Whether you call it Tonk or Tunk, this matching card game is a lot of fun. It’s the perfect game for short bursts and can be played with between two to four people.
The game was incredibly popular in the 1930s, and while it’s a bit of a hidden gem these days, it’s still well worth playing.
Tonk is a fast-paced card matching game. Now when you think of matching games, you likely think of Snap or maybe even Dominoes. But Tonk is also essentially a Rummy type of game at heart.
Like many popular card games, its origin is a bit of a mystery. However, we know that Tonk was often the game of choice in the 1930s, and the game was trendy in the blues and jazz scene in the United States.
To play Tonk, each player will be dealt five, seven, or nine cards; the number varies depending on the number of players. Players get rid of their cards by melding them into sets and runs.
Ideally, the game should end with one player playing all their cards and going out; this is called a Tonk or Tonking out. However, the game can end if a player decides to drop, and dropping means you stop playing and lay your cards face-up on the table.
If one player does this, then everyone else will have to follow. The cards are then counted up, and the player with the lowest score will win. This might sound a little complicated, but Tonk is a simple game when you break it down.
What You’ll Need To Play?
To play Tonk, all you need is a deck of cards! This makes it the perfect game to play down at the pub or bar with friends. Any cards will do the job just fine, and if you are drinking, you could even use some waterproof playing cards.
We particularly like these clear waterproof playing cards available online. The Joker cards aren’t used as many other card games, leaving you with the standard 52 card deck. So, once you’ve got the cards, you’re ready to play. So, check out the rest of our guide to learn how to play.
You can either go all out by playing all your cards first or drop if you think your hand is low enough to win the game. So, there is some strategy involved in playing, and because the game is fast-paced, you can develop a winning strategy. Now let’s take a look at the rules.
The first thing to do is choose a dealer. Under traditional rules, this is done by all players taking a card from the deck. The player with the lowest card will become the dealer. The dealer should shuffle the deck and then deal out the cards. The number of cards dealt will vary depending on the number of players.
- Two Players – Five Cards
- Three Players – Seven Cards
- Four Players – Nine Cards
Under some rulesets, seven cards are always dealt, no matter how many people are playing. So, you can stick to just seven cards per player if you prefer. Once the cards are dealt with, the remaining deck should be placed in the middle to make the stock.
Finally, the dealer should take the top card from the deck and flip it over. You are now ready to play Tonk! Place this card face up next to the stock to create the discard pile.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first, and the game continues in a clockwise motion. To play Tonk, you need to create melds to get rid of your cards. This can be done in two different ways, either through a set or a run.
These are terms Rummy players are already familiar with. A set is three or more cards of the same value, for example, three Kings. A run is three or more cards in a sequence; however, the cards also need to be of the same suit,
Throughout the game, other players can use cards that have already been put down to build melds. Before starting their turn, players must discard a card or take one from either the stock or discard pile. Once you have made your move, you must also always discard a card too.
This gameplay loop continues till one player uses all their cards. The player who does this first will win the game, and you can then start a new round. However, there is another way the game could end.
During the game, a player can drop this means they place all their cards face-up on the table. If one player does this, all other players must follow, and the player with the lowest value hand will win.
The King, Queen, and Jack cards are worth ten points, the aces are worth one point, while numbered cards have their face value. There is one more special rule worth knowing about in the Tonk card game, though.
One particular rule often used in Tonk is the 50 points rule. If the value of your first-hand equals precisely 50 points, you can immediately drop and win the game! This is very rare but can instantly win you the game.
You still win even if a player has a lower value hand. Some people ignore this rule, but it is part of the standard/ traditional rules. It can certainly add an unexpected element to the game! There is nothing quite like instantly winning before anyone even plays a card.
Tonk is a fun two-player card game that is quick and easy to play. Whether you play a single round or multiple, you’ll be sure to have fun.