Last night myself and two other friends played the traditional Chinese card game “landlord” or “Dou Di Zhu”. This is one of the most popular card games in China. There are a total of 3 players; two are teaming up to beat the landlord. Every round, the landlord can change. To win, the player had to play all his or her cards first. When one player wins, the game is over; if the landlord wins, the other two players lost to the landlord. If one of the two teaming players won, they both won and landlord has lost. The game is a mixture of luck and strategic thinking. You can read about it all here: Dou Di Zhu. 

I grew up playing cards as a kid as a fun activity with friends in during school recess or with family gatherings during holiday seasons. I learned how to shuffle, deal cards fast, and thinking strategically with numbers. Over the past years, I haven’t played or even touched a deck of cards too often. Once in a while when there’s nothing to do, we might play cards to pass time late at night when we want to earn a bit of money (or so we hope).

It was always an option because winning means that there is a reward for the winner or punishment for the losers. The sound of that is already exciting. The easiest and most common way is simply playing with money. We can set the amount to any rate that all of the players feel comfortable with. There are also “bombs” (4 of a kind or two jokers combined) which can double the standard rate as well. With the usual rate of $1 per game, it can double to $2 for a bomb. If you’re the landlord and lost, that’d be $2 paid out to each of two players, resulting in a loss of $4 for you. If there are two bombs, it becomes $4! If you want to be more creative, you can try other options which can be quite entertaining. Some examples: winners can put a stripe of clear tape on the loser’s face (all players would laugh at each other when their faces are expressionless, having trouble moving parts of the face),  flicking loser’s forehead (physically hurts and forehead might bruise in the long run) or snipping the nose (curling your index finger into a hook position and running it down someone’s nose bridge, putting pressure downwards as the index finger runs down which can also hurt in the longer run), a set number of push ups (if you want to encourage fitness), eating something gross or unbearable like a bite of hot chili pepper and the list goes on as you think of you’re unique punishments.


We play games for that immediate sense of accomplishment as a fun activity where we can see a result right away. It’s a good laugh and bonding time for all players and it can even be a catalyst to brush up on learning and creative thinking skills. As natural as games are to children, we become more serious and concerned about life and play less games than when we were kids. The marshmallow challenge is a game that teaches players about teamwork and cooperation. Using the specified materials, the objective is to build the tallest standing structure in a limited amount of time with your team. Google it, it’s quite well known if you haven’t heard of it yet. Results are astonishing. Tom wujec presents an intriguing talk through his research.  If you’ve never heard this before, try the marshmallow challenge at home with adults and with kids and you’ll find Tom’s TED talk to be very fascinating. I knew about it through my management organizational behavior class in college.

Last night when I played the landlord card game with two friends, we drew on each others faces as a penalty for losing with my black liquid eyeliner. It was a fun ice breaker you could say that brought all of our friendship to the next level. Laughing at my hitler mustache, tic tac toe drawing on his cheek, unibrow, cat nose etc etc. In the end, isn’t it all about that moment where you flash back and laugh at the time that you share together while laughing so hard that your stomach hurts?

Games are exciting and it can be both exhausting when you’re addicted and time consuming, but we ignore the positive aspects of creativity, learning, and thinking that comes.


“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her; but once they are in the hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” ~Voltaire

“It’s the game of life. Do I win or I lose? One day they’re gonna shut the game down. I gotta have as much fun and go around the board as many times as I can before it’s my turn to leave.” ~Tupac Shakur