Tonk is a rummy-style card game in which the object is to get rid of all the cards in your hand. Although not the most well-known card game in the world, it is a mainstay in many areas as a way for workers to pass time on breaks and during downtime. Real money tonk is also played online with people competing against one another just like they do in the real world.
Online tonk is typically played with 2 players for an agreed-upon stake. The best tonk sites offer the game at a wide range of stakes in winner-take-all matchups. There will always be elements of luck in the draw of the cards, but skill is very much the deciding factor in determining the winner of any given match.
Some of the bigger betting sites expanded into online skill games a few years back with the addition of games like tonk, spades, Yahtzee and others. The one thing these games all have in common is an emphasis on skill. If you play better than your opponent, you usually win the game. Compare this to something like roulette where no amount of skillful play will increase your win rate.
The skill aspects is allowed to shine because betting sites pit you against other players rather than against the house. The house takes a commission from each entry fee and therefore has no stake in who wins – the house gets paid either way. In traditional gambling games, you compete against the house in games that are specifically designed to give the house a long term mathematical advantage.
So, that’s one of the main reasons games like online Tonk are worth a look. If you have an itch to risk money on the outcome of some game but don’t like the idea of gambling in unbeatable casino games, skill games are the way to go. You get the thrill of playing for real money in games that you can actually beat if you play well enough. In fact, a strong enough Tonk player can earn a regular profit over the long term. This simply isn’t possible in regular gambling games.
Experienced players moving to online Tonk for real money should know that there is almost always a play clock that requires you to make a decision without taking forever. This rule is implemented to keep the game moving and prevent stalling. Time limits aren’t intended to put pressure on the players, but just to make sure the game comes to an end within a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, it’s too easy for someone to simply step away from the game when losing.
Once you get comfortable with the rules and strategy of Tonk, you’ll probably come to appreciate the built-in time limits. They keep the game moving at a quick pace so you don’t have to set aside large chunks of time just to play a few games. There are multiple ways to win and games move along at a brisk pace. If one player fails to make a move before the timer expires, the game ends with that person declared the loser.
Skill vs. Luck in Tonk Games
There is still some luck involved in skill games, but skill plays the biggest role over the long term. In Tonk, that means knowing when to drop, remembering which cards have already been played, when to draw from the deck and how to block your opponents from completing sets and runs.
The subject of dropping alone involves quite a bit of strategy. A good drop is the fastest way to win a game of Tonk, but it runs the risk of running into a hand with a lower points total. A familiarity with the math behind Tonk will take you a long way in determining when to drop and when to play on. See this discussion for an example of the math behind dropping.
There is also a good deal of strategy involved in interpreting your opponent’s actions. Note the cards your opponents take from the discard pile and use that information to figure out what your opponents are trying to do.
By the same note, consider how your own actions can be interpreted by your opponents. Every card you take from the discard pile gives an indication of what you’re trying to accomplish. The point here isn’t to delve too deep into Tonk strategy, but rather to show that skill does play an important role in this game.
How to Play Tonk Online
The rules of tonk require a bit of explaining but if you play through a couple practice games, you should get it down in no time. The main thing to understand is that your goal is to get rid of all the cards in your hand before anyone else does. The first person to discard his entire hand is declared the winner.
Each game of Tonk begins with the players agreeing upon a wager or stake for which the game will be played. You both then add the money to the pot, which will later be awarded to the winner. When deciding which stakes to play, make sure you keep in mind that there are certain occasions in which the loser has to pay twice the agreed-upon amount.
Gameplay begins with each player receiving 2 cards. Then, one card is taken from the top of the deck and placed face-up on the table to begin the discard pile. The remaining cards in the deck are set face-down to serve as the stock.
The first thing each player does now is tally up the point total of the cards in his hand. If your hand is worth exactly 49 or 50 points, you must announce It and show your cards. The other players then double-check. If your hand is indeed worth 49 or 50 points, you win the game immediately and are paid twice the original stake from each other player. This is called a tonk.
Assuming there is no tonk, gameplay continues with the first player to the left of the dealer. Play will progress to the left this way as the players take their turns.
There are two things you can do when it is your turn. First, you can elect to “drop” and declare that your hand’s point total is lower than everyone else’s. The other players then show their hands and point totals are compared. If the person who dropped is correct, the game ends and that player wins the pot. However, if you drop and are wrong, you lose the game and must pay twice the original stake to each other player who has an equal or lower points total.
If you decide not to drop, you must then take either the top card from the discard pile or one card from the stock. Then, you can get to work getting rid of cards in your hand by laying books and runs.
Books and Runs
Laying books and runs is how you get rid of the cards in your hand. A run is three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. For example, the cards 2h, 3h and 4h would form a run. A book is three or more cards of the same rank. For example, the cards 9h, 9s, 9d and 9c would form a book. Playing your own book or run in this manner is called melding.
Alternatively, you can lay off or hit existing books and runs. For example, if someone previously played a 9h, 9s and 9c and you have the remaining 9, you could simply add it to the existing book. For another example, let’s say the table has a run consisting of 2h, 3h and 4h and you have a 5h. You can lay off your 5h by placing it next to the existing run.
You may make as many plays as you wish in a turn. Your turn ends with you discarding one card by placing it face up on top of the discard pile. If you run completely out of cards by either melding or discarding, you win the game and collect the other players’ wagers.
Tonk is not nearly as complicated as I manage to make it sound. Yes, that’s a lot of text but it’s really not a difficult game at all. Just remember that your goal is to get rid of all the cards in your hand first by laying your own melds or by laying off on other peoples’ melds. Get rid of the cards in your hand first and you win.
Remember also that you need to count your hand value to check for a tonk and that you can drop during your turn if you suspect your points total is lower than everyone else’s. Apart from those two outcomes, the game plays as normal with everyone trying to get rid of their cards.