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Balik Satu (‘turn one’) is a Peranakan game played with Cherki cards. The method of play is similar to Mahjong, with the goal being to collect five sets of three cards.

Most of the description below is drawn from Pwee (2003, p. 122), with additions from The Babas (p. 155).


Balik Satu can be played by almost any number of people as long as you have enough cards. My two sources give differing amounts of cards per player. (I am inclined to prefer the rightmost column as it starts with the simple example of two decks for two people, even though the book suggests that up to 20 people can play with a total of 1 200 cards!) Recall that a Cherki deck contains 60 cards, two of each type, so a ½ deck has 30 cards, one of each type.

Players Decks (Cards)
from Pwee
Decks (Cards)
from The Babas
22½ (150)2 (120)
33 (180)2½ (150)
43 (180)
53½ (210)3½ (210)
64 (240)
74 (240)4½ (270)
85 (300)
94½ (270)5½ (330)
106 (360)
115 (300)6½ (390)
127 (420)
135½ (330)7½ (450)
148 (480)


Deal 7 cards to each player, an additional card to the first player, and then a second round of 7 cards to each player. Set the remainder of the cards in the middle of the table face-down, to form the stock. Alternately, with a large number of people it is faster to wash-shuffle the cards in the centre of the table and then for each person to draw 14 cards (15 for the starting player).

The first player starts the game by discarding one card face-up to the middle. Play in an anti-clockwise direction; the next player is the person to their right.

On a player’s turn they can either take the last discard or the next face-down card, and must discard a card to complete their turn. The goal is to form your hand into five sets of three: a set can be three of the same rank (i.e. with the same indices) or three of the exact same card, which is called a mata (‘eye’), or a ‘passport’ in Melaka. A player must have at least one mata to win, and the winning card that completes the hand (making 15 cards) must be drawn from the stock, not from a discard.

Calling: once a player has formed four sets in their hand and only needs one card to win, they can “call” on their next discard. To do this, they discard and then flick their discarded card with their finger. If they have formed at least one mata already, they call ‘tan’,This comes from Hokkien tán ‘wait’. or else (if they are trying to form a mata for their last set) they call ‘ceki’.From Hokkien 一枝 ‘one card’.

A hand with four complete sets that can be called as ‘ceki’, hoping to turn the pair of identical 8s into a mata.

Once any player has called, whenever a player draws from the face-down stock, they must reveal the card before adding it to their hand. If it is the winning card for a player who has called, the calling player takes it and wins the round. When a player claims or draws a winning card they call ‘sampei!’ (‘arrived!’).

A player who has called can still change their hand if they think they can improve it, by turning an existing mixed set into a mata. If they do this and have already called ‘ceki’ they can change their call to ‘tan’.


The winner draws an additional card from the deck (hence the name of the game), and this determines the value of their hand. Unmarked cards are worth their rank value (1–9 points), and the red-stamped cards are worth more:

Red Nine scores 10 points.

Nyonya scores 11 points.

Lau Chian scores 12 points.

A common rule is that if the drawn card is a rank-1 yeo card, then the winning player does not score and the round is played again.

To the value of the drawn card, the winner adds one point for each unmarked mata, and two points for each mata of red-stamped cards.

Finally, if the player won by completing a mata (i.e. they called ‘ceki’),If the winner initially called ‘ceki’ and later changed their call to ‘tan’, it does not count as calling ceki. The rules given in Pwee (2003) also award 1 point for winning after calling tan, but this seems superfluous as the winner will always win at least 1 point for their mata. then:

  • if someone else drew the winning card from the stock (called ayam, ‘chicken’), they earn an additional 1,c[p. 71] 5,b[p. 162] or 10a points, or
  • if they self-drew the winning card (called kandang ‘cage’), they earn an additional 2,c[p. 71] 10,b[p. 162] or 20a points.

The player is then paid their total score by each player. In Singaporea this is done by paying 10¢ per point.This was 5¢ a point in the 1970sb[p. 162].

In the case that a player is initially dealt a winning hand (kandang tangan ‘cage in hand’), they win instantly and double the normal scoring (no calling bonuses will apply).

Balik Lima Belas

Balik Lima Belas (‘draw fifteen’) is a version of Balik Satu where the winner draws fifteen cards from the stock instead of one. They must use these cards to try to improve their sets into mata by swapping cards of equivalent rank. Scoring is calculated as one point for winning plus one point for each mata (so, always at least two points). In this form the red-stamped cards do not score extra, but the calling bonuses for ayam and kandang still apply.

Similar games


A very similar game is recorded as being played in Java in the 1940s, under the name of Gonggong, and is described as being played mostly by women.d[p. 94–97] The game as played in Surakarta was described as follows:

It is played with six sets of cards (180 cards) for four players, or eight sets (240 cards) for six players. Deal 14 cards each and play as with Balik Satu. In order to win, again at least one triplet (called a bak) must be completed.

Waiting for a specific card to win (to complete a bak) is called ceki nocog, and is announced by placing one coin on the table. Waiting for any card of a particular rank is called ceki kowah and is announced by placing two coins on top of each other.

A self-drawn win is called rabas ‘clear’. A win by the opponents’ card is called metu (formal medal) ‘came out’.

Scoring is a little different to Balik Satu, and is done by one of several methods:

unduh-unduhan (probably ‘piled’)
At the beginning of the game a pot is formed with a stake from each player. If a player wins with metu, they win one stake from it. If a player wins with rabas, they win the entire remaining pot.
toh bajaran (betting on baks?)
This method is very similar to Balik Satu. The winner scores according to the following scheme:
  1. 1 for metu; 2 for metu with a red card, or rabas; or 3 for rabas with a red card,
  2. an additional 1 for each bak or 2 for each red bak in their hand,
  3. and then turn over the top card and add its points. Nyonya/Lau Chian/1 Myriads score 10 points, everything else according to rank (White Flower scores 1).
  4. These cards are worth 10 points each.

alternative toh bajaran, drawing 14 cards
This method is very similar to Balik Lima Belas. The winner’s score is calculated according to steps 1 & 2 in toh bajaran but instead of step 3, they draw 14 cards from the stock. They combine these 14 with the 14 cards from their hand (excluding the winning card) and try to form bak from these cards. For each bak they can form, they add 1 point, or 2 for a red bak.

In the 1940s the toh bajaran methods were paid out at 2¢These were cents of the Netherlands Indies gulden. per point from each other player.

In Yogyakarta the following bets were used:

This is payment according to the number of bak, i.e. the same as toh bajaran.
umbuk (‘piled’)
A pot is formed with a stake from each player. If a player wins with metu, they win half the pot. If a player wins with rabas, they win the entire pot.
Ad-hoc bets are made between the players, whoever wins receives the staked amount from the others.


This is another game described as being played in Surakarta in Java.d[p. 97–8] It is played with fewer cards than Balik Satu and is thus a faster game.

The game is played by four people with one full set of 60 cards. Each player is dealt five cards.

In this reduced game, a player must form three pairs to win, and one pair must be identical (a bak). All honour cards are considered to be rank 1, so can be paired with other rank-1 cards.

Waiting for a one card to win is called tan, as in Balik Satu. Waiting for a identical card is called tan nokang, waiting for any card of the same rank is called tan kowah.

Scoring is performed the same as the toh bajaran method of Gonggong, above.

In Yogyakarta this game was played with three people and known as Ceken or Sampen.d[p. 98]Note that there is also another game called Sampen.

See also

Cholek Tiga is another Peranakan Cherki game.


  1. (). ‘Chiki Cards and Three Chiki Games’. Journal of the International Playing-Card Society vol. 32 (3): pages 119–128.

  2. (). . Singapore: Times Books International. ISBN: 9971-65-058-4.

  3. (). Gateway to Old School Games. Singapore: Asiapac Books. ISBN: 978-981-229-949-9.

  4. (). Javaanse Kaartspelen: bidrage tot de beschrijving van land en volk. Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: A. C. Nix & Co.