Rummy games first appeared in the early twentieth century, and are probably derived from the Mexican game Conquian. This page describes basic rummy, also known in the card game literature as Straight Rummy. For other types of rummy, and related games, see the rummy index page. Note that many people use the name Rummy to refer to the game called 500 Rummy on this site, in which more than one card can be taken from the discard pile, and points are scored for cards melded. For details of this game, see the 500 Rummy page.
The game is best played with two to four players, but up to six can take part. Either a fixed number of deals are played, or the game is played to a target score. The number of deals or the target score needs to be agreed before beginning to play.
One standard deck of 52 cards is used. Cards in each suit rank, from low to high:
Ace 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Jack Queen King
The first dealer is chosen randomly, and the turn to deal alternates if there are two players, and rotates clockwise if there are more than two. In a two player game, each player is dealt a hand of ten cards. Seven cards each are dealt if there are three or four players, and when five or six play each player gets six cards. The cards are dealt one at a time, and after the deal, the next card is placed face up on the table to start the discard pile, and the remainder of the deck is placed face down beside it to form the stock. The players look at and sort their cards.
The object of the game is to dispose of all the cards in your hand. There are three ways to get rid of cards: melding, laying off, and discarding.
If there are two players, they take alternate turns starting with the non dealer. If there are more than two players, they take turns in clockwise rotation, beginning with the player to dealer's left.
Each turn consists of the following parts:
A player wins an individual hand by either melding, laying off, or discarding all of his or her cards. Getting rid of your last card in one of these ways is called going out. As soon as someone goes out, play ceases. There can be no further melding or laying off, even if the other players have valid combinations in their hands.
When a player goes out, the other players add up the value of all the cards still remaining in their hands, as follows:
The total value of all the cards in the hands of the other players is added to the winner's cumulative score.
The game continues with further deals until a player reaches the points target that was decided before the game began, or until the agreed number of deals has been played.
These optional rules should be discussed and decided by the players before the beginning of the first deal.
Some play that you may not lay off any cards on other players' melds until you have laid down at least one meld of your own.
In the standard game, aces are low. A-2-3 is a valid run but Q-K-A is not. However, some play that aces can be counted as high or low, so that Q-K-A is also a valid run. When playing with this rule, aces are given the higher value of 15 points instead of 1 point, reflecting their greater usefulness.
A few players go further and allow "round the corner" runs with an ace in the middle (K-A-2), but this is unusual.
Some people play that in order to go out, you must end your turn by discarding your last card. You are not allowed to meld all your cards, leaving nothing to discard.
Some play that when the stock has run out and the next player does not want the discard, the discard pile is shuffled before reusing it as a stock. This is the version now given in most books. If there is no shuffle, players who can memorise the order of cards in the discard pile will clearly have an advantage.
It is just about possible, though very unlikely, that a repetitive situation could occur where each player is holding on to cards wanted by the others. Each player draws from the stock and discards the card they just drew. In this case, recycling the discard pile as a new stock, whether shuffled or not, will not help. If the players are stubborn, the game could be endless. To avoid this, it may be a good idea to limit the number of times that the discard pile can be reused as a new stock. I suggest that after the stock becomes exhausted for the third time, the play should end if the next player does not want to take the discard. Alternatively, you could agree that the discard pile gets reused only once and the play ends when the stock is used up for the second time.
In the version known as Block Rummy, the discard pile is not reused at all. If the stock has run out and the next player does not want to take the discard, the game ends at that point. Everyone scores the value of the cards remaining in their hands.
If the game ends without anyone going out, all players count the value of the cards remaining in their hands. The winner is the player with least points, and scores the sum of the differences between this and the points in each other player's hand. Example: A has 6; B has 15; C has 7; D has 21. A is the winner and scores 25 = (9 + 1 + 15). If two or more players tie for lowest, they share the winnings equally.
Players are allowed, at their turn, to count the number of cards remaining in the face down stock if they wish. As a courtesy (to save others having to count as well), a player who counts the stock should correctly announce to the other players how many stock cards remain.
Some play that instead of the winner scoring points, each of the losers score penalty points according to the cards left in their hand. If the game ends without a winner then everyone scores their cards as penalty points. When someone reaches 100 or more, the player with the lowest score wins.
Some play that each loser pays the winner according to the number of points in their hand (or the difference between their score and the winner's score if no one went out). This method is appropriate when playing for money. The session would last for a set number of hands rather than be played to a target score.
Daryl Brown describes the following variant payed in Wrotham, Kent, UK. A 55-card pack is used, including three jokers which are used as wild cards. A joker can be used as a substitute for any card needed to melded a set or run. A player who holds the card that a melded joker represents can, during her turn, exchange the real card for the joker.
Six deals are played. Eight cards are dealt to the starting player and seven to each other player. On the first turn the starting player does not draw, but just discards a card (or melds and discards). In the first three rounds players meld and lay off as usual, but in the last three rounds, players may not meld any cards until they are able to lay down all seven at once.
Rummy.com has another set of rules for Basic Rummy.
Randy Rasa's Rummy-Games.com has rules for various rummy games, as well as reviews of many rummy software packages and on-line servers.
In several card game books the British author George Hervey published rules for basic Rummy and a variant that amounts to Knock Rummy under the name Colonel. You can read the rules of Colonel on Howard Fosdick's Cards and Dominoes site.
Rummy.ch is a German language site offering rules for many rummy games, strategy articles, reviews of online rummy sites and a forum.
Since 2004 the Deutsche Skatverband has a Rommé division and has published short rules, elaborate tournament rules and Rommé score sheets that are to be recommended because of the rather complicated scoring system. Additionally Rommé events and championships are organized.
There are rules in French on Jean-François Bustarret's Rami page.
For other types of rummy see the Rummy Games index page.
At Game Duell you can play Rommé (German) or Rami (French) online for fun or real money: they offer a variant using two decks and 6 jokers, in which a player's first meld must be worth at least 40 points.
German Rommé, with two decks, 6 jokers and a minimum of 40 points for the initial meld, can also be played at online sunnygames.de.
A shareware Rummy program for Windows (a two-player game against the computer with 10 cards dealt to each player) is available from Games Galore. A free trial version is also available.
The Rummy program from Special K Software supports ten Rummy variants, which you can play against computer opponents.
Windows software for Italian Rummy (Ramino) is available from Alberosa.
Playpop.com includes an online Rummy game in which a player's first meld must be worth at least 31 points.
Antonio Ferraioli has written a Rummy app for iPhone or iPad.
A multiplayer online Rummy game is available at exoty.com.
Alberosa publishes Windows software for Ramino , an Italian form of basic rummy.
With Torsten Heitmann's Rummy Timer App you can speed up the game by setting a time limit on players' turns: also create player lists, record scores and calculate some statistics.
Sylvain Labbe's Free Card Games includes Net.Rummy, an online Rummy program with customisable rules for play against live opponents. It can be used both on desktop computers and on mobile devices of several types.