Thunee Jass group

Thunee Jass group


This page is based on information from Kerry Allemann, Suvendi Chinnappen, Ugen Govender, David Haworth, Vikeer Jaichand, Patrick J. Kobly and Abaeze Ikeewuku.


Thunee, sometimes spelled Thuni, is a card game played by the Indian community in South Africa, especially in Durban, and also by Indian South African emigrants in North America and Australia.

Thunee is a trick-taking game with a 24-card pack, normally played by four players in fixed partnerships. The unusual card ranking J-9-A-10-K-Q together with the card values clearly identify it as a member of the Jass group of card games and the use of these ranks and values in all four suits, not only in trumps, places it in the Indian subgroup of that family. In fact it is quite closely related to the game 304 now played in Sri Lanka.

Jass games originated in the Netherlands and have arrived in South Africa by two entirely separate routes. While Afrikaners play Klawerjas, which was brought directly from the Netherlands and has remained close to its Dutch roots, Indian South Africans play Thunee, which was probably brought to South Africa by indentured labourers from India in the 19th century, having been introduced to India by Dutch colonists there. There is very little social interchange between the two communities in South Africa and most players of each game are probably unaware of the other.

A version of Thuni is played in Nigeria with 32 cards. Although Nigerian Thuni is very different from the South African game, there is clearly a relationship, since as well as the name the two games share the same unusual ranking of the top cards. In Nigeria the cards rank J-9-A-10-K-Q-8-7 but there are no card values: only the number of tricks won by each player is counted.

South African Thunee

Players, Cards and Summary

It is generally agreed that Thunee is best for four players, and this version will be described first. There is also a six-player version of the game and a less interesting variant for two players.

The four players are in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite so that each player sits between two opponents. The deal and play are counterclockwise.

The game is played with 24 cards from a standard international 52-card pack. In addition, the four Sixes from the pack are used to keep track of the score. The other 24 cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8) and the jokers are not used.

The ranks of the cards in each suit and their point values are as follows:

Jack30 points
Nine20 points
Ace11 points
Ten10 points
King3 points
Queen2 points

Teams score for cards in the tricks that they win; card points can also be gained or lost by calls before and during the game, and the team that loses the last trick must give 10 points to the team that wins it. The total number of card points in the pack is 304.

After the first four cards have been dealt to each player, players can 'call' in increments of 10: 10, 20, 30 and so on. The highest caller chooses the trump suit, but must give the called number of card points to the other team as compensation. If no one calls to make trumps, the trump suit is chosen by the dealer's right hand opponent and there is no compensation. After this, two more cards are dealt to each player and the cards are played.

The opponents of the team that chooses the trump suit is known as the counting team. After all adjustments for calls before and during the game and the last trick, the counting team's objective in normal play is to take at least 105 card points. If they have 104 or fewer the trump makers win.

The Sixes are known as ball cards: they are used to keep score. One team uses the Sixes of clubs and hearts and the other team the Sixes of spades and diamonds. The number of suit symbols (balls) exposed shows the team's score, 12 being the number required to win the game. At the start each team places one of their ball cards face up on the table and the other face down on top of it, representing a score of zero. At the end of the play, the winning team moves their top ball card aside to reveal ('open') the appropriate number of balls - see scoring. When the team's score reaches six the top card is turned face up and placed to cover the other card, and then moved aside again as more points are scored.

Dealing, Calling and Making Trumps

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient method. For example, cards may be dealt face-up from the shuffled deck, one card to each player in turn until someone receives a black jack: this player becomes the first dealer. The same player will continue to deal so long as the dealing team is behind in points (balls). If after scoring a hand the score of the dealer's team is greater than or equal to the other team's score, the turn to deal passes to the right.

The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left may either cut the cards or refuse to cut and have the cards dealt as they are. The dealer deals a single batch of four cards to each player, starting with the player to dealer's right and continuing counterclockwise.

The player to dealer's right chooses the suit that will be trumps unless some other player 'calls'. Trumps are normally chosen by placing one card of the desired suit from hand face down on the table. However, if the player to dealer's right does not wish to make a choice on the basis of four cards, for example because he or she has one card of each suit, there is the option to call 'last card' instead. In this case, when the dealer deals the remaining cards the last card dealt to this player will determine the trump suit.

If the first four cards dealt to the player to dealer's right are sufficiently bad, this player has the right to throw in the cards and demand a re-deal instead of choosing a trump suit. A re-deal can be demanded only if the four cards are all of different suits with a total value of not more than 10 points - so they must all be Kings or Queens with not more than two Kings. In this case the same dealer gathers the cards, shuffles, offers them to be cut and begins the deal again.

After the player to dealer's right has placed a card face down or called 'last card', if a member of the dealer's team wishes to make trumps that player can 'call'. The first call is '10'. If an opponent of the most recent caller wishes to make trumps, that player can call higher. Each subsequent call is 10 more than the last, up to 100. After 100 the next and final call is 104. The player who makes the last and highest call will choose the trump suit, and the calling team will give the number of points called to the opponents. For example if a player calls 40 and no one calls 50, the player who called 40 makes trumps and the counting team already has 40 card points towards the 105 they need to win: only 65 more are needed.

Players do not take turns to call: either opponent of the previous caller may make the next call, and calling continues until no one has any more to say. It may sometimes happen that the two opponents of the previous caller both call at the same time. In that case the call is increased by 20 and the other team decides which of them must make trumps. For example if the dealer's partner calls 10 and then both members of the non-dealing team try to call 20, the call will count as 30 and if there are no more calls the dealer's team will decide which of their opponents has to choose trumps.

If any numbers have been called, the player to dealer's right takes back the trump card from the table, and instead the final caller places a card face down whose suit will be trumps. The caller cannot ask for the 'last card' to be the trump card but must use one of the four cards from hand.

The dealer now deals a final batch of two cards to each player so that everyone has six cards.

Calling Thunee

After the last cards have been dealt any player may call 'Thunee' which is an undertaking to choose the trump suit and win all six tricks. This supersedes all previous calls. A player who holds a complete suit of six cards is not allowed to call Thunee: the hand must include at least one non-trump card.

If there is no Thunee call the player to the right of the trump maker will lead to the first trick. To prevent this player from playing his first card prematurely, any other player who is considering calling Thunee should call out "wait for me", "hold the game" or similar as soon as he has his six cards. The player who is due to lead must then wait until all players who have asked for the game to be held have decided whether or not to call Thunee. If two players on opposite teams wish to play Thunee the trump maker's team has priority. If two players on the same team wish to play Thunee, one of them must voluntary withdraw and allow the other to call it. No discussion between the partners is allowed in this case - normally the less experienced player or the player who believes he has the weaker hand will withdraw spontaneously. If none of the other players asks the leader to wait, the player to the right of the trump maker can simultaneously lead a card and call Thunee.

If a player does not ask the leader to wait but calls Thunee at the same time as or after the first card has been played, then the opponents should call 'marials on X' where X is the suit of the card that was led. In this case the Thunee will not be allowed if suit X is a potential 'catch' for the Thunee - in other words if the Thunee caller has a card in suit X that could potentially lose a trick if they are allowed to play Thunee. For example if a spade was led, a late call of Thunee would not be allowed by a player with J-9-10 of spades because another player might have three spades including the Ace. If the player who wants to call Thunee is safe in suit X (he has only top cards or no cards at all in that suit), he can decide to go ahead with his Thunee. In that case the original leader takes back his card and the Thunee player leads instead. If the Thunee player decides to withdraw his call, the original lead stands and play continues normally.

To avoid the situation where the leader and an opponent both call Thunee as the first card is led, and the opponent accepts the marials on the suit led and insists on playing his Thunee as a member of the trump maker's team, the leader may ask the opponents whether they wish to call Thunee before leading a card. If they answer no then the leader can play the first card calling Thunee, and the other players can no longer call Thunee against him.

The Play

If no one called 'Thunee', the player to the right of the player who made trumps leads to the first trick. That will be the dealer's partner if there were no calls, or the player to the right of the final caller. Any card may be led. The trump suit is not known by the leader at this point. Immediately after the first lead the card that indicates the trump suit is exposed, so that all players know what suit is trumps.

When playing to a trick, all players must follow suit if able to. A player who has no card of the suit that was led may play any card. If any trumps are played the highest trump wins the trick; a trick with no trumps is won by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads to the next trick.

If a non-trump is led, a player with no card of that suit plays a trump, and after that a second player with no card of the suit led players a lower trump, this is known as 'undercutting'. Undercutting is only allowed if the player of the second trump has nothing but trumps in hand. So if a non-trump card is led and trumped ('cut'), any subsequent player who has no cards of the suit led but holds a non-trump must either play a higher trump or discard a non-trump card.

If it turns out that neither opponent of the trump making team has any trumps at all, the deal is cancelled. There is no score, the cards are gathered up and the same dealer shuffles and deals again. This always applies, even if Thunee was called.

If Thunee was called, the player who called Thunee leads to the first trick and the card led determines the trump suit. The usual rules of play apply. The Thunee caller must win every trick to succeed: if any other player, even the Thunee player's partner, wins a trick, the Thunee is lost. The caller's partner will therefore try to cooperate by getting rid of any high cards that might win an unwanted trick.

Calls during the play

Jodie / Jorie / Chorie

If a player holds the King and Queen of a suit, or the King, Queen and Jack, this is known as a Jodie, or alternatively as Jodhi or Jorie or Chorie, and can be called at certain times during the play for extra card points. The value depends on whether the suit is trumps and whether the Jack is included:

The only times when player may call a Jodie are immediately after the first or third trick won by that player's team. When a team wins its first or third trick, either or both members of that team may call a Jodie, or two Jodies if two are held. The player calls the value, e.g. "40 Jodie". The caller of a 20 Jodie may also name the suit. In the case of a 30 Jodie, however, the caller must not reveal the suit of the Jodie.

At the end of the play, the value of any Jodies called is paid in card points to the team that called the Jodie by their opponents. Therefore the counting team will add the value of any Jodies called by their team and subtract any announced by the trump making team.


A call of 'double' is a claim that the caller's team will win all six tricks and the caller will win the last trick. It is called just before the caller plays a card to the last trick.

Most often, 'double' is called by a member of the trump makers' team, usually by the winner of the fifth trick before leading a winning card to the sixth trick. However, it is also possible for a member of the counting team to call 'double' if they are able to win all the tricks. In the rare case where a member of the counting team calls 'double' against a team that has called 10 or more to make trumps, this is known as a 'backward double'.

Khanaak / Kunuck

This call, which can only be made by a team that has called a Jodie, is sometimes also spelled Khanuck. It is a claim that the opponents' final card point count, including the adjustments for Jodie and the last trick, will be less than zero. In this calculation there is no allowance is made for the amount called to make trumps. In addition, for a Khanaak call to succeed, the opponents must have won at least one trick and the Khanaak caller must win the last trick. Khanaak is called just before the caller plays to the last trick.

If the Khanaak calling team loses the last trick, or if a player inadvertently calls Khanaak when their team wins all six tricks, then the Khanaak is lost irrespective of the number of points taken by the other team.

So a call of 'Khanaak' by a member of the trump makers' team succeeds if and only if the calling team has lost at least one trick, the caller wins the last trick, and the value of the calling team's Jodies plus the 10 for the last trick is greater than the value of the actual cards won by the other team plus any Jodie calls by the opponents.

Example. Suppose the trump making team has called 50 Jodie, while the counting team has called 20 Jodie. In this case a Khanaak call succeeds if the trump makers win the last trick and the counting team takes less than 40 points in cards. (If the counting team took exactly 40 card points the counting team would have 20 for Jodie plus 40 for cards minus 50 for the trump makers' Jodie minus 10 for the last trick, which amounts to zero). It makes no difference if the trump makers have called to make trumps: in this example even if the trump makers have called 60 to make trumps, a 'khanaak' call still succeeds if the cards in the counting teams's tricks are worth less than 40 points.

Occasionally it may be possible for the counting team to call 'khanaak' against a team that has called to make trumps: this is known as a 'backward khanaak'.


When the play has finished, if there has been no call of Thunee, Double or Khanaak, the opponents of the trump maker add up the values of all the cards in their tricks. This team, known as the counting team, needs 105 card points to win the game.

But before the counting begins, the losers of the last trick must give 10 extra card points to the team that won it. Formerly this was sometimes done by the losers of the last trick physically giving a card (or cards) worth 10 points to the winners, but it is simpler just to allow for these 10 points in the counting. So if the counting team lost the last trick they begin counting from '10 out' (meaning 'minus 10') and in fact require 115 points in cards to reach 105, whereas if they won the last trick they begin counting from '10 up' and only 95 more points are needed from cards.

In addition, before the counting begins, if a player called in order to make trumps, the amount of the call has to be paid to the counting team before the cards are counted, and all Jodies that have been called have to be paid for. So for example if the call was 30 but the trump makers called 40 Jodie and won the last trick, the counting team will gain 30 from the call but lose 10 for the last trick and 40 for the Jodies. They will begin counting from '20 out' and will need 125 points in cards to win.

In a normal game the winning team records their score by opening balls (revealing additional pips on their ball cards) as follows:

Trump makers winCounting team wins
No call to make trumps1 ball1 ball
10 of more called to make trumps1 ball2 balls

When a call of Thunee, Double or Khanaak succeeds, the calling team opens balls as shown in the table below. If it fails the caller's opponents open some balls.

  • When Thunee is called, a 'partner catch' occurs when a card led by the caller is beaten by the caller's partner. The play ends immediately if any of the caller's cards is beaten: if the card that beats it is played by an opponent it is an ordinary catch, if it is played by the caller's partner it is a partner catch.
  • A Double or Khanaak call automatically fails if the card played to the last trick by the caller is beaten by another player. If the player who beats the caller's card is the caller's partner this is a partner catch, but in this case the score is the same as for an ordinary failure of the call.
Call succeedsCall failsPartner catch
Thunee4 balls4 balls8 balls
Double2 balls4 balls4 balls
Backward Double4 balls4 balls4 balls
Khanaak3 balls4 balls4 balls
Backward Khanaak6 balls4 balls4 balls

A team that manages to open 12 or more balls wins the game.

If neither team has as many as 12 balls open another deal is played. If the team that has just dealt has fewer balls, the same dealer will deal again. If the balls are equal or the team that just dealt is ahead, the duty of dealing passes to the next player to the right.

A team that has exactly 11 balls open is said to be sitting on 'corner house'. A team on corner house is not allowed to call Double, and in fact there would be no point in doing so because only 1 ball is needed to win. If a player whose team is on corner house does inadvertently call Double, the opponents open 4 balls and there is no other score for the deal.

However, a player whose team is on corner house is allowed to call Thunee or Khanaak.


The standard penalty when the rules are broken is that the offender's opponents open four balls and there is no other score for the deal. If the 4 balls are not enough for the offender's opponents to win the game, the cards are shuffled and there is a new deal. The 4-ball penalty applies for example in the following cases.

  • A player fails to follow suit even though holding a card of the suit that was led. This is known as 'colour cutting'.
  • A player plays a card out of turn.
  • Partners communicate illegally by talking or sign language.
  • Jodie called by a player who does not hold the required cards.

Of course it is up to the playing group how strictly these penalties are enforced. In a friendly game occasional accidental errors could be forgiven.

One member of each team is in charge of that team's ball cards, and must open the correct number of balls to show the new score before the cards are cut for the next deal. If this player forgets to open the balls that the team is entitled to before the cards are cut for the next deal, those points are forfeited. Under strict rules, the other member of the team is not allowed to remind partner to open ball cards, and the penalty for doing so is 4 balls to the opponents.

If a Jodie call is made at the wrong time, that is not after the the first or third trick won by the team, the opponents may call 'marials' and that Jodie call cannot be made in that deal.


As with most traditional games, the rules of Thunee vary from place to place, and there is no universally accepted standard. Here are some of the variants I have been told about.

  • Rotation of Deal
  • Some play that if the dealer's team loses the same player deals again, but if the dealer's team wins the turn to deal passes to the right. This is irrespective of the scores of the teams.
  • Methods of Cutting
  • It is generally agreed that the player cutting the deck is not allowed to count the cards in order to cut in a particular place. However, several different methods of cutting may be allowed.'Normal cut'. The cutter removes a block of cards from the bottom of the deck to the top. In friendly games the cutter may be permitted to look at the bottom card of the deck before cutting. However, no one is allowed to look at the bottom card after the cut.'Table Cut'. (This is what more like what most Western card players would recognise as a 'normal cut'.) The dealer places the pack of cards face down on the table and says 'table cut'. The cutter removes a block of cards from the top of the pack and places it alongside. The dealer completes the cut by placing the remainder of the original pack on top of the block moved by the cutter.'Ball Cut Three'. The dealer places the pack on the table saying 'Ball Cut Three'. The cutter divides it into three blocks and the dealer reassembles them in reverse order.
  • Calling to make trumps
  • In some places, when both members of a team call at the same time, the an extra 10 is not added. for example if both members of the dealer's team call '10', the call counts as 10 not 20. The opponents still designate which of them must choose trumps.
  • Thunee Partner Catch
  • Some play that if a Thunee fails because the caller's partner wins a trick, the opponents open only six balls rather than 8. Some play that the opponents open four balls, so that a partner catch costs the same as the opponents winning a trick.
  • Khanaak
  • The seem to be several different interpretations of this call. Some players include the adjustment for the call to make trumps, so the Khanaak call only succeeds if the opponents have less in card points than the caller's Jodie plus 10 for the last trick minus their own Jodie minus the amount of the call. Some count neither the call to make trumps nor the Jodie of the Khanaak caller's opponent, so the card point condition for the Khanaak to succeed is simply that the total value of the cards won by caller's opponents is less than the Khanaak caller's Jodie plus 10. Normally Khanaak can only be called by a team that has called a Jodie, but a few players allow a Khanaak call without a Jodie, which can only succeed in the rare case that the other team has taken less than 10 points in cards - that would have to be a trick consisting of four Queens or three Queens and one King.
  • 13-point Game
  • Some play that if anyone calls Khanaak during a game, the number of balls required to win that game is increased from 12 to 13. A winning score of 13 balls is represented by closing the two ball cards up again to show zero. Some require 13 points to win irrespective of whether Khanaak has been called or not. In a 13-point game, corner house is 12 points rather than 11.
  • Two to Clear
  • Some play that if a game reaches a score of 11-11 in a 12-point game or 12-12 in a 13-point game, a team must achieve a lead of at least two balls over the opponents to win the game. The situation is similar to a 'deuce' in lawn tennis: both teams close their ball cards as at the start of the game and begin scoring again from zero. The game will end as soon as a team has a lead of two or more balls. Note however that it is possible to bypass the 'deuce' score to win by just one point. For example if the score is 11-8 and the team with 8 points scores 4 for a Thunee, that team will win. In this variant, calls of Double or Khanaak are allowed if needed to achieve a two ball lead. Some play 'Two to Clear' only when it is a 13-point (Khanaak) game.
  • Blind Call
  • Some allow a member of dealer's team to call 10 before seeing any of their cards. Opponents may call higher as usual, provided that the callers have not looked at their cards. Blind calling normally begin before the cards are dealt and if there is a blind call the calling of numbers should in any case be completed before any players pick up their cards. The final caller then looks at their first four cards and places one of them face down as usual to set the trump suit. A blind caller is not allowed to ask for the 'last card' to be trump. Thunee can be called as usual after the remaining cards are dealt. If there is no Thunee, the calling team score double what they would have scored for a non-blind call: 2 balls for a normal win, 4 balls for calling Double or 6 for calling Khanaak. A failed Double or Khanaak costs 4 balls as usual. If the counting team win they score as usual: 2 balls for a normal win, 4 balls for a backward Double or 6 for a backward Khanaak.
  • Blind Thunee
  • Some allow a player to call a 'Blind Thunee' having seen only four cards. The remaining cards are then dealt but the caller is not allowed to look at his last two cards until he has played his first four cards and won four tricks. The caller then picks up his last two cards and these must win as well. and the caller has to win all six tricks to win. Blind Thunee is worth six balls if successful: the opponents open six balls if it fails. Normally in case of a partner catch, the opponents open either balls instead of six. Since the chance of success is quite small, making this bid is a sign of extreme bravery, foolishness or desperation. Some players value Blind Thunee at eight balls won or lost, rather than six.
  • Royals
  • Some allow a player to call 'Royals' after the last two cards have been dealt. This is similar to Thunee, but with the ranking of the cards reversed, so that in each suit the Queen is highest, followed by King, Ten, Ace, Nine, Jack (lowest). As in Thunee, the caller leads to the first trick, the suit of the first card led is trumps, and the caller must win all six tricks to succeed. The scores are the same as for Thunee. Some also allow a call of 'Blind Royals', similar to 'Blind Thunee' but with the card ranks reversed.

Six-player Thunee

Six players play in two teams of three, each player sitting between two opponents. The scoring is the same as in the four-player game.

The initial deal is three cards to each player. After calling and making trumps, one more card each is dealt so that everyone has four cards.

Blind Thunee, if allowed, may be called on the basis of a player's first three cards. After playing these three cards the player turns over the fourth card and hopes that it will also be a winner.

There are two special calls in the six-player game.

  • Trips
  • A player who is dealt three equal cards in the first round of dealing can call 'trips'. There are no trumps and in the first three tricks the three equal cards count as the highest cards of their suits, above the Jack. The caller leads the equal cards to the first three tricks and the other players must follow suit if they can. Players who cannot follow suit may discard any card. For the last trick the cards return to their normal ranking (Jack high). The caller leads his fourth and last card, which has remained face down on the table up to that point. If this card wins the trick the Trips caller succeeds and opens three balls. If any other player wins the last trick the opponents open three balls. (Some play that in the case of a partner catch, where one the Trips caller's partners wins the last trick, the opponents open six balls.)
  • Moenie
  • After the fourth card is dealt a player with four cards of the same suit headed by the Jack may call 'Moenie'. The caller leads to the first trick and must win all four tricks. If the caller wins all the tricks the caller's team opens four balls. If the caller's opponents win a trick the opponents open four balls. in case of a 'partner catch' where one of the caller's partners wins a trick the opponents open eight balls. (A partner catch will only occur in the unlucky case where the caller's suit is J-10-K-Q and one partner holds both the Nine and the Ace of this suit.)

Two-player Thunee

There is general agreement that Thunee is best for four or six players, but if only two players are available, a two-player game is possible though less interesting. There are two different ways to play.

  • Two deal game
  • The dealer deals 4 cards to each player and the non-dealer chooses trumps by placing one card face down. The dealer can call 10 to make trumps, and then the players can call alternately, the call increasing each time by 10 as in the 4-player game. Then the dealer deals another 2 cards each and either player can call Thunee based on their six cards. If Thunee is called the caller chooses trumps and leads, and must win all 6 tricks to succeed: the 12 undealt cards are ignored in this case. If there is no Thunee, the opponent of the trump maker leads and 6 tricks are played. After this the dealer deals the remainder of the cards - another 4+2 cards each, and the last 6 tricks are played keeping the same trump suit as before. The winner of the twelfth trick (the last trick of the second deal) receives an extra 10 points from the other player as usual. Jodies can be called in the first deal and in the second deal when a player wins his or her first or third trick in that 6-card deal. The counting player needs at least 125 card points to win. As usual the points for the last trick, any call to make trumps and any Jodies must be allowed for, so for example if the opponent called 10 to make trumps, called a 20-Jodie and won the last trick, the other played will in fact require 145 points in cards to win (125-10+20+10). Double and Khanaak are rare, but can be called by a player playing the winning card to the 12th trick if the conditions are met. The ball scores are the same as in the 4-player game.
  • Open face game
  • The dealer deals a row of six face down cards in front of each player, and then deals each player a 4-card hand. The non-dealer places a card face down to designate trumps and players can call to make trumps in increments of 10 as usual. Then the dealer deals another 2 cards each and either player can call Thunee based on their six cards. If Thunee is called the caller chooses trumps and leads, and must win all 6 tricks to succeed: the 12 face down cards are ignored in this case. If there is no Thunee, the opponent of the trump maker leads, and after the first trick each of the players places their remaining 5 hand cards face up on top of 5 their face down cards, making 5 stacks of two cards, and turns their 6th face-down card face up. The remaining tricks are played from the players' face up cards. When a card is played that has a face down card under it, the face-down card is turned face up at the end of the trick and becomes available for play in the next trick. If a Jodie combination appears within the face up cards belonging to a player, the player can call it the next time that he or she wins a trick, provided that the cards making up the Jodie are still in place. However a 20-Jodie or a 40-Jodie cannot later be increased to a 30 or 50 if the Jack of the same suit subsequently appears. The counting player needs at least 125 card points to win. As usual the points for the last trick, any call to make trumps and any Jodies must be allowed for as well as the actual cards won. Double or Khanaak can be called when playing the winning card to the last trick if the conditions are met. The ball scores are the same as in the 4-player game.

Other Thunee web pages and software

The Wikipedia page on Thunee describes a selection of variants.

Ugen Govender has developed a Thunee app for Android.

An online Thunee game is available at

A summary of the rules of Thunee was published at (archive copy) where a computer version of the game was also available.


The English terms used by players of Thunee to describe various parts of the game differ from the standard terms normally used in English language card game literature. For the benefit of readers familiar with other card games and new to Thunee, this page mostly uses standard terminology rather than Thunee specific terminology. To aid understanding of descriptions of Thunee written by players of the game, some of the differences are listed below.

Thunee is a trick-taking game, but Thunee players mostly use the word 'hand' instead of 'trick' to describe the process of each player in turn playing a card, and the best card played winning that set of cards. They will say that the highest trump wins the 'hand', that the winners of the last 'hand' are paid 10 points, and so on. This can be confusing, because the same word 'hand' can have two other meanings: the set of cards held by one player, and the period of play from the beginning of one deal to the beginning of the next deal. Therefore on this page we have used the word 'trick' rather than 'hand' for a set of cards, one played by each player.

After the first part of the deal there is a process that in most card games would be called 'bidding', whereby different players can bid to be allowed to choose the trump suit in exchange for giving away a certain number of points. Also, during the play players are allowed to make certain declarations of cards held and announcements of feats such as winning all the tricks or holding the opponents' score below a certain total. All these bids, announcements and declarations by players are known in this game as 'calls'.

In English card game literature 'to trump' normally means to play a trump on a trick to which a non-trump was led, which in many games such as this one is only allowed if the player has no card of the suit led. But Thunee players generally use the word 'cut' rather than 'trump' for playing a trump on a non-trump trick. For Thunee players, 'to trump' means to choose the trump suit before the start of the play, normally by placing a card face down. On this page, we have called this 'making trumps'.

Nigerian Thuni

Abaeze Ikeewuku has provided information about this version of Thuni, which is played in Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan and Jos.

Players and Cards

There are four players in fixed partnerships, partners facing each other. 32 cards from a standard international pack are used, the cards of each suit ranking from high to low J-9-A-10-K-Q-8-7.

Deal, bidding and play are clockwise.

The Deal and Bidding

The first dealer is chosen by a random process, such as drawing cards from the shuffled pack.

For subsequent hands the dealer is the player who won most tricks in the hand just played. In case of a tie between opponents the player belonging to the team with the higher cumulative score deals. If this does not break the tie, the contenders draw cards to decide which of them should deal next.

The dealer shuffles the cards and deals them one at a time until everyone has five cards.

The players look at their cards, and if either team decides that their cards are too bad, they can concede the hand. The cards are thrown in and their opponents score 3 points. As soon as the bidding has begun, it is too late to concede.

The player to dealer's left begins the bidding and the players speak in clockwise order around the table. Each player in turn either bids a number or passes. The numbers represent the number of tricks which a team undertakes to win in the play.

The minimum bid is 1, and each player in turn must either bid a higher number than the previous bid or pass. The bidding continues for as many circuits as necessary until three players have passed. A player who has passed cannot bid again, but a player who has been outbid can bid higher at his or her next turn.

The last and highest bidder chooses the trumps on the basis of his or her five-card hand, and must announce the trump suit before the remaining cards are dealt. (In the unlikely event that the first three players all pass, the dealer bids 1 and chooses the trump suit.)

The dealer then deals the remaining cards one at a time: each player receives three cards in this second part of the deal so that everyone has a hand of eight cards.

The Play

The highest bidder leads to the first trick and is not allowed to lead a trump. Players must follow suit if they are able to. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. A trick that contains trumps is won by the highest trump in it; if no one plays a trump the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led.

The trick is gathered up and stacked face down in front of the winner, who then leads to the next trick. From the second trick onwards, players are free to lead any card: they may lead a trump if they wish.


Each team has a contract, which is the highest number bid by either member of the team. If both members of a team only passed, their contract is zero.

Each player counts the number of tricks won. However, a player who only passed without bidding cannot score more than one trick. Players who have bid a number can count all the tricks they win.

Each team totals the tricks won by its players. If this is greater than or equal to their contract, they score the number of tricks they won. If the number of tricks won by a team is less than their contract, then the tricks won by players on that team who have bid numbers do not count at all. However, a team whose contract has failed can still score one point if a member of that team won a trick having only passed.

Example 1. South deals. West bids 1, North 2, East 3, South pass, West pass, North 4, East pass. North calls trumps and in the play each of the players wins 2 tricks.. East+West won 4 tricks and their contract was 3, so they score 4 points. Since South only passed, only his first trick counts. North+South therefore only have 3 scoring tricks, so their contract of 4 fails. So North's tricks do not count, but since South passed, North+South still score 1 point for South's trick.

Example 2. South deals. West bids 1, North pass, East 3, South pass, West pass. East calls trumps and in the play West wins 3 tricks, North 2, East 2 and South 1. East+West make their contract of 3, and since both of them bid they score all their tricks for 5 points. North+South both passed, but they can score 1 trick each for a total of 2 points.

If one team wins all eight tricks they score 10 points, irrespective of the bidding, while the other team scores nothing. This is known as 'capture'.

A cumulative score is kept for each team. If one team has a score of 16 points or more, that team wins the game. If both teams have 16 or more points, the team with the higher score wins. If their scores are equal, another deal is played.