Tong-Its

Tong-Its is a rummy game for three players. A Philippine offshoot of Tonk, Tong-Its is a lively game that introduces a bluffing aspect to rummy. Since players are not penalized for keeping their melds secret, a player may declare the end of the hand believing they have the lowest unmatched card total. But if one of their opponents thinks they’re wrong, they can challenge them, and potentially snatch the victory away from them!

Object of Tong-Its

The object of Tong-Its is to reduce the number of unmatched cards in your hand by forming combinations of cards called melds.

Setup

To play Tong-Its, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of cards. You can choose any kind you like, but we really think you’d enjoy using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Scoring in Tong-Its is usually done with the hard score method, so you’ll need a bunch of something like poker chips, beans, or other markers to keep score.

All player ante two chips to a pot in the center of the table. Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player, starting with yourself. After all players have received twelve cards, deal a thirteenth card to yourself. The remaining fifteen cards are placed in a pile in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

The dealer goes first. Their first order of business is to identify any melds they may hold. If they so desire, they may open their hand by placing some or all of their melds (see below) face-up on the table. They then end their turn by discarding a card, starting a discard pile, and the turn passes to the left.

Starting on the second player’s first turn, and for the rest of the game, a player starts their turn by drawing a card. They may draw the top card of the discard pile only if they can complete a new meld from their hand with it, and this meld must then be placed face-up on the table. Otherwise, they must draw from the stock. After a player has drawn, they may lay down any melds they may have in their hand. Then, they may lay off cards on any existing melds they or their opponents have laid down. Finally, the player ends their turn with a discard.

Melds

There are two types of melds in Tong-Its, both of which should be familiar to a connoisseur of rummy games. These are three or four cards of the same rank, and the sequence, which is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. Of note is that aces are low in Tong-Its, so A-K-Q is not a valid sequence; any sequence involving an ace must also contain the 2 and the 3 of that suit. A card must be counted toward only one meld; it cannot be shared between multiple melds.

Notably, unlike other rummy games, a meld still counts for the player if it is kept concealed in the hand. In fact, there is a special bonus for holding a concealed four-of-a-kind in the hand. Keeping melds concealed can be a good idea, as it prevents your opponents from laying cards off to them. However, if you do not open your hand by exposing at least one meld, you risk taking penalties should the hand end before you do so! Remember that whenever a meld is formed with a card from the discard pile, that meld must always be exposed.

There is one special situation involving the four-of-a-kind. A player may place a concealed four-of-a-kind face down on the table. A player who does so is considered to have opened their hand, yet they are still eligible to receive the concealed four-of-a-kind bonus at the end of the hand.

Ending the hand

There are three ways the hand can end: by a tongit, by a draw, and by the stock running out.

Tongit

When a player runs out their entire hand, they can call tongit and end the hand immediately. A player calling tongit may play out all of their cards by melding them, or they may end their turn as usual by discarding their final card.

Draw

A player who thinks they have the lowest deadwood (unmatched card) total can end the hand by calling “draw”. A player can only call “draw” if all of the following are true:

  • They have opened their hand.
  • They did not lay off to their existing melds on the previous turn.
  • No other player laid off to their existing melds since their last turn.

When a player calls “draw”, their opponents may choose, in turn, to either fold or challenge the draw. Only a player who has opened may challenge. If both opponents fold, the hand ends, with the player calling “draw” winning the hand outright.

However, if one or both opponents challenge, the player calling “draw” and all challengers must expose their hands. Each player calculates their deadwood score: aces count one, face cards count ten, and all other cards their pip value. Whoever has the lowest deadwood score wins. If there is a tie, the challenger wins, and if there is a tie for lowest between multiple challengers, the one to the left of the player calling “draw” wins.

When a player challenges a draw, the value of the hand to the winner increases from one unit to three. If you’re not confident that you have a lower deadwood score than the player who is ending the hand, it may be better to simply fold rather than risk having to pay out three chips!

Exhausting the stock

When the stock runs out, the hand ends when whoever draws the last card ends their turn. All players who have opened compare their deadwood totals. Whoever has the lowest wins. If there is a tie, the player who drew the last card from the stock wins. If there was a tie between the other two players, the player to the left of the one who drew the last card wins.

Payouts

When a winner has been decided, each loser must pay to the winner:

  • For winning:
    • Three chips if they won by calling tongit
    • Three chips if they won by a challenged call of “draw” (whether or not they were the caller or the challenger)
    • One chip for any other kind of win
  • Three chips for each concealed four-of-a-kind in the winner’s hand
  • One chip if the loser did not open their hand
  • One chip for each ace the winner held, either in their hand or in melds (note that aces laid off on the winners hand, or aces that the winner laid off on their opponents’ melds, do not count)

After the payments are settled, the winner shuffles and deals the next hand. All players ante again to the pot. The pot is only awarded to a player who wins two hands in a row.

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James Bond

James Bond is a card game from the Commerce group of games. It can be played by either two or three players. It plays very similarly to a smaller, non-partnership version of Cash (Kemps), with each player holding multiple hands. In James Bond, players manage several four-card piles of cards, swapping cards with those on the table to make four-of-a-kinds.

Object of James Bond

The object of James Bond is to be the first player to collect four of a kind in each of their four-card piles.

Setup

James Bond is played using one standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Believe us, if you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you’ll definitely be as cool as James Bond.

Shuffle and deal the entire deck out into piles of four. With two players, give each player six of the piles; with three, give each player four piles. Players should keep the piles in front of them, clearly separated, and not look at them until the game begins. You’ll be left with one extra pile; turn it face up and spread it in the center of the play area, easily accessible to all players.

Game play

Players do not take turns in James Bond. Instead, every player acts simultaneously, playing as quickly as they can. Claiming cards is very much a first-come, first-served sort of ordeal!

Upon a signal from the dealer, all players begin play at once. They may pick up any one of their piles and look at it. If they wish to look at a different pile, they must place the first one face down on the table before picking up another one. A player cannot hold one or more piles in their hand at the same time. Piles cannot be combined, and cards may not be switched directly between piles.

When a player is holding one of their piles in their hand, they may switch any one card from that pile with one of the cards on the table. A player cannot switch more than one card at a time. If a player wishes to take multiple cards from the table, they must switch one card, then the other. Players may move cards between piles by swapping them with cards on the table, then switching piles and swapping again. Of course, this runs the risk of an opponent claiming the cards during the time that they’re on the table.

Game play continues until one player has collected four of a kind in every one of their piles. They call out “James Bond!” and turn their cards face up to allow the opponents to verify that they do, in fact, have four of a kind in each pile. If so, the player wins the game.

Strategy

A decent amount of skill in this game is simply being fast. A player swapping cards quickly is more likely to establish a four-of-a-kind before their opponent. Part of this is inherent reflexes, and part is just practice.

Other than that, the best strategy in this game is to simply be aware of what’s going on. It’s easy to get lost in the frenzy of card swapping and get tunnel vision for what you need to complete your piles. Try to pay attention to what your opponent is doing, though. If you can remember what your opponent has been taking, you can retain cards of that rank in your piles until you are ready to complete a four-of-a-kind. If you have multiple cards of that rank split across piles, you can seriously delay them in completing their piles.

See also

 

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Briscola

Briscola (pronounced with all long vowels, like breeze-cola) is a simple Italian trick-taking game for two to four players. When four play the game, they play as two-player partnerships; in two- and three player games, each player plays for themselves.

Object of Briscola

The object of Briscola is to take tricks containing the most point-scoring cards as possible.

Setup

The composition of the deck in Briscola depends on the number of people playing. The two- or four-player game uses the same 40-card Italian pack used in Scopa. To prepare such a deck, take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove the 10s through 8s, leaving ace through jack and 7 through 2 in each of the four suits. The three-player game uses a 39-card deck, prepared the same way, but removing one of the 2s (which one doesn’t matter, but it should be communicated to all of the players).

You’ll also need something to keep score with. Scoring is not too complicated in this game (at the most you’ll be playing three hands), so while pencil and paper will work, you can also use a smartphone application, a small dry-erase board, or even memory if you trust everyone not to fudge the numbers.

In the four-player game, the players should either mutually agree to partnerships, or else draw cards from a shuffled deck to determine who is on which partnership (the two players drawing higher cards play against the two drawing lower cards). Partners should sit opposite one another, such that when proceeding around the table, each player is from alternating partnerships.

Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Turn up the next card of the deck. This card, the upcard, fixes the trump suit for the hand. Place the deck stub in the center of the table; it will form the stock.

Card ranking

Briscola uses an idiosyncratic card ranking, elevating the 3 to the second-highest card, just below the ace. All other cards rank in their usual order. Therefore, the full card ranking is (high) A, 3, K, Q, J, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2 (low).

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. Each player, proceeding around the table to the left, then plays one of their cards to the trick. There is no obligation to follow suit; a player may play any card they please. The player who played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led, if there is no trump, wins the trick. That player adds it to a face-down won-tricks pile in front of them (in the four-player game, partnerships share a common won-tricks pile). There is no need to keep the tricks separated in the pile.

After each trick, the players each draw a card, starting with the player who won the trick, then proceeding clockwise. The player that won the trick then leads to the next one.

After the stock has been depleted, the next and final player to draw takes the upcard. In the four-player game, the players now briefly exchange hands with their partner, look at their partner’s last three cards, then switch back. Then, the last three tricks are played as usual.

When all of the tricks have been played, the hand is scored. Players turn up their won-trick piles and total up the number of points found in it according to the following list:

  • Aces: eleven points.
  • 3s: ten points.
  • Kings: four points.
  • Queens: three points.
  • Jacks: two points.
  • 7s–2s: zero points.

In the two- and four-player games, one more hand is played, with the deal passing to the left (to the first hand’s non-dealer in the two-player game). In the three-player game, each player deals one hand, for a total of three hands. Whichever player or partnership scored the most points across all of the hands is the winner (in the event of a tie, the winner of a tie-breaker hand wins the game).

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