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Overview of Tonk

Tonk is a popular card game, very similar in style to rummy. Also known as Tunk, it’s most commonly played in the United States. This game is a quick game with relatively straightforward rules. The rules may vary slightly depending on who you are playing with, but they are usually along the same lines.

Tonk is often played for money and combines elements of skill and luck. It’s typically played by between two and four players, but up to six can take part. We have explained the rules in detail below.

The Cards

Tonk is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards and each card has a point value in the game. All picture cards are worth 10 points, but aces are worth only 1 point. The rest of the cards are worth their face value in points. A 2 is worth 2 points, a 3 is worth 3 points, and so on. These point values are relevant during the game.

Starting a Game

If there’s money on the game, then the stakes need to be agreed upon before starting. Usual procedure is for each participating player to put up a fixed amount of money per hand, with the winner of a hand then taking that fixed amount from each player. A game can consist of several hands.

Players then cut the cards to determine who will be the first dealer. Whichever player gets the highest card will deal first, and the deal then passes clockwise on all subsequent hands. To begin a hand, each player is dealt three, five, seven, or twelve cards face down. The number of cards dealt depends on the number of players taking part.

Tonks

If a player is dealt cards that give them a total points value of 50, they must declare this immediately. This is known as a tonk, and it wins the hand immediately. When a player wins with a tonk they win double the normal stakes from each player. If more than one player has a tonk, then it’s a draw; no stakes are paid and another hand is dealt.

Some people also play the rules where a points value of 49 is a tonk, and some where a points value of 11 or lower is a Tonk. When playing with these rules, it’s normal that a tonk of 50 will beat one of 49, which will beat one of 11.

Game Play

Assuming there is no tonk, the dealer turns over the first undealt card face up to start the discard pile. The rest of the undealt cards are placed face down to start the stock pile. Play then starts to the dealers left, and continues in a clockwise direction. On their turn a player must take one card from either the discard pile or the stock pile, and throw away one card by placing it face up on the top of the discard pile. Below is a screenshot from a game of tonk being played online.

Tonk Game Online
Screenshot From an Online Game of Tonk

The aim of the game is to use your cards to form spreads. A spread is made up of three or more cards of the same rank (for example three 10s or four jacks) or three or more cards of the same suit in sequence (for example 3,4,5,6 of diamonds).

When you have a spread in your hand, then you can place that spread down during your turn by laying it down in front of you on the playing surface face up. During your turn you may also add cards to any spreads you have previously put down or any spreads any other player has put down.

Winning a Hand

We’ve already mentioned how a hand can be won at the very beginning by having a tonk, but there are other ways to win too. The standard way to win a hand of tonk is to get rid of all your cards by forming new spreads and/or adding cards to existing spreads. The first player to do this wins the hand. They are then paid the agreed stake by each of the other players.

You can also win a hand by what is known as dropping. This can usually only be done at the start of your turn, before drawing, but some people play rules where you can do this after drawing too. To drop you must place all of your cards face up on the table, and all the other players must then do the same. If the total points value of the cards in your hand is lower than anyone else’s, then you win.

If you drop and do not have the lowest points value this is known as being caught. You’ll have to pay the previously agreed stake to each player that has a lower points value than you. In addition, the player that has the lowest points value is the winner of the hand and receives the agreed stake from each player, including you.

A hand can also be won if the stock pile runs out. Each player adds up the points value of the cards in their hand, and the player with the lowest value is the winner. They receive the agreed stake from each player.

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