How to Play the Card Game 13

Four Methods:Printable Rule SheetUnderstanding the GamePreparing to PlayPlaying the Game

This exciting card game is suitable for anyone to learn to play. It's a perfect way to kill some time and have fun with family, friends or people you meet while traveling! The rules outlined here are the Vietnamese variant; there is a Chinese variant as well, so make sure you ask the other players what variant they want to play if they are experienced players. Note that this game is also called "Tiến lên" (Struggling Upstream) and it is a four player game.

Printable Rule Sheet

13 Rule Sheet

Method 1
Understanding the Game

  1. 1
    Clarify the rules beforehand. A lot of people play with slightly different rules in different geographical areas or cultures, and it's best to be clear about what you can and cannot do before the game begins to avoid confusion or frustration during the game. In this version, the rules are as follows:[1]
    • The strongest to weakest goes in this order: 2,A,K,Q,J,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3.
    • The strongest suit is hearts followed by diamonds, clubs, and spades, but this rule only works when playing the same card. For instance, a 2 of hearts beats a 2 of diamonds.
    • The 3 of spades is the lowest card in this game. The 2 of hearts is the highest. This also runs the works across all the suits. Twos are higher than threes.
    • The card is higher than the suit. For instance, the 9 of spades is higher than the 8 of hearts.
    • The object is to play a card that beats the previous card on the table until you get rid of all of your cards. So, a 5 of spades beats a 3 of spades. A king of clubs beats an 8 of hearts because even though the hearts suit is higher than the clubs, the king is higher than an 8.
    • This game is best played with four players as each player gets 13 cards, which evenly divides a standard deck. Note this is also how the game derives its name.
    • Some play with rules that would normally be considered cheating. So, depending on the rules, it is okay to look at other player’s card or play out of turn if you can get away with it. [2]
  2. 2
    Understand the cards you can play. You can play your hand a number of ways. Hands can be played in singles, doubles, triples and runs. A higher single card -- a solo card -- beats a lower single card. For instance, a queen of hearts beats a jack of hearts. A higher double -- two cards -- beats a lower double. A higher triple -- three cards -- beats a lower triple.
    • There also are runs -- a combination of at least three cards in sequential order. To beat a sequence the sequence must be higher than the previous sequence.[3]
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    Learn how to play the card combinations. The object of the game is to get rid of your hand as quickly as possible, and card combinations help you do that since you can put down more than one card at a time. A pair or double is a combination of two cards with the same number but different suits. For instance a 5 of spades and 5 of hearts are a pair. To defeat a double, the opposing player needs a pair of cards with a higher rank, for instance, a queen of hearts and queen of diamonds.[4]
    • A triple is three cards cards with same rank and different suits. So, a 5 of Spades, a 5 of hearts and 5 of clubs is an examples of a triple. To beat this triple, the opposing player has to put out three cards of the same rank higher rank, for instance, 6 of spades, 6 of hearts and 6 of diamonds.
    • A run or sequence requires at least three cards in numerical order. ( The suits can be mixed.) It can only be beaten by another sequence where the rank of the highest card is ranked higher than the last card in the previous run. The lowest card a run can begin with is a 3 of spades For instance, a 4 of spades, 5 of hearts, 6 of diamonds and 7 of spades is beaten by a 4 of hearts, 5 of diamonds, 6 of hearts and 7 of hearts because a 7 of hearts is higher than a 7 of spades.
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    Learn how to win instantly. In this game, certain hands win the game instantly. No trading is allowed.These cards must be in your hand after the initial deal: four 2s, six pairs ( 22,44,33,66,77,88), three triples, and a dragon’s head. A dragon’s head is special run from a 3 to an Ace of the same suit. The hearts dragon’s head is the highest because hearts is the highest suit and cannot be beaten by another.[5]
    • Holding four 2s in your hand after the deal is an instant win because it is four of the highest cards in the game. Twos are the highest cards in each suit.
    • In some cases, four 2s is the only instant win that people play when they this game. In other cases, people agree that if someone receives four 2s during the deal, then the dealer re-shuffles and re-deals the cards.
    • If you are holding six pairs, this means that 12 of your 13 cards form pairs.

Method 2
Preparing to Play

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    Determine which way the turns will be going -- clockwise or counterclockwise. Decide this ahead of time because it determines the way that you will be dealing the cards. Also, it will cut down on arguments over whose turn it is. So, when someone asks, “Whose turn is it?” you will know.
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    Get a standard 52-card deck and shuffle them. Count the cards to make sure there are actually 52 cards. Shuffle anyway that you like. Generally, the rule of thumb is to use the riffle shuffle, but if you don’t know how to do it other shuffle techniques such as the Hindu shuffle, weave shuffle or strip shuffle are fine as well. Ask the person next to you to cut the deck.
    • Note the person who shuffles first because the person to the right or left --depending on if you choose clockwise or counterclockwise -- will shuffle next.[6]
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    Deal out 13 cards to each player. Be sure to deal in the order that you have chosen. For instance, if turns are to be taken clockwise, then the cards should be dealt clockwise as well.The dealer gets his or her card last.
    • Players are allowed to look at their cards. They don’t have to wait until a certain time to flip the cards over as with some games.
    • If you are playing with three players instead of four, each player can still be dealt the standard 13 cards, or you can deal the entire deck. It’s up to your own discretion.
    • You might find it easier to organize your hand into pairs, triples and single cards.
    • If this isn’t the first game, then the winner of the previous game goes first.

Method 3
Playing the Game

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    Identify who has the 3 of spades. This person goes first and may play a single, double, triple other combo as long as the 3 of Spades is included. For example: 3-4-5, double 3s, etc., will work fine.The next person will try to beat the previous person's hand.
    • If this isn’t the first game, then the winner of the previous game goes first.
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    Place a higher card, pair or triple than the player before you. Play the same type of card. For example, if the player before you places a pair on the table, you have to play a pair that has a higher value than that pair. If the person plays a single, then you must play a higher ranked single.[7]
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    Skip if you cannot place a higher card on the table. The turn will go to the next person. Once you skip, you cannot play another card until the round finishes. If everyone skips, the last person who didn't play a card can play any card he or she wants.[8]
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    Bomb the pile. If you have three pairs, or something greater like four of a kind, now is the time to play them. (Remember you want to get rid of as many cards as possible.) A bomb refers to four of a kind. [9]To get rid of your cards, you could play a set of six that forms a triple straight (e.g. 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5) or four of a kind. Four of a kind beats all triple straights, which is beaten by a higher ranking four of a kind sequence. So, four aces would beat by four kings.
    • When you play cards with such a high value that no one can beat, nearly everyone has to skip. [10]
    • Runs and straights cannot contain 2s even though they are the highest cards.
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    Play whatever type of hand you want. If no one can beat the high cards that you are playing, then you can play the cards you want since no one can beat them even if they are not the highest cards -- or even a bomb. You could play a pair of the highest twos, for example.[11]
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    Declare that you’re on your last card. Once you have played all your cards except for your last one, you should declare your last card to the group. Remember that you can only play a single on top of another single. However, you also could end the game with a pair, triple or straight. No matter how many cards are in your hand, always try to get rid of them as quickly as possible. So, think in terms of pairs, triples the game may end on a double or straight card play. Try to be the first one out of cards, as this is how you win the game.


  • The cards suits are ranked in the following order from lowest to highest: spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts.
  • A bomb (four of a kind or 3+ straight, as mentioned above) can beat a 2 of any suit. For example, if a person plays a 2 of hearts, you may play a bomb, in which if playing with a point system, the person who played the two would lose points.
  • Play your lowest cards first if you don't have a strategy; it often helps in the long run. * Try to have a strategy.
  • The numerical value of cards goes from 3-2, with 3s being the lowest value card and 2s being the highest.
  • Practice playing often and you will become better.
  • In the Class Struggle variation, only four people can play. There are four ranks - King, Queen, Jack, and Pauper. The pauper must give his two highest cards to the king and the jack must give his highest card to the queen before game play. In turn, the king and queen choose 2 (king) or 1 (queen) card to give back to the jack and pauper respectively. The king also can choose if people can trade to obtain four of a kind.
  • You can play the following types of hands:

    • A single: One card that beats the previous one in value.
    • A pair: Two cards with the same card number ( 2 of spades and 2 of clubs)
    • A triple: Three cards with the same card number and mixed suits..
    • A straight: Three or more consecutive cards ( 9, 10, J, Q).
    • A bomb: These come in several forms. Four of a kind is a bomb. Pairs that form a 3+ straight (for example, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5) are a bomb. Four of a kind with high ranking suits can beat all other four of a kinds.


  • Don't be a poor sport if you win or lose. Bragging when you win isn't good, and neither is pouting when you lose.

Things You'll Need

  • Standard 52-card deck
  • 2 to 4 players

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