The Game of Sap Tim Pun (10 1/2)

Game Overview

Sap Tim Pun or Ten and a half, is a gambling game played by four people using a traditional set of mahjong tiles, with three of the players acting as individuals and with one player acting as the banker for the round, quite similar to the western game of blackjack.

Description of the Pieces


The game is played with a set of 144 pieces, similar to dominoes, of bamboo and ivory engraved in color. There are 36 distinct, different kinds of pieces and four of each kind make up the set.

The thirty-six different kinds of pieces are made up as follows: First, there are the three suits, designated by “Bamboo,” “Dots,” and “Characters,” and called by Chinese, respectively, “tiao,” “tung,” and “wan” (see figures 1, 2 and 3).


Each of these three suits runs from one to nine. Thus, the various pieces are referred to as “one tiao,” “four tung,” “seven wan,” etc. In the three suits there are twenty-seven different kinds of pieces, four alike of each kind; making a total of 108.


Each of the suit tiles, the Bamboo, Dot, and the Character suit’s carry their face value, One Bamboo = 1 point, Five Dot = 5 points, and Eight Character = 8 points, etc.

In addition there are the four winds, known as the East, South, West, and North winds (see figure 4) and also the┬áspecial honor pieces called “Red Dragon,” “Green Dragon,” and the “White Dragon,” or more simply “Red,” “Green,” and “White.” (See figure 5.)

Finally there is the Flowers and Season Tiles. They are also called Flowers, Gardens, Goofs, etc., and the names are interchangeable (see figure 6).

There are two series of four each, one series marked 1, 2, 3, and 4, in one color, and the other series marked likewise but in another color. Usually the two colors are green and red.

The Winds, Dragons, and the Flowers/Seasons all score 1/2 point each.

Formalities of Opening the Game

The 144 pieces are then placed face down on the table and thoroughly mixed or shuffled. Each player selects 36 pieces at random and arranges them in front of him face down in a row eighteen pieces long and two high. These four rows are then shoved forward to form a hollow square in the middle of the table to represent a Chinese city wall (see figure 7).

Fig. 7. Unbroken Wall

Dice are rolled among the players to determine who the banker will be, the highest number rolled is the banker. Then the dice are rolled by the banker to determine which wall is to be broken, this roll is counted off counterclockwise starting with the wall in front of the banker being counted as one and counting to his right. Then the player in front of the wall that’s to be broken rolls the dice and adds the two rolls together and counts that number of tile stacks clockwise from the right side of the wall in front of him, at this point he moves these two tiles out to be the first tiles drawn, tiles are then drawn in a clockwise direction from the wall.

The Play

The banker for the round declares the maximum bet, and play begins with each player placing a bet in front of themselves. Then in counterclockwise direction each player in turn draws one tile from the wall, with the player to the bankers right drawing first and the banker drawing last.

Each player looks at his tile and then lays it face up in front of themselves. If the banker has drawn an east wind tile, he now turns it over and takes all the stakes on the table. He then discards the east wind tile and replaces it with another tile from the wall, and each player replaces their original bet beside their tile. Then if any other player has drawn an east wind tile, they turn their tile over and the player receives his bet from the banker, and then discards the east wind and replaces it with another tile from the wall, and places a new stake beside the new tile.

Each player in turn has the opportunity of drawing an additional one or two tiles (to make a maximum of three tiles in his hand). A player must draw an additional tile if his hand with one or two tiles is worth less than 6 points; he has the choice of drawing or standing if his hand is worth 6 points or more. The drawn tiles are kept concealed unless the player’s hand totals more than 10 1/2 points – in which case he discards his tiles and passes his bet to the banker.

When all the other players have drawn their additional tiles and either folded or stood, the banker then draws or stands according to the same rules as other players.

Paying the Winners

If the banker’s hand exceeds 10 1/2 points, he pays all players in the game their original bet. If his hand totals exactly 10 1/2 points, he receives all bets laid. If his hand is less than 10 1/2 points, he receives the bets from all players with fewer points and pays all players with more points. If a player has exactly 10 1/2 points and the bankers hand does not total exactly 10 1/2 points than the player is paid double his original bet from the banker. In the event of a tie the banker wins.

Each round consists of continued play until all the tiles in the wall are used, or to the point that there are not enough tiles to complete another hand left in the wall. After each round the bank passes one player to the right and the new banker sets the new betting limit for the round.


These are furnished in the top tray of each set and they have four values. Each player receives:

These counters are used in the same way as chips are used in counting for other games.