how to play 13

How to play 13

by | Jun 13, 2020 | Card Games

13 is a glorious card game that was invented in Vietnam and Southern China. It is also known as Tien len, Vietnamese cards, and American Killer. It is considered a “climbing” card game and is meant for 4 players.  The object of 13 is to be the first player to discard all of your cards.

What you need to be able to play 13:

  • A standard 52-card deck of cards
  • 3 friends  (you can play 13 with most any number of players, but 4 is standard)

How to play 13

Knowing the rank of cards:

From lowest to highest, the ranking is:  3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A, 2.  The 2 is the most powerful card in the game.  Suits also have rank in this game.  From lowest to highest, the ranking is spades ♠, clubs , diamonds , and then hearts is the highest suit.  So the 3 of spades is the lowest single card in the game, while the 2 of hearts is the highest ranked.



Dealing: Deal evenly so each player has 13 total cards.  If you are playing with more or less than 4 players, just make sure each player has the same amount of cards.

The 5 types of plays:

Single:  one card (ex: 7♠)

Pair:  two cards with the same value  (ex: 8, 8♠)

Triple:  three cards with the same value (ex: J♠, J, J)

Run (straight):  three or more cards that are in a sequence  (ex: 10, J, Q♠, K)

Bomb:  A bomb can be played on any of your turns.  It will end that round and allow you to begin the next round (unless someone plays a higher-valued bomb on top of yours).  A four of a kind is the highest-valued bomb (ex: 5,5♠,5,5).  Another type of bomb is pair sequence of the same color (ex: Q, Q♠, K, K♠, A, A♠).  The more cards involved in the pair sequence, the higher in value it is (ex: 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, is worth more than a 10♠, 10, J♠, J, Q♠, Q).


  • The player who was dealt the 3 of spades begins the game.  He/she can start the game using any type of play as long as it involves the 3 of spades.  (so they can start with a single, run, pair, etc…)
  • From there, the turns go in a clockwise fashion.
  • If it is your turn, you can decide if you want to play or pass.
  • If you pass, you can’t play again until all other players have passed and that round is over (you must pass if you can’t lay down a hand with a higher value).
  • In order to play, you must be able to lay down a hand that has a higher value than the hand just laid down by the previous player, but it has to be the same type of hand (unless you are dropping a bomb).  In other words, if the round begins with a pair, you can only play pairs until that round is over (with exception to bombs).
  • The round is over once all the players pass.
  • The player that ended the round gets to begin the new round by playing anything he/she wants.
  • The player who gets rid of all their cards first, wins.  The others can continue to play for 2nd, 3rd, and so on.

Instant-Win: A player wins instantly if he/she is dealt all four 2s (like in the title photo) or a dragon (3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K,A,2)

Good Luck!

Those the enjoy this game often also play speed.