Poker is beloved around the world, spreading even faster since the online boom. However, in select places, poker is not the preferred game, or even legal.

North Korea is one of those places. In the "Hermit Kingdom," Texas Holdem is not the card game of choice, and gambling is forbidden. With the nation's aversion to foreign influence, playing American games like Omaha and Holdem would be risky.

Sasaki (사사끼), which means Four-Four-Ace, is apparently known all over North Korea. One blogger even joked that if you live there and don't know this game, you are a spy.

The game doesn't seem to see action outside of the borders, but some similar games exist in China. Sasaki also uses some poker combinations and a standard deck, so you might already understand some of the concepts. It is a "climbing" card game, meaning everyone aims to get rid of their cards first.

Let's go over the basics of playing Sasaki.

Rules of Sasaki

Sasaki is a 4 player game, which should be played with a full group. To start, you'll need a standard 52-card deck, with all of the Jokers and 2s removed. This leaves you with 48 cards.

Cards are ranked from lowest to highest, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. In this game, the Ace does not function as a low card.

Here are the basic steps for playing a round of Sasaki:

  • Deal: Four players sit in a circle facing each other and deal 12 cards each from the 48 shuffled cards.
  • Choose the First Player: The player with the starts first if you are playing during the day, while the player with the starts in the evening. (From the second round onward, whoever won the last round starts)
  • Play: Play proceeds counterclockwise, with each player using combinations one after the other. If a player has no valid cards to play, they pass. If three players pass, the next round begins.
  • Finish: The winning condition is to discard all cards from your hand before the other players. Play continues after one player drops out until the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places are established.

Essentially, you need to beat the combination of the player before you. If they played a pair, you need to play a higher pair. In classic poker games, a better hand is all you need, but in Sasaki you can only use specific combinations.

Hand Combinations in Sasaki

In Sasaki, there are ordinary combinations and special combinations. There are rules for which combination you can use to beat others, but it's nothing too complicated.

Ordinary Cominbations:

1. One Card: Play a single high card to make the lowest combination in Sasaki. For example, if a player plays a , the next player must play a or higher. is the strongest card in this method.

2. Two Card: Play two cards of the same rank. If the previous play was , the next player must play or higher. is the strongest play in this method.

3. Straight: Play three or more consecutive cards, such as or or . The next player must play a higher straight. For example, if a player plays , the next player must play at least .

Special Combinations:

4. Triple (Three Card): Play three cards of the same rank. This combo beats lower Triples and all ordinary combinations.

5. Sasaki: You'd think that is the strongest Three Card, the strongest is , called "Sasaki" (also the name of the game). is the third-strongest hand overall.

6. Four of a Kind: Just like the name suggests, this is four cards of the same rank, like .

5. Pig: The strongest combination in Sasaki is . It beats any other combination and can only lose if is played, called a Black Pig.

There's another special move you can make in a Sasaki game. The "jata" (자타) or "chada" (차다 : kick) happens when a player puts down a single card, but you have a pair of the same value you can put down. For example, someone plays a , but you have a in your hand. In this case, you can immediately put it down and only be beaten if someone plays the final .

Types Of Poker Games You Should Know About
Read
Read

Teaming Up in Sasaki

One interesting twist of Sasaki is the partnership between the players holding the and . These two players form a temporary alliance. After being dealt 12 cards, a player with one of the red Tens can expose it, signaling to the other player.

If one player has both the and the , they are on their own team, against the other three players.

However, if nobody exposes a red Ten, the partnership is secret until the or appear during play.

The players who have the and can do something called "running" (달리기). They exchange their Tens, doubling the points for the round. The opposing team can announce "stop" to double the score again.

Scoring in Sasaki Games

If the and were held by two separate players:

Team resultScore/Team resultScore
1st and 2nd place+2 points each/3rd and 4th place-2 points each
1st and 3rd place+1 point each/2nd and 4th place-1 point each
1st and 4th place:no score/2nd and 3rd placeno score

If one player had :

Lone playerScore/Team of threeScore
1st place+6 points/2nd, 3rd and 4th place-2 points each
2nd placeno score/1st, 3rd and 4th placeno score
3rd placeno score/1st, 2nd and 4th placeno score

If the players with the and declared it at the start, the points are doubled. If the opposing team declared "stop" at the same time, these points are quadrupled.

These points are used to create stakes if the game is being played for real money. It's not easy to find games of Sasaki online though, so for now, we recommend creating your own poker games using more popular formats. You can do that on many of the major poker rooms and start hosting Texas Holdem tournaments, Omaha cash games, or whatever you and your friends feel like.

Plus, if your friends aren't online, you can compete against the thousands of other players on the apps.

Register using this link to get access to GipsyTeam bonuses:
  • Increased first deposit bonus
  • Increased rakeback and reloads
  • Help with deposits and cashouts
  • Access to private freerolls
  • Round-the-clock support

Playing a Game of Sasaki from Start to Finish

Once each player has 12 cards and the first player acts, it's a race to get rid of your cards. Using the points system, it's easy to imagine this game being played for real money in North Korea, despite a universal gambling ban.

In South Korea, there are some groups spreading awareness about Sasaki, even creating gorgeous decks for the game (shown below).

While slightly less nuanced than Texas Holdem or other poker games, Sasaki shows a lot of potential as a fun side game. The rules are relatively simple, with the only possible confusion coming from the alliance between the and or the strength of combinations.

Have you checked our freeroll schedule lately? There are thousands of dollars in prize pools every day, which you can take a shot at for free.

Register using this link to get access to GipsyTeam bonuses:
  • Increased first deposit bonus
  • Increased rakeback and reloads
  • Help with deposits and cashouts
  • Access to private freerolls
  • Round-the-clock support
Win real money in tournaments without buy-ins!
114 more freerolls
Today 13:30 EDT (17:30 GMT)
₮40
Freeroll NLHE Satellite - Sunday Special Micro
Today 13:50 EDT (17:50 GMT)
$36.75
VenomWU $1M GTD AIOF Freeroll
Today 14:00 EDT (18:00 GMT)
$200
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $200 USD GTD
Today 14:05 EDT (18:05 GMT)
$50
$50 GTD Freeroll
Today 14:30 EDT (18:30 GMT)
$13.2
$1.10 AIOF Freeroll
Today 14:30 EDT (18:30 GMT)
$33
VFever MB MEGA15 AIOF Freeroll
Today 15:00 EDT (19:00 GMT)
$200
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $200 USD GTD
Today 16:00 EDT (20:00 GMT)
$200
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $200 USD GTD
Today 16:50 EDT (20:50 GMT)
$36.75
VenomWU $1M GTD AIOF Freeroll
Today 17:00 EDT (21:00 GMT)
$200
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $200 USD GTD
Today 17:05 EDT (21:05 GMT)
$50
$50 GTD Freeroll
Today 18:00 EDT (22:00 GMT)
$150
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $150 USD GTD
Today 19:00 EDT (23:00 GMT)
$100
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $100 USD GTD
Today 20:00 EDT (00:00 GMT)
$100
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $100 USD GTD
Today 20:05 EDT (00:05 GMT)
$50
$50 GTD Freeroll
Today 21:00 EDT (01:00 GMT)
$100
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $100 USD GTD
Today 22:00 EDT (02:00 GMT)
$50
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $50 USD GTD
Today 23:05 EDT (03:05 GMT)
$50
$50 GTD Freeroll
22 July 02:05 EDT (06:05 GMT)
$50
$50 GTD Freeroll
22 July 03:00 EDT (07:00 GMT)
$50
Free To Play - Round The Clock - Poker Tournament - $50 USD GTD