Thailand is a beautiful country worth exploring. It offers plenty of sceneries and adventurous things to do for both its locals and foreign nationals. The only limiting thing to do in Thailand. It is illegal for anyone in the country to gamble except for betting on horse races and the Thailand National Lottery. Through the Gambling Act of 1935, the Thailand government sees to it that its citizens will not fall victim to gambling addiction by regulating the allowed and disallowed gambling activities.
Another worth mentioning is the Playing Cards Act, which prohibits Thai citizens from possessing more than 120 playing cards. These owned cards should also be duly registered with the Excise Department. Passed in 1943, the act superseded any previous acts pertaining to playing card ownership. One of the stipulations or the Section 12 of the Playing Cards Act states that any authorized government official can legally gain entrance to any establishment or building to search for any unregistered playing cards anytime between sunrise and sunset.
The country has strict gambling laws but Thailand’s love for card playing and gambling in general goes way back. As early as the 10th century, Thai locals have already shown their enthusiasm for gambling. Documents from British East India mentioned that gambling is a major vice for the residents of Bangkok. To capitalize on gambling through tax revenues, King Rama III allowed the proliferation of gambling dens in the country. However, the uncontrolled gambling led to gambling addiction forcing some individuals to resort to crime or file for bankruptcy forcing King Rama V to prohibit gambling altogether.
Thailand people love gambling and to satisfy this demand while controlling and regulating its spread and accessibility to the public, the Thai Finance Ministry Excise Department authorised the Playing Cards Factory. This state enterprise produces more than 400,000 card decks monthly. Serving as a printer for the Thai government, the Playing Cards Factory also provides a brochure that shows all the card brands they produce.
Thailand Playing Cards Factory
Address: 1488 Nakhornchaisri Rd., Dusit, Bangkok 10300
Remaining under the Finance Ministry’s responsibility, the Playing Cards Factory traces its origins from over 70 years ago, when gambling was still an important activity for the country as a source of earnings. The manufacturing company has the capacity to produce more than 400,000 decks of cards each month. They are sold in the county under the brand names of Winner No. 02, Vegas Gold-111, Lucky 555, Vegas V.G. Silver 222, and V.G. 333. Majority of the cards produced by the enterprise include the traditional Chinese and Thai cards like the thin and rectangular pai and the four-coloured Chinese pai jee see.
Despite producing hundreds of thousands of cards, the card playing industry in Thailand is still dominated by the international players such as Belgium’s Carta Mundi and Japan’s Angel Playing Cards, which are sold at a much cheaper price due to the availability of better technology. Since the country has strict laws pertaining to card ownership and playing, most of the illegal gambling dens in Thailand use playing cards manufactured in China. Still, many locals prefer to use legally produced playing cards as many of them are quite superstitious when it comes to their gambling habits. Some of them will demand to change a deck of cards when they experience one or two bad hands. They often attribute their loss to the imperfections of the cards.
This fuels the demand for more traditional Thai and Chinese playing cards. Surprisingly, the sales of the playing cards are not affected at all by any economic crisis. In the past, card sales remain steady despite economic turmoil. Many of them are even sold during Chinese New Year and New Year holidays.
Popular Card Games in Thailand
Here are some of the popular Thailand card games that are playable with the international 52-card pack:
Black Frog Red Frog (Gob dum Gob dang)
With similarities with Chinese Ten, this fishing card game uses black 2-9 cards counted at face value, 10-K at 10 points each, Ace of Spades at 50 points each, with red cards and Ace of Clubs with zero worth.
This card betting game involves dealing each player with three cards. Those having a set of three equal cards are considered the best cards, followed by a sequence with the same suit with ace counting low, then by a “sean” or a KQJ of mixed suits, and then by colour or a set of three cards having the same suit. Hands not having any of these mentioned combinations are considered as a Point, with a value equivalent to the digit of the sum of the pip card value, with picture cards having zero value. So those who have J-8-7 have a hand equivalent to 5 because 0+8+7 is equal to 15. The highest point in the game is nine (Gao).
In this game, the first bet is called a bill and the money pool is called the Jackpot. Players can Fight or Stay, Fold, Follow or Call, or Raise. Tied cards are won by whoever has the highest single card.
This is a Thailand version of the crazy eights. It uses a 54-card pack that has two jokers. Each player is dealt with five cards. They need to deal cards that follow rank or suit of the card dealt by the previous player. Players can play two or more cards of the same rank on the same turn as long as the first one is legal. Players who cannot deal a card following a suit or rank have to draw cards from the stock. They can also choose to use the following special cards to strategize:
Ace: Reverses the direction of the play.
Joker: Can be dealt on anything. Dealing player need to mention the next suit to be played.
King: The succeeding player must play a joker, picture card, or an ace. If they don’t have any of these cards, they need to draw three cards from the stock.
Queen: The succeeding player must play a joker, picture card, or an ace. If they don’t have any of these cards, they need to draw two cards from the stock.
Jack: Playing this card results in skipping the next player in the rotation. If two jack cards are played, two players are skipped, and so on.
Penalties started by a king or queen are cumulative. Jack, Ace, and Joker count as two additional draws while still applying their usual effect (skip, reverse, or choose suit). Players with only one card left must announce “อีโง่” if not, they must draw five cards from the stock.
This game begins as the dealer deals each player with five cards. One of the cards from the stock will be put face up to start the play pile. The dealer is always the winner of the previous game. Players can choose to play a card or group of cards that have a total value of 1, 2, 3, or 4 more than the previous play. The ace has a value of 1, Jack has 11, Queen has 12, and King has 13. They can also choose to pass by playing the following cards:
- An ace
- A pair of equal cards from 1 to 10 and one picture card
- Three cards with the same suit.
- Three cards with the same face value.
- Two pairs of number cards, without picture cards.
When a player passes, the total remains the same, so the next player has to play a card that would be more than 1, 2, 3, 4, or also pass. After a play or a pass, players may get three new cards from the stock provided that they are not holding more than five cards on their hands. Players who cannot play or pass are out of the game and the last one to survive is the winner. Should the stock run out and there is more than one player left on the game, the one with the highest single card wins the game.
This Thai card game shows some similarities to the card game called president. Single cards follow a suit order (highest to lowest): spades, diamonds, hearts, and clubs. This means that the two of spades is the highest single card and the three of clubs has the lowest value. These single cards bow out to pairs of any rank, pairs by triplets, and triplets by quads.
With a close resemblance to 500 Rum, this rummy game has two of clubs and queen of spades, known as spetro¸ as the cards with the highest values. The game awards bonuses for going out without being melded while a penalty is given for melding zero cards and removing a card allowing a next player to go out.
It is also not unusual to find Thailand locals who play poker. Some of them have also mastered the skills of playing professional poker. Both Phanlert Sukonthachartnant and Pakinai Lisawad have earned big money from playing in major poker tournaments. These poker players have allowed online poker to grow popular in Thailand.