How to Play Rummy Card Game

Rummy Card Game Overview

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Rummy is a strategic card game for any number of players (although it’s usually played with two to six). Your objective is to get rid of all the cards in your hand and score the most points to win. Besides discarding, there are two ways to score points and get rid of cards in your hand: melding and laying off.

A Meld is a combination of three or more cards from your hand. When you place a meld on the table, you will get points for each card you lay down. There are two types of melds:

  • Runs are cards of the same suit in ranking order, such as the 5, 6, and 7 of Diamonds.
  • Books are all of the same rank, such as three Jacks.

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Laying off is a way to score points by getting rid of individual cards rather than having to put down three or more at the same time. You can “lay off” your individual cards onto existing runs or books already on the table. For instance, if your opponent puts down a book of three Jacks, you could “lay off” a Jack from your hand onto that book.

Rummy Rules and Strategy

The Agreement

Players must agree on an appropriate end-game score before the game starts. Rummy games with four players are typically played to 500 points.

The Deal

The number of cards each person gets depends on how many people are playing:

  • 2 players get 10 cards each
  • 3-4 players get 7 cards each
  • 5 or more players get 6 cards each. (Rummy is not usually played with more than six people.)

Remaining cards are placed face-down on the table, forming the “stock” pile. The top card of the stock is turned face-up and placed beside the stock pile; this card is the beginning of the discard pile.

The Draw

Play begins with the person to the dealer’s left and continues in a clockwise manner. The player has two choices: either draw one card from the stock (the facedown cards) or draw from the discard pile (the face-up cards beside the stock). The objective is to make melds or books out of the cards in the hand (discussed in the basic overview above).

There are a few important rules about picking up from the discard pile. First, as people add their discards to the pile, they must just slightly overlap the cards – so players can still see and pick up any card in the whole pile. If a player picks up a card below the very top discard, that player must also pick up all the cards above it. The player must play the bottommost card immediately, which means it must make a valid meld, book, or layoff.

For instance, in the example shown below, if you decided to pick up the 4 of Clubs from the discard pile, you would also have to pick up the 6 of Hearts, 3 of Hearts, and 2 of Spades. Then you would immediately have to add the 4 of Clubs to the melds on the table, since it was the bottommost discard you picked up.

Rummy 500 Rules

The Meld or Layoff

After a player picks up from the stock or discard pile, that player has the opportunity to meld or lay off any cards in their hand onto the table. This is optional. However, remember points are only awarded for cards actually laid down on the table.

Melded Card Values

Cards laid down on the table as melds or layoffs are scored as follows:

  • Non-face cards (2-9) are worth 5 points each
  • Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) and Tens are worth 10 points each
  • Aces are either worth 5 points each (if melded as a low card, for instance A-2-3) or 15 points (if melded as a high card, for instance Q-K-A). Rummy players often prefer to decide whether the Ace can be played high, low, or both before play begins.

Some people prefer to score each card as its face value. For instance, fours are worth 4 points each. In this scoring method, face cards still score 10 points each, and the Ace scoring also remains the same.

The Discard

At the end of the turn, the player must select one card from their hand to place on the discard pile. This discard marks the end of the turn, and play continues clockwise. Discard wisely, because your opponents can pick it up!

“Going Out”

The hand ends when one player “goes out,” which means they have melded or discarded every card in their hand. Standard Rummy rules state that a player must have one discard to “go out.” For instance, if you had a Queen of Diamonds and a King Of Diamonds in your hand, and you picked up an Ace of Diamonds from the stock pile on your next turn, you wouldn’t be allowed to get rid of all your cards! After putting your meld, run, or layoff on the table, you must have one remaining discard. Otherwise, you must choose a card in your hand to discard. In this example, you must discard either the Queen, King, or Ace and wait until you can make a valid meld and still have a discard left over.

The Scoring

When one person has gone out by getting rid of all the cards in his/her hand, everyone adds up the points from the cards they have laid down on the table (see the Scoring section above). Then, each person must subtract the point value of any cards still left in their hand. (Scoring is exactly the same as your melded cards, except for the Ace. You only have to subtract 1 point for each Ace remaining in your hand.) Cards left in your hand are called “deadwood.” For example, if you still had that Queen and King of Diamonds in your hand when someone else went out, you would have to deduct 20 deadwood points from your score for that hand. Everyone records their score and then a new hand is dealt. Play continues until the endgame score previously agreed on has been reached.

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Related Rummy Card Game Articles

Over the years we have posted quite a few articles about Rummy. Read on to learn additional tips and strategy for the Rummy card game.