Rummy is a group of card games notable for gameplay based on the matching of similar playing cards. Although the word "Rummy" is often used as a stand-in for the specific game "Gin Rummy", the term is applicable to a large family of games, including Canasta and Mah Jong. David Parlett (The Penguin Book of Card Games, 1978) describes the Mexican game of Conquian as being ancestral to all rummy games.
General features of Rummy-style games
A book consists of at least three cards of the same rank or consecutive cards of the same suit. This is an almost universal pattern, although there exist minor variations, such as allowing only melds of the first type or requiring in melds of the second type that the cards are all of the same suit or that the cards are all of a different suit. In some games it is required that the melds of the second type contain at least four cards. Some games also feature wild cards, which can be used to represent any card in a meld. The number of wild cards in a meld may be restricted.
A fairly large number of cards is used. This varies from one standard deck upwards. There are, for example, games that use five standard decks plus some jokers shuffled together.
Each player is dealt a hand of cards; while the specific number is dictated by the strain of rummy being played, the deck is never completely emptied. The remains of the deck is placed face down to form the stock. There is also a face-up pile called the discard pile, which may be initially empty, or it can contain one card, which is turned from the stock.
In the card game of Rummy, two people playing get nine cards each. When there is more than two people, seven cards are dealt to each player. The person left of the dealer is the first person to play. The dealer switches from person to person going to the left. The dealer flips one card to and places it next to the pile to begin the game.
The first person to go takes a card from the deck or the card placed beside it. When the player has done that, they may either put three cards of the same number or face card or a straight. After this is done, if they can make a play at all, a card from their hand is discarded onto the pile beside the deck.
If another player has cards down, the others can play off of them. Also, if a player discards a card that can be played, another player can call rummy. This means that they can pick it up and play the card. This continues with each player until a person discards and has no other cards left in their hand. This is when a player “goes out”.
When someone melds all his/her cards (except, possibly, for one, which is thrown into the discard pile), the hand ends and the scores are calculated. In some games everyone can make melds at this phase, and some games allow a player to end a hand with a few unmatched cards in his/her hand.
You typically get positive points for your melds, and/or negative points for non-melded cards in your hand. In some games large bonuses are given for special, particularly difficult melds. Also being the person who melded all his/her cards is usually awarded, depending on the game this award may be rather small compared to other scoring, or it can be the deciding factor of the game.
There are many variations of the card game Rummy. They all share a common set of features found in the basic game. A standard deck of 52 cards is used. The cards rank from 2 (low) to A (high). Rummy can be played to a certain score, or to a fixed number of deals.
The Shuffle and Deal
Each player draws a card. The player with the lowest card deals first. The deal then proceeds clockwise. The player on the dealer's right cuts (this is optional).
In two player rummy, each player gets ten (10) cards. Starting with the player to the dealer's left, cards are dealt clockwise, face down, one at a time. The dealer then puts the rest of the deck, face down, between the players. This forms the stock pile. A single card is then drawn and placed face up next to the stack. This is called the discard pile.
In three or four player games, seven (7) cards are dealt to each player. Five or six players may also play, in which case each player receives six (6) cards.
Play begins with the player on the dealer's left and proceeds clockwise. Each player draws a card from the stock or the discard pile. The player may then meld or lay off, which are both optional, before discarding.
If a player has three cards of the same suit in a sequence (called a sequence or a run), they may meld by laying these cards, face up, in front of them. However, they may have no more than four cards in a sequence. It is rule that if you can meld then you must. Likewise, if they have at least three of the same value, they may meld a group (also called a set or a book). Melding is optional. A player may choose, for reasons of strategy, not to meld on a particular turn. The most important reason is to be able to declare "Rummy" later in the game!
A player may also choose to "lay off" some cards on an existing meld. This means that if a player can add to a sequence or a group that is in front of them or any of the other players, they may do so. For example: if another player had a sequence consisting of A, 2, and 3 of hearts in front of them, the player would be able to add any of the following: K of hearts, 4 of hearts, and so on, thereby continuing the sequence in either direction. Also if a player has 3 of a kind, one of which continues another sequence on the field then another player may also continue off that card. For example: if a player had a 3, 4, and 5 of hearts and another player had a three of a kind with 6, then another player may continue the sequence off the player with 6.
Finally, after any melds or lay offs, the player must discard a single card to the discard pile, face up. The only condition is that it not be the card that they drew from the discard pile on the same turn. They may, however, return it on the next turn. In addition, if they drew from the stock instead of the discard pile, they are allowed to return that card in the same turn. In this way, the discard pile changes every turn.
If the player discards (last card in hand, or even by mistake) and leaves a sequence on the discard pile, or on the board it is considered a rummy on the board, and any of the players,excluding the player that discarded can call it, and pick up the card(s) that complete the sequence. If the sequence or cards in the sequence are in the Run, then the player calling "rummy on the board" must take the cards that are involved in the sequence including the discard run up to that card.
The End of the Stock
If, while playing, the stock runs out, the next player may choose to draw from the discard pile or to turn the discard pile over to form a new stock. The discard pile is not shuffled in the process. After forming the new stock, the top card is drawn to form the new discard pile, just like after the deal.
When a player has gotten rid of all of their cards, they win the hand. There are two variations. Either the player must discard the last remaining card in their hand on the last turn, or they need not. Playing with this rule makes ending a hand slightly more difficult.
For example, if a player had the 7 and 9 of diamonds, and they drew the 8 of diamonds (forming a sequence), then they would not be able to go out if playing with the discard rule variation, because after playing the 7-8-9 sequence, they would not have a card left to discard. A variant allows one to play the sequence on one turn without discarding, and on the next turn, they may draw a card from the draw pile and discard it immediately to go out, if it cannot be played off another meld.
If a player is able to meld all of their cards at once, they may say "Rummy" on their turn and go out. To declare Rummy, a player must not have melded or laid off any cards prior during the hand. If playing with the discard rule, they must also discard after melding. Playing for Rummy is more risky, but it carries the reward of double the score. Each player must wait until their second turn to go out.
After a player goes out, the hand ends, and the players count up their cards. Any cards left in each player's hand are counted up and added to the winner's score. Wilds count as 20, aces count as 15, face cards and 10s count as 10, and the rest are worth 5. If a player has declared Rummy, then this score is doubled.
Another variation is that face cards count as 10; three aces count as 15 each; a run of ace, king, queen, the ace is 15; a run of ace, two, three, the ace is 5; and the rest are worth 5 each. Any cards left in each player's hand are counted up and subtracted from their score on the table.
In some instances, jokers have been involved to spice up the game, for example it has been played with the rule if you discard a joker you miss some turns, missing two turns for discarding the red joker and 5 turns for discarding the black joker. This becomes difficult when it is sometimes unavoidable to pick up a joker and keeping it will prevent you from creating a fully melding hand.
In another variation, discards are placed so that all cards are visible. At the beginning of his or her turn, a player may take pick up any card from the discard so long as the player also picks up all cards on top of it, and so long as it is played immediately.
Variants of Rummy
There are a large number of games derived from Rummy.
Some play with jokers using them as wild cards. They can be used in sets or runs but can not be replaced when 'melded'. Nor can you lay off a card to replace it by you or your opponent.