from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A Chinese betting game in which the players lay wagers on the number of counters that will remain when a hidden pile of them has been divided by four.
  • n. A card game in which sevens and their equivalent are played in sequence and the first player out of cards is the winner.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A Chinese gambling game in which coins or other small objects are placed upon a table, usually under a cup, and the players bet as to what remainder will be left when the sum of the counters is divided by four.
  • n. A game with playing cards in which the cards are played in sequences upon the table, the one who first gets rid of his cards being the winner.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A Chinese game indulged in by gamblers, in which (in its simplest form) a pile of copper or bronze coins, called cash, is covered with a bowl, the players betting or staking money on what the remainder will be when the heap has been divided by 4.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a Chinese gambling game; a random number of counters are placed under a bowl and you gamble on how many will be left (0, 1, 2, or 3 modulo 4)
  • n. a Chinese gambling game; a random number of counters are placed under a bowl and you gamble on how many will be left (0, 1, 2, or 3 modulo 4)
  • n. a card game in which you play your sevens and other cards in sequence in the same suit as the sevens; you win if you are the first to use all your cards


Chinese fān tān : fān, turn, chance + tān, to spread out.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • Plus, his idea for paying for all this consists of lining up a few good friends, some booze, and trying to remember the rules for fan-tan.

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  • Here and there came a stream of warm light through an open door, and within, the Mongolians were gathered round the gambling-tables, playing fan-tan, or leaving the seductions of their favourite pastime, to glide soft-footed to the many cook-shops, where enticing-looking fowls and turkeys already cooked were awaiting purchasers.

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  • They had raided three gambling joints but had, curiously, left five much more prosperous ones untouched even though they were on the same floor of the same tenement and he could hear the click of mah-jong tiles and the cries of the fan-tan croupiers.

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  • At the moment the syndicate only allows Chinese gambling games: fan-tan, dominoes and dice.

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  • Domino was the daughter to a fan-tan dancer and an Albuquerque rancher


  • He kept his fan-tan game running and was delighted one day to find that the leper ferry had brought him a Cantonese man, near death, who had managed to hide out in Iwilei for two years before the quack herbalist turned him in, and who was as good a gambler as he.


  • Mah-jongg, unlike fan-tan, did not depend so much on luck as on the skill with which one played the pieces luck sent him; and the young gambler, thinking that this might be his last day in a big mah-jongg contest, breathed deeply as he used both hands to help mix the 144 tiles at the start


  • Excitement among the lepers was great as the fan-tan game progressed, and many were standing about when the Chinese finally broke his adversary completely, whereupon the Hawaiian spectators started joshing the loser, which was what Mun Ki wanted.


  • With the money he made, Mun Ki slipped away two or three afternoons a week for the wild fan-tan and mah-jongg games that ran uninterruptedly in Chinatown.


  • "How I would like to see them once more playing fan-tan on the shore."



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