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Chinese Drinking Games: 5, 10, 15

The World of Chinese brings you another drinking game guaranteed to frustrate, amuse, and inebriate in equal measure

Alcohol, the great social lubricant, plays an important role in Chinese culture. Whether it’s the tradition of baijiu consumption among officials or the craft beer phase that more recently swept the nation, the ability to hold one’s liquor can raise one’s standing both socially and professionally.

However, not all drinkers are made equal. Some struggle to avoid the warm grasp of complete inebriation, while others find drunkenness a financially debilitating process. Drinking games help keep everyone on the same level and dispense with the need for boring conversation.

Previously, TWOC has introduced the classic dice game often used to delegate drinking duties (it’s sometimes called Liar’s Dice in the US). Today, we explore a game that requires no additional equipment. Unfortunately, there is also no official name for the game—most simply refer to it as “5, 10, 15.”

Here’s how to play.

The Objective

You need a minimum of two players. The aim is to correctly predict the sum total of all the values from the hands displayed by the players.

At a Glance

To begin each round, players extend both hands and reveal either a closed fist (representing a value of 0) or open hand (value of 5) at the same time, much like you would in a game of rock, paper, scissors. But at the moment the hands are deployed, the player calls out their prediction of the total value of both hands, which could be 0, 5, or 10.

If the player guesses correctly, he gets to call again, at which point every player has the option of changing their hands.

If the player guesses incorrectly, the call goes to the next in line.

The game ends when one player manages two consecutive correct guesses. The player next in line is forced to drink as punishment.

The next round starts with the winner calling first.

Example of Play Advancement

Take a game with four players (A, B, C, and D). The different types of calls available are: 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40.

— Player A is the first to call and they guess “20”.

At the same time, Player A holds out 1 open fist and 1 closed fist, Player B holds out 2 closed fists, Player C holds out 2 open fists, and Player D holds out 2 open fists. The total is 25 (five open fists) so Player A is incorrect.

— B is next and calls “25”.

The hands are: A (2 closed), B (2 open), C (1 open 1 closed), D (2 closed)

Total: 15

— C is next and calls “15”.

The hands are: A (1 open 1 closed), B (1 open 1 closed), C (2 closed), D (1 open 1 closed)

Total: 15

— Because C guessed correctly, they call again: “20”.

The hands are: A (2 open), B (1 open 1 closed), C (1 open 1 closed), D (2 closed)

Total: 20

— C has managed to correctly guess twice in a row so wins this round.

D drinks.

— Play then begins with C calling first.

Additional Rules

There are circumstances when drinking is enforced within a round without the round ending. This is when the player calling out makes an error that results in an impossible situation:

A calls “0” but plays an open fist, A is forced to drink (since that total is impossible).

B calls the highest possible total (would be “40” in the case above) but plays a closed fist, B is forced to drink (again, the number is impossible).

C calls a number outside the playing ranging, eg for the example game above, this would be below 0 or above 40. C drinks.

D calls a number that is not a multiple of five. D drinks.

Possible Strategies

While the game may seem to be mostly based on luck, there are mathematical and psychological aspects that can swing things in your favor.

Firstly, while the minimum and maximum values possible may seem to be fixed, it is actually dependent on what hand you decide to play. For example in a game between four players, if you have decided to play 2 open fists, you have thus limited the range to 10 – 40. Similarly, if you decide to play 2 closed fists, the range becomes 0 – 30.

The second aspect is the mental. Through analysis of the other players, it is possible to spot patterns in the way they play their hands. Do they tend to open and close both together? Do they change every turn or like to stick to the same hands for consecutive turns? Are they favoring 1 open 1 closed a lot?

This information, combined with preemptive knowledge of your own hand, can help you maximize your chances of guessing correctly.

Aside from winning, there is also a way to minimize your losses. Since the loser is really only the individual stationed after the winner, it will be advantageous to place yourself between two weaker players (this accounts for order changes between rounds).

Similarly, if you have a specific target in mind for inebriation, placing a strong player before the target would be desired.

Two player speed variation:

This version essentially allows both players to use the numbers from zero to five, based on the number of fingers they throw out. Both players make a prediction as they deploy their hand. Because the odds of it being correct are substantially lower, they keep doing it quite quickly, constantly deploying their hand (and shouting numbers at each other) until someone makes the correct prediction and the other player drinks.

A drinking penalty is also imposed when a player shouts out a number that they have rendered impossible with their own hand. For example, if the player shouts “nine!” but has only deployed a three, then even if the other player had thrown out the maximum number (five), it was still impossible to reach a nine. Shouting “ten” therefore is only permitted when throwing out a five.

The mathematically inept must be punished.

For Cheats

Like all activities, there are ways to game the system to your advantage. Here’s a couple:

— Have a partner and create signals for what hands to play. For example, in a game with four players, this will cut the potential range to half. Make sure that neither of you are stationed next to each other so that your wins will not cause the other’s loss.

— “准备好了没有?” (Is everyone ready?) This method is actually a play-on-words that only works once per game session. When playing in Chinese, it is accepted to say “没有” (meiyou, none) for 0 and “开” (kai, open) for the highest possible value. So while other players will be hearing “准备好了没有?” (Is everyone ready?), you are in fact saying “准备好了。没有。” (Everyone ready. None.)

So there are the basics needed to start a successful night. If you have any tactics you like to use or cheats that you’ve discovered, let us know in the comments below.


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