Last updated
Origin South Africa
Alternative namesTani
Type Trick-taking
PlayersPreferably 2×2 (1×1 - 2 rounds dealt or 3×3 - each player is dealt 4 cards)
Skills Tactics
Deck French
Rank (highlow)J 9 A 10 K Q
Playing time10 min.

Thunee, after the Tamil word for water, is a popular trick-taking card game of the Jack-Nine family that originated in Durban, South Africa. It is believed that the game was developed by the first indentured Indian labourers. There are variations of the game found in India and Mauritius.[ citation needed ] The game is mostly confined to the former Indian townships, where it is very popular as a family game and in fund-raising tournaments, but to some extent it has spread to other South Africans and to Indians in other countries. The game Euchre is very closely related. The first thunee world championship was held in Pietermaritzburg in 2003. [1]


The game is part of the Jack Nine card games family, which includes twenty-eight, and the much older card games of the Jass family which are German in origin. This game is generally enjoyed at any occasion.

Thunee is enjoyed by both young and older generation amongst the Indian community. Thunee is also enjoyed during porridge prayers and goat prayers among the indian communities.


Point-values of cards

Thunee is best for four players in fixed partnerships, sitting crosswise, but can also be played by 2 or 6 (2 teams of 3 players). It is played with 24 cards only. The Sixes, referred to as the "ball cards", are used to keep the scores. The highly original ranking of cards and the card-point values are as shown in the table. The first and foremost rule of the game is to always follow suit, if a player does not have that suit he may play any other card in his deck.


A hand can only be “cut” if a player does not have a card of the same suit of the first card played in that hand. His partner may cut higher to assume the lead if he too does not have that suit. Should the player who “cut” the hand be caught by the opposing team having the suit of the first card, then the opposing team is allowed to open 4 points (“4 ball”). If a player cuts a hand and his partner does not want to assume the lead he is allowed to “undercut” (to cut lower than that initial “chop”) provided that he only has trump in his possession, should he undercut while in the possession of a suit other than that of trump, then the opposing team is allowed to open 4 points (“4 ball”). Any player is allowed to undercut any hand provided he has only trump in his hand, should he not have only trump in hand then the above rule applies.


A nominated person from one team called out first, will shuffle the cards, he will then deal the cards face up, one card to each player at a time starting from his right - a process known as "black Jack deals". The first person receiving a black Jack, i.e. either the Jack of clubs or the Jack of spades, will start dealing and the opposite side will trump.

The Dealer must always offer the opposition to his left the opportunity to cut the deck. One cannot center cut or count the number of cards prior to cutting. The opposition may decline to cut with no recourse. Each player receives six cards in total but first each player is dealt 4 cards and then the dealer deals the remaining 2 cards each.

"Iron-wall" Thunee
Playing card diamond J.svg Playing card diamond 9.svg Playing card diamond A.svg Playing card club J.svg Playing card club 9.svg Playing card club A.svg

"Royal" Thunee
Playing card spade Q.svg Playing card spade K.svg Playing card spade 10.svg Playing card heart Q.svg Playing card heart K.svg Playing card heart 10.svg

Examples of Thunee calls


Bidding, or "calling", as it is commonly known, is done when an opposition player wishes to set trump although it is not technically his turn to trump. Players usually choose to call for trump due to them being dealt favorable cards. A player may not call against his partners call for trump. Should both players from the team call out a bid at the same time, the bid is escalated to the next multiple of 10 and the dealer will allocate who from the opposing team will call trump which must be placed on the table by the player in concern. The maximum bid is a 100 and the player with the highest bid will keep trump. The opposing team may call 104. Should the team counting win the game, then they will be allowed to open 2 points on their scorecard (a process known as "call and loss"). The bidding process can be halted if a player calls "thunee". The trumpman has the first right to call thunee. During any form of the game, the team counting must always have trump, if they do not, the game becomes trumpless, a trumpless game requires a re-shuffle or re-deal, it is the duty of the counting team to realise that they are trumpless, failure to do so may result in the loss of a point or ball. Sometimes, the team not trumping are dealt unfavorable cards and call to set trump, in the hope that their opposition will call higher - this is (thunee terms) called 'fishing'. There is blind bidding in which a player calls before getting their cards, no one can raise them after seeing their cards. If a player wins, they get double their points and if they lose, the opponent gets 4 points.


Jodhi calls are effective with the possession/combination of the following cards: K and Q (non-trump suit)-20 Jodhi, K and Q (trump suit)-40 Jodhi, J, K and Q (non-trump suit)-30 Jodhi, J, K and Q (trump suit)-50 Jodhi.

Example: 50 Jodhi Khanuck - The counting team fails to reach a count of 60. (10 is added for the taking of the last hand)


Balling, or scoring, in a thunee game is won by the player or team who has won 12 rounds, or ball points. 13 rounds or ball points must be reached to win if a khanuck was called during the game. A common variant requires 13 rounds to win a game regardless if khanuck was called or not. A thunee or khanuck game may be played during any stage of the game, however a double game may not be played when a teams ball score is on cornerhouse (last remaining point to win). If a team calls a cornerhouse double, the opposition is awarded a penalty, gaining 4 balls. Certain variants of the game require a team to win by a minimum of 2 points, a process known as "2 to clear", however other variants maintain that this play is only applicable when a kanuck is called during the game.

Jodhi is the player who either calls Jack, King and Queen of one suit. This call adds 30 points, or 50 points if it is of the trump suit. If a King and Queen of one suit, this call adds 20 points, or 40 points if it is of the trump suit.


If a team during the game is caught committing an offence, e.g. using sign language, not following suit, changing trump card etc., then the team is automatically disqualified, losing the round, incurring a 4-point penalty called "Four-ball". Currently rarely do players play royal thunee as per normal thunee some players often get confused when the opposition player or partner calls royals. The irony behind this is that no matter how high rank cards you have, you can call Thunee, and no matter how low rank cards you have you can call Royals.

See also

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  1. Devchand, Tharuna (2010-10-11). "Work hard, play hard". The Witness.