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How to Play Tonk: Step-by-step Instructions

How to Play Tonk: Step-by-step Instructions

Tonk, a card game similar to rummy, is played for fun as often as it is played for money. A game of tonk can be refreshing to those who have grown bored with playing poker or spades. This Plentifun article teaches you how to go about playing it.
Komal B. Patil
Historical Suits!
Originally, the face cards in the deck were inspired by historical figures. The King of Hearts was modeled after Charlemagne, the King of Diamonds on Julius Caesar, the King of Clubs on Alexander the Great, and the King of Spades was a model of King David from the Holy Bible.

A popular card game, Tonk is the African-American version of poker, and its rules are easy to follow. It is usually played for money, with an agreed-upon predecided stake. On winning a hand, the winner receives the predeclared stake from each player. The stakes can be of any amount, from using fake money, to using cents, dimes, or even dollars. It can be played by 3 - 5 players or even more. To play, a standard 52-card deck is used. The numbered cards are worth their stated value, aces are worth one point, while the Jack, Queen, and King earn ten points.

How to Play Tonk

The Deal
The dealer deals five cards face down, and one at a time to each player in a clockwise direction. The rest of the cards are stacked and kept in the center as the draw pile. The topmost card is placed face up to initiate the discard pile, next to the draw pile.

The Game-play
  • Step 1: The players pick up their cards, study them, and then total up the points in their hand.
  • Step 2: If a player's cards total up to 50, he says "Tonk!", after which he right away wins a double stake from each player.
  • Step 3: However, if multiple players have 50 as their point total, there in no winner, and the cards are dealt again. If no one declares tonk, the game-play continues; the player to the left of the dealer begins play and the turn proceeds clockwise.
  • Step 4: The object of the game is to form spreads and get rid of one's cards. Each player's strategy should be to discard as many cards as soon as possible, to win the game.
  • Step 5: A spread can be a group of 3 - 4 identical cards regardless of their suit, or 3 or more cards of the same suit in a row of succession.
  • Step 6: The player begins his turn by picking up a card from the draw pile, and ends it by placing a card face up in the discard pile. In between, the player can lay down a spread of cards to reduce the number of cards and the amount of points, in their possession. One can even add cards to an existing spread.
  • Step 7: The game continues in this manner, till a player is rid of all his cards. Alternatively, a player who believes that he has the lowest total, may choose to "drop" his cards by laying them face up on the table. When this happens, all players must follow suit and place their cards face up as well.
  • Step 8: If the player does have the least points, he is the winner. But if he doesn't have the least points, then he must pay the stake to each player, who has a lower score than him. At the same time, each player also pays the amount of the stake to the winner.
  • Step 9: In case of a tie, both players are paid. If there is a tie between the player who dropped and another, the one who dropped is penalized and must pay double, while the other one is declared the winner and receives the stake from each player.

Tonk can be played with or without stakes. One might even replace the stakes and penalties with scores. This game is so popular among people of all ages that software companies have produced online versions as well as Android apps for this game.
card game