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Looking for an excuse to drink?
(That's Beijing)
Updated: 2004-03-02 09:34

The Finger Guessing Game (xingjiuling)

You've seen this in movies - two guys holding their voluminous sleeves back, jabbing their fingers at each other whilst hollering, and occasionally - inexplicably - drinking.

Here's what's going on: Players use their fingers to express a number between one and eight, while yelling a phrase that represents a number in the same range. If you yell the number that the other guy shows with his fingers, you drink. If he yells your number, he drinks. It's simple, but it's all about speed - you should be yelling at a rapid pace (note that if you yell your own number you drink, and look stupid to boot).

The finger symbols are useful outside of the tavern, as well. One through five are just what you'd expect them to be; six is represented by extending the pinky and thumb (hang loose!); seven by putting the tips of the first three fingers together; eight by extending the thumb and forefinger (imaginary gun). Nine and ten, though not used for the game, are a hooked forefinger and a fist, respectively.

The phrases, which vary from player to player, are usually something like the following:

Pangxie Yi! (one crab) Ge Liang Hao! (two good friends)

Sange Niao! (three birds) Si Xi Cai! (go get rich)

Wu Kui Shou! (unbeatable gongfu) Ba Pi Ma! (eight horses)

Liu Liu Liu! (six six six - no Satanic implication)

Qi Ge Qiao! (seven good things - or sparrows, depending)

The Dice Game (shaizi)

The attraction of this one is mostly in slamming the dice cup down as loudly as possible. Every player gets a cup with five dice, and after shaking and slamming, everyone peers at their own dice, jealously guarding from neighbours' prying eyes. The first person to start makes a guess as to how many of a certain number there are among the total dice present, based only on what they know about their own dice. If there are three players, for instance, meaning fifteen dice, the first player might say "three fours" (among our fifteen dice there are three fours), which is pretty conservative.

Successive players must guess higher and higher - the next player could say "three fives," "three sixes," or four of anything (quantity of dice is more important than the number on the die: four twos beats three sixes). When someone says a number that someone else thinks is a bluff, the disbeliever yells "kai (open)!" and everyone reveals their dice. Everything is counted up, and if there are actually that many (or more), the doubter drinks - otherwise the person who made the excessive claim drinks. Note that ones are wild, and always count as whatever number was last said.

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