Rummy and Rummy Variations

by Jeff Harris
on September 11, 2017

Rummy and rummy based games are played throughout the world and are in the top five most popular games worldwide. Rummy has many variations and here are the ones I’ll cover today:

  • Basic rummy
  • Joker variation
  • Discard pile variation
  • Block rummy
  • Round the corner rummy
  • Gin rummy
  • Blackjack variation
  • Three thirteen
  • Bing rummy
  • Dummy rummy

Basic Rummy

Basic rummy is sometimes called sai rummy depending on where you’re at in the world. In basic rummy, a regular deck of 52 cards is used. Each card gets a rank with two being the lowest ranking card and Ace being the highest ranking card.

To decide who deals each person draws a card from the deck. If you get the lowest card you deal first and you deal clockwise. For 2 players, you deal 10 cards each, for 3 to 4 players you deal 7 cards each, and for 5 to 6 players you deal 6 cards each.

You then place the remaining cards face down in the middle of the table to make a stock or draw pile. Take the top card of the draw pile and place it face up next to it to make a discard pile.

Playing the Game – Play goes around clockwise starting with the person to the dealer’s left. Every player draws a card from either the draw pile or discard pile. Each player has the option to meld or lay off before they discard.

Melding Your Hand – When you have a sequence of 3 cards in the same suit, which is also known as a run, they can be melded. You meld the 3 cards by laying them face up in front of you. You can also meld when you have 3 or more cards of the same number. This type of meld is also called a set or group. Melding is optional and even if you have the right cards in your hand you can choose to keep them there for strategic reasons.

Laying Off Your Cards – Laying off is another optional play that you can choose to do or not. Laying off is when you add to the sequences or groups that have been melded by yourself or others.

Here’s an example:

The player to the right of you has a sequence of the 2 of diamonds through the 4 of diamonds. If you have the ace or 5 of diamonds you could add to their sequence.

Discarding A Card – After you’re done melding or laying off cards you discard a single card. You can’t discard the same card you drew that turn.

End of The Draw Pile – If during your play your draw pile runs out you simply flip over the discard pile to form a new one. The pile doesn’t get shuffled.

Going Out – You can go out by getting rid of all the cards in your hand. You can do this by melding the reaming cards in your hand, laying off the remaining cards in your hand, or by doing a mixture of both. You can’t go out until your second turn each game.

Rummy – Rummy is when you’re able to meld all your cards at once and go out and you call out rummy. You can only get a rummy if you haven’t melded or laid out any cards during your hand. Getting rummy doubles your score.

Scoring – The game ends when a player goes out. The cards left in the other player’s hands are added to the winner’s score. The queen of spades is 40 points, an ace is 15 points, all face cards other than the queen of spades is and the ten cards are 10 points, and all other cards are 5 points each. Whatever player goes out first gets a bonus of 25 points added to their score. The players that didn’t go out deducts the points left in their hand from the points they’ve gathered during the game through melding and laying off cards.

Joker Variation

Joker cards can be used as wild cards. Wild cards can be used for sets or runs to represent any card value. Wild cards can’t be replaced when melding or laying off. Here’s an example, if a player has a run of a 5 of spades, a 6 of spades, and a joker to represent a 7 of spades, the joker must stay the 7 of spades. No one with the 7 of spades can put it in the place where the jokercard is.

Discard Pile Variation

In the discard pile variation, the discard pile is arranged so that every card discarded is visible. You can draw any card from the discard pile if you also take all the cards on top of it. The last card picked up from the discard pile must be played immediately. If you choose to only pick up one card, the top discard card, you must keep it in your hand for a whole turn and discard another card.

Block Rummy

In the block rummy variation, you only go through the deck of cards once; you don’t replenish the draw pile. If no players go out by the end of the draw pile then the points left in your hand are subtracted from your total score.

Round the Corner Rummy

The round the corner rummy variation is also known as continuity rummy. In this variation, you can make a meld by going all the way around the deck. Here’s an example, a meld can be made with a queen, king, ace, and two.

Gin Rummy

Gin rummy is popular in the North America and is also known as just gin. Gin rummy is played with two players.

You play gin with a 52-card deck. The highest card rank is a king and the lowest card rank is an ace.

To win gin, you must reach an agreed number before the other players. This number is usually 100 but you can pick any number you want.

Just like in basic rummy, you can play melds to increase your score. Your hand must have 3 or fewer melds to form a gin.

Deadwood cards are cards that are not in melds. The deadwood count is the deadwood cards point values added up to one sum. Face cards are worth 10 points, aces are worth 1 point, and all other cards are worth their numerical value in points.

Dealing – Each player gets 10 cards each and then the draw pile is placed between them with one card face up to form a discard pile.

Playing Gin – During the first turn in a round of gin you can either draw from the draw pile or from the discard pile, or you can pass. If you pass and then the other player passes, you must draw a card from either pile. After the first turn, passing is no longer an option. At the end of each turn, you must discard one card, which is different from the one you drew. You continue playing this way until a player knocks, goes gin, or only two cards are left in the pile. If the round ends with only two cards being left then neither player wins and it’s a draw.

Knock – To knock you discard a card and announce you’re knocking. You then lay down your melds and separate your deadwood. The other player lays out their melds and then can lay out their remaining cards if they fit with your melds. After you declare knock the round is over and you can figure points. You subtract your deadwood points from the other player’s deadwood points. Whatever points are left is what you receive to add to your total points. The exception to this is if the other player has the same number of deadwood points or less. If this happens then the other player receives a bonus worth 25 points called the undercut bonus.

Gin – You can go gin only if all 10 of your cards fit into a meld and you have no deadwood cards. When you go gin the round ends and you receive 25 bonus points and the deadwood points from the other player’s hand.

Big Gin – The big gin bonus gives you 31 bonus points instead of 25 bonus points, if you can get it. The big gin bonus is when you accomplish an 11-card gin. Which means you’d have to draw an additional card and hope it fits into your melds.

At least 6 other variations of gin are available for play also.

Blackjack Variation

If you ever find yourself in a casino that doesn’t offer blackjack they might offer a popular 21 based game called Rummy. This variation rummy is mostly found in countries that have outlawed blackjack like Cost Rica.

Blackjack rummy is played with 4 to 6 decks of cards, minus the jokers. Scoring is the same as regular rummy except that aces are worth 11 points.

Here are the basic rules for this type of rummy:

  • Your dealer stands on a soft 17
  • You’re able to double any two cards you have.
  • You’re allowed to double after splitting
  • Like blackjack, you can have up to four hands by re-splitting pairs.
  • Surrendering early is allowed in rummy.
  • You’re can’t draw to split aces.
  • Bonuses for three of a kind and straight flushes only apply to your first three cards of your original hand.
  • Any bonuses you get are paid out immediately.
  • Bonuses are applied to the total amount you bet if you get one after doubling.
  • If you split, you void any chance of getting a bonus in this type of rummy.

The house generally has a 1.00% edge if they follow the rules above, but that percentage varies based on what rules the casino uses.

Here are some rule variants used by different casinos and their effects on the house edge:

  • Surrendering now allowed:                          +0.47%
  • The dealer does hit on soft 17:                    +0.16%
  • Aces cannot be re-split:                                 +0.06%
  • Only 4 decks are used:                                   +0.02%
  • To split aces, you can draw:                         -0.17%

The more decks used the less of an edge the house has and the fewer desks used the more of an edge the house has. The use of fewer decks makes it harder for you to get a three of a kind bonus.

Blackjack rummy bonuses pay as follows:

Three of a kind pays 3 to 1 for unsuited, 5 to 1 for suited, and 5 to 1 for a handtotal of 21. A straight flush pays 3 to 1 for suited and 5 to 1 for a hand total of 21.

500 Rummy

500 Rummy is played with 2 to 8 players but it’s suggested that you play it with 3 to 5 players. 500 rummy is also known as 500 rum, rummy 500, pinochle rummy, or Michigan rummy.

500 rummy can be played using 52 to 54 cards depending on if you want to add 1, 2, or no jokers. If you play with more than 5 players than you play with double the number of cards. If only 2 players are playing then you each get 13 cards but if 3 or more players are playing you each get 7 cards.

500 rummy uses a similar discard pile variation as you can use in regular rummy, as a standard rule. The discarded cards are laid out so that each player can see all the cards that have been discarded. Here are the 3 rules you must follow when it comes to drawing from the discard pile:

  • If you draw from the discard pile, you must take every card on top of it meaning you must take every card that has been discarded since the card you want to draw.
  • Whatever card you drew from the discard pile has to be used immediately. You can use the card by laying it off or by adding it to your own melds.
  • The other cards which were on top of the discarded card that you drew, can be used or put into your hand.

500 rummy ends once a player gets rid of all their cards or no cards are left in the draw pile. No bonuses are given to a player who finishes first.

Scoring –  Face cards are worth 10 points, jokers are worth 15 points, and 2 through 9 are worth 5 points. Ace is worth 5 points if used as a low card and worth 15 points if used as a high card. To figure your points you receive all the points for the cards you have showing on the table and subtract the value of what you have left in your hand from it.

To win 500 rummy you have to reach 500 points or above. If more than 1 player reaches 500 points at the same time, whoever has the highest score wins.

At least 5 other variations of 500 rummy are available.

Bing Rummy

Bing rummy is played with 2 to 8 players but is suggested for 3 to 6 players. You play bing rummy with 2 decks of 52 cards for a total of 104 cards.

Bing rummy starts with players buying in for an agreed amount with the default being 25 cents. The dealer then shuffles and cuts for a deuce. Cuts for a deuce is when the player to the right of the dealer cuts the deck, if the bottom of the top section of the cards is a deuce, then they get to keep the card.

Every player gets 14 cards. If a player got to keep a deuce from the cut they only get 13 cards.

Melding – The melding in bing rummy is different than traditional rummy. If you draw a card then you can’t meld any during that turn. Deuces are the wild in bing rummy. Whenever you’re ready to meld, you must play a minimum of 3 sets of melds. After you play your initial meld you can play any number of melds or lay off any number of cards.

You can’t meld your cards if it puts you over 75 points. Here’s an example, if you start your hand with 60 points you can only meld if you’ll have 15 or fewer points in your hand afterward.

Score – Once a player has melded all of their cards then the game ends and the players add up their points in their hand. A face card is worth 10 points, aces are worth 15 points, and every other card is worth their face number. Add this total to your running score.

If you end with 76 points or more you can buy back into the game. Here’s an example, if the beginning buy in was 25 cents and you ended with 79 points, you’d have to put a dollar in to buy your way back in. Every point you’re over is worth 1 original buy in. Once you buy back in your score is reset to the highest score of the other players.

To win the game, you must have less than 76 points and everyone else must have 76 points or more.

Three Thirteen

Three thirteen, also called Wally’s game, is played over the course of 11 rounds and with 2 or more players. You play three thirteen with 2 decks of cards with the jokers removed for a total of 104 cards.

The main objective of three thirteen is to meld all your cards and go out. If you wish to meld all your cards to go out, you must have 1 card left for a discard. After you go out the other players get one more turn to try and better their hand.

Dealing – Whoever is the dealer first deals 3 cards to each player and then the players each take their turn of drawing, melding, and discarding. After each player has finished then round 1 is over. In round 2 the first dealer passes the deck to the player their left who then deals 4 cards to each player. Every round the deck is passed to a new player and an additional card is dealt out. The dealing lasts for 11 rounds where 13 cards are dealt out.

Playing – You must draw from either the draw pile or the discard pile. By the end of your turn, you must discard one card. If while playing a player goes out and it turns out to be a false out, they get 20 points added to their score.

The Wild Cards – You can use wild cards to complete groups or sequences, but you can only use 1 wild card per set. Wild cards change each round. Whatever number of cards the dealer dealt that round is what the wild card is. Here’s an example, if you’re in round 4 then the dealer dealt everyone 6 cards each. This makes all the 6 cards wild cards for that round.

Scoring – Whatever cards are left in your hand at the end of a round are added to your score. Aces are worth 1 point, 2 through 9 cards are worth their face value, and face cards are worth 10 points each. Wild cards are worth 15 points.

At least 7 other variations are available for three thirteen.

Dummy Rummy

Dummy rummy is played with 2 to 4 players and with 2 decks of cards including jokers for a total of 108 cards. The joker and two cards are the wild cards in dummy rummy.

At the beginning of the game, each player gets 13 cards. Players must complete 12 different meld sets during the game and you want to get rid of as many of your cards as you can each round. Once a player gets rid of all their cards, whatever cards are left in other players hands are penalty cards. You win dummy rummy by finishing 12 hands and having the least points.

Here are the 12 meld sets that each player must finish:

  • 2 sets of 3 of a kind
  • 1 set of 3 of a kind and 1 run of 4 cards
  • 2 sets of 4 of a kind
  • 2 runs of 4 cards
  • 1 set of 4 of a kind and 1 run of 4 cards
  • 2 sets of 3 of a kind and 1 run of 4 cards
  • 1 set of 3 of a kind and 1 run of 7 cards
  • 3 sets of 3 of a kind
  • 2 sets of 5 of a kind
  • 2 runs of 5 cards
  • 1 set of 8 of a kind
  • And 1 run of 10 cards

Each meld sets must be completed in the above order. If a player can’t finish a set by the end of a round then they must continue to try to each round until they do.

The jokers and two can be used in place of any card since they’re the wild cards.

Playing – A full turn is drawing a card, melding if you can, and then discarding. When you draw you can either draw from the draw pile or the discard pile. The exception to this is if you have already completed the required meld for that round. If you have already completed the required meld you can’t draw from the discard pile. Once you meld you can add to existing melds from other players. Once one player gets rid of their final card the round is over.

Scoring – Once a player is out, the players with cards remaining in their hand add up their points. The points are added to their running score. Cards 3 to 9 are worth 5 points, face cards are worth 10 points, aces are worth 15 points, and the 2 and joker cards are worth 50 points.

The player that completes all 12 rounds and has the lowest score first wins.

Conclusion

Many games based on rummy and variations of rummy exist.

Other variations not included on this page are:

  • Contract rummy
  • 5000 rummy
  • Ten pennies
  • Indian rummy
  • And many

Rummy is a fun game with a variation to suit anyone’s playing preferences. Try your hand at it in a casino or at home for a casual game between friends.

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