Mighty: The Awesome Korean Card Game
My dear friend Daniel Chun taught me an awesome Korean card game called “Mighty” when I was a student at UCLA years ago. Recently I taught Mighty to my 8-year old twins and they loved playing it with us. While Mighty is best when there are five players, you can also play with just four or even three. I’m recording the rules as I had learned from Dan here so anybody can pick up Mighty and enjoy.
According to Dan, Mighty was invented by a bunch of really smart students from Seoul University way back when. Guess they were all experts of the game of bridge but as everybody knows… Oppas love to drink. And bridge is you know… not very Gangnam. So I guess they wanted to add some awesomeness to the traditional bridge game so Mighty was born.
The full Mighty game is played by five players using the standard 52-card deck plus one joker. The four-person Mighty game uses 43 cards instead of 53 by getting rid of the deuces, the fours, and the two red threes.
There are only 3 special cards in the game of Mighty. They are the Mighty, the Joker, and the Joker Caller.
- Mighty aka the most powerful card in the game. It beats all other cards and always wins the trick (or round). It can come out at any time and the mighty always wins. Usually the ace of spades is the mighty unless spades are the trump suit. In that case, the ace of clubs aka the other black ace becomes the mighty.
- Joker aka the second most powerful card in the game. The joker always wins the trick save for the following three exceptions
- If the mighty is played in the same trick as the joker, the joker loses to the mighty. Remember that the mighty always wins. No questions asked
- When the joker is played in the first or the last trick, the joker has no power and always loses. So use the joker wisely after the first but before the last trick
- When the joker caller leads a trick and calls out the joker, whoever holding the joker must play the joker and the joker loses all powers and always loses. So don’t get called out, y’o joker! The only exception to this exception is that if the joker holder also has the mighty in which case she may choose to play the mighty and win the trick
- Joker caller aka the nemesis of the joker. If you lead the trick with the joker caller, you have the option of calling out the joker and render it powerless. Awesome! But just like the joker, the joker caller loses its power when it is played in the first or the last trick also aka you can’t call out the joker with the joker caller during the first and the last tricks. Typically the three of clubs is the joker caller. But when the winning bid is a clubs contract, the three of spades aka the other black three becomes the joker caller.
One interesting characteristic of the joker is that it has no suit. Because of that, the joker can come out at any time. And if you begin the trick with the Joker, you have to specify the suit you want and the others have to follow your suit.
Each player is dealt 10 cards with three hole cards set aside face-down for the contract winner aka the highest bidder. That’s 53 cards in total. The dealing starts with the friend from the last game (or the contract winner if no friend was called upon) and continues clockwise around the table. What do I mean by friend? Read on! If this is the first game, a random person is chosen to be dealt first.
After the cards are dealt, each player will have 10 cards in his or her hands. The standard contract bridge bidding starts with the person who was dealt first and continues clockwise. The minimum bid starts at 3-clubs which means you (and your partner) are expected to win 3 out of 10 tricks with clubs being your trump suit. Another example, a 8-hearts contract means you (and your partner) are expected to win 8 out of 10 tricks with hearts being the trump suit. The order of suits from low to high is clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, and no-trump. The contract is won when all the other players have passed on their chance to bid. The contract winner gets to take the 3 hole cards into his hand but must put back three cards that she deems least desirable before start of play.
One extra note about bidding is that once the contract is won, the winner can still “up” the contract by raising it higher. One reason may be to get more points. Another reason may be to get to a more favorable trump suit. You may raise the contract before viewing the hold cards by upping one level, e.g. from a 7-heart to a 8-heart or a 8 clubs to a 8 no-trump. In any case, raising the contract after viewing the hole cards require two levels, e.g, from a 7-heart to a 9-clubs or a 8 clubs to a 9 no-trump.
Before the bidding is complete, any player can declare re-shuffle if she has a really bad hand. The definition of a bad hand is that her hand must all be lower than a 2-ten hand.
Calling Your Friend
Unlike the standard contract bridge game, in Mighty your partner is not predetermined. Before the start of play, the contract winner calls out “the friend” (aka partner but we don’t use that old-fashioned term in Mighty) by announcing a card that she needs. The player who holds such card is “the friend” and becomes the partner of the contract. Together they must beat the contract to win the game. The friend is not allowed to identify himself or herself until after the friend card is played. If the contract winner feels adventurous, she can elect to call “no friend”. In such case, she will be playing against all the other players at the table in this game. The mystery of the friend and the buried hole cards add an extra dimension of variability that makes Mighty much more enjoyable and fun than the standard old-fashioned bridge.
After the contract is determined and the friend is called out (but not identified), the contract winner starts the first trick. However, the first card played must not be a trump card (unless of course if all you have are trump cards). So it is kind of dangerous because you always have the chance of getting trumped during your first trick (unless of course if you lead with the mighty!) The winner of the first trick begins the second trick and so on and so forth until all ten tricks are played. Standard bridge rules apply here with the exception of the 3 special cards mentioned above.
Scoring is pretty easy. I’ll illustrate it by examples. Let’s start with the contract of a 7-spade bid. And the contract winner (aka the caller) and his friend have won 8 out of 10 tricks. That’s one more trick than the 7-spade contract calls for. The score then would be 7*10 + 1*5 = 75 points for the caller and 37.5 points for the friend. The friend always takes home half the score, positive or negative. Another example, say the contract is 8-diamond and the caller and his friend have taken all 10 tricks. The caller would get 8*10 + 2*5 = 90 points while the friend gets 45 points. But let’s say the caller and his friend loses on a 7-hearts bid by capturing only 6 tricks. That would be -7*10 = -70 points for the caller and -35 points for the friend. Had they only captured 5 tricks, that would be -7*10 – 1*5 = -75 points for the caller for being down 2 and -37.5 for the friend.
So far so good? Now the funky part. For no trump suit, everything is doubled. And if the caller calls no friend, that’s doubled too. And if you call a 10-bid, that’s another double. So the maximum score in one game is the ultimate 10-no-trump-no-friend bid. Quick. What’s the pointage? Yeap, that’s 800 points if you win and -800 points if you lose. (Fine, you actually can lose more than 800 points if you are down 2 or more but we just cap it at -800 points. Don’t ask me why!)
Anyways, Dan and us guys would often get together and hang out near the Kerchoff Coffee House on the UCLA campus and play Mighty well into the night. We’d usually declare a winner and start again when somebody reached 1000 points. But you can make up your own way to enjoy.
Wanna learn some Korean? When you call Mighty your friend, you say “mah-fu”. When you call Joker your friend, you say “joe-fu”. When you call no friend, you say “no-fu”. That’s about it, my friends. Happy Mighty!!