Tú Lơ Khơ Instruction

Game Overview

Tú Lơ Khơ (also known as Northern Tiến Lên / Tiến Lên Miền Bắc) is a popular Vietnamese card game. It is a climbing game similar to Tiến Lên, though the beating rule is more restrictive. Just like Tiến Lên, the objective is to get rid of all the cards before your opponents do.

Playing Tú Lơ Khơ

At the beginning of a new Tú Lơ Khơ game, each player is given 13 cards. The winner of the previous game (or a random player chosen by the server) starts a round with any valid Tú Lơ Khơ card set (to be described shortly). All players then take turn to play a higher card set or "Pass" to skip the turn. Once a player passes, he is forced to pass at subsequent turns. The round ends when 3 of the 4 players pass. The last player of the round then starts a new round with any valid card set. The game ends when one of the players runs out of cards.

Legal Tú Lơ Khơ Card Sets

A Tú Lơ Khơ card set can be either one of the following:

  1. Single: one card
  2. Pair: 2 cards of the same rank that are either both red or both black
  3. Triple: 3 cards of the same rank
  4. Quadruple: 4 cards of the same rank
  5. Series: 3 or more cards of the same suit forming a consecutive sequence in values

The value of the ranks from lowest to highest is 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A 2. Note that 2 is specifically allowed in series, so QA2 and JQKA2 are both valid series. On the other hand, A23 and 234 are not series as their values are not consecutive.

Beating Rules

A player not leading a round must either pass or play a better card set when it is his turn. A card set is better than (or beats) the current card set when it is of higher rank, and of the same type, the same number of cards (in case of a series), and the same exact composition of the suits as the set it tries to beat. Here are a few examples:

  • A single 8 of heart beats a single 5 of heart, but not a 5 of spade.
  • A pair of 8's of heart and diamond beats a pair of 5's of heart and diamond, but not a pair of 5's of spade and club.
  • A triple of 8's of heart, club, and spade beats a triple of 5's of heart, club, and spade, but not a triple of 5's of diamond, club, and spade.
  • A series of JQKA of heart beats a series of 3456 of heart but not 345 of heart nor 3456 of spade.

As a note, 2 set of cards with different suit compositions are incompatible. Neither one beats the other, even if they are of the same type.

There are also a few special rules in Tú Lơ Khơ:

  • A single deuce (also called pig) beats any single of other rank, or a single deuce of a lower suit. The order of the suit from highest to lowest specifically for deuce is heart, diamond, club, spade.
  • A quadruple beats a single deuce.
  • A pair of deuces (of arbitrary suits) beats any pair of cards of a different rank. A pair of deuces with a deuce of heart beat a pair without.
  • A player cannot win with a deuce. Any move that leaves a player with only deuce(s) is invalid.

One who has played all his cards wins the game. The amount of money other players give the winner depends on the number of cards left on their hands, one bet for each remaining card. If the number of the remaining cards is 10 or more, the losing amount is doubled.

The losers also have to give additional amount of money for deuces and quadruples remaining in their hands: 3 bets for a black deuce, 6 bets for a red deuce, and 10 bets for a quadruple.

Penalty for assisting

To promote fair games, when someone wins with a single and an another player could have prevented such a win, that player is consdered an assistant and could face penalty. Specifically:

  • When a player leads a round and the next person has a single card, if that person passes the turn for whatever reason (including time out and unsit), so that the player with a single card wins, the leading player is an assistant.
  • When a player plays a single card and has only one remaining card on hand, one who can beat the card and prevent the winning but fails to do so is an assistant.
  • When a player plays a set of multiple cards and has only one remaining card on hand, one who can beat the card set but chooses to pass instead is an assistant.

The assistant is penalized and has to pay the winner for all other losers. In cases when there are more than one assistants leading to a win, only the last assistant is penalized.

Abandoned game

There are games when no one wins. This happens when all players except one quits the game, and the remaining one still has some cards left. In this case, the server calculates the winning amount about half way between voiding the game entirely and awarding the remaininng player as if he wins the game. Specifically, the number of bets the remaining player collects from each of the other players is the difference between (1) the number of remaining card a player who quitted has and (2) half of the number of cards the remaining player has, but only when this difference is positive.