How to Play the Card game Rummy | Rules, Scoring and Tips

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Rummy is a really popular, competitive card game, that is easy to learn and has countless well-known variations (e.g. Gin, 500, etc). Two or more players take turns to improve the hand they are dealt and try and get rid of their cards first. It’s a great game for all standards of players from beginner to advanced.

Overview | The Basics of Rummy

What is Rummy?

Rummy covers a group of card games (e.g Standard, Gin, 500, etc) where players are matching cards of the same rank and/or creating a sequence in the same suit. This is called melding.

The general aim is to build Melds of all your cards, as unmatched cards left in your hand score against you.

Meld / Melding:

In order to meld, a player must group the cards in their hand into either of two combinations.

  • – A ‘Run’ where three or more cards are of the same suit and consecutive e.g 3, 4, 5
  • – A ‘Set’ where three or more cards are of the same rank e.g 4, 4, 4

Lay Off / Laying Off

Laying Off is when you add to an existing meld already showing on the table. The meld can be yours or any other player.

Example: A meld of 6, 7, 8, 9 is already on the table. If you have the 10, then on your turn you could lay off and add to that meld.

Equally, if there is a meld of 7, 7, 7 already on the table. If you have the 7, then on your turn you could lay off and add to that meld.

Standard or Straight Rummy

This is the generic version of Rummy that is the easiest to learn and can be played with any number of players (2-6+).

In each round (known as a ‘hand’) the ultimate aim of each player is to get rid of all their cards, before any other player. A game is several rounds with the Winner of each round collecting points from the other players.

Declaring ‘Rummy‘ is when you get rid of all of your cards in a single turn, scoring Double Points. However, this tactic can be risky, as all cards left in your hand score against you if another player should go out before you!

How to Play Rummy

Once you have learned these basics of Standard Rummy there are countless variations that you can then play, differing by the number of players, number of cards, ‘house rules’ (see later), using jokers, scoring methods, gambling etc

In some Rummy games, aces can be high or low, but not usually both.

So a ‘Run’ could be A-2-3 or A-K-Q but not K-A-2.

As standard an Ace is Low.

The Deal

  • Standard 52 card deck, no jokers.
  • 2 Players – 10 Cards (although many play with just 7 cards)
  • 3 or 4 Players – 7 Cards
  • 5 or 6 Players – 6 Cards
  • More than 6 players – 7 Cards (using 2 Decks)

The dealer deals clockwise, one card at a time, face down, to each player, until the required number of cards.

After each player has been dealt their cards, the next card is placed face-up in the middle of the table, becoming the ‘Discard Pile’ and the remaining cards are placed next to it forming the ‘Stock Pile’.

Each player can then pick-up and sort their cards.

Each ‘hand’ or round has a winner but all the players will play several ‘hands’ until the overall winner is declared

Rummy Deal; four players 7 cards each

General Game Play

A players turn consists of three stages:

  1. Every turn starts with the player drawing (taking a card into their hand of cards) one card from either the stock or the discard pile.
  2. The player can then choose to Meld or Lay off any of the cards in their hand.
  3. To end their go the player must discard 1 card face-up onto the discard pile.

The ‘Discard pile’ is face-up, so you, and the other players can see what is taken.

The ‘Stock pile’ is face down, so you do not know what it might be! Players simply add the card to their hand without showing it to the other players.

The player to the left of the dealer starts playing.
They have no reason to collect the card shown on the discard pile so take one from the stock pile.

.

Player 2; drawing card from the Stock Pile



They have no cards that they can meld so they discard one card face up onto the discard pile.

After discarding play moves clockwise to the next player.

Player 2 cannot meld or lay off. They discard one card (4) to the discard pile and end their go.

Example Turn

Player Picks Up from Discard Pile and …

The next player likes the discarded card and picks it up.

..can Meld a run of four cards (A – 4), then discards the 9.

Having looked at their cards, they then choose to ‘put down’ a meld before ending their turn by discarding one card.

Play then continues clockwise with each player, in turn, (1)drawing one card from either the draw or the discard pile, (2)putting down a meld, or laying off and (3)discarding one card.


Finishing the Stock Pile

At the start of their turn:
If all the cards have been taken from the
Stock Pile
and
the player does not want the card on the Discard Pile
that player takes the whole face-up Discard Pile,
Shuffles and turns it over.
It then becomes the new face-down Stock Pile.

Stock Pile empty; the player doesn’t want top discard card..
..Discard Pile becomes the Stock Pile; player takes card from ‘New’ Stock pile

Winning a Hand

A player wins an individual hand (or round) by either melding, laying off, or discarding all of their cards. This is sometimes referred to as ‘Going Out’

In our example, Player 4 has won the ‘hand’.

They have got rid of all 7 cards in a Set of three 6’s and a Run of four cards (9-Q) and then discarded the 4.

Players 1, 2, and 3 now have to calculate the score of the cards left in their hands.

Player 4 Wins the hand;
Having previously melded (9-Q) in an earlier round they then melded a run a SET of 6, 6, 6 and discarded their last card 4 onto the discard pile.

Additional hands/rounds are then played until one player’s cumulative points reach a predetermined score or an agreed number of hands have been played.


Scoring

Standard Scoring when a player Goes Out.

  • The cards left in the hand of any players are scored
  • Cards that have been played (melded or layed off) DO NOT COUNT
  • The points value of the cards that score is awarded to the winner of that hand.
  • Each player keeps a cumulative total of their points after each hand.
  • If a player can ‘get rid‘ of ALL of their cards in a single turn, without any prior Melds or Lay Offs then they SCORE DOUBLE POINTS. A RUMMY!
CardPoints ValueExplanation
Ace1
Number CardSpot Value 6 is worth 6 points,
3 is worth 3 points
Face Card 10King, Queen, Jack

Using the Example Winning Hand above:

PlayerCards Left in HandCards ScorePoints Total
Player 1K, K, 4, 3 10 + 10 + 4 + 3 = 27
Player 29, 9, 2, 3 9 + 9 + 2 + 3 = 23
Player 3A, 10 1 + 10 = 11
Player 4
(Winner)
None= 027 + 23 + 11 = 61
After that ‘hand’ Player 4 adds 61 points to their cumulative total.

Winning Overall

In Standard Rummy, the overall winner is the first player that has a cumulative points total in excess of a predetermined amount (eg 100 or 300 points) OR the highest cumulative total of points after an agreed number of hands.


Variations / Alternative House Rules

The house rules are the rules that you are playing for a particular session of the game. They can make a big difference in how you play. These rules should therefore be agreed upon before starting!

When playing one of the many formal variations of rummy such as Gin, 500, etc these rules are usually fixed.

Laying Off

  • Some play that you may not lay off any cards on other players’ melds until you have laid down at least one meld of your own.

Melding

  • Some play that you can only put down one meld at a time (UNLESS you can put down your whole hand; a RUMMY!)

Aces

  • As standard Aces are considered to be low.
    • A-2-3
  • In most Rummy games, aces can be high or low, but not both.
    • So a ‘Run’ could be A-2-3 or A-K-Q but not K-A-2.
    • In this case the Ace often scores 15 points due to its increased versatility.
  • In some games they allow you to ‘wrap the deck’ or ’round the corner’ but it is unusual.
    • K-A-2

Discard Rule

  • As standard most people play that you need to get rid of all your cards by any method in order to win a round.
    • By either melding, laying off or discarding.
  • Others say that you must have a last card to discard.
    • ie you cannot meld all of your last cards (Why does this matter? see below)

Stock Pile

  • As standard most people play that when taking the old discard pile and creating the new Stock Pile you simply turn over the pile, WITHOUT shuffling.
  • Others say that when you turn over the pile you DO SHUFFLE
    • this is now recommended, as if there are card players that can remember the sequence of cards discarded, they will be at a big advantage if the pile is not shuffled!
  • In some games to avoid a protracted round they limit the number of times the Stock Pile can be recreated.
    • i.e it can only be turned over and shuffled once
    • i.e in Block Rummy when the Stock Pile is used up (no turning it over) it is the end of the round and scores are calculated.

Winning

In order to decide on a winner you need to decide how long the game will last:

  • Until one player has a score of say 300 points
    • They are declared the winner
  • Until you have dealt say 4 hands
    • The player with the highest point total is then declared the winner

Scoring

In some games rather than the winner being awarded points (and the highest wins), they play the lowest score wins. In that case:

  • In each round the winner scores zero
    • They have no cards in their hand to score against them.
  • Each other player totals the points left in their hand and adds it to their cumlative total.
  • The player at the end of the game/after ‘X’ number of deals is the one with the lowest points OR
  • The first player to reach a score of say 100 stops the game and the player with the lowest cumulative total is the winner

Most Frequently Asked Questions…

Hand, Hands – A game of rummy is made up of a number of ‘hands‘. A hand is where one player deals and then all the players keep playing consecutively until there is a winner for that round. When the next player deals they are playing the next ‘hand‘.

Meld, Melding, Melded – All refer to the grouping of cards. They can be grouped into Run’s or Sets. The objective of the game is to put down or meld one’s hand into valid sets and runs.

Run – A subcategory of a meld where the group is of three or more cards of the same suit and consecutive e.g 3, 4, 5

Set – A subcategory of a meld where the group is of three or more cards of the same rank e.g 4, 4, 4

Laying Off – This is when you put down cards to add to an existing meld. It is possible to lay off onto your own OR your oppositions melded cards.

Get Rid – As the aim is to have no cards left in your hand you are always trying to ‘get rid‘ of your cards by putting down valid melds, by laying off or discarding.

Put Down, Putting Down – When a player legally places cards face up on the table in front of themselves. They have ‘put down’ those cards and they no longer count in scoring. You can only put down cards as part of a meld or when laying off.

Stock Pile – AKA Draw Pile or Closed Deck. These cards are face down, so neither you nor your opponents know what it might be! You simply add the card to your hand without showing it to the other players. This, therefore, gives them no information on what you might be collecting. (Except that you didn’t want the discard card!)

Discard Pile – AKA Open Deck. These cards are face up so all other players can see what you are taking or discarding. This gives clear clues about the possible melds you are working on. An advanced opponent will track the cards you collect and discard to calculate your probable melds but also which cards are now discarded and which other cards might still be available. They will then adjust their own game accordingly

Drawing – Drawing a card is when, at the very start of your turn, you ‘draw’ a card from either the discard pile or the stock pile. You take only one card from the top of the pile and place it in your hand. You then put down any melds/lay offs you might have before discarding and ending you go.

Going Out, Go Out – When a player has won a hand they ‘Go Out’ by putting down all the cards they have in their hand.

Rummy – A player says Rummy when they can Go Out by putting down / melding all of their cards in a single turn. This would normally score double points.

Jokers / Wildcards– In standard rummy there are no jokers. However, many variations use jokers, where they can be used to replace a card in either a run or a set.

On your turn, you can lay off as many times as you like.

This depends on the version of the game or any local rules regarding Discarding.

If you do not have to discard then you have the option to create a meld with the two cards in your hand and the one you draw from either the stock or discard pile. When you meld the three cards and put them down you will no longer have any cards to discard.

Some rules will say that in order to ‘Go Out’ a player MUST discard a card. If that is the case then the only way to play is to lay off the last two cards. Even when you draw from either the stock or discard pile you do not have enough cards to create a meld (requires three cards) and still have a card to throw away.

In some variations, they will say you MUST discard a card when you are trying to finish. Other variations will say that it is optional. Having to discard makes the game slightly harder.

If a player MUST discard a card then players may be more cautious to avoid a scenario where they only have one or two cards left in their hand. In these scenarios then the only way to play is to lay off the last cards.

If you do not have to discard then you also have the option to create a meld if you still have two cards in your hand added to the one you draw from either the stock or discard pile. When you meld the three cards you will no longer have any cards to discard.


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