Telefunken Card Game (Rules and Instructions)

Think you’ve already tried all the rummy-style games out there? How about Telefunken? This Telefunken card game rules guide will teach you how it’s played.

Never heard about Telefunken? I must admit I hadn’t either up until recently when it was introduced to me by a friend who spent a few months in Bolivia. 

The game is nowadays popular mainly in Latin America, but its German name suggests that it was imported from Europe – possibly with the migration wave caused by World War II. 

In any case, Telefunken is not as exotic as it may sound. It’s basically an alternative version of Contract, a.k.a Liverpool Rummy (find out more about it in our Liverpool Rummy rules).

In some regards, this game also reminds me of Canasta (see our Canasta rules), but Telefunken is a bit easier and thus more suitable for beginners.

This Telefunken card game rules guide will cover the following: 

  • What is Telefunken?
  • What you’ll need to play Telefunken
  • Telefunken card game rules
  • How to play the Telefunken card game (video tutorial)
  • FAQs
  • Other similar games to Telefunken (our guides)

Continue reading to learn how to play the Telefunken card game.

What is Telefunken?

Telefunken Card Game Info Image

Telefunken game is popular in various areas and countries, where you may encounter numerous variations and interpretations of its rules. 

All in all, the basic principles remain the same: four players compete in collecting and melding required sets and runs of cards.

Number of Players: 4 players

Ages: 10+

Difficulty: Moderate

Length of Play: 20 – 45 minutes

Category: Rummy-style card melding game

Similar to: Liverpool RummyShanghai RummyCanasta 

Main Objective: Collect sets and runs based on the contracts to eliminate all your cards. 

Why We Love It: Telefunken will not disappoint you if you like rummy-style games. It’s complex but not overly complicated and allows players to develop their strategies.

What You’ll Need to Play Telefunken

Telefunken game requires two standard 52-card decks of cards, including four Jokers.

Moreover, you also need tokens for this game. You can use classic casino-style chips.

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Telefunken Card Game Rules and Gameplay

If you’re familiar with rummy-style games, you already know about three-quarters of Telefunken’s rules. But for those new to these games, here’s a brief introduction.

  • Rummy games are played over a set number of rounds (7 in the case of Telefunken). 
  • For every round (or deal), there’s a prescribed card combination (or multiple) each player must meld to pass to the next round.
  • The combinations usually include sets (at least three cards of the same rank) and runs (three and more cards of the same suit in consecutive order)
  • The players can typically use wild cards (Jokers) to replace some of the missing cards in their melds.
  • In some cases, players may also be allowed to buy the cards they need.
  • Every one aims to get rid of all their cards because there’s a penalty for each card left in your hands at the end of the round.

This general structure perfectly illustrates the basis of Telefunken’s gameplay. Let’s move on to the details.

Starting the Game

First, choose a player who will act as a dealer in the first round. This role will pass on to the next player on the right with every new deal, so it does not matter who takes it on first.

The dealer shuffles cards, and the player to his left cuts them in half, looks at the bottom three cards in the upper half of the deck, and keeps any Jokers (if present) for his hand.

The two halves of the deck are left face-down, side by side, on the table. 


The dealer takes the bottom half of the cards and deals 11 cards to each player (one card at a time). 

If the player to the dealer’s left previously took any Jokers from the deck, he would receive fewer cards now so that everyone ends up with an equal number of cards. 

The dealer flips over one more card from the pile. This is the basis of your discard pile

Any remaining cards from the bottom half of the deck will now be reunited with the top portion to form a draw pile.

Besides the cards, players also get seven chips each. These can be later used to buy cards.


Now let’s move on to the list of contracts (i.e., required card melds) players must complete in each round:

  • Deal 1: one set of 3 cards of three different suits 
  • Deal 2: two sets of 3 cards
  • Deal 3: one set of 4 cards
  • Deal 4: two sets of 4 cards
  • Deal 5: one set of 5 cards
  • Deal 6: two sets of 5 cards 

You can use Jokers to replace any missing cards in your melds.

Some special rules apply only to the selected rounds of the game:

  • In Deal 1, your set must be clean (no Jokers are allowed)
  • Before Deal 6, all players discard as many cards as they want. Then, the dealer shuffles them together and deals them again so that each player returns to 11 cards.
  • In Deal 7, a player must go out on the same turn as he melds the required cards. 

Now let’s take a look at the gameplay itself.

How to Play Telefunken

The player sitting to the dealer’s right starts first, then the players continue in the counterclockwise direction. Each turn consists of three actions:

  • Draw a card from the face-down draw pile;
  • If possible, meld some of the required card combinations or get rid of your cards by adding them to the melds on the table;
  • Discard one card face up on the discard pile to finish your turn.

The first player on his first turn has the privilege to take the face-up card on the top of the discard pile instead of drawing a down-facing card from the stock for free. 

Later, if any player wants the card from the discard pile (when it fits into their meld), they can buy it in exchange for one chip. As a penalty, they also draw one card from the draw pile.

Note that a player can buy discarded cards only BEFORE melding. If more players want to buy the same card, the one closer to the dealer on the right is prioritized. 


Melding is performed by laying the required runs or sets of cards face-up on the table in front of you. Your first meld of the round must always correspond precisely to the requirements. 

When you have completed the contract, you can get rid of more cards by creating additional sets and runs (at least three cards in each) or extending the melds of your opponents.

On your next turn, you can also start extending your own melds.

Moreover, you can amend the existing sets (yours or not) by replacing a joker with two other fitting cards (e.g., add two fives to a set of two fives and take one Joker from it).

You cannot take a Joker from a run, but if it’s placed at either end of the run, you can replace it with the card it represents and move the Joker. 

When you’re finished with melding or extending existing melds, discard one of your cards face up on the discard pile.

Telefunken Scoring 

Each round continues until one of the players “goes out” (gets rid of all the cards). His last turn may be either melding or discarding the one last card. 

When the round ends, players count their scores based on the cards left in their hands.

2 – 9 = face value of the card

10, J, Q, K = 10 points

Ace = 11 points

Joker = 15 points

No cards (the player ended the deal by going out) = zero points

Obviously, the lower the score is, the better since points are awarded as a form of a penalty. The player with the lowest cumulative score at the end of the 7th deal wins the game.

How to Play Telefunken Card Game – Video Tutorial 

Coming Soon! 

Telefunken Card Game Frequently Asked Questions

What if there are not enough cards in the bottom half of the deck for the initial deal in Telefunken?

If the dealer runs out of cards from the bottom part of the deck after it was cut, he continues dealing from the top part of the deck left on the side.

If the player to the dealer’s left cuts the deck precisely into two halves (i.e., the dealer has exactly enough cards for the initial deal), he is rewarded with one extra chip.

What if the draw pile runs out before the round ends in Telefunken?

That can happen – especially in some of the later, more demanding rounds. In this case, turn the discard pile over, shuffle it well, and use it as a new draw file. 

Can you get more chips to buy cards in Telefunken?

No. You receive seven chips for the entire game. Once you use them, you cannot buy any more cards. It is, thus, wise to save some chips for the last rounds, which are more difficult.

Other Similar Games to Telefunken (Our Guides) 

How about checking our guides to the following Telefunken alternatives?

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