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The rules of the game commonly played at Go events.

The BGA Rules

Pits is a card game for 5 players using a pack of 54 cards, 4 normal suits of 13 cards each and 2 Jokers. The Jokers need to be distinguished as strong ("red") and weak ("black").

The cards are ranked from the strong Joker, weak Joker, all the twos, Aces, Kings etc down to the threes. There is no difference between cards of the same denomination. Jokers are completely wild and can replace any card in forming a meld. Twos are partly wild and can be used to represent a card of equal denomination to another. Twos can never be used in a single sequence.

The object of the game for all the players is to discard all their cards. The dealer initially leads and can play any meld. Players wishing to play must play the same number and type of meld, but higher ranking (e.g. a pair of fours above a pair of threes) or they may pass. It is not compulsory to play cards if a player can do so. Play continues until all players pass. The last person who played can then proceed again with any meld he chooses. If the player who played last goes out (and all the other players have passed) then the player to his left proceeds.

The dealer shuffles the cards and deals them to his left (any cutting of the cards is entirely optional and is left to the choice of the dealer). All the cards are dealt and there should be 11 cards for all players except for the dealer who has 10. In the first hand the dealer is chosen at random, usually the first person to turn up a Jack.


If a meld contains wild cards then an equally ranking meld with fewer or no wild card ranks higher (e.g. a pair of Aces versus an Ace and a Joker). Similarly if a meld has wild cards in lower positions this ranks higher. E.g. A, K, Q, Joker, 10, 9 will be beaten by A, K, Q, J, Joker, 9. Note that if someone then plays A, K, Q, J, 10, 9 this will be stronger than either because there are no wild cards at all in the meld.

The following sorts of melds are allowed:-

Note that it is possible to use twos in paired or triple sequences and that suits have no relevance in such sequences.

A wild card must always represent the card which makes the strongest meld. For example if you play Joker, 8, 9 as a run of three, then the Joker must be a 10 and if the 8 and 9 are the same suit then the Joker is also 'in suit'.

The first player to dispose of all of his cards receives two points, the second player one point. The third player becomes the dealer for the next hand; the fourth and fifth placed players receive no points. In the next hand, the fourth and fifth placed players each have to discard their highest ranking card. The first placed player takes whichever card he wants and the second placed player takes the other. The first and second placed players then each discard any one card they do not want, initially concealing the cards until both are discarded. The fourth placed player chooses one of the cards and takes it into his hand and the fifth placed player takes the remaining card. Play then resumes as in the first hand with the dealer leading any kind of meld.


For the purposes of BGA continuous pits tournaments, the same five players are required to play a minimum of ten hands together. There is no maximum limit set. Once one or more players decide to quit, the score sheet must be ruled off and all players sign to show that the scores are correct. If a player chooses to quit before ten hands are played, but the others remain, then that player's score will be frozen and his replacement will start again at zero. A player's score will be assumed to apply over all hands played in that game even if that player did not play every hand.

Prizes may be awarded for most points and for best percentage assuming that at least 4 games of at least 10 hands each are played by that player.

Specimen Hands

Strong Joker, A[D], K[spades], J[spades], 10[H], 9[H], 8[C], 7[H], 6[diamons], 5[C]. A lucky hand! Dealer can specify the strong joker as a Queen and lay all the cards as a run from 5 to Ace and go out in one move.
First Place
2[H], 2[C], K[S], K[D], Q[D], Q[H], J[C], 8[S], 6[C], 4[S], 3[D]. The 2[D] is received and the 3[D] is the discard. The player is then left with 3 singleton cards, 4, 6 and 8 to get rid of. Dealer leads 3[H], 4[H], 5[D], 6[S] as a run of four cards. This player is forced to pass since he has no run of four cards he can play. He needs to wait until he can take the lead on a singleton, so that he can play J/2/Q/Q/K/K a run of three pairs and then try to get rid of his remaining single cards.
Fifth place
Strong Joker, 2[H], 2[C], A[S], K[S], Q[S], 10[H], 9[D], 8[S], 5[C], 3[D]. Loses the strong Joker and receives 4[S]. A lucky hand and should escape from the pit. He now has a run of 3/4/5 (mixed suit) and 8/9/10 (mixed suit) and Q/K/A (same suit) and two 2s.

Notes On Strategy

As in go, sente is important in pits. Whoever dictates the pattern of play is in control of the game. If a player has three single cards and four pairs, he will find it impossible to cope with someone who leads a run of three and vice versa. Experience will teach you that patience is required to get out of the pit; patience to wait for a good hand and then wait for the right time to strike. If you have two 3s, two 5s, two 7s and two Aces, and opponents play pairs, to immediately play the two Aces to win a round may fail because (a) someone may be waiting to use the two 2s preparatory to going out with a flourish, or (b) the people playing pairs probably have higher pairs than your 3s, 5s and 7s. You need to wait until they have no pairs to beat your low ones before taking the lead with your Aces. Similarly you may have two Aces which would be more use as two single Aces rather than as a pair.

Towards the end of the game, you have the lead, the weak Joker, a Queen and two Fives. If the strong Joker has already been played, this is best played as follows. Lead the Queen and on the next turn play the weak Joker which will take the meld. Then go out with the pair of Fives. Playing it as three Fives and hoping no-one will beat that is wishful thinking.

Notes On Terminology

Stoat: noun, to stoat: verb. This refers to the process where one player plays an almost unbeatable combination and he expects to finish by playing perhaps one card in his hand, and another player is able to surprise him and prevent him winning. It also implies that the player doing the stopping is ruining his hand in doing so.

Toad: noun. A person who could stoat another, but does not do so because he doesn't want to ruin his hand or because he expects to go out second.

Pits FAQ

Can I play a run of 7, 2, 9?
No. Twos are only wild in pairs, triplets etc, Not in a run of singletons.
Can I play 7, 7, 2, 2, 9, 9 as both Twos are wild?
In pits, can I play a Two plus a Joker as a pair?
Yes. It's a mixed pair of Twos, being beaten by a natural pair of Twos.
Does A, A, 2 beat A, 2, 2?
Yes, it is "more natural".
Does A, A, Strong Joker beat A, A, 2?
No, it is equally wild.
What are the strangest / most impressive plays that have been seen?

"Pits" is a corrupt version of the Chinese game Zheng Shangyou.


Unless otherwise stated, all games of pits are assumed to use the BGA rules.


Apparently the Finns only allow a wild 2 when it is paired with a natural card or a Joker. That is 8, 8, 2, 2, 10, 10 is not a valid run of three pairs. One of the twos must be a real 9 or a Joker.

This happened in a disputed game between 2 Finns and 3 Brits in Zagreb 2002. Determine your rules before starting a game!


Rumour has it that some Dutch alter the character of the game by ruling that once you have passed in a meld you may not rejoin it later.


Certain players do not allow different degrees of wildness. Thus:

Does A, A, 2 beat A, 2, 2?
No, it is "still wild".

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British Go Association
Last updated 2005-02-01
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