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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Indian Chief is a unique rummy game for two to eight players. It bears a slight similarity to the Contract Rummy subfamily of games, due to its requirement to form a particular series of melds. Unlike the Contract Rummy games, however, the order that the melds are formed doesn’t matter, so long as the cards melded can be counted as something. In this way, the game is more akin to the dice game Yacht than many card games!
Indian Chief was created by Stven Carlberg of Decatur, Georgia. He posted its rules to the BoardGameGeek forum in January 2009. The game was very well received there; several players created additional scoresheets and reference materials for it. It continues to be actively recommended by the site’s userbase to this day.
Object of Indian Chief
The object of Indian Chief is to form the highest-scoring instances of the game’s seven melds.
Indian Chief uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards, when playing with two or three players, and two standard decks if you’re playing with more than that. If you’ve got some Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards handy, why not use those?
You also need a Indian Chief score sheet and something to write with. If you want, you can print off ours (shown to the right; click on it to bring it up full-size). Otherwise, just copy it down onto whatever sort of paper is handy. Most people will use something like a piece of notebook paper, but if you want to scribble it down on the back of a junk mail envelope, well, you do you.
Shuffle and deal eight cards, face down, to each player. Set the deck stub aside.
Players look at their hands and decide on which meld they wish to form. They take the cards forming that meld from their hand and, at a signal, all players reveal their melds simultaneously. The value of each player’s meld is calculated and recorded in the appropriate box on the score sheet under their name.
Players do not have the option to simply not meld—a player must make a meld on every turn. Because each meld includes a different number of cards, it is obvious which meld a player is attempting to make by the number of cards they reveal. If the revealed cards don’t qualify for the meld attempted, the player simply enters a score of zero in that box. Players may not attempt to re-make a meld that they already have a score written down for (e.g. if you already have a number in the “Doctor” box, you cannot make another six-card Doctor meld).
Once the melds have been scored, the dealer replenishes everyone’s hands back up to eight cards from the deck stub. The melds from the previous round are then collected and restored to the deck. The deck is then shuffled in preparation for the next turn.
Below are the seven possible melds (each named after a line in a Mother Goose rhyme) in Indian Chief. When a card’s “face value” is referred to, aces are worth one point, face cards are worth ten points, and all other cards their pip value. The number next to each meld is the number of cards it contains.
- Rich Man (5): Any five cards. The face values of these five cards are added together and placed on the score sheet as a negative value.
- Poor Man (3): Any three cards. The face values of any spades melded are added together to determine the score for the meld.
- Beggar Man (2): Any two cards. Score two points for each of the cards in the opponent’s melds that match the Beggar Man cards in rank.
- Thief (1): Any one card. Score its face value. After the melds have been scored, a player melding the Thief may steal a card from an opponent’s meld instead of being dealt an unknown card from the deck. If multiple Thieves have been played on one turn, they steal in order from the lowest card played to the highest. If there’s a tie, they must agree to steal different cards, or neither of them may steal.
- Doctor (6): Six cards of all different ranks, one of which must be a heart, and one of which must be an ace. If all conditions are met, the player names a suit and scores ten point for each of the cards in the meld of that suit. Otherwise, score zero.
- Lawyer (4): Four cards whose face values add up to exactly 25. If they do, score 25 points; otherwise, score zero.
- Indian Chief (7): A five-card poker hand (see rank of poker hands) and a two-card Baccarat hand. Score the Baccarat hand first, by adding the values of the two cards, then dropping the tens digit. Add the value of the poker hand, as listed below, to get the total score for the meld:
- Five of a kind: 50 points.
- Straight flush (including royal flushes): 45 points.
- Four of a kind: 40 points.
- Full house: 35 points.
- Flush: 30 points.
- Straight: 25 points.
- Three of a kind: 20 points.
- Two pair: 15 points.
- Pair: 10 points.
- High card: 5 points.
Ending the game
The game ends after seven turns, after which each player will have filled up their score sheet. The players’ scores for each meld are simply totaled, and the player with the highest score wins.
- Original post at BoardGameGeek (includes an explanation of how the melds relate to their names)
Carousel is a rummy-type game for two to five players. Carousel is one of a small family of “manipulation rummy” games. The chief feature of this group that all of the melds on the table are shared between the players. Players can lay off on any meld on the table, and not only that, they can move cards between melds, break them apart, and reform them at will! Rummikub, a proprietary tile-based game, fits into this game family quite well, and was probably derived from one of its members.
Object of Carousel
The object of Carousel is to get rid of as many cards as possible by putting them into melds. That allows a player to knock, hopefully ensuring that the total of their unmatched cards is lower than that of their opponent.
The number of cards used in Carousel depends on the number of players. For two players, use one deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, including one joker. For three to five players, use two decks with two jokers. You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as the traditional pencil and paper, or a smartphone app dedicated to the task.
Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player. Place the rest of the deck face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. A player begins their turn by drawing one card from the stock. If they are able to meld, they may do so, melding as many cards as they legally can. Once they are done melding, their turn ends, and play passes to the next player to their left. If they cannot or do not wish to meld, they may draw a second card from the stock. Again, they may meld after their second draw if they can, which ends their turn. Otherwise, they draw a third card from the stock and their turn ends at that point. (Unlike most other rummy games, there is no discarding.)
Each card has a point value assigned to it. Jokers are worth 25 points each, face cards are worth 10 points each, and aces are worth 1 point each. All other cards are worth their pip value.
There are two types of valid melds in Carousel. The first is a set, which consists of three or four cards of the same rank and different suits. You cannot have two cards of the same suit in a set.
The second type of meld is a sequence, which is made of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. For the purpose of sequences, cards rank in their usual order. Aces may start or end a sequence, but cannot be in the middle (A-2-3 and J-Q-K-A are both perfectly fine sequences, but K-A-2 is not).
When melding, you may rearrange the cards on the table to whatever combination of meld you see fit. For example, you may take a 10 from a set of four 10s on the board to use it in a run. Or you can take a card off the end of a run of more than three cards to form a set. The important thing is that at the end of your turn, every card on the table must still be part of a valid meld. (You cannot, say, take a card from the middle of a sequence, or leave only two cards in a meld.) You cannot take any cards from the table and put them into your hand.
Below is an example of a meld a player might make. Suppose two of the melds previously on the table were 8-9-10-J♦ and J-Q-K-A♠. The active player has the J♥ in their hand. They may remove the J♦ and J♠ from their existing melds and combine them with the J♥ from their hand in order to form a new meld of three jacks. The melds on the table at the end of the hand would be 8-9-10♦, Q-K-A♠, and J♦-J♠-J♥.
Using the joker
The joker is wild and can represent any other card in the meld. When playing a joker, you must specify the exact rank and suit of the card that it represents. The joker is then treated as though it is a natural card of that rank and suit. The joker can only be moved to a new meld where the card it represents would legally fit.
If the natural card that a joker is substituting for is in play, a player may remove the joker from its meld and add the natural card in its place. The natural card can come from either the player’s hand or another meld. The joker can then be moved to a different meld. It can once again represent any card that the player names. The joker cannot be returned to the player’s hand, however.
If a player ends their turn with less than five points in deadwood (unmatched cards), they may knock before the next player takes their turn. This ends the hand immediately, and no further melding may take place at that point. All players reveal their hands and total their deadwood score. The player who knocked wins the hand, unless any of their opponents has a lower or equal deadwood total. In that case, the player with the lowest score wins and scores a ten-point bonus for undercutting. (In the event that multiple players tie for the lowest deadwood score, every tied player other than the player who knocked is considered to have won and scores accordingly.) If a player melds all of their cards (and thus has a deadwood score of zero), they score a 25-point bonus.
The winner’s hand score is determined by calculating the difference between the winner’s deadwood and that of each of their opponents. They then total all of the differences, along with any relevant bonuses, as described above. No other players score for that hand.
The deal passes to the left and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player reaches a score of 150 or more. That player is the winner, and receives a game bonus of 100 points. Each player also scores a 25-point box bonus for each hand that they won.
Three Thirteen Rummy is a simple rummy game for two or more players. Aficionados of Gin Rummy will find its closed melding style quite familiar, but it allows for much larger, more social games. Additionally, gradually-increasing hand sizes and different wild cards on each hand mean that each hand plays slightly differently!
Like many games, Three Thirteen Rummy has been adapted as a commercial game with a proprietary deck. Called Five Crowns, the proprietary version of the game introduces a fifth suit, stars, and six jokers, expanding the deck to 116 cards!
Object of Three Thirteen Rummy
The object of Three Thirteen Rummy is to have the lowest score at the end of eleven hands. This is achieved by being the first player to arrange all of your cards into melds.
The number of cards you need for Three Thirteen Rummy depends on the number of players. For two players, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. When playing with three or four, shuffle in a second deck. For five or six, add a third deck, and so on. You also need something to keep score with; pencil and paper will perform admirably.
The number of cards dealt varies from hand to hand. On the first hand of the game, deal each player three cards. On the second hand, deal four cards, and so on each hand, increasing by one card each hand. The eleventh and final hand will consist of thirteen cards. Place the deck stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up. This card, the upcard, will be the first card of the discard pile.
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. They may take either the top card of the discard pile, or the top card of the stock. They then end their turn by discarding a card from their hand. Play then passes to the next player to the left, who follows the same procedure, and so on and so forth.
As with most rummy games, Three Thirteen Rummy revolves around melds, which are combinations of three or more cards. Valid melds include three or more of a kind, or a run or sequence, such as 5-6-7, of the same suit. Aces are low, and kings are high, and a sequence cannot progress from one to the other (Q-K-A and K-A-2 are not valid melds). The players’ goal is to form their entire hand into melds, eliminating their deadwood (unmatched cards). Melds are kept in the hand when formed, not laid out on the table.
A different rank of cards is wild on each hand. On the first hand, 3s are wild. On the second, 4s are wild, and so on, until the eleventh hand, when kings are wild. Wild cards may substitute for any other card in a meld. There is no limit to how many wild cards can be in a meld. Melds of all wild cards are also acceptable.
In the rare event that the hand continues until the stock is exhausted, set the upcard aside, shuffle the rest of the discards, and turn them face down to form a new stock.
Ending the hand
When a player has formed their entire hand into melds, they are entitled to go out. They discard as normal, announcing that they are going out as they are doing so. Each opponent then takes one final turn. The hand ends when the turn reaches the player that went out.
The player who went out reveals their hand, arranging it into melds to allow the other players to verify that they have no deadwood. The opponents do the same. Each player then scores the value of their deadwood (with the player that went out scoring zero for the hand). As in Gin Rummy, aces are worth one point, face cards worth ten, and all other cards their face value. Players may not lay off deadwood on their opponents’ melds.
After the end of the hand, the deal rotates, and the cards are shuffled and a new hand is dealt. Game play continues until eleven rounds have been played. The player with the lowest score at the end of the game is the winner.
Rummy is the basic game underlying a whole family of card games. As such, it is sometimes referred to as Basic Rummy or Straight Rummy to disambiguate it from the other games of the Rummy family, many of which have eclipsed their parent game in popularity. Rummy is ideal for two to four players, but you can squeeze in six if you want to.
Object of Rummy
The object of Rummy is to be the first player to get rid of all of your cards by melding them or laying them off on your opponents’ melds.
Rummy uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We now make our standard suggestion that you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need some sort of scorekeeping equipment, such as pencil and paper.
It should be agreed upon at what point the game ends. A game may end after a certain number of hands, or after a player has reached a given point threshold. When that point is reached, whoever has the highest score wins.
Shuffle and deal the following number of cards, one at a time, to each player:
- For two players: deal ten cards.
- For three or four players: deal seven cards.
- For five or six players: deal six cards.
Place the deck stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the first card of the stock face-up, forming the discard pile.
The player to the left of the dealer (or the non-dealer, in a two-player game) goes first. The first action a player takes at the beginning of a turn is to draw a card, either from the stock (in which case the player will not know what it is) or from the top of the discard pile (in which case the player, as well as all of their opponents, will know what is being added to their hand).
The player then has the option to meld. Melding is laying down a combination of cards called a meld face-up on the table in front of oneself. Valid melds include three or four of a kind, or a run or sequence, such as 5-6-7, of the same suit. Aces are low, and kings are high, and a sequence cannot progress from one to the other (K-A-2 is not a valid meld). A player may only meld once per turn (with one exception, see “Going rummy” below). Melding is not compulsory; a player may choose to keep melds in their hand as long as they like.
After melding, a player has the opportunity to lay off on a pre-existing melds, if able. This is extending a meld already on the table, either yours or an opponent’s, by playing a legal card to it. If an opponent has melded three of a kind and you hold the fourth card of that rank, you may lay off the fourth king onto the meld. Runs can also be extended; with a meld on the table of 9-10-J♦, you may lay off either the 8♦ or the Q♦ if you hold either of them. A player cannot move cards from one meld to another to facilitate laying off. A player may lay off as many cards as they are able to on one turn, but laying off is optional and is not required.
After melding and laying off if they so desire, a player ends their turn by discarding one card, face up, to the discard pile. If the player started their turn by drawing from the discard pile, they cannot discard the same card that they drew (i.e. they cannot cause the discard pile to have the same card on top of it that was there at the beginning of their turn). The turn then passes to the player to the left.
Game play continues until one player has run out of cards. Each opponent then calculates the value of the deadwood (the remaining unmelded cards) in their hand. Aces are worth one point each, face cards are worth ten points each, and all other cards are worth their face value. The winner of the hand scores the combined deadwood scores of all of the opponents.
A player may, instead of melding when they are able, keep their melds in their hand until they are able to play them all at once and go out on the same turn. This is called “going rummy”. A player scores double points on a hand where they successfully go rummy.