Bing Rummy

Bing Rummy

Bing Rummy is a variant of kaluki (a rummy-based gambling card game) invented in the mining towns of Alaska. The game can be played with 2 to 8 players but works best with 3 to 6 players. It is unknown how the game came to be called “bing” although it is a mining term meaning 1) a unit of weight equal to 800 pounds and 2) a pile of rich lead ore. It is probably the second definition that gives the game its name referring to the pile of coins that accumulate throughout the game; especially as it is the Galena lead mines that popularized the term “bing ore”. These mines opened in 1919 about the time the game was developed.

Play

The deck consists of two standard 52-card decks (no jokers) with deuces wild. The game starts with each person buying in for the agreed amount (traditionally 25 cents). Once the cards are shuffled, the player on the dealer’s right “cuts for a deuce” viz. starts to cut the deck and if the bottom card of the top section is a deuce, the player can keep the card. This is not a true cut as the two sections do not exchange positions.

Each player is dealt 14 cards (if the player on the dealer’s right cut a deuce then he is only dealt 13 additional cards skipping the first one making 14 total). The remaining cards are placed in a draw pile and the top card is turned over to start the discard pile. Play then begins with the player on the dealer’s left.

On his turn, a player has three choices:

  1. Draw a card from the pile and then discard
  2. Take the top card from the discard pile and then discard a different card
  3. Meld

Melding

A player may not meld on the same turn in which they drew a card or picked up the card from the discard pile.

A meld consists of three or more cards in the same rank (e.g. 8s 8h 8s) or a run of three or more cards in the same suit (e.g. 5d 6d 7d). Deuces are wild. The first time an individual player melds, they must play at least three sets (e.g. Kd Kh Kc; 8c 9c 10c; 3h 3s 3h 3s). During their first meld or anytime thereafter, a player may play cards on any other meld on the table. In the above example, a player (provided that they melded their three sets to start) could also meld a king, a 7 of clubs or jack of clubs, or a 3. Since a player’s meld does not score any points, those cards would be placed on the other player’s meld.

Scoring

When a player has melded all 14 cards, the players count up the points in their hand with each card valued as its rank (face cards are 10 points). For example, a hand with 6, Q, Q would be 26 points. This total is added to the player’s running score and if they finish with a score of 75 or more they can buy in for the starting amount of cash, they would then have a score equal to the highest score of 74 or less. Example: At the start of a hand (buy-in is 25 cents) Player A: 31 points Player B: 5 points Player C: 19 points Player D: 47 points

Player C goes out catching Player A with 58 points, Player B with 6 points, and Player D with 28 points. The new totals are Player A: 89 points Player B: 11 points Player C: 19 points Player D: 75 points Players A and D are both out but may choose to buy in for a quarter each. If so, they would start out the next hand with 19 points (the largest score under 75).

The winner is the player who goes out causing every other player to have 75 or more points. In the above example, if Player B had been caught with 70 or more points, Player C would have won since they would have been the only player under 75 points. The winner gets all of the money paid into the pot.

Strategy

There are three main strategies.

  1. Early lay: As soon as a player can lay down three sets, he does so. This has the advantage that the player is rarely caught with a lot of points (they have five or fewer cards in their hand) but it does give other players more opportunities to play. For example, if a player has a nine of hearts in their hand and another player melds 6h, 7h, 8h, the first player can now meld their nine.
  2. Common: Most players hold off until they can play four sets. Typically this leaves two cards in the player’s hand resulting in a low score. The major disadvantage of this method is that since a set cannot be made from two cards, this player is forced to play these cards on melds (either their own or other players’).
  3. Sandbagging: This player attempts to play all 14 cards in one meld. Although a rare method, it can have its use under the right circumstances especially as the consequence for a person caught with a high score is that they merely has to buy back in. Therefore there is no fundamental difference for a player with a score 73 or 74 as to how many points they are caught with, but sandbagging may catch other players with many points in their hands – perhaps even winning the game (and the money).

Observations

Since a player must draw a card and meld on two separate moves, an observant player using the common or sandbagging method may be able to dump points if they suspect a player will go out on the next turn.

Since fourteen cards make four 3-card sets with two extra cards, a player almost always must play cards on other players’ melds.

References

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