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Rules to Play the Card Game '13'

Rules to Play the Card Game '13'

Ever heard of the 13 card game? It's a game that originated in Vietnam known popularly as Tiến lên, or Vietnamese cards, and is played among 4 players with a standard deck of 52 cards. Want to play it? Plentifun has got rules and instructions to help you play 13. Take a look!
Vibhav Gaonkar
Zheng Shangyou
One can find the traces of Zheng Shangyou in 13. It's a similar game that requires players to shed cards allowing more combinations (pairs, triples, straights, full houses, straight flushes, or bombs) than its successor.

13 (or Thirteen) is a shedding-type card game in which players strive to exhaust all their cards in order to win. Unlike other card games where the aces or kings are considered the highest ranked cards, 13 declares deuces to be the most important cards in the game.

Cards in 13 can be ranked (from strongest to weakest) in the following order: 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3. Also, Hearts is the strongest suit followed by Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades. Memorizing the rank sequence is essential as one needs to play melds that compute higher than that of his/her opponents.

Given below are the rules and directions to play Vietnamese cards or 13 card game.

How to Play 13 Card Game (Tiến lên)

Each player is dealt 13 cards from a standard 52-card deck. Players shed cards by placing certain card combinations on the table. However, the first player in a round is also allowed to play a single card. Other players try to beat the hands of the previous players by placing melds or cards of higher ranks.

The player who possesses the 3 of spades (lowest in rank) begins playing. This player can either place this card on the table (solo), or can combine it with other cards in his hand to form a meld.

The next player would then try to beat the previous players card or meld by placing another card or meld of a higher rank. If a player doesn't have a suitable meld or card to play, he may pass his turn and cannot play further until the remaining players pass.

The last player to pass gets to play any acceptable combination he likes.

The first player to exhaust all thirteen cards is declared the winner.

Single Card
The first player in a round can play a single card in case he cannot form a meld. The next player would then try to beat this card by playing one of a higher rank.

Card Combinations
Pair - Two of a Kind
Players can lay two cards of the same rank (irrespective of suit) on the table. The next player tries to beat this pair by playing a higher ranked pair. For instance, if a player placed two 4s on the table, the next player can place a pair ranking higher, like two 5s.

Triple - Three of a Kind
Triple simply means a meld of three cards of the same rank. If a player plays three 8s, the next player must necessarily play three 9s or higher in order to beat the previous hand.

A straight simply refers to any combination of 3 or more cards that are in a numerical sequence. The ending card in a straight can be nothing greater than an ace, whereas the beginning card cannot be lower than a 3. 2s cannot be played in straights.

Let's take an example. If a player plays 3, 4, and 5; the next player can play any 3 card straight higher in rank. The higher straight can be of any suit, except the suit of the ending card which should necessarily be greater than the rank of the last card in the lower straight.

If the first player's last card (5) was spades. The next player can play straights like 3, 4, 5 or 4, 5, 6 provided that the suit of the last card is either clubs or higher.

Bomb Rules
Bombs are special combinations meant specifically to beat deuce/s. Bomb sequences could be either a combination of 3 or more pairs called a 'pair sequence' or a 'four of a kind' (A, A, A, A).
  • To beat a single deuce, a 3 pair sequence or a four of a kind would work.
  • If two deuces are played, a 4 pair sequence or a four-of-a-kind combination would be effective to beat them.
Alternately, bombs can also be used to make the gameplay tougher. For instance, if a player places a four-of-a-kind, the next player must essentially place another four-of-a-kind higher in rank. Every player having a four-of-a-kind or pair sequences is a rare scenario, thus bombing can be a good strategy to shed cards faster than the opponents.

Instant Wins
Instant winning is very rare and can happen if a player receives a qualifying meld right after the deal. Such melds include:
  • Four deuces
  • Six pairs
  • Three Triples, or
  • A full suit (2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3)

Now that you know the rules, grab a deck of cards and play this tactful card game with a group of friends. If you got only three players, you can deal the whole deck among the three. Also, in case more than 4 people wish to play, you can simply form teams.