Tongit, Tong-its, Tongits — no matter how the game is spelled, it’s still one of the most popular games in the Philippines. You can find tongits in every nook and cranny from Batanes to Tawi-tawi. The Tongits game can get rowdy and full of laughter as it gets increasingly exciting towards the end of the game when there are fewer and fewer cards in each player’s hand. 

a person holding playing cards for tongits gameplay

Online tongits have also matched the speed of growth and popularity of the traditional card Tongits game. Especially now, there are more safe and secure apps that include options for every player whether it be downloadable, online, offline or free. Online tongits and Tongits game is best enjoyed as a social game for it will bring everyone a great gaming experience. Read on to get a full grasp of the Tongits game.

History of Tongits

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Currently getting stronger and gaining more fans, the Tongits game has a mysterious history. It first sparked interest and gained popularity in the 1990s in Luzon. Some say Tongits is a game adapted from Tonk — a 1930s American card game that was introduced by the US Military presence during World War II. 

Eventually, Tonk became Tong-its as it evolved and gained stronger ground in the Ilocos provinces. Another similar game, Pusoy Dos, grew from this evolution. Once Tong-its landed in Pangasinan, it spread like wildfire. It became the favourite game of almost everyone under the tropical Philippine sun. 

The dynamics of the game make it exciting to play as the cards become fewer and fewer towards the end. The online Tongits also grew very rapidly in its popularity once this was introduced. It continues to be one of the most sought-after games as well when one decides to play real money on online games. 

Basic Rules of Tongits

The  Tongits rule of play may sound a tad complicated but as you practice this, it becomes simpler and even more exciting to play another round of the game. The main goal is to be the first to run out of cards or have the least number of points in one’s hand. 

Here’s how the flow of the game is along with the rules on how to play it.

Setting up the game

  1. Gather 3 people and a deck of playing cards with jokers removed. Shuffle the standard deck and set them aside. You’ll need a flat surface to place cards on. This can be around a table or on the floor.
  2. Roll a die to select the dealer for the first hand. Every player will roll the 6-sided die. The highest roll will be the first dealer. The winner of the game will be the new dealer for the next game. If there is a tie at the initial play, just have them roll again. NOTE: Being the dealer gives an advantage of having one more card than the other 2 players. More chances of getting good cards or combinations
  3. If you’re the dealer, deal 13 cards to yourself and 12 to the others. Hand 1 card at a time face down to yourself and to each of the other players. Deal the cards counterclockwise around the table. 
  4. Place the remaining cards face down at the centre of the table. This is the stockpile that each player will draw from or the discard pile on each of your turns.
  5. The discard pile starts after the first player discards a card. Place all discarded cards face up in a pile next to the stockpile. You may draw 1 card from the top of this pile on your turn.


  1. The dealer goes first by drawing a card from the deck at the centre of the table and play continues counterclockwise. On your turn, draw 1 card from the stockpile. You may look at the card, but don’t let the other 2 players see it. Place the card into your hand.
  2. Once the discard pile has started, you may draw the top card from the pile instead of drawing from the stockpile.
  3. Melds are 3 or 4 cards of one kind. Expose a meld if you have one by placing this face-up on the table in front of you for the second act of your turn. After you draw a card, look at your hand to see if you have 3 or 4 cards of the same number or a straight flush, you can lay them down. You can play more than 1 meld in a turn.
  4. Melds: If you have 3 Queens, you could put all 3 down at once for a meld. If you have 6, 7, and 8 of spades, you could put these down at once for a meld.
  5. You can lay off 1 or more cards on the melds. Once you or another play lays down a meld, you can add cards to that on your turn. For example, if a player puts down 3 queens, it’s your turn and you have the 4th queen, you can place this on that player’s meld. Another example would be if 5,6 and 7 of spades are in a meld, you can put all the cards before 5 or after 7 if you have them.
  6. The third action at the end of your turn would be discarding a card to the discard pile. This should be face up. This is where things become interesting. You can either discard high-value cards first or keep them if you’re planning to create melds. NOTE: Remember the top card on the discard pile is up for grabs. Be careful not to discard a card that can help other players to win.
  7. Continue to take turns until the stockpile is empty and the last player finishes their turn. Or — yes, the game ends when someone declares, “Tongits”, “Draw” or “Challenge”.

Objective of Tongits game

The objective of tongits in a nutshell, you should be the first to have the least point value of cards in your hand or no cards at all to win the game. The way to get to the win is what makes Tongits a very exciting game. You do need to figure out how to time and what cards to throw or let go. 

Turn-taking also casts a nail-biting thrill to the game for you can only step in to say “tongits” — you ran out of cards, or “Draw” if you believe you are the winner — still can be contested by a fellow player. If the central stack manages to run out without anyone declaring, “tongits” or “Draw” — the player who gets rid of all the cards or has the fewest total points wins the game.

How to Win at Tongits

There are three very different ways you can win at Tongits. This is why the game has also grown in popularity so fast. You can opt to sit back and relax until the end of the game or be on the lookout for when you can grab the chance to say, “tongits” or “Draw”.

Here are the three possible ways to win the game of Tongits:

First way to win: If the game happens to reach until all of the cards in the stockpile are gone — this signals the end of the game. Just have the last player who drew up the last card complete their turn. Have all players tally up the points of the cards that are left in their hands. Note the value of the cards:

  • Kings, Queens, and Jacks: 10 points each.
  • Number cards are worth their number value (eg. 9 points for a 9 card).
  • Aces: 1 point each

The one who has the least number of points wins the game. To be able to do this consistently or as often as possible, you do need to be sharp and cunning on when to let go of cards and when to keep as the game happens.  

The second way to win: If you are able to be the first player to meld, lay off or discard all of your cards, call out, “tongits” to win during your turn. Again, you can only do this while it is your turn to play and not while there are other players currently having their turn. If another player gets rid of their cards and says “Tongit!” on their turn before you, they win the game. Exciting, right? If you’re a beginner, this will certainly keep you wide awake during the game.

The third way to win: If you now have very few cards in your hand (don’t include the ones melded or laid off) or believe you have the lowest valued hand — you can call “Draw” on your turn. It’s important to remember that you may not call “Draw” if someone has just played on one of your melds. You’d need to wait until after the next turn when no one has played on one of your melds to call out, “Draw”.

Fellow players can simply accept your claim to have the lowest points value and fold. Unless, someone else thinks otherwise, which leads us to the fourth way to win in Tongits.

The fourth way to win: If someone calls a “Draw”, you can choose to counter with a “Challenge” by declaring this as so. In this way, everyone will now expose and tally the remaining cards in their hand. Whoever will have the least amount of points — even if they didn’t call “Draw” or “Challenge” — wins the game.

Tallying the wins: It is practically impossible to play only one round of Tongits. It’s best to provide poker chips and assign a monetary value to each. All players can track their points and winnings accurately.

Go for 3 or more rounds of Tongits and see who has the most points at the end to declare an overall winner.

The points values of different actions are as follows:

  • 1 chip if you won the game, or 3 chips if you won by declaring “Tongit!” or if you won a draw after declaring “Challenge!”
  • 1 chip for each Ace in your hand or in one of your melds
  • 3 chips for a meld of 4 or more cards in your hand or that you placed face down on the table
  • If you lose after being challenged, you’ve been “Burned.” Lose 1 point after you tally up your chips at the end of a game.

Top 5 Best Tongits Apps

Historically, Tongits can be considered one of the youngest traditional card games around. But its popularity simply skyrocketed from the year 2000 to the present. Moreso when it was finally made available as an online game. You can check them out and see which can best suit your gaming style and preferences. 

As of October 19, 2022, the following are considered the top five best Tongits apps. This is based on data gathered by

Tongits FAQs

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