How to play Rummy

The rules of rummy are complex, yet manageable. If you are new to Rummy or if you want to brush up on your knowledge, everything is neatly explained here.
The aim in Rummy is to play your cards as melds. A round ends when a player discards their last card onto the discard pile. Now the scores are determined: Each player sums up the scores of each card left in their hand and lists them as penalty points. The winner gains the sum of everybody’s negative scores as positive points. The next round begins until the maximum number of rounds is reached or one of the players hits 500 negative points. The player with the highest score is the winner of the table!

The Deck: 2×52 Cards and 6 Jokers

Rummy is played with 110 cards: 104 = 2 x 52 French playing cards + 6 Jokers.
Each card holds a certain score which matters for playing the first meld (at least three cards with a minimum score of 30 points in total) as well as for determining the scores of each player at the end of a round.

  • The pip cards score points according to their depicted number – from two to ten.
  • The face- or picture cards (Jack, Queen, King) each score 10 points.
  • The Ace scores one point when melded in a sequence “Ace-2-3-4…” but eleven points when it follows a King, for example, “Queen-King-Ace”. An Ace in the hand scores eleven points as well.
  • The Joker has varying values: When melding it takes on the value of the card it replaces. A joker in the hands scores 20 points.

Shuffling, dealing and round it goes

Correct shuffling and dealing are none of your worries at the virtual tables at the Rummy Palace: An algorithm takes care of it. Each player receives 13 cards. One card is revealed as the discard pile. The leftover cards are the stock.
The game goes clockwise. The first player, randomly chosen, checks their cards and plays their first turn:

  • They must draw a card from the stock or the discard pile.
  • They can play their first meld, if possible, and play further melds afterwards.
  • They must discard one card from their hand onto the discard pile.

Now it’s the next player’s turn:

  • They draw a card from the stock or pick up the card just discarded by the previous player.
  • They can play their first meld, if possible, and continue with playing melds, laying off cards by adding them to existing melds, and swapping Jokers.
  • Finally, they discard one card.

Melds can only be played or added to during the own turn. Possible melds are explained in the following section.

Playing melds: Sets and Sequences

Rummy knows two types of melds – sets and sequences.

Sets, or groups, consist of at least three cards of the same rank. Sets can be composed of all types of cards – pip cards (2 to 10), face cards (Jack, Queen, King) and Aces. Each suit (Clubs, Spades, Diamonds, and Hearts) can only appear once, so a maximum of four cards per set is possible.

Sequences, or runs, consist of three or more subsequent cards of one suit. The following order is in force: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace. The Ace has two possible positions but each card, including the Ace, can only appear once in a sequence. A maximum of 13 cards per sequence is possible. This is especially relevant when playing with the custom rule “Cyclic Laying”.

The first meld must fulfill additional requirements: Each player’s first combination of cards during a round must score at least 30 points. At least three cards must be played. This can be achieved by playing a set of three 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces of different suits. Playing sequences is also an option, for example, “10-Jack-Queen-King”, “Jack-Queen-King-Ace” or “7-8-9-10-Jack”.

HEADS UP: An Ace in a sequence scores eleven points when following a King, for example, “Jack-Queen-King-Ace”, but only one point when followed by pips, for example, “Ace-2-3-…”

After playing the first meld the player can use their turn to play any number of melds possible. Cards can also be added to existing melds, referred to as laying off. Details follow further below.

A particular case: Going Rummy

Sometimes a player will receive perfectly matching cards. When all cards are played in melds within one turn, without laying off or swapping Jokers, the player is going Rummy. The opponents’ penalty points double as well as the points gained by the winner.

The Joker enters the game

When melding, the jolly minstrel gets a chance: Jokers replace a card missing in a meld.

  • Example for a Sequence: “Jack-Queen-Joker-Ace” => The Joker replaces the King.
  • Example for a Set: ”4 of Clubs-4 of Spades-Joker” => The Joker replaces the third 4 (either of Diamonds or Hearts).

The Joker entirely imitates the replaced card, including the score. Replacing a King the Joker scores ten points, replacing a 4 it scores four points. Keep this in mind when composing your first meld.

It is possible to play two consecutive Jokers if they don’t outnumber the natural cards and the Jokers’ position is obvious.

  • A set of four is possible: “3 of Hearts-3 of Diamonds-Joker-Joker” => The Jokers replace 3 of Clubs and 3 of Spades.
  • A sequence including two Jokers works as well. For example: “9 of Hearts-Joker-Joker-Queen of Hearts” => The Jokers replace 10 of Hearts and Jack of Hearts.

Laying off

After playing the first meld, a player can add one or more cards from their hand to any existing melds. If there is a set of three Kings, the fourth King can be added to this set. Likewise, a sequence can be extended. For example, “7-8-9-10” can be extended by the 6 or the Jack of the matching suit.

Swapping Jokers

During their turn, a player can also remove Jokers from existing melds, if they can replace it with the missing card. The gained Joker must be melded during the same turn!

Knocking

This is an interesting variation, popular among Rummy fans. If this rule applies must be declared before the game starts. At the Rummy Palace, it can be activated choosing from the custom rules.

Knocking is permitted only after playing the first meld. It enables you to pick up cards discarded by your fellow players outside of your turn.

If you see a card that could help you to form and play a meld, you knock and receive it. But there is a price to pay: Draw another card from the stock. To play your newly received cards you must wait until it is your turn.

After knocking the game continues in its’ usual order. Should another player finish the game before the person who knocked could play any of their new cards, it is bad luck: Now there are even more cards to build up penalty points.

Rummy!

When a player melded, swapped or laid off all their cards and discarded the last one onto the discard pile, they exclaim: Rummy! They won the round.
The other players now each sum up the scores of the cards left in their hands. The scores are calculated as initially described: The score of the pip cards matches the number depicted on them, face cards score ten, the Ace scores eleven and the Joker tops them all with 20 points. Each player receives their hand’s score as penalty points. But the winner gains the sum of all scores.
And now that everything is clear – feel free to go ahead and try it out!