Big 2, A Family Game

Nationality: Chinese, American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s): Mandarin

Age: 19 yrs

Occupation: Student

Residence: Houston, Texas

Performance Date: 2/19/2024


“So, when I was like 3, at family events or gatherings, my family would get together and play this Chinese game called Big 2. My parents introduced me to it and would teach me the rules every year until I got it once I got older, and now we have been and still play it at every gathering, me and the whole family. I like the game, I mean, it’s no poker, but it’s a nice way of getting everyone together you know?”


My informant, JT, is a friend of mine from my freshman year at USC from Houston, Texas. I talked with JT one night in second semester freshman year up until 5am about our families and our relationships with them. Within this discussion we mentioned our family traditions and he explained one of his after I explained one of mine. At a later time, I asked him about it once more. 


After some slight research on this game, Big 2, I ended up finding out that this may not be a common family tradition within all Chinese families, but it was one which resonated with JT’s Chinese family. The game, 大老二 (Dai Di), or Big Deuce/Big Two, is a commonly played game which originated in coastal China around 1980; it became very popular in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan and also in the Philippines and Singapore, and has also spread to some western countries. The rules of the game are as follows: The objective is to get rid of all of all the cards in your hand by constantly one-upping your opponents with cards played singly or in certain poker combinations (2 cards, 3 cards, or 5 cards). The value of each card or combination comes from the numerical order of the card(s) used, as well as their suits. The cards of the smallest value are the 3s, followed by the 4s, and so on and so forth till the picture cards. Then, it’s the Aces, followed by the 2s. The suits ascend in value in the following order: diamonds, clubs, hearts, and spades. Therefore, the weakest card in the game would be the 3 of diamonds, and the strongest is the 2 of spades. This is more of a gambling game, which may make sense as to why JT loves Poker so much. I think the game is fun in concept and would love to play it myself. I truly find the influence this game has in Chinese culture and family tradition to be greater than I expected. I didn’t know this game could apparently bring a family together at gatherings and teach gambling to children as well as it did with JT, because he’s actually pretty good at Poker. This game seemingly goes back into late 20th century Chinese culture and has made a dashing transition and migration of the western world.