How to play Chinchon – a Spanish card game

Chinchon - header

Chinchon is a 2-12 player card game popular in the Spanish speaking world but especially in Spain and the South American countries of Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, where is it called ‘Conga‘ and Argentina with only slight modification of the rules.

The game shares many similarities with Gin Rummy (with arguments that the name Chinchon derived from the word Gin), namely of making sets (runs) or groups of matching cards. The most striking difference is the playing cards used as the game of Chinchon uses Spanish cards (baraja española).

Astana, Kazakhstan (134) - Spanish cards

What are Spanish cards?

The Spanish deck is made up of 48 or 40 cards divided into 4 suits. The larger deck omits the 10s found in the French deck (that we use in the English speaking world) and the smaller one lacks 10s, 9s and 8s.

The playing cards date back to the Moorish period and were probably introduced to Spain in the 14th century.

The four suits are bastos (clubs), oros (lit. “golds”, represented by golden coins), copas (cups) and espadas (swords). It is believed that the four suits represent the four social classes of the Middle Ages: respectively, the peasants, the merchants, the church and the military.

There are 3 face cards that rank identically to the French deck. With the lowest valued being the sota (lit. page: equivalent to a jack), then the caballo (lit. horse but meaning knight), and finally the rey (king). If a game requires a wild card it is customery to use the Ace of Oro (gold).

Baraja_española_completa - Chinchon

“Baraja española completa” by Basquetteur. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Things to remember when playing Chinchon

1. In the case of numbers 2-7 the cards have the same value as their number.

2. The Rey is worth 12 points, the Caballo 11 points and the Sota 10 points.

3. The Ace of Oro is a wildcard that can be used as any card to form a combination. However, it is worth +25 points if unused by the end of the round.

The Aim of the Game

There are two ways to win the game of Chinchon:

1. Form Chinchon – which is seven consecutive cards of the same suit (the Ace of Oro cannot be used to form the sequence).

2. All your opponents have 100 points and you don’t.

How to play Chinchon - a traditional Spanish card game


There are three ways to form combinations:

1. Runs of 3 or more consecutive cards of the same suit (e.g. 3,4,5 Oro or 4,5,6,7 Baston)

2. 3 or more cards with the same number (e.g. 4,4,4 or 7,7,7,7 etc..)

3. The aforementioned Chincon (e.g. 4,5,6,7,S,C,R).

Example of Chinchon

Example of the “Chinchon” combination. Photo by Basquetteur. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

How to play the game

Each player is dealt 7 cards with 1 card from the remaining deck placed face up on the table.

Everyone takes turns to take 1 card from either the deck or the face up card, then discarding a card that the player doesn’t want.

A player can finish the round with a combination of 4/5/6/7 cards provided that the rest of the cards in the players hand (i.e. those not used in runs or same numbered combinations) don’t add up to more than 5. If the finisher uses all the cards (7) they get -10 points.

When a player has finished, the remaining players must show their cards in order. Any combinations they have formed will not be counted as points against them.

Furthermore, they can try to combine the rest of their cards with combinations already laid on the table. In this way the cards will not be counted as points against them. *This is not possible if the original finisher used all 7 cards to finish.

All the cards unused are added together and added to a players score.

Is that all clear? If not, no matter, simply watch the video below and you will be an expert Chinchon player in no time at all…

written by: Jon

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