Who Wants to Play Tongits?

Tongits (or Tong-its) is a three-player card game using a standard Anglo-American deck of 52 cards (without jokers). It’s knock rummy game that has become popular in the Phillipines in recent years.

Just like any other challenging card games, what makes Tongits truly enjoyable to play is that winning and losing (after a series of deals) does not totally depend on pure luck. In fact, besides luck you also need to possess a set of skills, among others — mathematical, memory, bluffing, guts, timing, etc., to come out a winner.

This article is not about how to play this card game. Instead, this is about a computer program that somehow knows how to play it, and can actually play it quite well.

Although the game requires three (and only three) players, you can actually download and install this program in order to play Tongits on your own (against two other computer players).

The official website summarizes the features well enough:

  • Drag & Drop Interface. The game feels like the real thing with its intuitive drag & drop interface.
  • Realistic And Challenging AI. The computers play like live human tongits players.
  • Innovative Way of Organizing Cards. Just like in the real game, you are free to group and organize cards in any way you like. This significantly improves your planning and strategy.
  • Betting Simulation. Betting enhances the realistic feel of the game. It adds excitement and suspense and gives the player a sense of accomplishment and progress.
  • Game Saving. The game is automatically saved after each round to preserve the precious progress you have made.
  • Statistics. Relevant game statistics such as number of wins and money won, are saved for each player.
  • Clear Card Images. The cards were designed to be easy to read and identify. This helps you easily spot important cards that you might need to win the game.
  • A Solid Trainer. If you are a professional Tongits player, the game can supplement your training. And with the high level AI, you won’t need human opponents to practice with.
  • Continuous Development. The game is continuously being developed and improved to further enhance the player’s experience.

Being built on Adobe Air, this application ensures compatibility with multi-systems including Linux and iOS. Plus, it allows playing through the browser.

The AI could be challenging, as according to the website, but not challenging enough. It’s just so easy to win against the computer players. Here are the reasons why (the way the computer plays):

  • It’s very much predictable when it calls draw. It doesn’t bluff. I believe it calls draw anytime its cards point total less than 20 at any stage of the game;
  • It calls chow even when what at his hand is already a set. For example, you throw a queen at it, it calls chow with three other queens from its hand, ignoring opportunities to form more sets from the “undrawn” stock of cards;
  • It calls “draw” even if the other player has only one card left. This is I guess the effect of it calling draw anytime its hand’s point totals less than 20. Think about it, the fact that the other player has only one remaining card and the last card it/he/she threw or discarded was a three, then the remaining could only more likely be an ace or a two. Yet, it calls draw even if its point total is, say, nine;
  • It lays down its cards prematurely–not to avoid “burn” at all. As soon as it gets a set at his hand, it lays it down immediately, allowing other players to get rid of some of their cards early by laying them off (sapaw) to the cards the former laid down;
  • It challenges nevertheless. It never bluffs, that’s one case. It challenges however its hand look like or count, that’s another. You as the only human player can’t even call a bluff against the computer players, because they will always challenge your call.
  • It sometimes miss a lay off (sapaw). Yes, after playing a number of games, I noted some instances where it missed a sapaw;
  • Patience is a virtue. It does not wait for a straight (flash) currently laid down to continue, before throwing away or discarding its possible continuation card/s;

Well, despite of these lack in the AI, the computer game is always fun to play. After all, who doesn’t like winning, right? If you are a seasoned tong-its player, you’ll never lose against these computer players.

Oh, I have to warn you. This program is a available for 10 free trials. That is, it allows you to click on the “Play Tong-its” button 10 times and play the game before it forces you to upgrade in order to play further. The upgrade price is a meager US$ 5.00 anyway — I guess worthy enough for a total winning satisfaction. 😀

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