Good Luck With That – A Friendly Little Card Game

Mar 5, 2019

Good Luck With That - A Friendly Little Card Game - by Charlie Miller

Recently one of our young associates came into the office and found a small pile of quarters, dimes and nickels laying on his desk and asked where it came from.  Another associate claimed responsibility as payback for a debt he owed from the previous day, to which the first replied, “I hate change!” That verbal sparring between a couple work buddies reminded me of a time not too long ago and some good lunchtime camaraderie with co-worker’s past.

"The game was called Tonk, and I, being "easy prey" was quickly invited to join the game.When I began my career as a young draftsman, I was under the tutorship of a Man-Named-Earl. Every day at noon Earl would take his brown bag lunch off to the break room and meet up with several other co-workers for a friendly little card game. The game was called Tonk, and I, being “easy prey” was quickly invited to join the game.  Tonk is a simple card game. At the beginning of each round the players all throw a quarter into the pot.

The deal is a five-card hand and the object is to use up your cards to go out first. You used your cards by either creating runs of three or more cards in the same suit, or three or more cards of the same face value. You could lay your runs down on the table or hold them in your hand. If cards were laid on the table other players could possibly play out on your down cards and win the pot before you.  A card played on down cards also prevents the player from going out with the low hand. There are three ways to win the pot.

• You can play out first

• You can be dealt Five 10-point cards. 50-points is an automatic winner.

• Or you can gamble that you have been dealt the lowest hand at the table and throw down on your turn. The trouble being, if someone has a hand with an equal or lower point value, instead of collecting the pot you had to pay the pot double.

By the end of lunch there would be a lot of change on the table, usually stacked in front of one or two of the better players. Some of the regular players even keep jars of quarters at their desk to display their winnings, and at least one of the engineers kept a daily log tally of his game winnings (keeping track for the IRS no doubt). Depending on how many were playing, a big winner could rake in as much as five or six dollars in change during lunch. That was worth a little bit more in 1980 then it is worth today.

One of the usual winners of the card games was Earl, and he took great pleasure in “fleecing” young “Newbies” like me. When I first began to play, a lot of my pocket change, and some of my folding money, was routinely divided among my senior colleagues. But over time I learned the strategies to winning. I learned when it was best to hold them, and what could be laid down without fear of being played upon.  One game coup is playing out concealed which is referred to as a Tonk. That hand pays the winner double from all the other players. To Tonk, the hand is held until all the cards can be laid down as a winner which means at least a six-card spread.  My favorite memory of the game is the first time I took a ‘double” from Earl. He had already laid down a small three card run but held the fourth run card in his hand  to prevent his down cards from being played on. He was holding only two cards; a 6 and a 3. On his next turn he was going to declare a low hand win with a total of nine points. It was risky, but usually a sure win as everyone else was still holding 5 cards. He didn’t know I was dealt 2-aces and 3-duces and planned on declaring the low hand had Earl not laid his 3-card run down before my play. I was not sure my 8 points was lower that his two held cards, so I held my hand and let it go by. When Earl put down his nine points to take the win, I slapped my hand down on his and said “Gotcha!” His shocked chagrin turned into a big smile as he said, “I taught you well Kid”.

I personally do not have a dislike for change. You can give me all of it you want too. And if you think I am not going to stoop over and pick up that miscellaneous penny found on the floor, well Good Luck with that.