A Guide to Playing Rummy
What used to be regarded as a "game for old women" has made a resurgence in popularity thanks to the ability to learn and play the game online. What is a relatively simple game to learn has plenty of intricacies that make learning and mastering the strategy of the game a fun challenge that not many have conquered yet. Several theories have emerged about the origin of the game, all dating back several centuries.
The card game played with a standard 52 card deck has several different game variations that can be played by two to six players at a time. In this guide, we're going to cover the basics of rummy, the variations of game types, the pros and cons of playing the game online, and some basic strategy to get you off in the right direction.
The Basics (Traditional Rummy)
These are the basics, rules, and scoring of Traditional Rummy. There is a multitude of different variations that all build off of this basic style. Learn this, and you will be able to pick up the additional variations extremely quickly. This is also the format that you will most commonly see played both live in person and online.
The object of rummy is to be the first player to get rid of all of your cards. This is achieved by creating what are called melds. Melds are either sets, three or four cards of the same rank, or runs which are three or four cards of the same suit in a sequential row. With runs, aces play low (as a one) and runs are not capable of wrapping around. IE: You cannot have QcKcAc or KcAc2c.
Traditional Rummy is played with two, three, or four players. When playing with two players, each player is dealt 10 cards from a shuffled deck of 52 playing cards. If you are playing with three or four players, each player is dealt seven cards from the deck. After dealing, the deck is placed face down in the middle of the table with the top card turned over next to it. This is what is known and will be known in this guide as the discard pile.
The player who is to the left of the dealer acts first, and their turn goes like this.
- 1Draw a card from the draw pile or select the up-facing card.
- 2If they can (or choose to), lay down any melds you might have. They can also lay down any cards connected to any other melds that have been laid down already. For example, if another player has put down 2-2-2 and you have a 2 in your hand, they can play it. Once a meld is laid down, it no longer "belongs" to the person that put it down. It can be used and played on by any player.
- 3Once they have completed putting down as many melds as you choose or add-ons to other melds, they discard one card and then play moves to the player to their left.
The game continues until one player is out of cards and that player is the winner of that game/round. Players are not required to have a card to discard to end their turn. If they get rid of all of their cards through melds, they are still the winner.
If the draw pile runs out before the game is finished, it is shuffled, and play continues. If the deck runs out a second time, the game is considered a stalemate and no players are awarded points.
Speaking of points, here is how the scoring of the game works. The winner of the round is the only player that receives any points. Sorry, nothing for second place. The winning player receives points for every card still in their opponent's hands. Here are the point values for each card:
- Face Cards = 10 points
- Aces = 1 point
- All other cards = Their respective value (8c is worth 8 points)
There is one more thing to add to the scoring. A player has the option of "Going Rummy" during a game to earn double the points. To earn this, the player must not meld or lay off any of their cards until their last turn. By getting rid of all of their cards in one turn, they receive DOUBLE the points from all other players at the table.
The overall winner is determined by the first player to reach a certain point threshold. The standards for a game are as follows. Remember, though, these will vary depending on who you are playing with and where you are playing.
- 2 Players - 100 points
- 3 Players - 150 points
- 4 Players - 200 points
Play Rummy Online
Rummy is a game that has been traditionally played in kitchens, basements, or in the backs of buses and airplanes. The number of people you could play against was limited to the people around you or just your friends that happened to come over. This is great for a little while but can get a little old when you're looking to improve your game and test your skills against the rest of the world. Over the past few years, Rummy has made its way onto the internet and can now be played from anywhere in the world against other opponents with just a few clicks of the mouse.
You have two options when it comes to playing Rummy online. There are the kid game sites and the online casino style game sites. Each has its own pros and cons. The kid game sites are sites that you play against bots or computers that are programmed to play a certain way. Sites like this are nice because they don't usually cost any money to play on and don't require you to create an account. They are great when it comes to passing the time, but they lack if you're looking actually to improve your game. The problem with playing against computer bots is that they don't play like normal people. Yes, they play somewhat close to how normal people play, but you won't get to experience different styles and find different ways to exploit holes in people's games.
The online casino style sites have done an amazing job of taking care of this and providing a way for you to play Rummy with real people and get a much more accurate and realistic experience. When you play on these sites, you have the option of playing for play money or for real money. The play money players are all usually players that are looking to play for real money eventually, so they take the game more serious and play properly. This gives you a much higher quality pool of players to play with and makes for a way more fun experience.
If you want to have an even more realistic experience, you can try your hand at the real money games. What's great about these is that the stakes range anywhere from 10 cents a game up to higher limits for the serious players. This gives you the ultimate test of where your skills are at and give you the ultimate practice facility to get better at the game. Even the lower limit tables are great places for you to get better practice.
The bottom line is that the online casino style sites that offer play and real money Rummy are a much better and more authentic playing experience. It's also a heck of a lot more fun playing with real people. The skills and practice you can get there can help you to crush your friends and coworkers next time they get together to play.
Finding an online home to play Rummy can be a bit of a challenge. A lot of the sites that exist have terrible software are not secure, and are not going to be somewhere you are going to want to spend your time or money. For that reason, we have scoured the internet to find the best and most trusted online Rummy sites that offer play money games and real money gaming. These sites also have the best software and the smoothest graphics and gameplay experience.
Variations of Rummy Games
There are tons and tons of different variations of Rummy that you can play. The most common (the one we've been talking about) is Traditional Rummy. It also goes by the names Sai Rummy, Straight Rummy, Standard Rummy, or Basic Rummy. All of these names mean the same basic game we've been discussing.
Here is a list of some of the more popular versions of the game you might be familiar with:
The most popular of these outside of Traditional Rummy is probably Gin Rummy. Gin Rummy is similar to Traditional Rummy but has some very big differences. The game is played with two players. Instead of laying down your melds, you keep them in your hand. The object is to try and "knock" or "go Gin" which means that the sum of the cards in your hand that does not fit into a meld is 10 or less. After a player knocks, the knocking player lays out all of their melds and puts their non-included cards, known as deadwood, to the side. The other player is then entitled to put down all of their melds as well as any cards that play off the melds of the knocking player. The more deadwood points the second player has than the knocking player is the number of points the knocking player receives. If the second player happens to have fewer points, then they receive the difference as well as a 25 point bonus. If the knocking player has zero dead wood (all cards fit into a meld), then they receive the 25 point bonus plus the deadwood points from their opponent. During Gin, the second player cannot play off of any of their opponent's melds. As is the same in traditional, the players will play until one player reaches 100 points or whatever point threshold is decided upon.
There are a few additional scoring rules that you can read about before playing the game.
Sometimes games that are simple to learn are deceptive about how much strategy is involved. Rummy is one of the games that takes the cake in this department. Though the rules are simple, the strategy can get rather complex and require quite a bit of skill and attention to detail. As you are playing other opponents, you also have to adjust your strategy for how your opponents choose to play. This adds an entire another element to the game and is also the reason that being able to play online against a bunch of different opponents (not just bots) is crucial to getting good at the game.
The game is all about prioritizing which melds you are going for. The next few tips will go into this, but we want this as a separate section because it is important that you are always thinking this way. The game comes down to drawing at the smart melds and not wasting your time drawing at something that is less likely to come out. This will make a lot more sense in the next tips, and we will constantly refer back to prioritizing.
If you have to decide between keeping KhQh or 7s8s with no other information, which would you keep? The answer is clearly the 7s8s. Why? This is because your run draw is open ended. This means that you can complete this run with the 6s or the 9s. The first two can only be completed with the Jh and no other card. Two cards to draw for is much better than one and can make a big difference. Ideally, you can hang on to both of these draws and discard something else, but if it comes down to deciding between the two, prioritize the more likely draw.
This is the most important thing that you can do to improve your Rummy play. Knowing which cards have come out and been discarded or have already been played in a meld is crucial to success. In the above example where we were deciding between keeping the KhQh or 7s8s, we said the tip was only valid without other information. That other information is what other cards have come out. If the 9s and 6s have already been discarded or worse, played in a meld where they won't surface again, then the KhQh is the correct draw to keep.
It's important to remember that when the discard gets reshuffled and reused, all of the cards that were not in there are back in there again. Make sure that you make this adjustment in your mind before proceeding with your strategy during the game.
Here's a scenario. You have KhQh7s8sQc, and you know that the 9s has already been played. What do you discard? Based on our earlier tips, you would first think to break up the KhQh because it isn't open ended. But then you realize that even though the 7s8s is open ended, one end is missing, so both draws are the same. So which do you discard or break up? The correct answer is the 7s8s because the KhQh also has a chance to make three queens due to the queen of clubs being in your hand. Holding that gives you the option to make a meld with three cards now (the other two queens or the jack of hearts). The 7s8s can only complete a meld with the 6s since the 9s is already gone. Clearly, this is the correct play.
You never really know when the game is going to end and you get stuck awarding points to another player. If this does happen (which it will), you want to be awarding your opponent as few points as possible. The best way to do this is to get rid of your higher ranking cards first. If you have two useless cards with no other information, always get rid of the higher valued card. Remember, this only comes into play after protecting or deciding on your best draws. This tip should not be the first one you look at. This is kind of a last minute check when you're down to deciding between two or three cards to discard.
A lot of new players will always immediately lay down their melds. Sometimes this is not the best strategy because it does allow your opponents the option to play off of your hands and possibly get rid of all of their cards. Knowing when to lay them down is a bit of a feel game that will come with time, but we have a few thoughts that might help you start thinking in the right direction. Playing sets is much safer than playing runs. Other players can only ever add one card to a set; they can add a bunch to the ends of a run. For this reason, we usually will play our sets right away (unless we are holding for the bonus) and then lay the runs down when our opponents look to be close to running out of cards.
Also, the higher valued the melds are, the more you are going to want to lay them down sooner. If you get stuck with a 2-3-4, it will only give your opponent an additional 9 points, but if you get stuck with 10-J-Q, it is 30 points.
Paying attention to what your opponents pick up off the face-up discard pile is extremely important to an effective strategy. Looking at these cards can help you start to form an idea about what your opponent is trying to meld. This is extra important for the opponent to your left as you can figure out what not to discard because it might help them complete their hand.
Here's an example. Let's say you have 3c4c3d in your hand and you saw earlier that the opponent to your left picked up the 3h when you discarded it (you did this before getting the other 3 of course:) ). You also notice that your opponent discards the 2h. You can start to assume that your opponent is not trying to draw at a run or they would have kept the 2h most likely. You can likely assume that they are probably drawing towards a set which you have the other cards they want. Ideally then, you should keep the 3d to block them and start working on completing the run with the 3c and 4c.
Here's a second example. Let's say your opponent picks up the 9h and then discards the 8h. You know 100% they are going for a set of nines. They could already have three of them and just be waiting to play it, but you do know for sure what they are going for.
These are just two examples of how you can use what your opponents are showing and doing to figure out what they might be holding. A lot of this will revolve around how your opponent likes to play and how skilled they are. They very well could be holding for a run with the other 3 and just not be very good at the game tossing the 2h.