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

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.

  1. Draw a card from the draw pile or select the up-facing card.
  2. If 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.
  3. Once 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.

Recommended Sites

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:

  • 500 Rum
  • Advanced Rummy
  • Bing Rummy
  • Biriba
  • Buraco
  • Canasta
  • Carioca
  • Conquian
  • Continental
  • Contract Rummy
  • Desmoche
  • Dummy Rummy
  • Gin Rummy
  • Indian Rummy
  • Kalooki
  • Khanhoo
  • Liverpool Rummy
  • Indian Marriage
  • Jhyap
  • Mahjong
  • Marriage
  • Panguingue
  • Penang Rummy
  • Phase 10
  • Pope Joan
  • QuickRummy
  • Robbers’ rummy
  • Rumino
  • Rummikub
  • Shanghai rum
  • Scala 40
  • Seven Bridge
  • Ten pennies
  • Three thirteen
  • Tong-its
  • Tonk (aka Tunk)
  • Uno
  • Zigity
  • Zioncheck

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.

Rummy Strategy

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.

Open Ended Runs

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.

Watch the Cards

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.

Look for Multiple Draw Holds

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.

Higher Cards First

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.

Know When to Lay Down Your Melds

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.

Pay Attention to What Your Opponents Pick Up and Discard

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.