Introduction: How to Play Go-Stop


Go-Stop is a well-known and fairly popular card game in Korea. My family and I enjoy playing Go-Stop during the winter holidays, especially Christmas and New Year’s Day when we’re all together. I will show you how to play the game and hopefully I can introduce a new card game that you can enjoy playing with your friends and family.


  • Go-Stop Cards - Usually available in Korean stores, but you can also purchase them online.
  • Poker Chips - As with any card game, Go-Stop is more enjoyable when there is a reward!


I will try my best to provide a simpler version of Go-Stop to help get you started. As a result, I might not mention some special circumstances in the game of Go-Stop such as when only one player in a 3 person game loses (usually there is only 1 winner with the assumption that the other players have lost). If instead, you just want to learn how to play a simpler, and easy-to-learn card game, skip to the end and I'll teach you a different game using the same cards. But, make sure you learn about the cards beforehand.

Step 1: Learning About the Cards

Picture 1

Go-Stop is played using a deck of 48 flower cards called Hwatu. The cards are smaller and thicker than the standard 52-card deck, which make it somewhat difficult to shuffle. It might take a while to get accustomed to, but with some practice you should be able to shuffle the cards fine—just don’t expect to do a riffle shuffle. Another way you can shuffle the cards is to spread the cards out onto the table and mix them around.

Picture 2

There are four cards that represent each month of the year with an accompanying flower.. The basic objective of the game is to match cards with their respective sets (i.e. match cards from January with another card from January). Don't worry, there's no need to memorize what month/flower a particular card belongs to. Instead, you can think of it as matching cards with a similar theme and design. For example, match the cards with maple leaves with other cards that have maple leaves.

Step 2: Learning About the Cards Continued

The cards are further divided into 4 sub-categories:

  • Bright - The cards with a Chinese character meaning "bright" written on a red circle.
  • Animal - Cards that typically have animals on them. The other animal cards are distinguished by having something different than their junk counterparts.
  • Ribbon - Cards that are identified with either a blue or red ribbon
  • Junk - The most common cards in the deck. They are the plain versions in each set of cards.

Identifying the cards is simple to learn and is an important part to scoring the points at the end of the game.

Step 3: Setting Up the Game

Now that you know about the cards, we'll move on to how the cards are dealt and go over some general rules.

Before dealing out the cards, you'll need to select a dealer. The dealer is responsible for shuffling the cards, handing out the cards, and playing the first hand. You can play a simple game of rock-paper-scissors to decide who becomes the dealer. Then, the winner of each game afterwards will become the dealer.

After shuffling the cards, the player to the left of the dealer will "cut" the deck. The player takes the cut portion of the deck and places it face down in the center of the table. Then, the dealer proceeds to hand out the cards. If the dealer runs out of cards to deal, then the deck on the table will be used to continue the deal. Any remaining cards will be placed back on the center of the table.

The cards are dealt in a counterclockwise direction starting with the player to the right of the dealer. Once the dealer gets the cards, the cards are then dealt face up on the table. This process is repeated once. The way the cards are handed out is different depending on the number players. I'll include how the cards are supposed to be handed out, but as long as the number of cards is the same it is okay to ignore the specifics. As a side note, the game is usually played with 3 players, so the rules of dealing out the cards for 4 players and up are what I follow. Any cards left after dealing are added to the deck in the center of the table.

The cards are dealt as follows:

  • 2 Players - Each player gets 10 cards and 8 cards are face up on the table. (5 to each player and then 4 to the table. Repeat Once.).
  • 3 Players - Each player gets 7 cards and 6 cards are face up on the table. (4 to each player, 3 to the table, 3 to each player, and then 3 to the table.).
  • 4 Players - Each player gets 6 cards and 4 cards are face up on the table. (3 to each player and then 2 to the table. Repeat Once.).
  • 5 Players - Each player gets 5 cards and 3 cards are face up on the table. (3 to each player, 2 to the table, 2 to each player, and then 1 to the table.).

Step 4: Special Conditions - Before You Play

There are some special conditions to look for before the game can begin. Each player should check if they hold 4 cards in one set or if there are 3 cards in one set on the table.

  • If someone has a starting hand with all 4 cards in one set, that person wins automatically.
  • If everyone has a starting hand with all 4 cards in one set, the game ends in a draw.
  • If the starting table has all 4 cards in one set, the game ends without a winner.
  • If the starting table has 3 cards in one set, all 3 cards are stacked to be taken with a match from the remaining card in the set.

Step 5: Time to Play!

The dealer is the first person to play. During each player's turn, they will:

  1. Play a card from their hand to the table.
  2. Flip the top card face up from the center deck onto the table.
  3. Collect any pairs they matched.

If you have nothing in your hand that matches a card on the table, you will still need to place a card on the table. Hopefully, the card you flip will match another card on the table!

At the end of your turn, if you get any matching cards, you collect those cards and let them be visible to your opponents. The game continues until the current player decides to stop the game if they have enough points or there are no cards left.

There are other conditions to know while playing:

  • If there is already a matching pair on the table and you have a card in your hand that is a part of that set, you can choose which pair you want on the table to collect.
  • If there is already a matching pair on the table and the card you flip from the deck matches the pair, you leave that card on the table and stack the 3 cards together.

Step 6: Go! Stop!

At the beginning of the game, the players will need to decide what score is needed to stop and win the game. For a game with 3 or more players, the score is usually set to 3. For a game with 2 players, the score is usually set to 5 or 7. The final score of the winner determines the base prize that is to be collected from each opponent. If the winner stops the game with a score of 5, then each opponent will give 5 chips to the winner.

The player who reaches the set score can stop the game and win, but that player also has the choice to say "Go!" and continue the game.

Here are the reasons why you might want to say "Go!":

  • If the winner said "Go" once - the winner gets 1 extra chip from each opponent
  • If the winner said "Go" twice - the winner gets 1 extra chip from each opponent
  • If the winner said "Go" thrice - the winner gets double the chips from each opponent
  • For each "Go" after three times - the winner gets double the chips for each "Go" past three from each opponent.

Each "Go" is accumulative, meaning that if the winner of a 2 player game said "Go" twice with a final score of 5 points, the winner will receive 5 chips and 2 extra chips (1 for saying "Go" once and 1 more for saying "Go" twice). Any doubles occur after adding the chips from saying "Go" twice.

Step 7: Scoring the Points

By know, you should be familiar with the different groups of cards (Brights, Animals, Ribbons, Junk).The scores are separated with their respective groups.


  • 3 Bright Cards - 3 Points
  • 4 Bright Cards - 4 Points
  • 5 Bright Cards - 15 Points


  • 5 Animal Cards - 1 Point
  • Each Animal Card Beyond 5 Animal Cards - 1 Point
  • February, April, and August Animal Cards (known as "Godori") Together - 5 Points


  • 5 Ribbon Cards - 1 Point
  • Each Ribbon Card Beyond 5 Ribbon Cards - 1 Point
  • 3 Red Ribbon Cards with Writing, 3 Blue Ribbon Cards, or 3 Plain Red Ribbon Cards - 3 Points


  • 10 Junk Cards - 1 Point
  • Each Junk Card Beyond 10 Junk Cards - 1 Point

Step 8: Hwatu Variation

I will explain how to play a game using the Hwatu cards that is simple to learn and easy to play.

Similar to Go-Stop, the setup is the same—the way the cards are handed out and the objective to match the cards. However, what makes this Hwatu variation simpler is the scoring system. There are is no saying "Go" or "Stop". Instead, the game is played until there are no more cards left. Also, there's no need to know about special points such as "godori", but you should understand what type a card belongs to.

The scoring works as follows:

  • Bright - Each bright card is worth 20 points.
  • Animal - Each animal card is worth 10 points.
  • Ribbon - Each ribbon card is worth 5 points.
  • Junk - 10 junk cards equals 5 points. Each addition junk card is worth 1 point.

Step 9: Have Fun!

There are more special condition that I did not mention, so if you got the basics down, try learning some of the new rules and try out the game using the joker cards. I hope you learned a new card game that you can enjoy!