The Great Dalmuti is a game where you attempt to get rid of your hand, a climbing card game like Tien len or Asshole. The deck consists of 80 cards, with different point values. There is one '1', two '2's, three '3's, ..., twelve '12's and two wilds that are '13' unless played with any other card. Rounds consist of the Great Dalmuti or whomever won the last trick laying down any number of cards with the same value. Players in clockwise order can either 'pass' or play the same number of cards as the previous player but of a lower value (i.e. if the first player played three '10' value cards, the next player could play three '9', three '8', etc.), or by playing a larger set of the same value as the previous set of cards.

When a player has played the last card from their hand, they score one point for each person they beat, with the last person scoring zero. Going out first or second (becoming the Greater or Lesser Dalmuti) gives another privilege: at the start of the next round, the Dalmutis receive the one or two best cards from the Peons (the two players who went out last), while returning any cards from their hand. (The Greater Dalmuti swaps two cards, the Lesser Dalmuti one.) This gives the Dalmutis significantly better hands: they get better cards, and can get rid of singletons that would slow down their hands. It is very important not to go out last, or second to last.

If you are playing a game to some point value that is quite a few rounds away (lets say 10 or more), what should be your strategy for improving your score? How can you determine if you have a hand that can hold onto control of enough rounds to get rid of your high value cards (in other words, how can you determine if by go off during a turn you will likely improve your seat position or maintain it, instead of ending up going out last).

How do you know when to take control, and attempt to get out of the game?

Does the strategy of shooting for first seat get easier/harder with more/less players?

  • I don't understand -- every hand you're trying to go out as soon as possible, as that gets you the highest score AND the best position for next hand. So the strategy for scoring more is the same as for going for a better seat. Perhaps you're asking when you should be targetting a particular player (trying to prevent them from going out) as they are in the lead rather than trying to go out yourself?
    – Chris Dodd
    Nov 30 '12 at 18:56

The two big tricks to figuring out when you can go out are counting cards and figuring out how your cards will play.

What's in your hand?

Figure out where your "losers" are in your hand - sets where you will be unable to take control: middle triples, pairs, singletons, etc. where you have no high set to establish control. These are the cards that you play dead last. It's possible to have two losers in the same number, e.g. a pair of 12s and a pair of 11s (with no other pairs to take control after you've played those). Similarly, determine if you have any "winners" - card combinations that you think nobody can beat (a triple in threes or fours, a pair of twos or threes, etc.). Finally, look at your hand and see how many middle-rank sets you have - cards you can slip into somebody else's play, or that you can slip into the middle of your own plays as you're going out.

Note that the definition of "winners," "losers," and "middle sets" will change as cards are played; your triple seven starts as a middle set, but as you see the sixes, fives, fours, and threes get played, they will become a winner. I usually keep track of all of the cards rank six or better as they're played, but if your memory is better than mine, you'll keep track of every card played, along with good guesses of who can hold the remaining cards. (It's usually a bad idea to split a set of cards into multiple smaller sets, so if somebody plays a single six, they're almost certainly out of sixes.)

A good enough hand

You can go out when you have:

  • At most one loser (which you'll play last)
  • Middle sets that you can slip in before playing your winners for that set
    • Ideally, have some powerful middle sets: they may not be winners, but nobody wants to expend their own winners to top them yet.
  • Enough winners to get all of your middle sets out
  • Luck: that your winners actually are winners, or that the other players don't care to top them at the moment you play them.

When all's said and done, the distribution of the cards between other players will make or break your attempt to go out. If the cards went weird, or some player tops your triple twelve with a triple nine (preventing you from playing your own triple nine that's a middle set for you), or someone topped your triple three with a triple one when all you have left is your last loser, then all you can do is pick up the pieces and hope next round will go better.

Going from the bottom to the top

Jumping from a low position to a high one takes a very lucky hand, and other players that don't care enough to play their high cards early on. As Hackworth says, it takes some large sets of cards, and the ability to gain control. Your "winners" are sets that are 4+ cards apiece, and you have more than one of them. You take control (while hoping against hope that nobody is willing to top your pitiful pair of sixes!), lay down your monster sets, and take your crown.


Unfortunately, it's a question of feel. After playing many hands of this (a long time ago) and being a lifetime player of games like Asshole - you just know when you can permit yourself to go for the gold, instead of the silver.

I would play conservatively and try and feel out the other leaders and then go for it if I thought their hands were relatively weak. But, in reality, this usually means one or two hands and, as Hackworth said, it's a game with incomplete information - whatever you do, it's going to be risky.


You cannot know because TGD is an incomplete-information game

Most you can do is look at your cards and try to develop a plan, watch the round as it unfolds, maybe try to analyze your opponents' play style much like in poker.

One way to improve your seat order by strategy is to wait for the top seater(s) to make their play and to not waste your good cards by trying to force a win from any hand.

Try to get rid of low value singles as often as possible, but without expending too many really good cards. That also depends on luck of course, such as when you get first play because the person to the right finished and nobody outbid his/her last play. Let other players play their 2 and 3 card combos and don't get too involved in those bidding wars.

Eventually, when you feel the time is right, you take first play by using some of your strong cards and try to overwhelm the remaining opponents with large sets of low value cards. Keep at least one strong card/card combo for each chain of low value combos you can get rid of. Try to remain the first to play and therefore to determine which combo size is going to be played.

The amount of players should not matter much - as the player count changes, everybody's chance of getting good/bad hands changes accordingly. Even the top seaters should not expect a disproportionate advantage or disadvantage because of player count, because the average hand quality stays the same overall. The card pool stays the same after all.

As for shooting for the win from a low seat position, for me that was always a matter of luck, like getting 2 5+ card combos and some really high cards to take first play.

  • This statement is incorrect, "Even the top seaters should not expect a disproportionate advantage or disadvantage because of player count, because the average hand quality stays the same overall." Due to taxation, if there are fewer players the odds that the '1', '2', and other low value cards being in either the the top 2 players hands or the bottom two players hands changes. In 5 player the King, has a 2/5 chance of having the '1' card. In a 7 player game, he only has a 2/7 chance of having the '1'.More players decrease,the odds that both jokers go to the same player blocking tax.
    – user1873
    Mar 13 '12 at 17:38

Focus on moving your position up, seldom is a hand good enough to jump to up the top spot from a late position. Note is you have a poor hand, you will want to focus on preventing some one below you from passing you. This generally means not risking your good cards to challenge the early players. To prevent your immediate superior and those below you from getting the lead.

Certainly fewer player in the game makes it harder to move up multiple places. With more than 7 and/or particularly good cards feel free to shoot for moving up more than one position.

Note that Dalumuti is meant to play for several deals, moving up slowly is best way to get to the drivers seat. More aggressive play can quickly send you to the bottom.

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