Shanghai rum

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Shanghai rum
3 playing cards.jpg
A meld of four cards in the game Shanghai rum
Alternative namesShanghai rummy, California rummy
Skills requiredStrategy
Cards2-4 54 cards
Card rank (highest first)A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Playing time2 hours
Random chanceMedium
Related games
Gin Rummy, Contract rummy

Shanghai rum is a Rummy card game, based on gin rummy and a variation of Contract rummy played by 3 to 8 players.[1] It is also known as California rummy.



Shanghai rum is played with multiple decks of 54 standard playing cards, including the Jokers. Two decks are required for game of up to four players. Five or six players require three decks. Aces are high (above a King) or low, (below 2). Each game has seven hands, and the rules for each hand are unique. One person begins as dealer for the first hand, and then the person to the dealer's left becomes dealer for the next hand, and so on. Each player is dealt eleven cards for the seven rounds. The rest of the deck is then placed face down in the middle of the players; this is referred to as the deck. One card is taken from the top of the deck and placed face up next to it. This card is called the upcard and becomes the beginning of the discard pile.

Each player has a choice at the beginning of their turn. They may either pick up one new card from the top of the deck or take the upcard. (Also, the other players in the game have the ability to get the up card.) After the player draws his card, either from the deck or the upcard, he must then choose any card in his hand to discard, and he then places this card face up on the discard pile. That card then becomes the new upcard, which the next player in turn can take or other players can buy. To get a card that isn't yours a player must say, “BUY", before the next player draws their card, or else it is already considered "dead". Once a player discards their card the card underneath that card is now considered a "dead" card because it is no longer in the game. Players may not take these cards.


Jokers are wild cards and can be played in the place of any card. A player is not allowed to have more jokers than face-cards in either a set or run. An example of this would be if one is trying to get a set he must have three or more cards of the same rank (8/8/8). But if a player has a joker or 2 he could play in place of an 8 (8/8/joker). But a player cannot lay more jokers than face-cards (8/joker/joker). However he may lay the same number of jokers as face-cards (8/8/joker/joker). The same applies for runs. If a player has laid down and has a joker in a run or set, the joker can be replaced by the appropriate card by any player. If a player who has not laid down yet replaces any joker he must lay down his meld in that turn, but if the player has already laid down his meld he may take the joker and use it how he chooses anytime.


A "buy" is when an out-of-turn player takes the upcard, draws 2 extra cards from the stock, and cannot play the cards immediately, but must wait for his turn. If more than one player wants it, the one closest to the dealer's left has precedence. There is a limit to the number of buys allowed. Each player is only allowed 2 (Genie Rules: 3 buys per hand) buys per hand.


The object of each hand is to come up with the correct combination of cards to be able to meld, or "lay out". The combination for each hand is different, and they become more difficult with each subsequent hand. The combinations for each hand are either sets or runs (sequence) or a combination of both. A set is a combination of a specific number of cards of the same rank, and the suit is not important. An example of a "set of 3" is three cards that are all 8's, and the 8's can all be of different suits. A run is a combination of a specific number of cards of the same suit that have consecutive ranks. An example of a "run of 4" is the 4, 5, 6, and 7 of clubs. An example of a combination for a hand is for hand #2, "1 set of 3 and 1 run of 4." This means that a player must have both a set of 3 cards and a run of 4 cards in his hand before he can meld. A player can meld only when it is his turn. As always, he must start his hand by drawing a card, then when he has the correct sequence of cards, he can meld or "go down." He does so by laying his meld cards face up on the table in their correct sequence. After melding, a player can then play on the melds of other players. When done, he must then discard.

Play for the player who has gone down[edit]

When a player is "down" (meaning he has already melded), he still takes his turn in turn with the other players, and he still must draw a card and discard. However, a player who is down cannot buy a card, nor can he stop a player from buying the top card in the discard pile when it is his turn. A player who is down can play his cards on the melds that have been completed either by himself or by other players. For example, if a player has laid down a set of 8's, and on a subsequent turn he then draws another 8, he can play this 8 on his set of 8's. He does this by placing the 8 with the set of 8's. If he has a card that he would like to play on a run, he must be sure to keep the order of the run. For example, if there is a run of 5 consisting of 4-5-6-7-8 of clubs, the player can play a 3 of clubs or a 9 of clubs.

Winning the game[edit]

Play progresses until the final hand when one of the players "goes out," meaning he is able to play the last card in his hand. Although players may discard throughout the game, to win they must be able to lay down all of their cards without discarding. In order to win, on a player's turn they must be able to draw a card and then go out without a discard. The winner of the hand gets zero points, and the other players count their cards to determine their score for the hand. After all seven hands are played, the winner is the player with the lowest score.

Sequence of hands[edit]

  1. two sets
  2. one set and one run (4)
  3. two runs
  4. three sets
  5. two sets and one run
  6. one set and two runs
  7. three runs unless your name is Micah (add one set of 3)


  • 2 to 9: 5 points
  • 10 to King: 10 points
  • Ace: 15 points
  • Joker: 20 points


  1. ^ The Everything Card Games Book, p. 146, Nikki Katz - Adams Media 2004 ISBN 1-59337-130-6

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