Tong-its, also known as Tongits, is a fun and challenging rummy card game. Though its origin is unknown, both the name and the game morphology can be associated with the American game Tonk in consolidation with the popular games Mahjong and Poker. You only need the standard 52 card deck, chips are optional. It is the most wagered card game in the northern Philippines.
It’s a 3-player game with 12 cards each while the chosen dealer gets 13 and the rest of the cards are left in the central stack. The value of each card is the same with Blackjack wherein:
- Ace is equivalent to 1
- 10, Jack, Queen, King are equal to 10
- 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 are worth their face value
The gamesters’ aim is to empty and/or minimize the value of the cards on hand by drawing, matching by forming a set of runs and dumping the unnecessary cards. Whoever gets rid of all his cards or has the least number of points by the end of the game wins.
The card combinations are similar with Poker
- Three-of-a-kind –three equally ranked cards (7♣ – 7♦ – 7♠)
- Four-of-a-kind –four cards of the same rank/number, opened or held at the same time. is also called “Secret” or “Special” (J♣ – J♦ – J♠ – J♥) -four cards of the same rank/number, opened as a three of a kind, then the fourth card of same rank/number is added by the same person when displayed and the fourth card is drawn from the deck. This is called “Sagasa”. Otherwise this can become a “Secret” or “Special”
- Straight Flush: at least three sequential cards of the same suit (3♠ – 4♠ – 5♠) (8♦ – 9♦ – 10♦ – J♦ – Q♦) Straight flush composed of 4 or more cards is also called a “Escalera
The game commences when the dealer dumps a card. The next player has the option to pick up the discarded card if it will beget a hand combination or add to his exciting set, or get one from the central stack. The players take turns, picking and discarding of cards continuous.
A competitor can discard of his cards by forming melds and laying it down or making a “sapaw” on one of the other players’ laid down meld. A meld consists of at least three cards (three-of-a-kind or straight flush) and a sapaw would be the fourth of those three, or the continuation of that straight flush. If the player is able to use all of his or her cards in combinations, by connecting to opponents’ or the exposed card sets (sapaw), or if the player gets rid of all his cards, then the player wins by Tong-its.
The game ends when someone win by Tong-its, calls a draw or the central deck runs out of cards. In the event when the central deck is depleted, the cards will be tallied.
It might look complicated at first but once you get the hang of it, the challenge is riveting. Strategizing is part of the fun.
See the detailed and visual instruction on how to play Tong-its here