels from their last play.


Number of points the challengers capture: Result:
0 points The defenders move up two levels
5 to 35 points The defenders move up one level
40 to 75 points The challengers gain control of the deal
80 to 95 points The challengers gain control of the deal and move up one level
100 points or more The challengers gain control of the deal and move up two levels

If one team does not follow the lead when they should have (e.g. they play a trump card when they should have played the suit that was led), the opposing team moves up two levels. Gaining the deal is considered one level.

Order of Trump

There are always eighteen trump cards for each hand. Highest to the lowest are:

1. big joker
2. little joker
3. level-of-play trump card
4-6. three other level-of-play cards
  Note: three other level-of-play cards are equal in level, but if more than one is played on the same trick, first one to be played is considered higher than the succeeding ones played on that trick.
7-18. the remaining twelve cards of the trump suit ("aces" down to "twos," except for level-of-play card, as noted above).


If someone is dealt a hand that does not have any point cards in it, he can rebel. The person rebelling has to show this hand to the others. If it turns out that there are any points in that hand, the rebel was not valid and the hand is picked up and play continues normally. However, if others verify there are no points in that hand, then all the cards are reshuffled and the person rebelling starts the deal.

In this unique situation, each team tries to beat the other team to declare the level of play at their team's level to determine trump and thereby take control as the dealer/defenders. The person who declares the level of play first takes the kitty into her/his hand, and play then continues in a normal manner. Note: if the dealer rebels, he has to show that all of his 12 cards plus the six in the kitty include no point cards. Note: it is more to the advantage of the challengers to rebel than it is to the dealer/defenders.


(1) the team trying to capture points, (2) thus taking the deal and (3) moving up levels.
After cards are shuffled, dealer starts the deal by drawing first card of deck. Person to the dealer's right, continuing counterclockwise, takes second card, and deal continues around until each player has twelve cards (with remaining six cards forming the kitty).
(1) the team trying to keep opponents from getting points, (2) to if possible move up levels and (3) to keep the deal.
When all twelve cards in everyone's hand have been played. A hand consists of twelve or less tricks, depending upon whether or not there are any Special Plays during that hand.
moving up one or, in some cases, two levels.
the six cards left after the deal is done. These cards are for the dealer to integrate into his hand, but he then must discard any six cards that go back into the kitty. Note: at the end of the hand if challengers capture the last trick, all points in the kitty are doubled for them.
the level a team is at during any particular hand. There are two levels of play: one for the defenders (the one currently being played) and one for the challengers (the level they will play the next time challengers win control), which can be the same for each.
If a challenger/player plays the wrong suit and the defending team catches it, the defending team jumps one level. If a defending player plays the wrong suit and the challenging team catches it, the challenging team becomes the dealer and jumps up one level.
Sequence in a suit
two or more consecutive cards in one suit.
Any time a player takes or sees a card he/she is not supposed to, she/he says "sorry" (as a courtesy to others).
A person leads a card(s) and each of the other players play the same number of card(s) from their hands.

Normally, the group of four cards that are played during one turn when each player puts one card

Trump suit
The suit that is chosen by the level-of-play card that is first put down during the deal for each hand.
when a trump card is played on a trick of a different suit, the trick is said to be trumped. The player with the highest trump on the trick captures it.

A more involved version, Eighty Points (Ba Shi Fen), is played with two decks.


Compiled by Richard J. & David E. Paxson

Taught by Kim & Jean Chow and David S. & Wei Xu Paxson

November 30, 1997

Edited by David S. Paxson

August 28, 1998

Last revised: June 4, 1999.