Thunee is a fun trick taking card game. Although usually considered a game of Indian origin, it actually was first developed in the city of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. It was thought to have been created in 1872 by a man of Indian descent by the name of Salesh Jagnath who worked in this area. Thunee plays very similarly to another trick taking game, Euchre. This game is also commonly spelled Thuni.
The standard game of Thunee is designed for four players playing in two partnerships. The game uses a deck which consists of 24 cards. The deck used for play can be created by removing the cards of all denominations from a standard 52 card deck except the following; 9, 10, Jack (Khana), Queen (Rani), King (Raja), Ace. The ranking of the cards in this game is rather unusual and usually takes some time for new players to the game to become accustomed to. This ranking is as follows (from high to low); Jack, 9, Ace, 10, King, Queen.
Determination of partnerships and their seating positions can be done in a variety of ways, such as cutting for high card.
The partners should be seated directly across from each other at the table. Once the partnerships have been determined, any player then begins dealing one card face up to each player in a counter-clockwise direction. He continues dealing until one player receives a black Jack (Jack of Clubs or Spades). The player receiving that Jack is then designated as the dealer. The player to his immediate right is the Trump caller for the first hand, called the Trumpman. After the dealer and Trumpman are determined, the cards are all gathered together and shuffled by the dealer. The dealer must offer the deck to the player to his immediate left to cut. This player may cut or decline the cut. After the cut, the dealer begins dealing the cards face down in a counter clockwise direction starting with the player to his right. He begins by dealing each player a four card packet.
Traditionally, in Thunee and many other games of Indian descent, each trick is called a hand. However, this can be confusing due to the other commonly used definitions of the word hand. Thus, in this description of the game, we will continue to use the word trick as a round in which each player plays one card to the table.
After this first four card packet is dealt to each player, the players then pick up these cards and examine them.
In the event that the Trumpman finds that his first four cards have a total card point value of 10 or less he may (but is not obligated to) call for a redeal. A valid re-deal request must be honored.
After the first four cards have been dealt to each player the bidding phase of the game begins. The dealer's team has the first opportunity to bid or call. All bids must be in increments of 10 and can be done by either member of the dealer's partnership. Each bid is the number of card points a partnership is willing to subtract from their own total earned and give to the opposing partnership, if the bidding team is given the privilege to set trump for the hand. The values for the individual cards captured in tricks is shown in the chart further below. Once a side makes a bid, he or his partner may not make any further bids unless the opposing partnership makes a higher bid. If both partners of the same partnership shout out a bid simultaneously, the bid is considered to be 10 points higher than the highest bid shouted by either player. In this case, if this ends up as the highest bid during the hand, the opposing partnership selects which of the two players who shouted a bid may declare the trump for the hand. After a side has made a bid, the opposing side then has the opportunity to make a higher bid. Normally the highest bid is 100, however, when one side makes a bid of 100, the opposing side may make a last numerical bid of 104. Any numerical bid may also be overcalled by a bid of Thunee, which may be declared by any player at any time before play of the hand actually begins. The following shows the possible bids during the bidding phase of the game:
- Numbered Bid: This is a numerical bid which must be higher than any bid made by the opposing team. The minimum bid is 10. The player making the highest numerical bid will declare the trump suit unless overcalled by a bid of Thunee. When the final high bid has been made, the player making that highest bid will then set one of his original four cards face down on the table in front of himself. The suit of this card is the trump suit for the hand but is known only to this player until revealed once play begins.
- Default Bid: If no players elect to bid, the original designated Trumpman for the hand is provided the opportunity to set the trump suit for the hand.
After the bidding has been completed, the trump suit is then determined. To set trump, the high bidder would set one of his first four cards face down in front of himself, which will set the trump card for the hand. This card will be turned over and revealed immediately after the opposing team plays their first card to the initial trick. After this player puts this face down card on the table, the dealer distributes each player his last two cards to complete the deal. Once the trump card is revealed, if a team does not have at least one card of the trump suit, they may immediately call for a re-deal. A valid call for a re-deal must be honored with no score on that hand.
One of the details that makes this game unique is that while the trump caller sets the trump for the hand, the opposing partnership team is the team trying to actually win the hand. They do this by attempting to capture 105 or more card points in tricks during the hand. In addition, to these points captured in tricks during the hand, the opposing team is automatically given the number of points of the trump callers high bid (if any) on the hand. The last trick of the hand also contributes 10 points to the team who wins it.
Play of the Hand: Normally, the player to the immediate right of the trump setter plays the first card to the first trick. As noted previously, after the first card has been played to the trick, the trump caller then flips over and reveals the trump card which sets the trump suit for the hand. After all players have the opportunity to see what the trump card is, the trump caller then takes the card back into his own hand. Each subsequent player after the first to a trick must then play a card of the suit led if they have one.
If they do not have such a card, they may play any card to the trick (including a card of the trump suit, called cutting or chopping). The highest trump card played to the trick wins the trick. If no trump card was played to the trick, the highest card of the suit originally led to the trick wins it. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick. Each card captured in tricks has a point value for determining if a partnership was able to capture the required number of card points during the hand, as shown on the following chart:
In addition to the various card points, the partnership capturing the last trick of the hand adds 10 card points.
If the opposing partnership was in fact able to earn 105 or more points during the hand, they are said to score one point (or ball). If, however, they were not able to earn a total of 105 points during the hand, the trump callers earn one point instead.
In addition to the regular bidding, however, in this game there are several special Calls that can be made at different stages of the game which will allow players to increase the number of game points earned during the hand or increase or decrease the number of card points required to win the hand.
The following are the various calls a player can make during the hand:
- Thunee: A Thunee call is a call by a player dictating that he intends to win every trick during the hand. Any bid of Thunee automatically ends any numerical bidding, with the side declaring Thunee considered the winner of the bidding and given the privilege of setting the trump suit for the hand. However, if the player calling Thunee is not the original Trumpman for the hand, the original Trumpman may overcall the Thunee bid with his own Thunee bid at his option, in which case he becomes the actual Thunee caller for the hand. The Thunee caller will thus lead the first card to the first trick during the hand and the suit of the card he leads to this first trick sets the trump suit for the hand. A player having all six cards of one suit is disallowed to make a Thunee call. If the Thunee caller successfully wins every trick during the hand, his partnership earns four game points. However, if the opposition manages to win one or more tricks, the opposing team earns four game points. If his partner wins one or more tricks, the opposing partnership wins 8 game points instead.
A Thunee bid may be made by any player during the initial bidding phase, but may also be declared by any player (providing no previous Thunee call has been made during the current hand) after the last two cards are dealt. However, the call must be made before play of the hand has actually begun.
In the case of a Thunee call, the first card led to the first trick will determine the trump suit for the hand, and this card is led by the player who made the Thunee call. During a Thunee call, any other special calls during the hand are invalidated with the hand played out to determine if the Thunee caller is able to win every trick as declared.
- Double: A double is a call that will increase the potential point value or penalties scored during the current hand and is a call indicating the player expects his partnership to win the last trick. However, this call can only be made in specific situations. A Double can only be made on the last trick of the hand by a member of the partnership who set trump for this hand, and only if the calling players partnership has won the first 5 tricks of the hand. The call must be made by a player upon playing his card to the last trick of the hand. If the player who calls Double does in fact win the last trick, they score two game points beyond the regular score for the hand. However, if the team is unable to win that last trick, the opposing partnership wins two points instead. These points are in addition to any other game points added or subtracted for the partnership on the hand.
- Backside Double: A backside double is similar to a Double but is instead called by the opposing partnership to the partnership who set the trump suit for the hand. The call must be made when the opposing partnership has won the first five tricks of the hand and expects to win the last trick as well. It is made upon playing the first card to the last trick. If the caller was correct, the side calling the backside double scores two points. However, if the team does not manage to win the last trick, the bidding partnership adds two to their score. This is separate from any normal scoring or penalty scored on the hand.
- Jodhi: A Jodhi is another call that can be made during play of the hand, during specific situations. It can only be declared by a player after his team has won either their first or third hand. The call must also be made prior to the third card being played to the next trick. A call of Jodhi is always accompanied by a point total declaration which is based on the calling player having certain cards in his hand. The call may only be called with the required combination of cards (which must still remain in the player's hand) which indicate the specific number of points that the required total to win the hand will be increased or decreased by.
The call, when made by the team who designated trump for the hand, increases the required card points to be captured by the opposing team for the hand at a value of 105 increased by the amount specified with the Jodhi call. If the opponents of the trump makers declare the Jodhi, it sets the required card points to be captured for the hand to be set at 105 decreased by the amount declared with the Jodhi call.
The following are the combinations which a player must hold in order to make a Jodhi call and the number of points the current required contract is modified by:
- Jack, Queen and King of Trump suit can increase or decrease the required total for winning the hand by 50 card points.
- Jack, Queen and King of same suit (non-trump) increases or decreases the necessary card point total for winning the hand by 30 points.
- Having the Queen and King of the trump suit allows the increase or decrease of 40 card points.
- Having the Queen and King of the same suit (non-trump) can increase the necessary winning total by 20 card points.
- Khanuck: A Khanuck call can only be made after a previous Jodhi call was made by the same team and is made by a member of the
partnership who set trump for the hand and can only be called during the last trick of the hand. The Khanuck is a declaration that the player estimates that the current required point value for his team (including the Jodhi value declared by his team) required for this hand is higher than the actual card point total captured by the opposing team. For purposes of this total, however, the opposing team may not take into account any points from their own Jodhi calls, the points given by the high bid and the 10 point bonus for the last trick. If the Khanuck call is accurate, the team making the call earns 3 game points. However, if the call is inaccurate, and the opponent partnership manages to earn as many points as called (including any Jhodis called) minus 10, the opposing partnership adds four game points to it's current score instead.
- Backside Khanuck: A backside Khanuck is similar to a standard Khanuck but is only called by the non-trump setting team, and only after that team has previously made a Jodhi call. This is a call indicating their belief that the trump setting team will be unable to exceed or beat (after any Jodhi calls) the required point value necessary to win the hand, minus 10 points. If the call is correct, the players making the call earn 4 game points. However, if the call ends up not being correct, the opposing team scores 4 game points instead.
Wining the Hand: After the last trick has been played, the partnership that set trump then counts all the card points won in tricks to determine if they were able to earn the required number of card points.
In the case of a call of Thunee, the Thunee caller must capture every trick in order to win the hand (as described in the calls section above).
For numerical bids, if the total amount of card points earned during the hand is greater or equal than the amount required, the partnership earns one game point. However, if the total card points earned during the hand is less than the required amount, the opposing partnership earns one point instead. The required amount is a total of 105 card points, with the amount of the opponents high bid added to it. This amount may also have been increased or decreased during the hand by various Jodhi calls.
The teams also earn any other penalties and bonuses from special calls during the hand. The scoring in this game is usually called balling with each game point score called one Ball. Scores in Thunee are usually recorded using some of the unused cards (called the ball cards) from a standard deck, most often the sixes. The first team to score 12 points (balls) over the course of multiple hands wins the game. The same dealer continues to deal each hand until the game point score of the dealer's partnership has equaled or exceeded the game point score of the opponents' partnership.
If either team is caught performing a serious irregularity (i.e. not playing a card of the suit led when having one, playing out of turn,
etc.) the current hand is immediately ended and the opponents earn four game points. For minor offenses, such as calling a trump suit for which a player has no cards, the hand is usually continued but the opposing partnership from the partnership who committed the irregularity scores 1 game point.
Variations and Optional Rules
Additional Calls: There are several additional bidding options that may be made during a game that often added as variants to the base game. The following shows calls often added to the game:
- Blind Thunee: Like a standard call of Thunee, a Blind Thunee call is a bid indicating an intention to win every trick during the hand by the player making the call. Similarly, this player leads the first card to the first trick and the suit he leads sets the trump suit for the hand. However, this call also sets additional stipulations on the player making this call. The final two cards dealt to this player must be dealt face-down in front of the player. All other players may add their own newly dealt cards to their hand except for the player making the Blind Thunee call. After he plays the first four tricks, he may then pick up those two cards and continue play for the last two tricks of the hand using these two cards. If the player does manage to win every trick during the hand, his partnership wins 8 points. However, if any other player (including the caller's partner) wins any trick, the partnership loses 8 points instead.
- Royals: Another optional call allowed in some Thunee games is "Royals". This call is a contract by the player to win every trick during the hand, with a reversed card ranking. Thus, the ranking of the cards would be as follows: Queen, King, 10, Ace, 9, Jack.
Once a Royals call is made, the bidding is immediately stopped, with the partnership consisting of the player making the call set as the trump makers. When play starts, the player who made the call of Royals plays the first card to the
first trick, and the card he plays to that first trick sets the trump suit for the hand.
If the player who called "Royals" manages to win every trick during the hand, his partnership scores 4 points. If the opponents or the players partner win at least one trick during the hand, the opposing team scores 4 instead.
- Blind Royals: A Blind Royals call is similar to a standard Royals call. It is a bid to win every trick during the hand using the reversed card ranking and point values. The difference between a standard Royals call and a Blind Royals call is that the Blind Royals call must be made before the last two cards of the hand have been dealt. A Blind Royals call can be made even if a previous Royals or Thunee call has already been made, overcalling that call.
2 To Clear: This optional rule requires that the winners must win the game by two or more points. Thus, if the winner is able to reach the winning total but the opponents are only one game point behind, the game continues until either of the partnerships is able to win the game by a two point or more margin.
No Doubles on 11: This variant disallows any call of Double to be made when either team has a score of 11 points. If a team does attempt to make a Double call, this results in a serious penalty, with the opposing partnership scoring 4 game points.
Six Player Thunee: Thunee is also sometimes played by six participants. When this variant is played, the players are grouped into two partnerships of three players each. The players should be seated at the table in such a manner that when playing to each trick, play rotates around the table alternating between members of each team. The deck used and the card ranking amongst this deck is the same as used in the standard game. Due to the larger number of players, there are several differences made to the game to
accommodate the additional players:
All other rules for the six handed game (including scoring) are the same as in the more common four hand variant described above.
- Each player receives four total cards in the deal.
- The bidding doesn't begin until each player has his full hand of four cards.
- As in the standard game, a player may make a call of Thunee, which overrides any other numbered bid. In order to be considered successful, the player who made the Thunee call must win all four tricks.
- Calls of Doubles and Khanuck are made on the fourth and final trick of the hand, with the same requirements for the call as in the standard game.
- A Jodhi call may be made by a player after winning the first or second hand.
- Players normally do not have the option to call for redeals in this version in the instance of having a hand containing no cards of the trump suit.
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