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Indian Rummy: Paplu

This version of Rummy, also known as Paplu, is a very popular in India in general and in Maharashtra State in particular. It is a pastime enjoyed by persons of all walks of life, be it the commuters in crowded trains in Mumbai, housewives gathering together for kitty parties, retired persons meeting in clubs, or acquaintances who meet regularly to play. People's obsession with this game is so great that commuters will spend over an hour or two daily in each direction playing Rummy on trains and buses; some even begin by travelling in the opposite direction to the train's starting point to occupy be sure to claim their "regular" seats. Housewives take turns to gather their friends for whole afternoon of Rummy at home, eating and gossiping. Many groups go out on weekends / holidays to a nearby resort just to get long undisturbed hours for playing Rummy. There are clubs in big cities as well as in small places where while some elite groups indulge in playing Bridge, which is considered more respectable, a large number prefer to play Rummy.

Usually Rummy is played for small stakes. This is a mild form of gambling, but in practice harmless. Players enjoy the game and do not mind losing an affordable amount of money. Since gambling is technically illegal, players are discreet, playing with friends in private or using tokens instead of money or writing the scores on paper.

Players and Cards

As many as 10 people can play this game: beyond this number it is perhaps not practical for all the players to sit around a table. Up to 6 players use two decks of cards. 3 decks are used for more players. Each deck consists of the standard 52 cards plus one wild card, with "joker" printed on it. Thus there are 53x2=106 cards for 2 to 6 players, and 53x3= 159 cards for 7 or more players.


To begin the session, each player picks a card at random from the shuffled deck. Seating is as per card value: whoever draws the highest card chooses his seat, to his right the next highest and so on. The lowest, thus, sits to the left of the highest. The lowest deals first and shuffles the cards.

The player to the left of the dealer draws a card unseen from the shuffled deck and paces it on the table face up, visible to all. This card is known as the 'joker': all cards of same rank as this turned up card as well as the printed jokers are used as wild cards, and all these cards are referred to as 'jokers'. If the card turned up is a printed joker then there is just one wild card available for use: the other printed joker.

The player to dealer's left then cuts the remaining cards and the dealer distributes them anti-clockwise one at a time, the player to dealer's right getting the first card. 13 cards are dealt to each player. One card is dealt face up to begin the discard pile and the remaining stack is placed face down in the centre crosswise on top of the turned up joker, so that the rank of the joker remains visible - see diagram.

For the next hand the turn to deal passes to the right, and this continues until everyone has dealt once, completing a "round". After playing one or two rounds, the seating is changed again following the same start procedure. Normally a player should quit the play only at the end of a round. Anyone wanting to join in between the rounds occupies the seat to the left of the player dealing next.

Runs and sets

The objective is to form one's 13 cards into sequences (runs) and sets (also known as trails or trios).

A run (or sequence) consists of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit, the order being A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A. The ace can be next to the two (in A-2-3) or next to the king (in Q-K-A), but not both at once, so K-A-2 is not a legal run.

A set (trail, trio) consists of three cards of the same rank in different suits: 5-5-5 is a valid set but 7-7-7 is not.

Combinations must not overlap - for example 7-8-9-9-9 is either a run of diamonds with two spare 9's or a set of 9's with two spare diamonds. If a second 9 or a 9 or a 6 is added, the six cards form a run and a set.

Wild cards can be used to substitute for any desired card in a set or run. For example if the turned up card is a 8 then 3-8-5 is a valid run, and J-J-8 is a valid set since all 8's are wild.

A straight run is a run formed without the use of wild cards as substitutes for other cards. At least one straight run is required in one's hand in order for any combinations to become valid. Note that if 8's are wild, 7-8-9 counts as a straight run, since the 8 is used as itself, not as a wild card, but J-Q-8 is not a straight run - just an ordinary run.

When three decks are used it is customary also to allow an additional type of combination consisting of three identical cards - such as 10-10-10. This is known as a tanala, and is treated as equivalent to a straight run.

In order to declare Rummy and win it is necessary to hold at least two runs, and at least one of these runs must be straight. The remainder of one's 13 cards must also be formed into combinations, which may be runs or sets, with or without wild cards. The first "straight" run (or tanala) is sometimes known as the "original life" and the second run as the "second life".

Usually a winning hand consists of four combinations: one of four cards and three of three cards, but it is also possible to win with just three combinations of 5, 4 and 4 or 5, 5 and 3 cards, always provided that they include at least two runs, one of which must be straight.

The play

The player to dealer's right plays first, and play continues counter-clockwise. Each player's turn consists of picking up either the top card of the face up discard pile or the top card of the face down stack. Having taken this card into hand the player must discard one card from hand face up on top of the discard pile.

If the player chooses to take the top card of the discard pile, that card cannot be discarded in the same turn - the player must discard a different card.

It sometimes happens that the card turned up by the dealer to start the discard pile is a joker, which can then be picked up by the first player in the normal way. Since this clearly gives the first player an advantage, it may encourage several other players to pack (see below).

The play continues until a player, after picking up a card, has 13 cards that form valid combinations (including at least one straight run and at least one other run as explained above). In this case the player discards the 14th card and declares 'Rummy', placing the 13 cards face up to show that they form the required runs and sets, and winning the game.

Note that no runs or sets are laid out during the play. In this form of Rummy players keep all their cards concealed from the other players until a player is able to win.

If there are no face down cards remaining in the stack and no one has declared Rummy by the end of the turn in which the last stock card was taken, the game is void and no one wins.


A player whose hand is unpromising may prefer to withdraw from the game to limit the amount lost. This is called packing or dropping. It can only be done at the start of a player's turn, instead of picking up a card.

A player who packs at the start of his first turn, before before drawing any card from the stack or discard pile, pays 10 points to the eventual winner. The player's 13 cards are shuffled and placed at the bottom of the face down stack, so that they are eventually available for drawing by the other players if the game continues that long. The remaining players continue to play.

A player who packs at a later turn must pay 40 points to the eventual winner, if any. This player's cards are not added to the stack - they are set aside face down out of the game.

If all players except one have packed, the last remaining player automatically wins, and immediately collects the appropriate amounts from the players who packed.

If the game is void because the stack is used up and no one is able to declare Rummy, the packed players do not pay.


After the winner declares rummy, all other players who have not packed count their hands for pay-off. The values of the cards are as follows:

If a hand contains a straight run (original life), the cards of this run are not counted.

If the hand contains a second run (second life) as well as a straight run, cards in these runs and any additional runs and trails (sets) are not counted.

The values of all remaining cards are totalled and the points are paid to the winner. Packed players pay the winner either 10 or 40 points, depending on when they packed.

Example: five is the joker (wild card) and a player holds 10-J-Q-K-7-8-8-4-4-4-4-2-2 when another player wins. This player has an original life (straight run in hearts) but no second life, so must pay 43 points. If the player had a wild card in place of the 8, the payment would be only 8 points for a 4 and the two 2's, since the spade run would be a second life, making the trail of 4's also valid.

If a player declares Rummy after picking a card for his first turn, any other players who have not yet had an opportunity to pack or pick a card pay for their unmatched cards at half rate - that is the total value of their cards that are not in valid combinations is divided by two.

In the rare event that a player is dealt a hand of 13 cards that are all connected in compliance with the rules, the player can declare 'Hand-Rummy'. Hand-Rummy is declared at the player's first turn, instead of picking a card. Any players who have already taken their turns and have chosen to play must pay twice the total value of their unmatched cards. Those who have already packed pay 10 points as usual, and any players who have not yet had a turn pay for their unmatched cards at the normal (single) rate.


Sometimes it is agreed that the stakes are doubled when the turned up wild card happens to be a printed joker. In this case in the 2-deck game there is just one joker available for use as a wild card. Whoever is dealt this card or picks it up in the course of the game has a strong hand, though not a sure win.

Alternatively, some play that when a printed joker is turned up, all Aces are treated as jokers (wild cards) and the stakes are not raised.

Some do not award a double score for hand rummy.

Certain groups deal 21 cards each for up to 5 or 6 persons with varying stake rules, bonus, and penalties etc. I have not yet seen any details of this version of the game.

Tactics: Skill or Luck

Luck plays a big role in winning high value games, while skill can be used to limit one's losses and improve one's probability of winning. The decision whether enter the game or to pack depends upon what cards one gets. With the possibility of declaring Rummy in 2 or 3 picks, it is a safe bet to play. Choosing what card to discard a card is also an important skill. While one can stall others from declaring Rummy, cunning discards an also induce an opponent to give you the card you need.

The combination of luck and skill makes the game entertaining. It can becomes an addiction in that one spends a good lot of time and sometimes money, but enjoys it so much that one only wants to play more frequently.