Red Dog is a Chinese gambling card game, playable by 3 to 8 Players. China has many casinos, particularly in Macau, where government-sanctioned venues may be found. However, Red Dog, also known as High Card Pool, is often not played in casinos due to its reliance on pure luck.
Such games are generally not favored by either the casino, nor the Player, as neither side is able to advantage themselves significantly in any way.
Pure games of chance may make for poor casino games, but Red Dog can still be played with friends as a game for bragging rights or fun. Chips are still used, but these chips do not need to correlate to any monetary value.
How to Play Red Dog?
Red Dog is played using the standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. Each Player will be given an equal amount of chips, with Players allowed to assign different values to differently colored chips if they so choose, so long as each Player is given an equal “total value” of chips.
Dealer Selection and Ante
Once each Player has been given their chips, a Dealer is chosen randomly by whatever method the Players deem fit. Once the Dealer has been chosen, it is their job to shuffle the deck while each Player (themselves included) pay the “ante” at the start of the game.
Ante simply refers to the minimum bet each Player must make before cards are dealt, similar to the mechanism of ante-up found in Poker and its variations. The Ante is agreed upon by each Player and should be the same amount for each Player.
Once each Player, Dealer included, has put up their ante, it is time for the Dealer to begin the deal. Each Player is given one card at a time, until all Players at the table have 5 cards face-down in front of them.
Once each Player has been dealt their cards, they may pick them up and look at them, keeping them hidden from the remaining Players. Thus, the betting phase begins.
The Player to the immediate clockwise of the Dealer goes first, with bet order proceeding around the table in a clockwise fashion.
A Player bets that they have a card in the hand that will beat the top card of the deck. The Player’s maximum bet is determined by the number of chips currently in the central pot, formed by the antes.
For example, if there are 4 Players, and it is assumed that one chip is paid into the ante by each Player, then Player 1 can only bet a maximum of 4 chips on their bet.
After the Player’s bet, the Dealer will then draw the top card from the deck and demonstrate it to all Players. In order to “beat” a card, a Player’s card must have a higher rank (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A) than the top card of the deck. The above list demonstrates the ranks of each card in Red Dog in order.
Winning and Losing
If a Player is able to beat the Dealer’s top-card, then they must only reveal that card. The Player overlays their card with the top-card, and then collects the cards and places them down in front of them, face-up and overlayed for other Players to see.
Then, the Player collects their bet, as well as their winnings. Player 1 in this scenario bet two chips, and so they take their original bet back as well as two chips from the pot.
If a Player is unable to beat the Dealer’s top-card, they must reveal all of the cards in their hand, placing them face-up on the table. They must also take their played card and their top card as the winning Player does, and display them overlayed for other Players to see. Losing Players must leave their bet in the pot and end their turn.
Continuation and Pot
Play continues in this way, with the maximum bet being equivalent to the total value of the pot. If the pot is completely depleted, each Player must ante again the agreed-upon amount.
Once each Player has taken a single turn, the Dealing position changes to the next clockwise Player from the Dealer, and each Player hands in their cards to be reshuffled.
The current pot remains into the next round, and each Player must also ante up again before a new round of cards are dealt.
Red Dog Rules
- Players only utilize a single card during their turn.
- Players may fold on their turn if they do not wish to bet. Players simply flip all of their cards face up, and declare that they “fold.” Folding Players must still ante up at the end of the round.
- Players may only bet at maximum the value of the current pot at the start of their turn.
- Each Player must ante up again if the pot is completely depleted, or if every Player has gotten their turn in the round.
- Suit does not matter in Red Dog, only rank. The higher-ranking card wins.
- The Dealer also plays, betting and drawing the top card as normal.
- If a Player loses, they must reveal all of their cards to the other Players.
Like other gambling games, Red Dog utilizes a system of chips and betting to represent its score. A Player’s score is represented by the number of chips in their possession, with a winning Player winding up with more chips than they started with at the end of the game.
A losing Player, therefore, loses all of their chips, or more than they started the game with, if the game ends without a single winner.
The value of each card is represented by its rank, with Aces always being high.
Ace-2 in the traditional order from highest to lowest.
Strategy & Tips
There is very little strategy in the game of Red Dog, as most of the actual gameplay is determined by the random draw of the cards. This does not mean the game is completely devoid of strategy, however.
- It is possible to calculate some small advantage, as a Player is aware of the cards in their own hand, as well as the exposed cards on the table. By process of elimination, they may be able to know which cards reasonably will not show up as the top card of the deck.
- Furthermore, some skill is applied to the betting scenario. A Player that knows how to bet big when they are likely to win, and bet small or fold altogether when they do not feel confident of victory will be able to maintain their own “score” for longer.
Imagine you are the 3rd Player in a four-player game of Red Dog.
- Player 1 won their bet, and so only revealed the two played cards: a 10 and a 6.
- Player 2 lost their bet, and must reveal all of their cards: 8, 3, 5, 2, 9, as well as the top-card of the deck on their turn, an Ace.
Assuming the pot currently contains 6 chips, and the maximum bet is 6 chips. Also assume the following are the cards in your hand: 7,10, Q, 8, 3
As there is a Queen in your hand, and an Ace just came up as the top-card last turn, there is at least one Ace removed from the deck. The odds of another Ace coming up are reduced by 25%.
With the Queen in your hand, the only other card that will beat you is a King. Although a King at this stage is technically more likely than any other individual card that is already on the board, such as the 8s, the Kings are only 4/52 or 7.7% of the deck.
As such, it is far more likely for the next card to come up will be lower than a Queen.
Bet highly, and play the Queen on the Dealer’s top-card.
Variations of Red Dog
Red Dog is also an internationally enjoyed game, with different versions of the game existing in the United States, Europe, and other Asian countries. Some of these variations are described below.
Be aware that the casino version of the In-Between card game is also known as Red Dog.
A game of Red Dog where Players may not look at their cards until after they have bet, and Players do not ante up. Instead, the Dealer places a bulk bet into the middle to create the pot.
Similar to shoot, where Players do not look at their own cards before betting. Bets are instead made after the Dealer turns up the top-card.
The same game, but with one less card dealt to each Player. This reduces the amount of skill for the game somewhat, but allows for more Players to participate.
United States Variant
Some areas of the U.S. play Red Dog using two decks, further reducing the skill of the game, and increasing the chance of ties.
Some Chinese regions play Red Dog with two top-cards instead. Essentially, the Dealer will draw two-top cards, and the Player is attempting to play a card that is between the values of those two cards. For example, top-cards are 3 and 5, so Player must play a 4 to win.
How do you win in Red Dog?
To win a game of Red Dog, a Player should assume more chips than they started the game with. To win an individual round, a Player must play a card that is higher than the Dealer’s top card, or some other win condition in the variants.
How many cards are used in Red Dog?
Red Dog uses a full 52-card deck. However, if one wants to add further players, or play the United States variant, two decks can be used for a total of 104 cards.