OBJECTIVE OF TONK: Play all cards in hand or have the lowest value non-pair in hand at the end of the game in order to win the stake.


NUMBER OF CARDS: 52-card deck




Tonk, or Tunk as it is sometimes referred, is a knock rummy and conquian game from the United States. It is supposed to be a descendant of a Filipino card game “Tong-Its.” It was a popular card game among jazz players in the 1930s and 40s.


Card values are as follows:

Face cards: 10 points

Aces: 1 point

Number cards: face value

Tonk is generally played for money. Before beginning, players agree upon the foundational stake- this is the amount paid to the winner by each player. Sometimes winners can win double the stake, this is called a tonk. 

To determine a dealer, each player receives one card, player with the highest card acts as dealer. The deal passes to the left so new players must sit to the dealers right.


The dealer passes each player five cards, one at a time, starting to their left. The top card on the deck after each player has five cards is flipped to create the discard pile. The remaining deck is the stock. 

If a player’s hand initially sums to 49 or 50 points they must declare it and show their cards, this is a tonk. The hand is not played and the player with the tonk receives twice the stake from each player. If there is more than one player with a hand totaling 49 or 50 points it is a draw. Neither are paid, all cards are collected, shuffled, and a new hand is dealt.


By drawing and discarding, players try to form their cards into spreads. A spread can be made of books and runs. Players will also try to discard their cards into existing spreads. To win, you must get rid of all your cards or have the lowest sum of unmatched cards at the end of the game. After play has begun, it is of no use to try and get 49 or 50 points, this only applies before gameplay.

Play begins with the player to the left of the dealer and moves clockwise. A turn gives two options:

  1. You may end the play at the beginning by placing all your cards face-up on the table. This is referred to as “dropping,” “going out low,” or “knocking.” By knocking you are claiming to have the lowest total value of cards in hand with regards to other players.
  2. You may continue to play by drawing or plucking the top card from the stock or the discard. Try to reduce the cards in your hand by creating or adding to spreads. Your turn ends when you discard a card to the top of the discard pile (face-up).

Only the top card of the discard should be visible, players are not allowed to rummage through the discard.

A spread is made of three or more cards that no longer count toward your hand. There are two kinds of spreads:

  • Books consist of three to four cards of the same rank. For example, J-J-J or 4-4-4-4
  • Runs consist of three or more cards in sequence from the same suit. For example, (spades) A-2-3-4. Ace counts as low card.

Adding a card to a spread is called hitting. If you have a spread of (Clubs) 5-6-7 and you have a 4 of clubs in hand, you may add that to the spread during your turn (before discard).

If you use all cards in hand during a turn, the play ends and you have won that hand. If not, complete your turn by discarding. If after discarding you are left with no cards, you win.

If play does not end with someone playing all their cards or knocking, play until the stock runs out (dry) and players play all the cards they can within their hand. The play ends when a player does not wish to take from the discard (but rather the empty stock.)


If a player plays all their cards without discarding, this is a “tonk” or the player has “tonked out.” They receive double the stake from each player.

If a player runs out of cards after discarding, the player with the empty hand collects the basic stake from each player.

If someone knocks, each player exposes their hand and sums the total of cards held.

  • The player who knocks has the lowest total, they win the basic stake.
  • The player who knocks does not have the lowest total, they pay double the stake to each player who has an equal or lower hand. Also, the player who actually held the lowest hand receives the basic stake from each player. If there is a tie for low hand, both players are paid the stake, this is called a catch. 

If the stock runs dry, the player with the lowest sum receives the basic stake from each player.


After the deal, there is no discard pile formed, the first player draws from the stock and the discard pile begins with their first discard.

It is illegal to hold a spread in hand, if you have a spread you must place it down. There is an exception, in which three Aces may be held in hand. This rule seems strange, from an enforcement perspective, since hands are supposed to be secret.

Players can win double the basic stake if they make a new spread and get rid of all their cards without discarding. However, the can only win the basic stake if they only hit spreads and run out of cards without discarding.





Nakoa Davis

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