Phỏm (or Tá Lả) is a Rummy-style game played with a standard deck of cards. The objective of the game is to exchange cards in a hand to form combinations of cards called phoms and to reduce the number of points left in the cards that are not in any phoms. This variance of Rummy is played through out Vietnam, though it is much more popular in northern provinces of Vietnam.
A valid group of cards (called phom) in this game is either:
- 3 or more cards of the same suit
- 3 or more cards of the same rank
The game is for 2-4 people and it is best to play the game with 4 people. Each player initially has 9 cards except the first player who has 10 cards. The remaining deck of cards is left in the middle of the game table.
The game starts with the first player discarding one of his card. The next player can meld that card if the card together with 2 or more cards on his hand form a phom. If the card is melt, the player does not need to show other people the cards he uses for the melding. If the player cannot meld or does not want to meld, he can hit, taking a new card from the remaining deck. This new card is known only to the player and not to all his opponents. After melding or hitting, the player then discards one of his cards and the game continues with the next player.
The game ends when there is a player whose hands can be arranged into one or more phoms. This type of winning is called rummy (also known as ù). If there is no such player, the game ends after 4 rounds. Before discarding a card in the last round, a player must shown all the phoms he has.
Important restrictions: Any phom cannot contain 2 cards taking into the hand via melding. A player is free to arrange the phoms any way he wishes before showing to others. During the game, a player must make sure that the remaining hand is valid at all time, i.e. the card(s) he melt must still be in separate phom(s).
A phom game is conveniently organized in 4 rounds. In each round, each player takes on average exactly one card from the remaining deck. Note that a player may meld one or more cards during a round and thus avoid taking any card from the remaining deck. A player may actually take up to 3 cards in a round, while other players may take none.
To make it easy for players to know the current round and when it ends, the trash cards in a round are shifted counter clockwise whenever a card is melt.
Note that if a player plays more than one time during the last round, he has a chance to put down phom(s) each time he plays.
If a player wins with a rummy, the winner wins 6 bets from each other players. The winning amount is doubled (i.e. 12 bets) if the rummy happens before the player discards, and thus the hand still has 10 cards.
For a normal game with no rummy, each player computes his point as the number of dots remaining in his hand, counting J, Q, K as 11, 12, and 13 respectively. The lower the point, the better the hand. As an exception, a hand with no phom is called móm and is always worse than a hand with phom(s).
The player with the best remaining hand wins the game. The losers rank themselves according to their points and pay 1, 2, or 3 bets respectively to the winner. A loser with a móm hand must always pay 4 bets to the winner however.
Tie breaker note: In a normal game (i.e. no rummy), if two players have the same point, the person who discards the last card among the two loses.
There are 3 penalty rules.
- If player A discards a card that is melt by the next player B, A must pay 1 bet to B. If the round is the last round, A must pay to B 4 bets instead of 1 bet.
- If player A lets the next player B melds 3 cards, B wins with a rummy and A must pay the losing bets for all other players.
- If the game ends with a rummy in the last round, the last person who melt during that last round is penalized and must pay the losing bets for all other players.
Playing Phom at Vinagames is simple. The program automatically checks for you whether you can meld a card when it is your turn to meld/hit and whether you can discard a card when it is your turn to discard. The card that you melt are shown with an underline, and the cards that other melt are displayed on the game window.
The program can conviniently arrange the hand so that you can easily see the phom(s).
Phom is interesting in that a player can try to guest the cards his opponents have based on the cards they meld and discard. Mastering the game requires a lot of practice.
Note that the losing amount for a normal game is low compared to rummy or even the penalty for letting the next player melds your card. A player should focus on getting a rummy while trying to deny the player next to them from melding discarded cards.
Phom can be considered Vietnamese Rummy, yet there are many minor variations of the game Phom within Vietnam. One notable exception of the variation implemented at Vinagames is that there is no ability to put away cards (gởi) to someone else's phoms. This effectively reduces the chance of rummy and is desirable as the winning amount for rummy is very high. It also allows good phom players to prevent others from having rummy more effectively.