georges' blog

February 22, 2007

The Game of Mao

Filed under: — kendall @ 10:18 am

Update: Surprisingly, this is one of the most popular and controversial posts I have at my website. Apparently many Mao enthusiasts believe that the first rule of Mao is that you do not tell anyone the rules. Whoops! I was never told that rule. I have been warned and threatened. I have been told that tribes of Mao zealot geeks will not sleep until they have brought my website down. Well, as far as I can tell, my website has not experienced any down time due to my flagrant disregard of these warnings and threats. Ultimately, there are countless versions of Mao. If you prefer a version where the rules are never spoken of, read no further. This is just the version I have come to know.

I first posted my Mao page several years ago. I may have been the first to put the rules out there for the public. However, now a search for “Mao card game” on Google results in over a million hits–the Mao assassins have their work cut out for them. I was number four when I checked so I guess I shouldn’t get too lax with my personal security–I won’t lay my body guards off just yet. I can recommend the Wikipedia article for anyone interested in more information about the history and origins of the game. Mao may not have originated at CBS on Catalina Island, but that is where it came to me and so I still owe a debt of gratitude to the staff at CBS who introduced it to me. It is a distinct possibility that the Catalina Island variant of Mao may be the most popular version because I was certainly among the first to risk their lives and post these rule online.

Overview: Mao is played essentially like Uno or crazy eights, the object is to get rid of all your cards. But the truly excellent Mao player is the one who can keep his or her cool and play by the rules.

Starting the game:

  • Each player is dealt 7 cards
  • No player may touch his cards until the dealer touches his cards
  • The remaining cards are placed in the center of the table as the “draw pile”
  • The dealer flips the top card and places it next to the draw pile. This is the “discard pile”
  • The dealer chooses any player to go first and the direction

Playing the game:

  • The first player discards any card that matches the SUIT or VALUE of the top card on or about the discard pile
  • Play continues this way until a player has no cards remaining in his hand
  • When a player plays his second to last card, he says “Last Card”
  • If a player cannot play any card in his hand, he simply draws one card from the draw pile. If this card can be played he may play it and play continues. If he cannot play it he says “pass”, some similar idiom, or in some way gives the nod to the next player

Special cards:

A SKIP Aces skip the next player
8 REVERSE Eights reverse the direction of play
J WILD Jacks are wild; they can be played regardless of suit and permit the player to change the suit
4 DRAW FOUR Playing a four forces the next player to draw four cards from the draw pile, but only if before the victim plays, the player calls the card by its Beetle:

 

George
Ringo
Paul
John

Example: as a player plays the four of hearts, he simply says “George.” If the next player has a four he may play it and the next player must then draw 8 cards from the draw pile. This can continue to build by four until

  1. a player cannot play a four and must draw,
  2. someone fails to properly call the four by its Beetle, or
  3. does not call the Beetle before the next player plays

Winning the game:

  • When a player discards his very last card, he MUST say “MAO!”

Additional rules (this is the FUN part):

  • Violations of any rule of the game require the rule breaker to draw one card from the draw pile
  • When you get a card for breaking a rule you must say “Thank You”
  • “Call a spade a spade.” You must call your spades. Example: a player plays a six of spades, he says “six of spades”
  • The Ace of Spades is a special case, the player must say, “Snoopy flying the Ace of Spades”
  • No delays or hesitating
  • No flinching or playing out of turn
  • No quibbling. Just take the card and say thank you. On the other hand only call clear violations of rules. Remember this is fun; its a game
  • Once play has begun, no player may ask any question except during a “Point of Order”
  • No player may straighten the deck except during a point of order
  • No cussing or name calling (even during a point of order)
  • You may never say the name of the game, except when you play your last card.

The Point of Order:

  • Any player may call a point of order at any time (except during a point of order) simply by saying “Point of Order”
  • Points of order are often called to straighten the deck, clarify who’s turn it is, or what direction play is proceeding, or just to “chill out”
  • During a point of order no one is permitted to look at or straighten his cards, all hands should be turned over and placed down on the table
  • Only the player who calls the point of order may end it by saying “End Point”

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due:

I don’t know for certain who created the game of Mao. I can’t take credit for it, though I believe this is the first time it has been made available to the public. This is what I know, or think I know about the game’s origin…I learned the game on the island of Catalina, at Campus by the Sea–a camp owned and operated by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the most beautiful place on Earth that I have seen with my own eyes. I understand the game was invented by a group of camp staff–there isn’t much to do once the sun goes down. So, if credit is to be given or complaints filed, you’ll need to head to Catalina Island first to track down the responsible party.

40 Comments »

  1. This is an AWESOME set of rules! presented cool-ly! beware of the Mao Geeks!

    Remember… its only fun until someone gets hurt!

    Comment by Thayet1231 — March 2, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

  2. I somewhat doubt this is the first time the rules of Mao have been made publically available — Ka Wai Tam’s page (linked) has been on the Internet since before I first stumbled across it, in 1996.

    Comment by mpaul — May 12, 2007 @ 9:07 am

  3. mpaul,

    You may be correct. I first posted the rules on my Compuserve web site in the mid to late 90’s. (I have published these rules continuously since that time in spite of the threats.) At that time, I was unable to find anyone else who had the rules posted. For a long time, my version was among the easiest to find online. Today I did a search for “mao card game” on Google and my site still comes up fourth. With no disrespect to Ka Wai Tam, he’s not even on the first page. But, it really isn’t a competition. I’m happy to be making my contribution to popularize the game and the particular variant I learned and have learned to enjoy.

    Kendall

    Comment by kendall — May 14, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

  4. I was taught by a different set of rules, which included nobody told anybody anything!
    …making the learning a little frustrating…I was honestly dead-determined it had NO rules the first few games!
    They didn’t tell us the name, either(they called it the No-Name-Game), but I figured it out.
    Definitely was taught a different variation. For example, there’s a Mao who makes sure everyone keeps the rules(and penalizes the offenders liberally), when a seven is played, you must say “Have a Nice Day,” and the seven works like a Draw 2—
    …with a king you must show your cards…
    …with a joker you must pass your cards to the player on the left…
    …with a three you must play again…
    …and etc., etc., etc.,…
    Seven games later, I figured out all the rules. It was more complex then this, especially because of the choas that ensued with the rules added from the using of the scrap deck.
    But it is a really fun game.
    Great post!
    John

    Comment by saintjohn — November 11, 2007 @ 4:22 am

  5. Interesting. I’ve been play Mao Mao for close to 25 years now as my Grandmother taught me. Rules are slightly off for how we play but basic concept is the same.

    7’s pick up cards (you can place 7’s on top of 7’s for next person to pick up cards x2 so if four 7’s then 16 cards drawn)
    8’s skip next player
    J’s are wild to change suit
    K’s reverse

    Comment by Manielse — January 5, 2008 @ 2:07 am

  6. When I was taught Mao the rules were…

    1. Could not explain rules
    2. 7’s – Have a nice day (spoken)
    3. 10’s – Wild ducks run free (spoken)
    4. Jack’s – Jack of *suit* (spoken)
    5. When playing a value on a value knock once, when a third value is placed directly on top of the other 2 knock twice, when the 4th value is played knock 3 times.
    6. When one card remains in hand say “Mao”

    Failure to do any of the above rules resulted in receiving a card with the words “failure to say(or do) … ”

    The only thing we were ever told in the beginning was that it was played suit on suit or value on value. If you couldn’t play draw a card, if playable play it, if not then play moves on to next person. We also had the no talking rule but the first dealer of the game always got to choose whether or not we spoke.

    The winner of the round got to choose a card that did not have a rule already applied to it and create a rule for it. I know one time we had started making 2 rules per card but it got way too tricky.

    Comment by Jai — April 15, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  7. Thanks for the comments, Jai. Certainly there are tons of variations. Chances are this “Catalina variant” as I call it is just the way it evolved there over time and at some point got fixed. Glad to hear from another Mao enthusiast.

    Comment by kendall — April 15, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

  8. your catalina people probably learned it somewhere

    The name is often taken, probably spuriously, as a reference to Mao Zedong, with the game being a parody of life in the People’s Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution, where the laws changed secretly, and people did not realise until they broke them and were penalized.

    Mao is more likely descended from the German game Mau Mau, or from Eleusis, which was published in Martin Gardner’s column in the Scientific American in June 1959.[3] Both of these games share similar principles.

    An Arthur Machen short story written in 1899 called The White People contains what may be the earliest reference to a game called “Mao”:

    “I must not write down the real names of the days and months which I found out a year ago, nor the way to make the Aklo letters, or the Chian language, or the great beautiful Circles, nor the Mao Games, nor the chief songs

    [From the Wikipedia article]

    Comment by addison — May 30, 2008 @ 2:40 am

  9. Sorry, Addison, didn’t realize I was unclear. In fact, don’t know how I could have been more clear…

    Comment by kendall — June 27, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

  10. thank you for telling me the rules its been itching me ever sence i played for the first time=]

    Comment by william — July 5, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

  11. This is the first site where I’ve found the version we used to play. We used to call it the Beatle version. It opened with “This game is based on a quote by Sherman Mao (who I have never found) who said that ‘the best way to learn something is by doing it.’ The first rule is that it’s played like uno and the second rule is that I can’t tell you any more of the rules.” It was more beatley, you had to name a beatles song very time you put down a heart. We also had different beatles. They were fours too, and John was the spade because he died first, but Ringo was the diamond (diamond ring) Paul was the heart (heartthrob) and George was the club because he was left over (poor George). Also when you won you could choose to make up a new rule or learn a rule.
    I think all these threats are silly. First all the rules vary so much between groups that you can go look them only to sit down to play and find out that everything you learned is wrong. Besides most people who play Mao for the first time have never herd if it until that moment so I don’t see the loss nor the heresy.
    Sorry, I suppose that’s a bit of an essay.

    Comment by witchrock — September 6, 2008 @ 1:04 am

  12. there are no different versions of Mao there is but 1 and it involves not telling the rules!!!! +when you lay a 7 you say have a nice and give a card to the person who’s turn it is next, if they lay a 7 on top of that they still get a card but they then say have a very nice day and give to cards to the next person, you simply add a “very” for every 7 past one you lay. failure to do so results in misinterpretation of the rules and the player who broke the rule receives a card.

    Comment by david — December 24, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  13. I’ve been poking around looking at different sets of rules, and NOWHERE have I seen one of my crowd’s favorite rules: It’s a penalty to “Jack Off” (play a jack on top of another jack). Also our Beatles were different. Everybody HEARTS Paul, Ringo uses CLUBS (sticks) on the drums, John is dead and a SPADE was used to dig his grave and George is the other one.

    Comment by Scooter — May 10, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

  14. how do you end the game? What do you say?

    Comment by amber — May 29, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  15. Amber, you made me think I left that part out. It’s there… under “Winning the Game.” The game ends when a player discards his last card and says, “Mao!” Failing to say “Mao” would be a violation, the player would take a card, and play would continue.

    Comment by kendall — May 29, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  16. you #&*@! you dont post the rules to mao online you just broke rule number 1 DONT DISCUSS THE RULES

    Comment by sedgwick — September 9, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

  17. Sedgwick,

    If you read the post, you’d realize that I never learned that rule and I just don’t care. Get over it.

    Kendall

    Comment by kendall — September 10, 2009 @ 7:24 am

  18. 2 – say “fuzzy worms”
    K – say “all praise the master mao”
    Q – say “all praise the master bitch” (we were playing with someone with a low patience level, who eventually threw his hand at the dealer and stormed out, muttering the above as he left)

    Comment by dan — October 22, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  19. See, everyone has a different version of Mao. At a band camp I go to the rules are as follows:

    1. Do not say the rules of the game. xD
    2. 7’s “Have a nice Day” As they pile up, add ‘very’ before ‘nice’. Ex: 3 Sevens = “Have a very, very nice day.” Player after must say “thank you”, unless playing a lettered card, then he or she must say “Thank you very much.”
    3. No talking during the game except during ‘Coffee Break’ Coffee breaks can only be called by the Mao master, and thus must be ended by the Mao master.
    4.8’s reverse the gameplay and Jack’s are wild cards.
    5. One card left: “Mao” After placing the last card down: “I am the king/queen of Mao and thus the game has ended.”

    Comment by LalaWe. ;D — March 18, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  20. you are not allowed to tell the rules i shall have your mao mastery removed for this

    Comment by jimmy — March 27, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  21. I’ve seen your rule #2 about sevens at other Mao sites too. And with regard to not talking during the game… I’ve never heard of such a rule, but when I’ve played, some of the people were too tense and concentrating too hard to talk or they were afraid of talking because it would be too easy to break a rule like not asking questions. So, often it would get really quiet. You’d have to be a quite the Mao Jedi to make small talk during the game.

    Comment by kendall — May 23, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  22. I was taught these rules:

    Do not explain any rules

    with an ace: say “Have a nice day”
    with a king: say “Old King Cole was a merry old soul”
    with a queen: say “The Queen of Hearts, she baked some tarts”
    with a jack: say “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick”

    Last card: say “Last card”
    No cards left: say “Mao”

    Penalties called by “Improper card play” or “failure to say…”

    Comment by Ggrifi — May 26, 2010 @ 6:03 am

  23. My friends and I play completely differently…
    Mao is different everywhere…

    Comment by chris v — May 27, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

  24. the rules I learned

    1. the first rule of mao is that you are not allowed to talk about the rules of mao
    and here I shall proceed to break said rules
    2. after dealing 5 cards to each player, the dealer turns over the first card of the draw deck and says “the game of mao starts now”
    3. at this point no talking is allowed, unless giving a player a penalty, it’s specified by a rule, or if someone calls a “point of order”
    4. during points of order, people may talk, but may not touch their cards (doing so means they receive a penalty)
    5. cards can be played that are the same number, suit, or one number higher or lower than the card on top of the pile.
    6. failure to play one of these requires a draw card; playing a card that breaks one of these rules results in drawing a new card AND taking a penalty card
    7. when playing cards, the following rules apply. failure to follow any of these results in a penalty
    – Ace means reverse direction
    – when playing a spade, you must say the name of the card (ie eight of spades)
    – when playing over a clubs, you must say the number of the card followed by “polar bears” ie playing on top of a seven of clubs, “seven polar bears”
    – when playing a seven, you must say “have a nice day”. playing another seven adds “very” and each successive seven adds another “very”
    – when playing a card that has the same number as the card on top of the pile, you must knock on the table
    – if only one card is left in the player’s hand, he must say “last card”
    – upon playing the last card, the player must call “mao”
    8. the winner can create his own rule for the next round of mao

    Comment by simon — June 4, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

  25. Not at all the way I play it. And NO. WHY DID YOU TELL PEOPLE. I don’t care if it’s not even my way. -_-

    Comment by alicat — June 23, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  26. Thanks a bunch!
    I knew most of the rules but not all.
    Just wondering though… Aren’t we suppose to say, “have a nice day,” after putting a 7 down?
    Anyway thanks a again!

    Comment by Lauren — August 12, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  27. I’ve seen the “have a nice day” rule mentioned other places. It’s not one of the rules I learned.

    Comment by kendall — August 19, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

  28. i’m not going to threaten you, but my friend,Matt,(who’s a mao master) probably would 🙂
    once a little sixth grader who told his gf the mao rules, was picked up by Matt and flipped upside down and was shaken like fifty times!! he was screaming and crying while we cringed in fear from Matt.

    and about the 7 rule, everytime someone plays a 7 the next person must either play a 7 or draw a card
    if some plays a 7 they must say ‘have a nice day’ while the next person must say have a VERY nice day and so on and so forth. But say that there are 5 svens down and you dont have a seven, so u must draw 5 cards.

    Comment by Krystal — September 30, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

  29. I learned this game the other day from my friend Daniel in physics. Not to seem like I don’t know what I’m talking about (as a first timer and all) Daniel told me that Mao was basically Uno with no wild cards, no reverse order, none of that extra stuff. He also told me that at the discretion of the dealer in the first round a rule was set. The rule would be named and not explained. Like “captain obvious”, “have a nice day”, “pyramid” etc. And you figure out as you go along. If you do it wrong you were addressed for whatever rule you broke, but not explained to, and given a penalty card. As each round goes by (considering it’s a fast paced game for old players) the winner of that round implements a new rule. The game keeps the old rules until eventually you have a WHOLE lot of rules, and some of them unofficial and made up to be kept for possible future use if the rule is any good. Anyways. Thats all I know… But way to go for trying to break it down for us new comers!

    Comment by Lauren — March 5, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

  30. This is absolutely insane! it is so crazy how different everyone’s basic set of rules are. if anyone is interested this is how we here in Dallas play:

    game should be played with at least two full decks. all other additional cards are not only allowed, but encouraged!

    how to start the game: Grand Master deals out 7 (number may be determined by group) cards to each player. a card is dealt to any player who touches his or her cards without saying “adjust” beforehand (saying “permanent state of adjustment” allows a player to touch his or her cards for the rest of the pregame ritual without being carded). Once all the cards are dealt out, the Grand Master says “the game plays like Uno. (explains how Uno works if anyone does not already know). The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards and learn the rules. game will start with *insert player’s name* and go toward *player on either side of first player*. game starts now” and proceeds to flip over the first card. (skips and reverses do not apply on this first card).

    Basic/permanent rules: players will be carded for breaking any of the following rules
    1. players may not discuss the rules under any circumstances!
    2. players may not say the name of the game at any time unless they have played their last card and have said all other required sayings
    3. 8s skips (if 2 8s are played by one player, the next two players are skipped. 3, next three, etc.)
    4. Aces reverse
    5. when a King is played player must say “(all) hail (to) the chairman”
    6. when a Queen is played player must say “(all) hail (to) the chairwoman/chairlady”
    7. when a Jack is played player must say ” joke of the jester” and proceed to pick a new suit
    8. when a 10 is played player must say “(all) hail Mao Zedong”
    9. if a player plays a card that adds to 10 with the previous card (i.e. 5 on 5, 6 on 4, etc.) player must say “(all) hail Mao Zedong. (only top 2 cards, no 2 2 6 etc.)
    10. when a 7 is played player must say “have a nice day”. Then either the Grandmaster, whoever played the card or anyone who knows the rule and reach the deck places two cards in front of the next player and says “you may take these two cards or play the correct card”. The next player may either play another 7 and say “have a very nice day” (ever 7 after the first adds another very and two more cards). The next player may also play a jack to stop the sequence (see rule #5).
    11. if a player plays a 3rd 6 in a row player must say “hail Satan”. if player plays 2 6s on 2 6s, player must say it twice
    12. when a 2 is played player must proceed to play another card of the same suit or number
    13. when a spade is played, player must say “card of spades” and proceed to say anything else required, not in any particular order(i.e. 10 of spades, hail Mao Zedong).
    14. upon playing a replicate of another card (6 of clubs on 6 of clubs), player must say doubles. Doubles may be played out of turn, player after the player who played doubles out of turn goes next (mid 8s and Aces)
    15. if a player cannot play a card, they must draw a penalty card. they may but are not required to say “penalty card” or “pass”
    16. a player will receive a penalty card upon not playing in a timely manor (up to grandmaster how long, usually 2 or 3 pauses, must be fairly consistent in time allotted). carder will say “failure to play in a timely manor”. “taking too long” is also acceptable. players may receive this penalty multiple times if one turn for “continual failure to play in a timely manor”.
    17. players must stroke their beard/chin upon saying “uhhh” and/or “ummm”
    18. players may not talk to anyone not playing the game
    19. upon playing a 3rd 3 in a row, player must say “half Satan” like with the 6s
    20. players must say “last card” upon playing their second to last card. If opposing players say “catch” before player says “last card” player will receive TWO penalty cards. Catch/last card may not be called until second to last card touches the deck. All ties go to the runner (person saying “last card”).
    21. players may not use profane language at any time. What words are considered profane may be determined by group.

    how to win: To win a round, a player must discard all of his or her cards and then say Mao. If they say Mao before saying everything else that is required (i.e hail to the chairman, have a nice day, etc.) they may be carder for saying the name of the game (as soon as they pick up the card, if it is there only card, other players may say “catch”, giving that player two additional penalty cards). This part of the game is very particular and strict. For example: if a player plays a jack of spades and says “joke of the jester, jack of spades, Mao” they may receive a penalty card for failing to pick a suit. However, a penalty card may not be given for failing to play another card if their last card was a 2. any other disputes may be settled amongst players.

    Once a player has discarded all of his or her cards and said Mao, they become the new Grandmaster and may either instate a rule or remove a previously instated rule. The name of the rule must be instated during the pre game ritual, however may and must not be explained. Here are some of our favorite rules to instate: Enjoy

    1. Stephen’s Rule- players may play consecutive cards (i.e play all their 7s, all their 9s, etc.) even if not doubles. All basic rules such as doubles still apply. Whether or not players must play cards one at a time to allow for next player to play or other players to play doubles must be determined by group.
    2. Parker’s Rule- if a player reaches 15 cards in his or her hand they are out of the game until the next round. number may be determined by group.
    3. Rule of 8s/Talking Rule- if a player is skipped via 8 they may not talk (besides saying what is necessary to not be carded or if they are carding someone else) until they skip someone else via 8.
    4. Micah’s Rule/Rule of Redundancy- If a player plays the 4th of a card (4th 6, King, etc.) he or she receives one card. If they play the 5th of a card they receive two penalty cards. 6th, 3. and so on. I.E. If there are 3 9s on the top of the deck, and you play 3 more 9s (whether with doubles or Stephen’s Rule) you would receive 6 penalty card all together. player is carded as followed: upon first infraction carder says “card for redundancy”. upon 2nd infraction carder says “2 cards for redundancy”. and so on. player must be carded separately each time. they may not be given “6 cards for redundancy” unless it is the 9th card played.
    5. Hail to the chair Jew/Jewish Rule- Upon playing a Jack, players must say “Hail to the Chair Jew” instead of “Joke of the Jester”. they still pick a suit.
    6. “That’s the Badger”/Badger- This is what is used if jokers are in play. This may also be a basic rule. Upon playing a Joker, players must say “That’s the Badger” (exactly). Players must then proceed to pick a suit. Players must then proceed to play another card of stated suit. Jokers may be played on anything. Joker is also considered the “correct card” following being told to “have a nice day”.
    7. Rule of Impatience- the time allotted before being carded for “failure to play in a timely manor/taking to long” is drastically decreased.

    as you can see you can make up just about any rule. here are some that are only to be used for the most skilled players who are rarely if at all carded for breaking a basic rule:
    The Color Back rule- if playing with cards with different colored backs (i.e. red and blue). each color will either add or subtract a value of a card (i.e. blue subtracts one red adds one). For Example: if you had a queen and it had a red back it would become a jack. suit remains the same. player must now say “joke of the jester” and pick a suit. this would be considered the correct card. if said queen had a blue back, it would become a king and upon being played player must say “hail to the chairman”. and so on.

    another not so crazy but arguably more annoying rule is this: (idk what the name is)
    upon playing a heart player must stand on one foot. players may only switch which foot they are balancing on when it is their turn. if play loses balance and places other foot on the ground or any surrounding objects, player shall be penalized. upon playing a diamond players must stand on both feet. upon playing a club players must sit down.

    obviously everyone plays differently. i really like the introduction about the beatles. its fun to change up the intro and make it sound more official or silly. if anyone else has a cool rule they have played or heard tell what it is!

    Comment by micah — June 3, 2011 @ 3:00 am

  31. I learned with:

    7’s “i’m feeling lucky”
    8’s reverse playing order
    Ace’s “down the rabbit hole” which the next player must play another card immediately (even if it isn’t the right suit)
    switch to diamonds “forever is a very long time”
    switch to clubs “this is an exclusive club”
    switch to hearts “off with her head!”
    switch to spades “dig it!”

    Comment by oblivion in everywhere — July 4, 2011 @ 8:41 am

  32. Really, I don’t see what the big deal is with posting Mao rules on the internet. Really, I think the “Under no circumstances can you talk about the rules” rule is limited to private discussions with people outside the Mao group, as well as once the game begins (and applies only to rules that have been created by the group). And I see no problem with giving newbies the basic play structure and rules that weren’t created by the group, just so we don’t wind up brutalizing the newbies with the game. Personally, I’d like to think that the rule changed to my above description.

    But then again, I’ve yet to play myself, but I will say this: The game has to spread SOMEHOW, and if posting the basic gameplay for people who’ve never met a Mao player but would like to start their own Mao groups is an issue, then this game can develop some serious survivability issues.

    Comment by Vahi — July 6, 2011 @ 9:02 am

  33. For those looking for additional rules/variants, see the comprehensive example listed in the Mao (Card Game) wikipedia.

    I have played 3 different versions of Mao with 3 different groups of friends. As far as I am aware, the variants I learned all have there roots in the United States (at least as far back as I could trace).

    The one I refer to as the “East Coast Version” is very similar to what is listed here. I had some college friends who were from the West Coast of the United States and the version they taught quickly became overshadowed amongst our college friends.

    The most popular version I would label the “Great Lakes Version” and is nearly identical to the example on wikipedia.

    Comment by Mao Fanatic X — June 18, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  34. Nice ways to play. I just learned how to play like last week and I’ve learned my own rules. All the basic ones still apply bout not talking and putting same value or same suit on top. The additional ones I have are different: 7s: Have a nice day, adding verys for each additional 7. Jacks are wild, where the person who put it down says the suit that they wanna change it to. Queens let you go again. Kings reverse the order. Now this is the tricky one: Aces. When somebody puts down an ace, the next person can put down any card that is 5 or below (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) of any suit. That is how i play. And we just say Uno when we have one card left, but I think Mao is more appropriate.

    Comment by Joe — August 3, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

  35. Here are my Mao rules:

    Basic Rules

    1) Being an Idiot: Playing a card that does not match suit or rank will result in the card being returned to the player along with a penalty card.
    2) Stalling (aka Delay of Game): Taking too long to play will result in Mao stating “Stalling” and issuing penalty cards.
    3) Touching your Cards/Looking at your Cards: You cannot touch or look at your cards until Mao authorizes you to do so. Breach of this rule results in a penalty card.
    4) Playing out of Turn: Playing out of turn (due to skips, reverses, etc.) causes the card to be returned to the player along with a penalty card.
    5) Uno: You must say “Uno” when down to one card in your hand.
    6) I am Mao: You must say “I am Mao” when you go out, otherwise you are given a penalty card and the round continues. If you do go out, you are Mao the next round.
    7) Aces: An Ace skips the next player’s turn.
    8) Reverse: An Eight reverses the turn order, causing play to go the other direction around the table.

    Changeable rules (these can be put in and out of play at Mao’s wish):
    1) Have a Nice Day: A seven results in the next player drawing a penalty card, with the player who played it saying “Have a Nice Day”. Sevens played in succession result in “Have a Very (Very, Very) (etc.) Nice Day” and two (three, four, etc.) penalty cards drawn for the next player. The penalty for not saying “Have a (Very) (Very, Very) Nice Day” increases as well.
    2) Royalty: You must say “All Hail the King (of Spades)” when you play a king and you must say “Meeumph” (Queen of Spades)” when you play a queen.
    3) Manners: You must say “Thank you” when you receive a penalty card, otherwise additional penalty cards will be given.
    4) Soap: Saying a curse word will result in a Penalty Card.
    5) Jacks: A Jack allows the player who played it to declare a new suit to follow.
    6) Spades: Spade cards must be named, otherwise a penalty card will be given.
    7) Chauncey: Two identical (suit and rank) cards played in succession will require everyone to say “Chauncey”. The last person to say it gets a penalty card.
    8) Deuces: A Two being played requires everyone to touch their index and middle fingers to the table. The last person to do so gets a penalty card.
    9) Holiday: A Six requires the person who played it to say “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Hannukah”, or something of the sort.
    10) Rhyme Fest: A Nine requires the person who played it to say a random word (cannot be “orange”). Everyone must say a rhyming word in succession without repeating a previous word. When someone says a non-rhyming word, takes too long to say a rhyming word, or says a previously said word, he gets a penalty card and play resumes like normal.
    11) Musical Chairs: The Granddaddy of them all. When someone lays a Four of Clubs, everyone must get up from the table, run around the table once, and return to their ORIGINAL seat. The last person to get back to his original seat gets a penalty card.

    Comment by Alex — July 14, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

  36. A couple I forgot right there:

    1)Go Fish: A person may say “Go Fish” if they cannot play (actually they can do it anytime they wish) and draw a card from the deck.
    2)Fishy Play: If a person says “Go Fish” and draws a card that they can play, they may play that card provided they say “Fishy Play”. Failure to say this will result in a penalty card.

    Comment by Alex — July 14, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

  37. One more:

    Talking/asking about the rules while playing, arguing or fighting with Mao, or Being Mao (stating other players’ penalties when you are not Mao) will result in a penalty card.

    Comment by Alex — July 14, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

  38. The rules I play by is
    1. No talking at all except during a pause
    2. Introduce and name kings. Ex: for king of hearts you would say, now introducing king George of hearts
    3.ace reverses
    4. 10 skips next person
    5. You have to slap a jack
    6. You have to know on change of suit for the number of cards ex: of I put 1 four of another one I knock twice , if I put a four on top of two fours I knock three times
    7; if all four suits of one number is played in a row the first person to shout I’m a lucky Irish bastard gives each player one of his cards

    Comment by Chrism — December 15, 2014 @ 6:24 am

  39. Since there are many variants of Mao, they are usually distinguished by prefixing them with a place name. The one I learned is called “Cambridge Mao”, named after Cambridge in England (not Massachusetts), but I’ve also heard of Oxford Mao, Westminster Mao and Boston Mao. Since the word “Mao” therefore can refer to any variant, I would propose that you call yours “Catalina Mao”. I realize this blog post is 8 years old, but would you consider changing the title to “The Game of Catalina Mao”?

    Comment by Timwi — February 13, 2015 @ 9:46 am

  40. I played today and hated it before I read it I cant wait to torture
    someone with this

    Comment by jonas — June 19, 2015 @ 11:28 pm

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