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Mao: The Card Game

Some Background Information

As far as I know, Mao is a vreated to simulate Communist China and supposedly named after it's creator, Mao Zidong. The laws(rules) of the game aren't always certain and players get penalized for not following them. The goal of the game is to leave because who wants to be communist anyway? After beating the system, you may decide to return and make up an additional rule to mess with the system even more. I like to think of this game as organized chaos.

Also, like many games, games end up changing or mutating as they are spread around. This is especially popular for that since it is supposed to be against the rules to write the rules down. I'm sure that this game has been mutated many times before it got to and I mutated it a little myself. I found that there were quite a few rules that I didn't approve of so I kicked them out. I've kept the rules that makes the game fun. I've included all the base rules, and as many optional rules as I can find as well as many of the New Rules that I've seen while playing.


Attitude For The Game

Mao's rules are very strict. This game is a great game for behavioral conditioning. This is not a good game for people with short attention spans or people that get frustrated easily. It really helps if you are a good sport about things to play this game. I really enjoy it and find it's very fun. Beginning players shouldn't worry about winning right away, they should focus more on learning the rules. I play it to have fun. Once you are able to catch on and empty your hand, it's also fun to try to create more chaos by making up additional rules to the game that only you know.


How To Play Mao



4 or More.



10 and Up.




To go out by playing all the cards in your hand.




Standard set of playing cards, with or without the Jokers. I prefer to use 3 sets of playing cards that have pictures on them.




The dealer shuffles the cards and deals each player 5 cards. The remaining cards are placed in the center of the table as the draw pile. The dealer takes the top cards, flips it over and sets it next to the draw pile, this will be the discad pile.




Play begins going clockwise(to the left) starting with the dealer. For each turn, you must either play a card on the discard pile or take a card from the draw pile, but not both unless a card requires you to draw from the draw pile on your turn.




Bad Call - This is where someone calls a penalty on someone who didn't actually break the rules.

Discard Pile - The pile of cards that are face up, located next to the draw pile. This is where you play your cards at.

Draw Pile - The pile of cards that are placed face down in the center of the table. This is used to draw cards from.

End Point of Order - This is called to end a Point of Order. Anyone can call this as long as no one is talking.

Penalty - Any player can call a penalty against another player for breaking the rules. The player that breaks the rule, has to take a penalty card from the draw pile.

Point of Order - This can be called to pause play of the game and allows time for questions. The rules still may not be discussed. You can not say 'Point of Order' in a Point of Order. Point of Order is ended by saying, "End Point of Order" and game play will then continue as normal.



There are many different rules that you can choose to play with. Not everyone plays with the same rules. Here's a list of rules that I like to use when I play, but depending on who is playing, I may not always use all the rules.

  • You are not allowed to touch your cards until the dealer is done dealing and picks his cards up.
  • No stashing or hiding cards from your hand.
  • No playing out of turn.
  • After you play your second to last card, you must call "Last Card" and it must be the last thing you say at the end of your turn.
  • After playing your last card, you must call "Mao" and it must be the last thing you say at the end of your turn.
  • You can not play off suit unless the number you play matches the number on top of the discard pile.
  • No talking except during a Point of Order



Any player can call a penalty on any other player that breaks any rule. When calling a penalty on another player, you must say "Penalty" and give a reason for that penalty. This is how new people are able to learn the rules. The following is a list of what penalties can be called on other players:

Penalty: Talking
One card penalty for talking during gameplay.
Penalty: Saying P of O in P of O
One card penalty for saying "Point of Order" while in a Point of Order.
Penalty: Going Out of Turn
One card penalty for playing when it's not your turn. You must also return the card you tried playing to your hand.
Penalty: Failure To Draw X Card(s)
One card penalty if you don't draw X card(s). You must still draw X cards.
Penalty: Touching Cards During P of O
One card penalty for touching your cards during a Point of Order. You get another penalty if you touch the penalty card you just got before the end of the Point of Order.
Penalty: Failure To Take Your Turn
One card penalty for not taking your turn within 5-10 seconds when it is your turn.
Penalty: Failure To Say, "(word or phrase)"
One card penalty for not saying "(word of phrase)".
Penalty: Failure To (action)
One card penalty for not doing a particular action.
Penalty: Swearing
One card penalty for each incident of swearing.
Penalty: Illegal Play
One card penalty for playing a card that can't be played.
Penalty: Pointless P of O
One card penalty for calling a pointless Point of Order.
Penalty: Bad Call
One card penalty for calling a penalty on someone who didn't break a rule.


Special Cards

Some cards do special things when they are played. When a certain card is played, it sets off a trigger for a special effect. The triggers for beginning are quite easy as they are just a specific number or suit. When making your own rules, you can make the triggers harder to figure out, but then people may get too frustrated because they can't figure out what it is that is triggering your effect. Here are the triggers that I use when beginning a game:

When an ace is played, the next player loses his turn. In other words, it skips the next player.
When a two is played, the next player must take two draw cards from the draw pile.
When a four is played, the order of play is immediately reversed. Play continues as normal in the opposite direction.
When a seven is played, the player who played it must say "Have a nice day." The next player may play another seven or draw a card.
If another seven is played, then that person says, "Have a very nice day." The next player will then have the option of playing another seven or drawing two cards.
If there is a third seven played, that player must say, "Have a very very nice day." and the next player will have to play another seven or take three cards, so on and so forth.
When a jack is played, you may call any suit you want as long as you are still touching the jack.
If you let go of the jack and do not call anything, then anybody can call a suit. First person to call a suit gets it.


Adding New Rules

The addition of new rules is always the funnest part. Just when you get used to how things are played, someone steps in with a new rule. Because new rules can change the game entirely, sometimes, you have to be careful what new rule you decide to add. There's a few things to keep in mind when you make a new rule and its limitations.

  • You have to play by that rule as well. If you make a rule that is too annoying, you might even end up annoying yourself

  • Remember the other players. If they don't like your new rule, they are not going to like you very much either.

  • Keep it possible to go out. If you make it so that everytime a certain number is played that the next player has to draw 4 cards, then it makes it next to impossible to go out. That may be the quickest way to end a game though.

  • Speed the game up. If things are going slow, don't be afraid to make a rule that will speed the game up by increasing the number of cards played per turn or increasing the possibilites of playing on cards, for example being able to play a 3 on a 2.

  • The new rule can not target specific people. You may not single people out when making a rule. The rule has to be able to be broken by anyone. A rule is only good if everyone or no one can break the rule.


Brainstorming For New Rules

Here I will list many new rules. This list is a combination of rules that I've seen during gameplay, rules I have made up, and other rules that I've found. To add a rule to my list that you have created, e-mail me at and put "MAO" in the subject line of the e-mail.

  • When you play a '4', the next player has to draw 4 cards
  • When you play a face card(Jack, Queen or King), you have to say, "Giggle giggle."
  • When you play an even numbered card(2, 4, 6, 8, or 10), you have to say, "Bounce bounce."
  • When you play a card with purple on it, you have to say, "Purple is my favorite color."
  • When you get a penalty card, you have to say "Thank you."
  • When you play a 'King', you have to say "Happy birthday, (name of person to your right)."
  • When you play an '8', pick a card from your hand and give it to the last person that played a card on the discard pile(before you played).
  • When you play a card with a picture of a princess on it, you must say, "I'm a princess."
  • When you play a card with a picture of a horse on it, you must make the sound of a horse.
  • You may play hearts on diamonds and diamonds on hearts.
  • Each card is now one face value higher than what it says on the card.(A '2' is now a '3', a '10' is now a 'Jack', a 'King' is now an 'Ace', etc.
  • Spades are now hearts and hearts are now spades.
  • When you play a 'King' on a 'King', you must say "Stalemate."
  • When you play a 'Queen' on a 'King', you must say "Checkmate."
  • When you play a '10' on a 'King', you must say "Castleing."
  • When you play an 'Ace' on a face card or vise versa, you must yell, "Blackjack!"
  • When you play a card on a card of the same face value, you must knock twice.
  • When you play a '9', you get to take another turn.
  • When you play a 'Queen', flip over the top card on the draw pile and put it in the discard pile, treat it as if you just played that card.
  • When you play a '5', skip the next two player's turns.
  • When you play a card on a card and the total of the two cards equal 13, then you must say, "Lucky Thirteen!"
  • During your turn, draw a card and play two cards, effects of the cards take place simultaneously.
  • When you are calling for a card you are playing, you must say the words in reverse order.(example- Instead of saying, "Ace of spades," you have to say, "Spades of Ace."
  • You may not touch your face.
  • You may not acknowledge the music(if any is playing in the background).
  • When you play a heart, you have to snap your fingers.
  • Make a second discard pile. You can play on either stack.