This North American Rummy game exists in many versions and has many different names. The play is similar to Rummy 500 in that a player may take several cards from the discard pile, but there two major differences.
- The first card dealt to each player is face up, and its value determines the number of cards that will be dealt to the player. The players therefore start with unequal sized hands.
- There are wild cards, which along with the Aces have a high value, typically 100 points. It is therefore important to meld these high-value cards, or at least to dispose of them, before the end of the play. One wild card is determined by an exposed card in the dealer's hand, and therefore varies from deal to deal. Some versions have additional wild cards.
There are many different descriptions of this game from different people, and no two of them agree in every detail. The variants affect every part of the game: the number of cards used, the deal, the card values, the wild cards, the melds that are allowed, the rules of play and the scoring. This page will first describe the most commonly used aspects of the game, and then will cover common variations that can be applied to the game if the players agree to use them.
The name 5000 Rummy or Rummy 5000 reflects the fact that the game is often played to a target score of 5000, but it's not uncommon to play to different target scores, and some players will name the game accordingly, such as 1500 Rummy, 2500 Rummy, 10000 Rummy, or etc. Other names include Backwards Rummy, Bitchin' Rummy, Circle Rummy, Crazy Rummy, Dumbbell Rummy, Dummy Rummy, George, Hillbilly Rummy, Polish Rummy and Wild One.
Players: From 3 to 8 players can play the game.
Cards: For 3 or 4 players, a single 52-card deck of cards is used. For 5 to 8 players use 2 decks (104 cards total). Jokers are not included in either case.
The Deal: The first dealer is chosen by a random method: for example all draw cards and the lowest deals. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. Before the deal, the dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts the cards.
Instead of dealing the cards around the table one by one, or a few at a time, as in most games, the dealer gives each player in turn their whole hand of cards before moving on to the next player. For each player, starting to the dealer's left:
- The dealer deals one card in front of the player, face up for all to see. The rank of this card determines the number of additional cards that player will be dealt.
- The dealer deals the remainder of the player's hand face down. For example, if a player's first card is a 7, the dealer gives the player 7 more cards face down before moving on to the next player. A player whose first card is a face card (jack, queen or king) receives 10 more cards. If the first card is an Ace, the player receives 11 more cards.
The dealer will be the last to receive cards. The dealer's first card (the one dealt face up) is wild for the current deal. For example, if the dealer gets a 4 face up, the dealer takes four more cards face down, and fours are wild for the current round.
The dealer stacks the remainder of the cards in a neat face down pile to form a stock from which cards can be drawn. The top card of the stock is turned face up and placed next to the stock to begin the discard pile.
All players pick up their cards, both the face up one and the face down ones, and play begins.
Objective: As in most Rummy games the object of each round is to form (meld) all cards into Sets and Runs. In addition, points are scored for the cards that a player has melded, so there are times when it would be better for a player to not go out as soon as possible, and to work on gaining more points instead.
The standard rules for Sets and Runs apply to this game, with the addition that when more than one deck of cards is used it is legal to include identical cards in a set. For example, 5-5-5 is a valid set.
Aces can be used as a high card or a low card in a run, but not both.
A wild card can be used as a substitute for any missing card needed to form a set or run. For example, if 6's are wild, then 8-6-10 is a valid run.
Play commences with the player to the left of the dealer taking a turn and continues clockwise until the round ends.
Players do the following actions when it is their turn:
Draw: The player begins by either drawing a single card from the stock pile, or one or more cards from the discard pile. If more than one card is drawn from the discard pile then the deepest card drawn must be melded in the same turn.
Meld (optional): If the player has cards that can be combined into Sets or Runs then they may play those cards by laying them down on the table. The melds on the table should be kept organized and distinct from the melds laid down by other players because the score is derived from the cards a player has laid on the table.
Lay off (optional): If the player has already created a meld of 3 or more cards then they may extend melds already on the table with cards that can legally added to those melds. The player should announce which meld they are extending, but then keep the card in their own area of the table since it will contribute to their own score.
The other players should keep track of these lay off announcements in case they are also able to further extend the meld when it is their turn. For example, if player A has melded 6-7-8 and player B had added 9 to it, other players need to be aware that a 5 or a 10 can now be added (but not another 9), even though the 9 on the table is lying in front of player B and not next to the original run in front of player A.
Discard: To end the turn, the player must discard one card face up onto the discard pile. If a player takes just one card from the top of the discard pile, it is not legal to discard that same card, leaving the discard pile exactly as it was before the player's turn. The cards of the discard pile are overlapped like in Rummy 500, so that all discarded cards can be seen.
If a player holds the real card that a wild card represents, then they may lay down that card in their area of the table during their turn and have it contribute to their score. The wild card remains in place.
Any card can be discarded. However, if a card is discarded which can be used to extend a set or run on the table, any player who has already melded themselves can call "Rummy!", take the discard and meld it, announcing the set or run it is added to, and then discard a card (if possible). The turn to play then reverts to the player whose turn to play should have been next had it not been for the "Rummy!" call.
End of Round
The round can end in one of two ways:
- A player has only one card left after melding and discards it, leaving no cards in their hand. This is called "going out". Note that this final discard must be "unplayable": it cannot be a card that could have been added to a meld on the table. A player who has no unplayable cards has to "float" - see below.
- There are no cards left in the stock pile, and the player whose turn it is cannot or does not wish to take a card or cards from the discard pile.
In either case, the play ends immediately and the players calculate their scores.
If a player melds all his or her cards, and has nothing to discard, this does not end the play. Instead, the player "floats", holding no cards. In future turns, the player must draw a card from the stock (not from the discard pile since it is illegal to draw and discard the same card). If the card drawn is playable it must be melded and the player floats again. If it is not playable, the player discards it and goes out. A player who calls "rummy" while floating melds the card but is unable to discard, so continues to float.
Players score the value of all the cards they have melded, using the values in this table:
|wild cards (not Ace)||100|
|Ace (not wild)||100|
|K, Q, J, 10||10|
|2 - 9||5|
Also, if the play ended by one of the players going out, that player scores the value of all the cards remaining in the other players' hands, which they failed to meld.
Further rounds are played until one or more players reaches a cumulative score of 5000 or more. At that point, the player who has most points is the winner.
Optional Rules and Variations
The following rules may be added to the standard game if all players agree to the variation before the first player takes their turn. It’s not an all or nothing deal, the game participants can pick and choose which variations they like. Note that some combinations of variants work together better than others.
Cards, Wild Cards and Card Values
- Depending on exactly how the deal is managed, there is the possibility that some players may begin with hands of only 3 or even 2 cards, which may be undesirable. To avoid this, some groups omit some small cards from the pack. It seems to be quite common to play without twos, so that a double deck contains 96 cards. Some take this further: Some will play with just 2×44 cards, where the lowest card is a 4, and with 2 or more decks of 36 cards containing nothing below a 6. If low cards are omitted, Aces are always high in runs, next to the King.
- Another way to avoid the smallest hands is to make all the twos permanent wild cards. In this case a player who receives a two as an upcard will be dealt another 15 or 20 cards, according to what dealing variant is used.
- Another possibility for avoiding too small hands is to restrict the initial face up to 4 or above. If a 2 or 3 is dealt then it is inserted back into the deck and the player is dealt another face up card.
- Many players add Jokers to the deck. These act as permanent wild cards. Some groups have other permanent wild cards such as tens or one-eyed jacks.
- To reduce the chances of running out of cards some players add extra decks. For example three or four players can play with a double deck (with 4 Jokers if used) and five or more could use a triple deck (with 6 Jokers if wanted).
- Some players have a lower value of 50 for aces. If Aces are 50 and wild cards are 100, then wild Aces would normally be worth 150, but some groups do not allow Aces to be wild - see below. Some play that wild cards are always worth 200, whether they are aces or not, and that aces are 100 when not wild.
- Some groups value 9's and 8's as 10 points instead of 5. Some have special high values for other particular cards, for example 45 for the queen of spades.
Dealing and Choosing the Wild Card
- Some groups treat the face up card dealt to each player as indicating the total number of cards that player should receive, rather than the number of additional cards. In this version, for example, a player who was dealt a 6 first would get only 5 cards face down, not 6.
- Instead of dealing 10 cards for a Jack, Queen or King some groups will deal 11, 12 or 13 cards respectively. In this case then typically 14 or 15 cards will be dealt for an Ace, instead of 11 cards.
- When permanent wild cards are used, they usually correspond to a larger number of cards, such as 15, 20 or even 25. Alternatively, some play that a wild card dealt as an upcard is buried in the pack and replaced by another card. One description with 2's as permanent wild cards says that the player receiving a 2 can choose whether to be dealt 2 or 12 cards in total.
- Some groups determine the wild card for the hand by exposing the dealer's last card rather than the first card. Some determine the wild card by an extra card dealt face up to the dealer, after the number of cards indicated by the dealer's initial upcard have been dealt.
- If the indicator card is a permanent wild card, some give the dealer additional cards until a card that is not a permanent wild card is found. Others bury the permanent wild card in the deck and deal a replacement indicator card.
- In one description the wild card for the round is determined by a separate card dealt after the dealer's hand is complete: this indicator card is not used in the game: it does not belong to the dealer, nor is it part of the discard pile. It can be tucked under the stock pile as in Indian Rummy so it can be seen by all players during the round.
- Instead of using the dealer's upcard or other random selection for the wild card, some will play with the Ace being the wild card in the first round, 2's in the second round, and 3's in the next, and so on. The player with the highest score at the end of the round where the King is wild is the winner.
Rules of Play
- The play mechanism is essentially similar to that of Rummy 500, and all the variants of Rummy 500 can in principle be used in this game as well.
- Some groups have restrictions on the use of wild cards in melds. Some play that the number of natural cards in a meld must always be greater than the number of wild cards. Some play that only one wild card is allowed in a meld, but that a meld of six cards or more can be split into two parts, so that one wild card can be used in each. When playing with these restrictions, players need to agree to how to treat wild cards that represent themselves: for example if 6's are wild, some treat the run 6-7-8 as already containing a wild card, while other groups treat the six as natural since it is the correct value and suit to fit into the run, even though it keeps its "wild" value of 100 points.
- Some players recognize a set of three or more wild cards as a special kind of combination, which can be extended only by adding further wild cards.
- Some allow the real card that a wild card represents in a meld to be traded for the wild card. That is, during the melding part of one's turn, one can play the card that corresponds to a wild card on the table, take that wild card and meld it elsewhere or add it to one's hand.
- On the other hand, some play that a wild card, once melded, remains in place, and a player who obtains the real card that the wild card represents cannot do anything with it, other than perhaps use it in a different meld.
- Some require a player who takes more than one card from the discard pile to meld the deepest buried card along with two natural cards from the player's hand.
- Some always require the card taken from the discard pile to be melded, even when only the top card is taken.
- One version requires that if the top card of the stock is drawn, the player must either use it immediately in a meld or discard it.
- Many groups play that a player cannot 'lay off' cards, adding them to other players' melds on the table, until after they have melded at least one set or run of their own. Having melded a set or run, a player can then lay off single cards in the same or subsequent turns.
- Some do not allow players to call "Rummy!" when a playable card is discarded.
- On the other hand, some allow a player to call "Rummy!" when any meld can be made or added to using cards anywhere in the discard pile. This is known as "Rummy in the pile". The calling player must take all the cards above the deepest card in the pile that is being melded. This rule is not recommended.
- In the variant known by some as George and by others as 2500 Rummy, no runs can be melded, only sets of equal cards. A set can contain at most one wild card, and cards can only be taken from the discard pile when a player has two natural cards in hand that match the deepest buried card that is taken. This version is usually played with a double 48-card pack without twos, and a player's first card indicates the total number of cards to be dealt to the player, counting Jack as 11, Queen 12, King 13, Ace 14 or 15.
- One version allows only runs to be melded, not sets.
Ending the Play and Scoring
- Some allow a player to go out by melding all his or her cards, leaving no card to discard.
- Some play that if a player goes out while one or more other players are floating, the floating player(s) must draw one card from the stock.
- Some play that if a player goes out on his or her first turn to play, any other players who have not yet played take one turn before the hand is scored. If another player also goes out, any bonus for going out is given to the first player who did so.
- When scoring, some play that instead of giving unmelded cards to the winner to score, each player subtracts the value of the cards remaining in his or her hand from the amount scored for melded cards. In this version scores will be lower and a player can possibly have a negative score. With this type of scoring some add a bonus of, for example, 200 points to the score of the player who went out.
- The game ends when a player reaches or exceeds the target score, which may be set at 1500, 2000, 2200, 2500, 2800, 5000 or even 10000. Clearly a higher target leads to a longer game, but the game length is also strongly affected by the card values. Games with permanent wild cards are higher scoring so a higher target is appropriate. Also, games in which unmelded cards are given to the player who goes out are higher scoring and a higher target is appropriate than for a game in which unmelded cards are deducted from the owner's score, especially if there is no bonus for going out.
- Some play that if more than one player reaches the target in the same deal, the winner of the game is not the player with the highest score, but the player who went out on that final deal, provided that that player has reached the target. If the player who went out is below the target, then the highest score among the players who have reached the target wins, and if there is a tie for highest score the tying players are joint winners.