Tien Len, meaning "Go Forward", is a card game that is considered the national game of Vietnam. The game is a climbing card game with the goal of getting rid of all of your cards by beating your opponents combination of cards. A variation of Tien Lien is big 2 (or maybe it is the other way around?)


The game is played with four players, although there are variations with three players where all cards are dealt with the extra card being placed in the middle. The person who has the lowest ranking card gets to take the extra card.

The ranking of the cards is Two, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 with Two being the highest and 3 being the lowest.

The rank of the order of suits depends on who you play. Normally it is played as Spades, Clubs, Diamonds,Hearts with Hearts being the highest. But other people prefer to play based based on alphabetical ordering (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades). As long as the ranking is agreed upon before the game starts it does not matter. For the following examples we will be using the normal rank ordering.

Playing the game

The person with the lowest 3 (In this case, the 3 of Spades) starts out first. You can play the 3 on its own or as part of a combination. After the combination is put down, each player in turn must either beat the previously played combination with one that has a higher value than the current combination. Higher combinations are determined by the value of the last card in the combination. If the current player cannot beat the current combination, he can choose to pass.

Play continues until a player puts down a combination that no other player can beat. When this happens, all the current cards in the pile are set aside, and the person who had the winning combination starts over again with any legal combination of his choosing.

If you choose to pass, you cannot play any more cards until someone plays a combination that no one else can beat.

Example (with three players): the player to your right plays a single three, you hold an ace but decide to pass, the player to your left plays a nine and the player to right plays a king. You cannot now beat the king with your ace, because you have already passed. If the third player passes too, and your right hand opponent now leads a queen, you can now play your ace if you want to.

Legal plays/combinations

  • Single card - lowest card is 3 of spades, highest is 2 of hearts
  • Pair - two cards that have the same rank (i.e., 2 sevens)
  • Triple - three cards of the same rank
  • Four of a kind - four cards of the same rank
  • Sequence (Straight) - Three or more cards of consecutive rank (i.e. 4-5-6 or 10-J-Q-K). The cards cannot be wrapped around so A-2-3 is not a valid sequence.
  • Double Sequence - Three of more pairs of consecutive rank (i.e., 4-4-5-5-6-6 or 10-10-J-J-Q-Q-K-K)
Generally, only a higher combination of the same type and number of cards can be played to beat the current combination. If a single card is led, only single cards can be played; Pairs can only be beaten by higher pairs. And a three card sequence can only be beaten by other three card sequences. So a triple does not beat a pair thus a triple cannot be played on a round where a pair was led.

The exceptions to this rule are as follows...

  • A four of a kind can beat a single two. (A higher four of a kind can still beat this however)
  • A double sequence of three (7-7-8-8-9-9) can beat any single two as well. Again, a higher double sequence of three can beat this.
  • A double sequence of four (7-7-8-8-9-9-10-10) can beat a pair of twos.
  • A double sequence of five can beat 3 twos.
These exceptions only apply to beating twos and not any other cards.

The variation I play

Anything sound confusing? Let me know