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Pai Tong (ไพ่ตอง, ‘tong cards’) is a draw-and-discard card game from Thailand, played with Thai money cards. It is also known as Pai Phong (Thai) (ไพ่ผ่อง(ไทย))The name pai phong could be from Hokkien 碰牌 phòng pâi, ‘bump cards’. This terminology is also used in the game of Mahjong, where  — usually “pong” in English rules — is the call for claiming a tile to form a set of three identical tiles. For the derivation of tong, see below. or Pai Chot (ไพ่จอด).A[p. 71–6] Very similar games are also played in Kelantan in Malaysia.

Thailand and Malaysia, with Kelantan’s location highlighted.

© George Pollard 🅭🅯🄏🄎


The game is played with six or seven people and uses two full decks of money-suited cards (120 cards total, four copies of each card). Any style of card will work.

In Thailand playing cards are produced by government monopoly, so all decks are the same. Under the Gambling Act of 1935, the game may not be played for money without explicit permission.B

Thai-style government-printed money cards.

© George Pollard 🅭🅯🄏🄎

Setup & Play

Shuffle the cards, and deal six cards to all players, then a second round of six cards to the starting player and five cards to all others, so that the starting player has 12 cards and the rest 11. Place the remainder of the cards face down in the middle to form the stock.

The first player starts the game by discarding any card face-up. Play proceeds with the next player in an anti-clockwise direction.

On a player’s turn they draw one card from either the top of discard pile or the top of the stock, and then — unless they have won the game by completing their hand — they discard one.

The goal of the game is to form a complete hand of 12 cards, comprising four sets of three. Each set must consist of three cards of the same rank.A set of three identical cards of the same rank is called a tong (ตอง),This term — possibly derived from the Chinese (Hokkien: tông; Teochew: tong⁵ Mandarin: tóng; Cantonese: tung⁴) ‘same; identical’ — is also used in other card games to describe a triplet, or a number with three identical digits. and a set of three different cards is called a head (เศียร siian). A set of two identical cards and one other is called a group (พวก phuak). Heads and tongs are worth more in the scoring.

For the purposes of forming heads, the honour cards or aces are grouped into two sets; one set comprises the two red stamped cards and the 1 Myriads, and other set is made up of the other three cards. To form a head using these cards requires them to be of the same set.

After a player has discarded a card and before the next player picks up a card, any player can claim the discarded card to complete a tong by calling “pong”. The claiming player takes the discard and must expose all cards forming the tong face-up on the table, then finishes their turn by discarding as usual. (This disrupts the normal order of play, and play continues from the player on their right.)

There are possibly variants in play here for the final card:

To win by completing the 4 sets of cards (called กิน kin ‘eating’), the final card must be drawn from the deck.

If a player only requires one card to win, they may take the winning card from any player’s discard to complete their hand. If multiple players try to claim the same card to win, the next one in seating order takes it.


Scoring possibilities for the winner are as follows. I have found these the hardest thing to translate so the following may not be accurate. Corrections are welcome!

  • ถลก ‘scalp’ (฿4): to self-draw the winning card into a tong
  • กินเศียร ‘eat the head’ (฿4): to self-draw the winning card into a head, while having 3 other heads
  • 3 ตองกินเศียร ‘3 tongs eat the head’ or เขียวเปรี้ยว ‘sour greens’ (฿4): drawing to complete a head while having 3 tongs
  • 3 เศียรกินตอง ‘3 heads eat the tong’ or เขียวหวาน ‘sweet greens’ (฿4): drawing to complete a tong while having 3 heads
  • เก็งตรง ‘straight guess’ (฿8): [might involve placing a card open while waiting?]
  • เก็งข้าง ‘side guess’ (฿4): [might involve placing a card open while waiting?]
  • สี่ดองมืด ‘concealed (dark) 4 tong’ (฿16): a hand consisting of 4 tongs, with none of them exposed
  • สี่ตองผ่อง ‘open (bright) 4 tong’ (฿8): a hand consisting of 4 tongs, with at least one exposed
  • สามดับ ‘three out’ (฿12): one set of anything, with the remaining eight cards being of a single rank, winning on a ninth to form three tongs
  • สามแดง ‘three reds’ (฿40): one set of anything, with the remaining eight being red-stamped cards, winning on a ninth to form three tongs
  • ช่องขาว ‘white slot’ (฿40): no joker, [waiting for something?]
  • ทุบขาว ‘beat white’ (฿16): no joker, [not sure of difference to previous?]
  • พวกเดียวกันทั้งมือ ‘all friends hand’ (฿30): four identical heads
  • เอี่ยวทั้งมือ ‘all ace hand’ (฿20): all cards are aces


The game is also played in Malaysia under the name Pong. In Gambling Games of Malaya (p. 137–8) it is described as being played with Mahjong tiles, but I think it is probably also played with Ceki cards. According to the book, it is played in the state of Kelantan, which is adjacent to Thailand.

In Malaysia it is only played with four players.

To play with Mahjong tiles, use 120 tiles: all of the suited (circle, bamboo, character) tiles, as well as the honour (“dragon”) tiles, but no winds or flowers.

To deal, build them into four walls of 30 tiles (15 long × 2 high), then draw the tiles one at a time from the wall in a clockwise direction, as in Mahjong.

Play and win as in the Thai game.

A set of three identical cards or tiles is again called a tong, a set of three mixed tiles is called a tong serong (“crooked tong”).

The winning player scores 2 points + 1 point for each pure tong they have in their hand. Thus, the scores range from only 2 points for a hand containing four tong serong, up to 6 points for a hand containing four tong. Payment may be collected from the other players on the basis of some fixed amount per point.


  1. and (). ⁨⁩. ศูนย์ศึกษาปัญหาการพนัน คณะเศรษฐศาสตร์ จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย⁩: Thailand.

  2. (). ⁨ไพ่ตอง ไพ่ผ่องไทย⁩ [Pai Pong, Pai Phong Thai].  Images of this book(let) can be found here.

  3. (). ⁨Gambling Games of Malaya⁩. The Caxton Press⁩: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


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