How to Play Tonk: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Play Tonk: A Step-by-Step Guide
Captivating players with its easy yet interesting gameplay, Tonk has been around for generations. This card game, also goes by the name of Tunk or Knock, is one of the favorite pastimes for those who are looking to test their luck while relaxing with a drink in their hand. Also, learning how to play Tonk is easy, so there’s no need to spend hours mastering the game rules.

Tonk is a simple card game that uses only one standard deck of cards with 52 playing cards. Multiple players can enjoy this game as it’s super easy to learn and play; you’ll basically learn it after one round. In short, the objective of the game is to get the specific card combination, usually referred to as “spreads,” and to get the lowest possible score.

Even if that seems a bit unclear, let’s explore how to play Tonk and see all possible combinations to win. You’ll quickly learn that this card game relies both on luck and skill, making it even more exciting for those who are looking for a real gambling thrill.

Preparing for the Tonk

How to Play Tonk - prepering to game Like every card game, this one also has a unique setup that we must learn first. So, before we start discussing the rules and winning conditions, here’s how to set up for the game of Tonk.

Gathering Players

The best part about playing Tonk is that it requires 2 to 4 players. This makes Tonk one of the most convenient games for small groups or casual gatherings. While the two-player setup is actually a classic Tonk, there’s an option to add two more seats and change the gameplay, increasing its competitiveness.

Preparing the Deck

Since you’ll be using a standard 52-card deck, it’s essential to confirm that every card is there and that there are no two jokers in the deck. Also, make sure to shuffle the deck a couple of times, as it will decrease the chance of any irregularities during the game and make it hard for someone to get an automatic win by declaring “Tonk” with 50 points – we’ll get to that later.

Determining the Stakes (if Playing for Money)

If you want to spice things up a bit more, it’s a good idea to make Tonk a betting game with a strong competitive edge. In that case, before the game starts, players should decide on the stakes and some basic house rules, like double the stake options or when the player must pay double.

Also, agreeing on the exact number of playing chips or money that’s going to represent a stake is crucial. After establishing the stakes and house rules, players now know exactly what they’re getting into, so there’s no confusion about the betting amount.

For those who like to enjoy digital space while playing Tonk card games, there are some gambling sites that allow you to play Tonk online. However, nothing beats the fun of four or six players sitting at the table, waiting for a player on the dealer’s left to cut the deck.

Deciding Who is the First Dealer

How to Play Tonk - Dealer The last step of setting up a game of Tonk is to decide who’s going to deal cards first. The best way to do so is to make every player take one card from the deck, and the one with the highest-ranking card gets the stop for the initial dealer.

That’s about it; once you have prepared all these things, it’s time to explore the gameplay of this popular card game. Remember, all the cards should be shuffled properly so that someone can’t automatically win with ease.

Starting the Tonk Game

After the initial preparations are over, the game can begin. Tonk is played in several phases, each one bringing a unique thrill and excitement.

Deal the Cards

As we recall, the dealer is the one that starts the Tonk card game. So, before actually dealing cards in your hand, the dealer should shuffle the deck and let the player left of the dealer cut the deck. While doing so, the player may take only the top card and place it on the table before cutting the deck – it’s a common practice.

Next, the dealer should give each player a card, one card at a time. Usually, the dealer hands five cards to each player. However, players can agree on certain rules where they increase the number of cards the player gets to seven cards or even nine. This usually happens if there are less than four players at the table.

Count the Points in Your Hand

After the dealer is done, players should arrange their cards accordingly and try to get 49 or 50 points. Namely, the main goal in this card game is to form a specific spread with unique value. Games typically involve players getting three or four cards of the same rank or making a “run.” Anyhow, in Tonk, cards are worth:

  • Ace: Aces are worth 1 point
  • Picture cards (Queen, King, Jack): Each picture card is worth 10 points, making it easy to form 49 or 50 points in the game.
  • Numbered cards: Each card is worth exactly like the number printed on the card. For example, two of diamonds is worth two points.

These are some basic Tunk game rules that every player should know, especially when played for money. Knowing how to best use 1-point cards is also important, but most players focus on face cards with higher value since it’s easier to get up to 50 points with them.

Declare Tonk: Conditions and Implications

Now the fun play begins. If you’re lucky enough to get 49 or 50 points in the first draft from the cards in your hand, you can declare “Tonk” right away. This way, you get an automatic win, so there’s no reason to play further. However, if another player also has the same combination as you, the game will simply end, and all the cards should be dealt again.

Another important thing about the “Tonk” is that if a player declares it, they win double stake amount.

Main Tonk Process

Main Tonk Process Now, after every player is ready to start the game, and if no one is declaring Tonk, the game enters a full-swing mode. The remaining cards from the card deck are placed in the middle of the table, and everyone is getting ready to either draw a card or discard a card.

A Pile for Drawing and Discarding Cards

This is a simple thing to do as the game progresses. Players should discard their cards, putting them face-up in one pile. On the other hand, the remaining undealt cards will be placed at the center of the table, where each player draws at the beginning of their turn.

It’s recommended to put these two piles at the center of the table, right next to each other, so that everything looks transparent while you play Tonk.

Order of Play

Now the game begins. Each player, starting in the clockwise direction, takes turns. Each turn requires a couple of actions:

  1. Drawing cards: At the start of your turn, you can draw one card from the stock pile.
  2. Discarding cards: After you draw one card, you must get rid of one card and place it in the discard pile, face up. Players usually discard the cards that are not suitable for their combination.

“Spreads” (Card Combinations)

Creating spreads is the whole purpose of the Tonk card game. So, you can either opt for a “book” or a “run”. Here’s how it goes:

  • Book: This represents the three or more cards of the same rank. For example, three kings.
  • Run: This represents three or more cards in subsequent order. For example, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.

The goal is to create as many spreads as you can since that’s the way you get points in this game. Also, keep in mind that it’s a good idea to get rid of cards in a discard pile that might be a good fit for your opponents.

Adding Cards to Existing Spreads

The important part of the game is that when you get a spread, let’s say a “book,” you have to put it down on the table for everyone to see. And, as the game progresses, you can add more cards to the spread until you make it a Four of a Kind.

For example, if you put a pair of sevens on the table and draw another seven, you can add it directly to the spread that’s on the table. The same goes for the “run”. If you draw the card that continues your order in the spread, simply put it and get more points.

End the Round

How to Play Tonk - End the Round The game goes on until someone strikes a winning condition or if there are no cards to draw anymore. Therefore, there are two main methods to crown a victor in Tonk:

  1. Running out of cards: The first person to run out of cards in their hand is the victor of the game. This means that if someone runs out of cards, they strategically choose certain cards to run as spreads.
  2. Comparing points after the deck runs out: If no one empties their hand and the deck runs out, players compare the values in their spreads to determine the winner. The one with the most points wins, and the player with the lowest score ranks last.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules to tonk?

In Tonk, if a player’s initial hand scores 49 or 50 points, they must reveal their cards immediately. This hand is called a “Tonk,” and the player wins twice their original bet, ending the game. Normal gameplay involves players drawing and discarding cards to form or reduce sets to go out first.

How do you win at Tonk?

To win at Tonk, you must either “tonk out” or have the lowest point total when someone stops the game. Tonking out means using all six cards to either meld or hit, leaving no cards in hand. Winning can also be achieved by having the lowest points when the game ends.

What are the rules for dropping in tonk?

In Tonk, if the player who drops has the lowest point count, they win and receive the basic stake from each player. If not, the dropping player pays twice the basic stake to all players with equal or lower points. This rule encourages strategic decision-making in the game.

Is Tonk the same as Rummy?

Tonk, or Tunk, is related to Rummy but is a distinct game. Both use a standard 52-card deck and have similar objective of forming sets. However, in Tonk, 2s are wild, and the goal is to have the fewest points at the end of each round.

Can you pick up more than one card from the discard pile?

No, you can’t do that; the game revolves around the rule where players are allowed to pick one card from the stock pile per turn.

What happens when the last card is drawn from the deck?

When the last card is drawn, the players will then compare points in their spreads. Only the player with the most points wins!

Can you get a double Tonk payout on a six-card spread?

Yes, you can. The only thing that’s needed is two ‘’books’’ or a 6-card spread.


After everything we said above, it’s clear that Tonk is one of those games that’s easy to play and offers quite a nice dose of excitement. Even better, if you add a betting phase, you’ll entice players with even more thrill.

The unique combinations of spreads in Tonk and the declaring nature of the game are definitely enticing players to come back and play more. Therefore, gather your friends or family, and once the cards are dealt, be ready to enjoy this relatively fast-paced game.

Serhii Bielyi Written by Serhii Bielyi

Serhii is an Data Scientist and SEO expert with over 11 years of experience. Since 2018, he has been the SEO Team Lead at an international marketing agency. He is also a professional poker player, specifically Texas No-Limit Hold’em, since 2019.

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