Popular Filipino Style Card Games

| March 23, 2012 | 0 Comments


Tong-its is a three player rummy type of game that gained popularity in the 1990s in Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines. The game is played using the standard 52 deck of cards. Its origin remains Unknown but the game rules and the very name can be associated with the American card game, Tonk.

Objective and How to Play the Game

Filipino Card Game The objective of the game is to discard your hand of all cards or reduce the count and the scores of unmatched cards that are still on the other player’s hand by performing card sets, dumping cards and calling a draw. The player who gets rid of all the cards or has the least number of total points at the end of the game when the central stack is empty wins the game.

Each player is dealt 12 cards while the dealer gets 13 and the rest of the cards are left as a central stack. The game begins when the dealer discards a card. The next person can either pick up the disposed card or get one from the central stack.

Collect hand combinations and dump unnecessary cards. The picking and discarding of cards goes on until someone wins by Tong-its, calls a draw. If this happens, the players tally the points of the cards they have at hand and the one with the lowest wins. In case of a draw the last person to take a card from the central deck wins.


Meld is a set of cards a player needs to collect in order to win the game. When a player collects a meld, he has the option to either lay it down, or keep it as a secret. However, a player must expose at least one meld to call or challenge a draw. Unless the player has a secret or “Sagasa” in which case he can challenge but not call. If a player fails to lay down a meld and does not have either special melds when the game ends, the player is considered “Burned ” and will not be able to challenge a draw. If someone is unable to call nor eligible to win in the end because the tally count in the central stack run out of cards.

  • Three of a kind: Three equally ranked cards (7♣-7♦-7♠)
  • Four of a kind: Four cards of the same rank number, also called “Secret” (J♣-J♦-J♠-J♥)
  • Straight flush: At least three  sequential cards of the same suit (3♠-4♠-5♠)(8♦-9♦-10♦-J♦-Q♦)
Straight flush composed of 5 or more cards is also called a “Escalera”.

 Ending The Game and Winning The Pot

If the player is able to use all of his cards in combinations, by connecting to opponents’ or your exposed card sets (Sapaw) or if the player gets rid of all his cards then the player wins by Tong-its! Bets are added to a pot, the winner who wins two consecutive games collect the pot money (Hits). This can also be changed to 3 consecutive games wherein upon the second win the player gets an additional payment. All the cards have corresponding points. The Rank goes: Ace 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Jack Queen King. Ace is considered one point. All the Jacks Queens and Kings are 10 points each. All the other cards namely 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 match their value.

Pusoy Dos

Another card game that has earned such popularity in the Philippines, Pusoy dos, a variation of Big Two, is a popular type of shedding card game with origins in the Philippines. The object of the game is to be the first to get rid of all your cards by laying them. If you cannot be first to play all your cards, then your aim is to have as few cards as possible when another player finishes first. Cards can be played separately or in certain combinations using poker hand rankings. Games of Pusoy Dos can be played maximum of four and minimum of three players.

Suit Order

From high to low, the suit order is , diamonds (), hearts (), spades (♠),clubs (♣), with the 2♦ being the highest card in the game and the 3♣ the lowest. Another popular variation to the suit order is: From highest to lowest, clubs (♣), spades (♠), hearts (), diamonds (), with the 2♣ being the highest and the 3 being the lowest. Yet another variation to the suit order is: From highest to lowest, ‘spades (♠), clubs (♣), hearts (), diamonds (), with the 2♠ being the highest and the 3 being the lowest. Also another variation to the suit order is: From highest to lowest, ‘spades (♠), hearts (), clubs (♣), diamonds (), with the 2♠ being the highest and the 3 being the lowest.

Card Combinations

There are three or four types of card combinations that can be used in play.

  • Single card: Cards rank from 2 (highest) to 3 (lowest). Between cards of the same rank, the higher suit beats the lower suit. That is, a 5 beats a 5.
  • Pair: A pair of equally ranked cards. Between pairs of the same rank, the pair with the higher suit wins. That is, a 7♠-7 beats a 7-7♣.
  • Three of a kind: Three equally ranked cards. This is a variation of game play and may be excluded or included as a valid card combination.
  • Five-card hand: Any five-card combination following the poker hand rankings. From highest to lowest, valid poker hands include:
  1.  Straight Flush
  2. Four of a Kind (plus an additional card/a kicker)
  3. Flush
  4. Straight

The playable combinations are similar to poker hands, but there are vital differences. Unlike poker, there are no “two pair” combinations, and although a four of a kind needs a fifth card to be complete, a three of a kind cannot be accompanied by extra cards (except for a full house when played as a five-card hand). Because the two has the highest rank, a royal flush does not necessarily beat a straight flush. Also, a combination can only be beaten by a better combination with the same number of cards: A single card can be beaten only by a single card, a pair by a pair, a three of a kind by a three of a kind, and a five-card hand by a five-card hand.

Dealing, Playing, Wining and Scoring

The dealer shuffles the deck and then deals one card at a time either clockwise or counter-clockwise until each player has 13 cards (52 cards / 4 players = 13 cards per player). In games with three people, either 39 or 51 cards can be dealt (13 or 17 cards per player). In some variations, if any player is dealt all four twos that person wins automatically and a new game begins. The game begins when the player holding the lowest card, which is the 3♣ depending upon the suit order being played. The player will play that card or a valid card combination including that card.

The card combination should be placed faced up in the center of the table. Play then proceeds clockwise or counterclockwise. The next person must play a higher combination of the same number of cards or pass (play no cards). If all players pass, the person who last put down a card combination starts a new round by playing any card or valid card combination.
All players are entitled to know the number of cards each player has in hand at any time, and you must answer truthfully if asked.

The first person to get rid of all his/her cards wins, and game play stops at this point. If you cannot be first to play all your cards, then your aim is to have as few cards as possible at the end of the game. In some variations of the game, game play continues until only one person still has cards in hand.

Game scoring can involve penalty points, like Big Two, or positive points. In versions of the game where game play ends when a person wins, the winner is awarded one point and the losers no points. In versions of the game where game play continues until only one person has cards, the winner is awarded five points, the second-place finisher is awarded three points, and the third-place finisher is awarded one point.

In the Philippines, traditions are many with various superstitions and beliefs. Just like playing these card games, most of the Filipinos are playing card games like Pusoy Dos and Tong-Its at a funeral, which believed that it will bring the players good luck in life and especially financial success. Farmers and laborers even bar girls working in certain provinces play Pusoy Dos for past-time (Killing time) and also to gamble for a source of income. Nowadays, gambling has become a big business in the Philippines. People are operating mini casinos at their work, homes, barrio fiestas and certain occasions. Filipinos become dealer hosts to either Tong-its and Pusoy Dos for even bigger money for the tourists to play.

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Category: Popular Filipino-style Card Games