Rummy Rummy related games

Penang Rummy

Type Rummy
Players 2-5 (4 best)
Cards 2x52 plus 6 Jokers
Deck Anglo-American
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Related games
Rummy

Penang Rummy or Si Rummy is a variant of the Rummy card game that was believed to have been invented in Penang in late 80s and became very popular in Malaysia. The word 'Si' in Penang Hokkien language mean 'dead'. It reflects the nature of the card game, where the hand is dead, with no drawing of new cards or exchanging of cards throughout the whole game. It is this feature that distinguish itself from other Rummy variants.

Object

The basic concept is the same as most Rummy games is to form melds, eliminating deadwood cards. "Deadwood" cards are those that do not form part of a meld. They are undesirable and counted towards players' points at the end of each game. The objective is have less points the opponents.

The game

Penang Rummy is played with 2 standard 52-card packs of playing cards plus 6 jokers as wildcards. A total of 110 cards is used. Sometimes 8 jokers are used instead of 6.

The ideal number of players is 4. Sometimes a game can commence with 3 players, in which case each player will receive more cards to begin with. A two-handed game is rarely played, and for five or more players an additional pack of cards is used.

Dealing

The first dealer is determined randomly. Subsequent dealers change from game to game. Two basic systems are used to determine the dealer. In a game where points are not recorded, the player with the highest points in the last game (the worst loser) will deal. He is deemed to "pay a small forfeit" by doing a service for all by taking up the task of dealing the cards.

In a game where points are recorded, the player who won the last game will deal. He is deemed to have benefited from the last game, especially when money is at stake, and hence should provide a service to all by doing the task of dealing as a gesture of appreciation.

The dealer starts the dealing with the player to his left. This goes on in a clockwise manner, until each player receives 20 cards. In a 3-player game, each player will receive 25 cards instead of 20. The remaining cards are put aside and play no further role in the game.

Play

The game starts with the player on the left of the dealer, and goes on in clockwise manner. On each turn, player must take at least 1 action of either melding or laying off. He can of course decide to do both. A player, however, cannot skip his turn.

There is no upper limit in number of actions a player can take per turn. For example, a player may decide to make 2 melds, then lay off 1 card to an existing run and lay off 2 cards to an existing set, all in a single turn. In each game, a player must first do a meld, before he/she can do any lay-offs. The first meld in a game is called a "passport".

Note that Penang Rummy or Si Rummy does not have the action of drawing a card or discarding unwanted cards. This is the distinctive feature of this Rummy variant.

Melding

If a player has 3 or more cards that meet the criteria of a "run" or a "set" below, he may meld by laying these cards, face up, in front of him. The melds are like typical Rummy games:

Laying off

A player may also choose to "lay off" some cards on an existing meld. This means that if a player can add to a run or a set that is in front of them or any of the other players, they may do so.

For an existing meld of 3♥-4♥-5♥-6♥, another card of 2♥ or 7♥ can be added, thereby continuing the run in either direction. For an existing meld of 8♥-8♥-8♣-8♠, another card of 8♠ or 8♦ can be added to the set.

There is no limit in number of additional card a player can add to a run or set in a turn.

Scoring

All players sum up their points for the game just ended. The point system is as shown:

Note that the lower the points is, the better it is for the player. The player with the lowest point is the winner, while the player with the highest point is the biggest loser. Points can also be optionally recorded, so that they can be summed up at the end of a gaming session to determine overall winner.

Game rules

Wildcard substitution

A player may substitute a wildcard on table (in a run or set) with a card in his hand, provided the card fits. He can then keep the wildcard for future use.

Wildcard Substitution is not counted as an action. So a player must still take one other action of either melding or laying off, after he perform a wildcard substitution, if he has not done so for that turn.

There is no limit how many wildcard a player can substitute in a turn.

Passport

At the beginning of each game, it is mandatory for a player to play a meld before anything else. This first meld is called a "passport". Failing to do so result in an instant "Dead", and sitting out for the rest of that game round. There is no point requirement for passport meld, unlike other Rummy rules. A lay-off cannot be used as a passport. In addition, wildcard substitution cannot be carried before a player has a passport.

Failing to obtain a passport is a rare occurrence, given the large amount of cards in hand, large amount of wildcards, and relatively low requirement of a passport. Player consider oneself to be really unlucky if fails to obtain a passport.

Declare Dead

When a player can neither meld nor lay-off when it comes to his turn, he has to Declare "Dead". The game still goes on for the rest of the players, but he participates no further in the rest of that game.

The effect is that the player can no longer reduce deadwoods in his hand, and therefore stuck with all the points in the dead hand. Even subsequently when there are new melds that the player could have been able to lay off more cards, he cannot do so because he is out of the game. So it is desirable to delay declaring "Dead" as much as possible. In other words, players try real hard to keep his hand alive.

It is not unusual to see player laying off 3-of-a-kind of Aces in his hand one-by-one, if there is already another existing set of Aces on the table. This helps to keep the hand alive for 3 more rounds. It is also a common strategy not to meld if one does not have to. Melding helps to keep other players alive, which is not desirable for oneself.

It is worth noting that the most tragic type of "Dead" declaration is failing to get a "passport" right from the beginning. In other words, the player does not even get a chance to play in that game round.

Declare Game

When a player has gotten rid of all of their cards, he declare "Game" and wins the hand. This is the same as "Going Out" or "Knocking" in other Rummy variants. All other players start to total up the points of their deadwoods, which may include any wildcards. They cannot play on even though they still have melds or lay-offs that they can play in hand.

A player's attempt to keep his hand alive can backfire badly if another player suddenly declares "Game". The biggest satisfaction is to catch your opponent holding several wildcards (therefore high points) in his/her hand when one declares "Game".

Note that in Penang Rummy, it is not unusual to have no one declares "Game". Instead, many games end up with 4 players declaring "Dead". Therefore, the more realistic strategy is to minimise points in your hand when declaring "Dead".

Read more:

COMMENTS
Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy