Carousel is a member of a family of games sometimes called Manipulation Rummy games. This means that the melds on the table may be reorganized, or manipulated, in any way as long as the player adds at least one new card, and that all melds on the table are still legal when the player is done. This is similar to how the Rummykub game works, except the game is played with cards instead of tiles.
Players: 2 to 5 players can play Carousel.
Cards: For 2 players use a single 52-card deck plus one joker. For 3 to 5 players use 2 decks plus 2 jokers. Aces can be used in sequences as either high or low, but not both.
The Deal: 10 cards are dealt to each player, one at a time starting with the player to the dealer's left. Game play also starts with the player to the dealer's left and moves clockwise from player to player.
Objective: The objective of the game is to reduce the number of cards in the players hand as much as possible via forming cards into combinations of Sets and Runs and laying them down on the table. If a player's hand has a deadwood score of 5 or less then they can "knock" (like in Gin Rummy) to indicate they are ending the round. The knock must be done during a player's turn, after they have drawn their cards.
Play commences with the player to the left of the dealer taking a turn and continues clockwise until the hand ends.
Players do the following actions when it is their turn:
Draw: The player starts by drawing a card. If they are able meld or lay off, and wish to do so, then they can do so after the first card. If not then they daw a second card. If the player still can not meld or lay off then a third cards is drawn and the turn ends.
Meld and/or lay off: In order to meld the player must play at least one card from their hand. At the beginning of the game the first player forming a meld must create a complete and valid set or run. On subsequent turns players can either form new melds, or add cards to existing melds. The player is also allowed to rearrange existing melds and reform them into others in order to enable them to play one or more cards from their hand. The only requirements are that the player plays at least one card from their hand, and then all melds on the table are still valid when they are done. See the section below for more details and examples.
Even if a player is able to meld after drawing the first or second card, they are not required to do so. If desired they may continue to draw the second and third cards without melding.
End of turn: There is no discard at the end of turns in Carousel, so when the player is finished drawing and possibly melding they just need to indicate to other players that they are finished with their turn.
Jokers are wild cards. When a joker is played to the table, the player must state what card it represents, and its value cannot be changed, unless the joker is released by substituting the actual card that the joker represents. The card used to replace the joker may come from the player's hand or from elsewhere on the table. It is possible to move a joker from one meld to another without replacing it, provided that the rank and suit of the card it represents are not changed.
For example: if someone plays 8-9-Joker, with the joker representing the 10. A subsequent player cannot simply add the 6 to this sequence, changing the joker to represent the seven, but a player with a real 10 could play this, substituting it for the joker, and then use the released joker in another meld, specifying a new card for it to represent. Alternatively, a player who had 7, 10, and 10 could play these three cards, adding the 7 to the lower end of the sequence and then using the joker to make a set of three tens.
A joker released by substituting the card it represents cannot be taken back into the player's hand - it must immediately be used it a new meld.
A player may freely rearrange the melds on the table during their turn, so long as they add at least one card from their hand, and, upon completion of the player's turn, all cards on the table are formed in legal melds. Here are a couple examples:
If you hold the 6 and these melds are on the table:
Then you can take the 6 and 6 from their current melds, and remeld with your 6 and end up with these melds on the table:
3-4-5 3-4-5 6-6-6
If you hold the 7-9-J cards and these melds are on the table:
7-8-9 7-8-9 6-6-6
Then you can remeld the runs into a combination of runs and sets and end up with these melds on the table:
7-7-7 8-8-8 9-9-9 9-10-J
Note that you could have played only the J if you hadn't rearranged the cards. With some rearrangement you managed to get rid of three cards instead of just the one! If you also held other meldable cards like Q-Q-Q then you could have played those cards in addition to the 7-9-J.
End of Round
The round ends when a player has a deadwood score of 5 points or less in their hand, and then "knocks" indicating that they think they are ready to win the hand. The round ends immediately, there is no laying off of deadwood like in Gin Rummy.
If no one has knocked when the stock is exhausted, everyone has one more turn to meld (obviously without drawing from the stock).
When a player knocks, or the round ends due to the stock pile being exhausted, then all players add up the value of their remaining cards based on these point values:
The winner is the player with the lowest value of cards left in their hand. The difference between the winner's deadwood value and each of the other players' value is added to the winner's running total score. For example, if the winner has 4 points and the other players have 6, 12 and 17, then the differences are 2, 8 and 13 so the winner scores 23 (2+8+13).
If the winner is different than the player who knocked, then the winner gets an undercut bonus of 10 points. If the knocker and another player tied, then the other player is the winner and receives the undercut bonus. If two or more players other than the knocker tie for lowest, each wins the difference between their own count and those of the other hands, plus the undercut bonus.
If a player wins by getting rid of all of their cards, they score a bonus of 25 points in addition to the sum of the points in the other players' hands.
Additional rounds are played until a player's total score reaches 150 or more points. They then get a bonus of 100 and each of the other players receives a bonus of 25 for each round that they have won.