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, 122), with additions from The Babas (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.

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’.

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[71] 5,b[162] or 10a points, or
  • if they self-drew the winning card (called kandang ‘cage’), they earn an additional 2,c[71] 10,b[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[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 (‘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.

See Also

Cholek Tiga is another Cherki game.


  1. (). ‘Chiki Cards and Three Chiki Games’. Journal of the International Playing-Card Society 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.