Part of the reason why I decided to collect playing cards has to do with my time in high school. When I was in high school I played a lot cards. By a lot I mean pretty much everyday for the entire four years for about an hour during my lunch break. So, naturally, I thought that a good souvenir from each country would be a deck of standard poker cards. What I did not realize when I made this decision is how different and unique each deck of cards would be from country to country. Like each country, each deck of cards is unique in terms of feel and aesthetics. Each deck is different in terms of artwork on the card, the backing of the card, and the jokers in the deck.

Vietnam was no different. Although I wasn’t able to find a deck with any sort of cool themes, each deck was pretty cool nonetheless. The cards I bought were from convenience stores that were around Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Although to the ordinary eye they might seem like ordinary convenience store playing cards, they have certain features to someone such as myself who collects them... Okay you got me, they’re ordinary convenience store playing cards that cost five bucks. But hey, they look pretty, and the boxes have Chinese writing on them, which is kind of cool. They also looked like they were a part of a set or something. I mean come on you have to admit they look kind of cool, or at least the backing looks kind of cool:

Now playing cards are pretty cool to look at but it’s even better to play a few games with them. Today I’ll be teaching you a game that is called Tien Len in Vietnam; it’s known as Killer in America. This game is popular in Vietnam and I was actually able to play a game of Tien Len with a couple of guys in a pool hall while I was waiting for a table to open. The game is played in a similar fashion to other card shedding games such as Big 2 and President. The following are the basic rules for the game (there are other variations of the game that are played that I will not be discussing); the game is best played with 4 players although it can be adjusted for fewer.

Be the first person to get rid of all cards in your hand.

Card Strength (strongest to weakest):
2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3

Suit Strength:
Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades. Suit strength is only applicable to single cards being played. In the case of other sets, suit strength is not counted. For example, if someone plays the five of hearts, the next player cannot play another five. The only option for the next player is to play a single card higher than a five or a bomb (see below for definition of a bomb).

There are several ways in which cards can be played throughout the course of the game. These are done through singles, doubles, triples, four of a kind, or straights with a minimum of three cards played, and three consecutive pairs (i.e. JJ, QQ, KK). The three consecutive pair and four of a kind sets act as bombs.

The game begins by dealing out the deck to each of the four players. Play starts with the player to the left of the dealer. The player begins the game by playing cards in one of the sets I have mentioned previously. The next player must then play a set of cards from the same set, but of equal or stronger value. For example, if the first player opens up the game by playing the three of spades, then the next player must play a single card that is higher than the three of spades. Now let’s assume this player plays the four of hearts. The third player must now play a card higher than the four of hearts. The exceptions to this rule are bombs. Bombs trump any set and can be played when the player doesn’t have any other options. However, once one player plays a bomb other players have the option to play a stronger bomb. Players also have the option of passing during their turns. But once a player passes they cannot play a card until two of the three other players pass as well. Once three of the four players pass the player who played last is allowed to play a new set. Play continues in this manner until only one player has cards remaining in their hand. Some variations have a scoring system where the first player who sheds all of the cards in their hand receives three points, the second receives two points, the third receives one point, and the person who still has cards gets no points. In these variations usually multiple rounds are played and a cumulative score is taken. In other variations without score-keeping usually the first person who can get rid of their cards is declared the winner.