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A Game of Rummy.JPG
A game of Rummy 500 in progress.
Origin United States
Alternative names Sai rummy, Standard rummy, Basic rummy, Traditional rummy
Type Matching
Players 2+
Age range All
Cards (52) Varies on game type
Deck French
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 (A) differs by game type
Playing time 15 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games
Conquian, Mahjong, Desmoche, Marriage

Rummy is a group of matching card games notable for similar gameplay based on matching cards of the same rank or sequence and same suit. The basic goal in any form of rummy is to build melds which consists of sets, three or four of a kind of the same rank; or runs, three or more cards in sequence, of the same suit. You can also have mixed runs in all types of rummy so long as all 7 cards are in order. The original form of rummy is called Sai rummy, Straight Rummy, Standard Rummy, Traditional Rummy, or Basic rummy.[1] The Mexican game of Conquian is considered by games scholar David Parlett to be ancestral to all rummy games, which itself is derived from a Chinese game called Khanhoo and, going even further back, Mahjong.[2] The Rummy principle of drawing and discarding with a view to melding appears in Chinese card games at least in the early 19th century and perhaps as early as the 18th century and is, in fact, the essence of Mah-jong.[3] Rummy is also very popular in India. It is most likely that Indian Rummy is an extension of Gin Rummy and Rummy 500 which originated from the USA. It is played with 13 cards, one or two decks, two or more players and with or without jokers.

General features of Rummy-style games[edit]


For a particular Rummy Hand, each player is provided with 13 cards. The objective of Rummy is to arrange these cards into 4 groups of 3, 3, 3 and 4 cards. These groups can be either Life or Set. A minimum of 2 Lives are required to have a valid arrangement. Once the player has made these groups, s/he has to submit the cards in groups for validation. This action of submitting the cards is called Show.[4] However, to have a successful Show in Rummy, the player has to arrange the cards into Lives or Sets. This action of arranging the cards in groups is called Meld or Melding.


A meld can either be a set (also known as a book) or a run. A set consists of at least three cards of the same rank and a run consists of at least three consecutive cards of the same suit. This is an almost universal pattern, although there exist minor variations, such as allowing only sets or requiring runs in which its cards have no suits in common. In some games, it is required that runs contain at least four cards. Some games also feature wild cards,[5] 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 are 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. The winner is obliged to deal when a new game commences.

The gameplay[edit]

In Rummy the number of cards dealt varies based on the type of rummy game being played as well as the number of players.

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 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 a run. After this is done, or if they do not 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 add additional cards to the discard pile as long as this creates or continues a set or run.

The winner declares the game by making requisite pure sequences, impure sequences or sets as governed by type of rummy game variation. In addition, if all cards are put down at once and in the same suit it is an auto win for that player.[6]


When someone melds all their 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 their hand.

They typically get positive points for their melds, or negative points for non-melded cards in their hand. In some games large bonuses are given for special, particularly difficult melds. Also being the person who melded all their cards is usually rewarded, depending on the game. This award may be rather small compared to other scoring, or it can be the deciding factor of the game.

Basic Rummy[edit]

There are many variations of the card game Rummy. Basic Rummy is also called Sai Rummy. Another type of Rummy is called Sanka 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[edit]

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).

The number of cards dealt depends on the number of players. If there are two players, each player gets ten cards. In three or four player games, seven cards are dealt to each player. Five or six players may also play, in which case each player receives six cards

Number of players Number of cards dealt
2 players 10 cards
3 or 4 players 7 cards
5 or 6 players 6 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.


Play begins with the player on the dealer's left and proceeds clockwise. On their turn, each player draws the top card from the stock or the discard pile. The player may then meld or lay off, which are both optional, before discarding a single card to the top of the discard pile to end their turn.


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. If they have at least three cards of the same value, they may meld a group (also called a set or a book). Aces can be played as high or low but not both, for example Q K A and A 2 3 are legal, but not K A 2 (some variations allow this type of run). 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.

Laying off[edit]

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 3 in front of them, the player would be able to add the 4, or 4 5, and so on, thereby continuing the sequence. Some variations allow players to play the K and wrap around. 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.


Finally, after any melds or lay offs, the player must discard a single card to the discard pile, face up. If the player drew from the discard pile instead of the stock on this turn, they may not replace the same card on top of the discard pile but must discard a different card.

Exhausting the stock[edit]

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. You can call rummy if a point is discarded into the discard pile. You cannot however call rummy if the card becomes a point while in the discard pile.

Going out[edit]

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 has only the 7 of diamonds and 8 of diamonds left in their hand, and they draw the 9 of diamonds (forming a sequence), then whether they win the hand or not depends on if they are playing the discard rule variation. If they are playing this variation, they can not win the hand at this point, because they have to finish the turn by discarding one of the three cards in their hand, causing them to no longer have a sequence. However, if the player is allowed to lay off this sequence without a final discard, then the game ends when the player lays down the sequence. And a player can lay down cards afterwards. A player may not win or go out if rummy is declared on the board.

Declaring Rummy[edit]

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. If a player goes rummy when a card can be played, that player is out for that turn. Game players are still in game but the hand goes dead. 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. If there is a rummy lying in the pile, the player who called "rummy" can play that card while the player who laid the rummy must then draw 2 cards from the stock pile or pick up the entire discarded pile.


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. The face cards count as 10 each, number cards as their face value, and aces as one. There are many variations. Common ones include counting an ace as 11 or 15.

Variations of basic Rummy[edit]

In some instances, jokers are used as wildcards and can represent any card value when melding.[7] They can be used in sets or runs but can not be replaced when 'melded', nor can a player lay off a card to replace it by themselves or their opponent. Jokers are not counted during the scoring.

In another variation, discards are placed so that all the cards are visible. At the beginning of his or her turn, a player may take any card from the discard pile, so long as s/he also picks up all the cards that are on top of it, and the last card picked up is played immediately. If only picking up the top card, the player must keep it and discard a different card from their hand.

In a variation called "Block Rummy", players do not continue after going through the pack once – if no players are out, they all lose the points in their hands after the pack has been gone through once. Round the Corner Rummy, also called Continuity Rummy, is a variant where melds can be made in the following way: Queen-King-Ace-Two, i.e. it is possible to put an ace in a run after a King.

Related card games[edit]

There are a large number of games derived from Rummy. Although in North America 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 Mahjong and rummikub.

Melding family[edit]

The most basic form where play continues until the stock is exhausted or a player achieves a specific number of points. Different cards (and melds in some games) are worth specific points. In some variations the first meld must meet minimum point requirements or the final meld must include a discard. Some of these are played for four players in partnerships of two. In most variations players may extensively add to or even rearrange their cards.

Contract family[edit]

In contract Rummy players are either assigned specific objectives (known or unknown to the other players) or decides their own objectives and announces them before play begins. Players are awarded and or penalized extra points depending if they successfully meet their objectives.

Shedding games[edit]

In these games players play until they have a minimal number of points or cards in their unmelded hand.

Canasta family[edit]

Canasta games usually involve partnerships using two or more decks with many wild cards. There are many rules and restrictions on first melds, final melds and taking the deck. Seven or eight of a kinds (canasta) score high.

Knock rummy[edit]

In knock rummy players usually reveal their entire hand at the end of the game. In most variations a player may signal (through knock or a specific kind of discard) that s/he has a valid hand. In some variations the other players get one final turn before the reveal.

Variations with non western cards and special equipment[edit]

Rummoli games[edit]

In Rummoli games require a special board or modified table with various squares with specific card(s) drawn on it. In each round players put tokens in each box. If a player lays down a card matching a box, they collect those tokens . Most versions allow multiple players to meld straights in sequence and do not use three or four of a kinds. Some versions include poker like elements.

Unique cards[edit]

Several companies produce special card sets which often include special cards not seen in other rumoli variations. Some variations resemble the card game Crazy Eights. Most of these games are suitable for children while Safari pals is an educational game.

Chinese cards[edit]

There are two different kinds of Chinese decks used for rummy like games. The rules of each variation vary greatly.


Tile rummy games usually include tiles of only three suits along with special tiles unseen in card games. Mahjong, a game with elaborate rules and different scoring systems, is played in East Asia with numerous variations played in different countries. Rummikub and other international tile variations have rules similar to meld and knock rummy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rummy Rules & How to Play". Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  2. ^ Parlett, David (1978). The Penguin Book of Card Games. ISBN 978-0-14-103787-5. 
  3. ^ "Parlett's Historic Card Games: Gin Rummy – David Parlett". 
  4. ^ Reddy, Prashanth. "Rummy Rules". Indigo Rummy. Prashanth. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Choudhary, Manoj. "How to play Rummy". Rummy Passion. Manoj. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "Video Reference Wiki on Rummy Game Play". 
  7. ^ "Rules of Rummy". Pagat. Retrieved 27 December 2015.