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Tiến lên (Go forward) may be considered Vietnam's national card game, this ruleset covers the game as commonly played in south Vietnam. It doesn’t cover variants played in the USA (sometimes under the names "Viet Cong", "Thirteen" or "Killer").


Deal 4 players 13 cards each from a standard 52-card deck (it is also possible for two or three to play, 13 cards are still dealt to each player, and there will be some cards left undealt). Deal and play is anticlockwise.

Cards rank (from high to low): 2 A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3.

Within the numerical ranking, suits rank (from high to low):  Hearts ♥ –  Diamonds ♦  –  Clubs ♣ – Spades ♠.

So for example (from higher to lower): 2♠ A♥ A♦ A♣ A♠ K♥. Thus 2♥ is the highest card and 3♠ the lowest.

Play of the Round

In the first round (also after an instant-win, refer to last §), the player with the 3♠ begins play. If no one has the 3♠ (in the three or two player game) whoever holds the lowest card begins. The player must begin by playing this lowest card, either on its own or as part of a combination. The played card(s) are always placed in a pile face up in the centre of the table.

In subsequent rounds, the winner of the previous round plays first, and can start with ANY combination.

Each player in turn must now either :

- beat the previously played card or combination, by playing a card or combination to the pile that matches the type (single, pair, etc.) and the number of cards (for sequence) of the one previously played, but beats it in rank (refer to rank tie-breaker §).

- or pass and not play any cards. If you pass, you are locked out of the play until someone makes a play that no one beats. Only when the cards are set aside and a new card or combination is led are you entitled to play again.

Playing and passing continues around until there is a card or combination that no one can beat. When the winning card or combination has been determined, its player gathers the pile, sets it to the side, and leads any card or combination to a new pile.


There are 2 types of combinations : standard and bomb


Single card
Any single card
Two cards of the same rank - such as 7-7 or Q-Q
Three cards of the same rank - such as 5-5-5
Three or more cards of consecutive rank (the suits can be mixed) - such as 4-5-6 or 10-J-Q-K-A
2 is not allowed in sequence


Bombs are exceptions to the strict rule of matching type and beating rank. They may be played only against 2s or other bombs.
3-pairs sequence
Three pairs of consecutive rank - such as 3-3-4-4-5-5
2s are not allowed in pairs sequence
Can beat a single 2, or a lower 3-pairs sequence
Four of a kind
Four cards of the same rank - such as 9-9-9-9
Can beat a single 2, a pair of 2, a 3-pairs sequence or a lower four of a kind
4-pairs sequence
Four pairs of consecutive rank - such as 3-3-4-4-5-5-6-6.
2s are not allowed in pairs sequence
Can beat a single 2, a pair of 2, a 3-pairs sequence, a four of a kind or a lower 4-pairs sequence
Exception: this bomb can be played even by a player who has previously passed.


To decide which of the two combinations of the same type is higher, highest cards in combinations are compared. For example 7♥-7♠ beats 7♦-7♣ because the heart beats the diamond. In the same way 8♠-9♦-10♥ beats 8♦-9♥-10♠ because it is the highest cards (10s) that are compared.

Ending of the Round

« Classic » rules

As players play their last cards, they drop out of the round. If the leader to a new pile has no cards remaining  the lead passes to the next active player to the right. The round ends when only one player is left with any cards.

When a player goes out first in a round, all players who haven't played a card yet are immediately knocked out and considered last. They won’t be able to play again until the next round.

« Winner takes all » rules

As the first player plays his last cards, he drops out of the round and is considered the winner. The round is then stopped immediately.


The total points exchanged in a round is always zero-sum

« Classic » rules

Points are exchanged between players depending on the round shedding-out order

4 players : 1st  (+2pts), 2nd (+1pt), 3rd (-1pt), 4th (-2pts)

3 players : 1st  (+3pts), 2nd (-1pt), 3rd (-2pts)

2 players : 1st  (+2pts), 2nd (-2pts)

Player(s) with 13 cards still in hand must pay double points (4pts instead of 2pts) to the round winner. In a 4 players game with 2 players knocked out with 13 cards, points would be then 1st  (+8pts), 2nd (0pt), LAST (-4pts), LAST (-4pts)

« Winner takes all » rules

Winner collects 2 pts from each player.

Player(s) with 13 cards still in hand must pay double points (4pts instead of 2pts) to the round winner.

Special sets payments

Special set

2s and bombs are special set worthing points which can be scored in hoarding or bombing situation :

2♠ or 2♣ (1pt) / 2♦ or 2♥ (2pts) / Three-pairs bomb  (2pts) / Quadruple  (3pts) / Four-pairs bomb (4pts)

Hoarding penalty

When a round is finished, any player left still holding any above special sets must pay their value to the player who knocked them out of the play (usually to the 3rd player in a 4 player game).

Player(s) knocked out with a full hand will pay this hoarding penalty to the round winner. Their cards should not be revealed and payed for before the hand completion

In case of overlapping hoarded bombs, only the highest one is considered ( 4444 55 66 , the 3-pairs bomb is not taken into account).

Bomb bonus

In the central pile, 2s or bombs beaten by a bomb are scored as bonus by the last player to the pile. That player receives an immediate global payment from the previous player, equal to the cumulated value of captured special sets :

2♣-2♥ (P1) → 4444 (P2) (P2 captures 2♣, 2♥ and receives 3pts from P1)

2♦ (P1) → 2♥ (P2) → 66 77 88 (P3)  (P3 captures 2♦, 2♥ and receives 4pts from P2, P1 pays nothing)

2♣ (P1) → JJ QQ KK (P2) → 3333 (P3) (P3 captures 2♣ and JJ QQ KK and receives 3pts from P2, P1 pays nothing)

33 44 55 (P1) → 77 88 99 (P2) (P2 captures 33 44 55 and receives 2pts from P1)

No payment is received if the previous player completely shed out during his play :

2♣ (P1) → 2♥ (P2 is OUT) → 4444 (P3)   (P3 captures 2♣, 2♥ but receives nothing from P2 who just went out, P1 pays nothing)  


Player(s) getting dealt special combinations wins the round immediately and collect 2pts from each player :

Six pairs (quadruple are considered as 2 pairs)

5 consecutives pairs (no 2s)

3 consecutives triples (no 2s)

Four 2s

Dragon sequence (3 to Ace)

Bomb containing 3♠ (only applicable during first round)

In an instant-win situation, no further payments are made (hoarding and full-hand penalties don’t apply)

New cards are then dealt and another round is played (first round rules apply and 3♠ starts).


Tien Len vietnamese wikipage

Chat Heo / Pig Hunters

Vinagames Tien Len page

Gamevh page

A vietnamese Tien Len player on BGA

Researched / edited by Shobu - 6th September 2023 (includes parts from Pagat / english wiki Tien Len page)