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Tonk - card game

Origin United States
Alternative names Tunk or Knot
Type Matching
Players 2-6
Skills required Strategy
Cards 52
Deck Anglo-American
Play Clockwise
Playing time 15 min per hand.
Random chance Medium
Related games

Tonk, or tunk is a matching card game, which combines features of knock rummy and conquian. Tonk is a relatively fast game that can be played during brief periods of time by varying numbers of players. In some places it is a popular pastime for workers on their lunch break.


Tonk is usually played for money, with a stake agreed on before the game starts. Each player pays the stake to the winner of the hand. Games typically involve three to five players. Stakes may be any amount. A game consists of several hands. The players take turns dealing.

A standard fifty-two card deck is used. Each card has a point value: Ace through ten have their face value, aces having a value of one point, deuces a value of two points, and so on. The Jack, Queen, and King are each worth ten points.


Players are dealt three, five, seven, or twelve cards, depending on the number of players, in turn. The dealer turns up the first of the un-dealt cards as the start of the discard pile (Some people play that the dealer does not turn up the first card. The discard pile is started after the first player draws). The remaining un-dealt cards are set face down in a stack next to the discard pile. These form the stock.

Players total up the points in their hand. If a player has 50 points (or 49 in some variations) he says, "tonk" and immediately wins a double stake from each player. If two players have 50 points the hand is a draw, and another hand is dealt. Some people play that a dealt hand of 11 or lower is also a tonk. In the case where two players are dealt tonk, then a 50 would beat a 49, 11 would beat 50, 10 would beat 11, 9 would beat 10 and so on. If no one tonks, play continues. The player to the left of the dealer begins, and play continues in turn.

The goal of play is to get rid of one's cards by forming them into spreads. A spread is three or four identical cards regardless of suit (such as three 5's or four Queens), or three or more in a row of the same suit. A player may add cards to his own or another's spread. The winner is the first to get rid of all his cards, or the player with the fewest points when play is stopped.

Play stops when a player gets rid of all his cards, if a player tonks and the opponent has equal amount, this leads the second player to win because it is called being "caught" or when a player drops, by laying his cards face up on the table. A player may drop at any point in the game (some play you can only drop before drawing), including right after the cards are dealt. When a player drops, all the players likewise lay their cards face up. The player with the fewest points in his hand is the winner. If the player who dropped does not have the fewest points, he must pay the stake to each player with fewer points. This is called being caught. In addition, each player pays the stake to the winner. If there is a tie, both players are paid. If the tie is between the player who dropped and another player, the one who dropped is considered caught and must pay double, with the other player being the sole winner.

If the player does not drop, he must take a card from the top or one under from the discard pile or from the stock. The player may then lay face up any spreads, or add to any spreads on the table. If after this the player has no more cards, he says, "tonk" and wins. Each player pays him a double stake. Some play that a player must spread with six cards to tonk, otherwise the player goes out with zero effectively ending the game but only winning a single stake.

If the player has one or more cards remaining, he must discard one card to the discard pile. If this is his last card, play ends. He is the winner, and each player pays him the stake. If the player has one or more cards left in his hand after discarding, his turn ends.

If the stock runs out, play stops. The player with the fewest points in his hand wins, and is paid the stake by each player. If two or more players tie the hand is a draw, and another hand is dealt.

Many variations in play are possible.


Slapping differentiates Tonk from the rest of the gin rummy family. It is an optional component of the game and is changeable by the house rules. Slapping is done when a player sees a card he wants or needs discarded by another player and picks it up, regardless of whether it is his turn or not. When a player slaps, he effectively skips the players between him and the player who discarded the slapped card. Play resumes with the player after the eating player after he has discarded.


Players can meld sets (three of the same rank card) or runs (three consecutive cards in the same suit, e.g.: 9♦ 10♦ J♦, but may not "bridge the gap" by melding K♥ A♥ 2♥ Yet, aces may be played as high or low card.


Hitting is a variation of the common laying off of another player's meld (i.e.: you hit an opponent's set of three 10s with the other (10). The card is put with the melds of the player who is receiving the hit. However, when a player "hits" another player, the player receiving the hit cannot lay down for one turn. Multiple hits result in additional loss of lay downs for turns thereafter. After a player has hit another player, the hitting player is allowed to discard a card from his hand. Once a player's set has been hit and the four cards of that rank are melded, they can be thrown into the discard pile. You cannot spread out.

Tonking out (Doubles)

- Most players consider "Tonk" (2 spreads) to be triple ie- 1/2/3, 2/4/6, etc.

Tonking out is the preferred method of winning the game. It is achieved by melding or hitting until no cards remain in the player's hand. However, what differs tonking out from running out is that you can not discard your last card; it must either be used in a meld or in a hit. When a game is played for money, tonking out usually results in a double payment. (Tonk out Double). In some variations (usually 2 player), a player who "Tonks Out" with a run that subsequently allows the other player to Tonk Out on those cards results in a "Double-Double". (E.g., a player holding 5 of hearts and 6 of hearts draws the 7 of hearts and Tonks out, while the remaining player is holding 8 of hearts and 9 of hearts and Tonks out as a result of the other players hand resulting in a "Double-Double" meaning the wager would be increased by 4 times. So a wager of $1 for running out would be $2 for Tonking out(doubles), and $4 for a double double.

High count or Low count

Some house rules include a provision that a player wins the game automatically if he is dealt a hand count of 49 or 50. Some house rules include a provision that a player wins the game automatically if he is dealt a hand count of 13 or under. And in some cases 21 can be an automatic win. Some house rules state that a hand of 9 or under is an automatic win and paid triple.

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