John Scarne was a magician who befriended Houdini, mobsters, and presidents. Along the way he invented some classic card games. Skarney is a Rummy game in which scoring is both a matter of playing melds to the table and going out first. It is a bit like Canasta or Fortune Rummy. Along with Persian Rummy, it is one of the few rummies that makes a fine partnership game for four players.
Players: 2, 3, or 4 players may play individually, or 4 players can play in 2 partnerships (or teams) with 2 players each. The partnership game will be described first, with the differences for the individual game specified in the variants section below.
Cards: 2 standard 52-card decks should be combined, along with all 4 jokers. The jokers and 2s are all wild cards and can represent any other card in the deck. Aces can be played either high or low, but not "around the corner."
The Deal: Deal 11 cards to each player. The remaining cards are to be placed in the middle of the table to form the stock pile. Do not turn over a card to form a discard pile, unlike most other Rummy games there is no discarding in this game.
Objective: Each round is won by scoring the most points in melds laid down on the table. The game is won by scoring the most points across seven rounds.
- A single meld can have 0 or 1 wild cards in it, but never more than 1, except for sets consisting of nothing but wild cards.
- Melds consisting of 3 or more wild cards are allowed, for example 2-2-2 or Joker-Joker-Joker. 2s and Jokers played in these special melds score more points than they do when played as wild cards mixed into other melds.
You can extend your own and your partner's melds (but not your opponents' melds) by adding either 1 or 2 cards to any or all of your melds in your turn.
At the start of a hand, your immediate goal is to make your team's contract meld and put it down on the table. Until you and your partner make your team's contract meld, you are not allowed to make any other melds. Once your side has made your contract meld, you may:
- Add either 1 or 2 cards to any or all of your team's meld on your turn
- Place any number of additional melds you want down on the table (these melds contain 3 or more cards each)
Remember that you may never play cards on your opponents melds.
The contract meld is as follows. For the first 3 hands, it consists of either:
- Three Sets of 3 cards each, or
- Three same-suit Sequences of 3 cards each
For hands 4 through 7, the contract meld consists of:
- Four Sets of 3 cards each, or
- Four same-suit Sequences of 3 cards each
So in hands 1 through 3, your contract meld consists of exactly 9 cards. In hands 4 through 7, your contract meld consists of exactly 12 cards.
You can not put down more or less cards for your contract meld. As always, each Set or Sequence in the contract meld may include up to one wild card (2 or Joker).
Once either player on a side plays the contract meld, the contract meld requirement is considered fulfilled for both players on that team.
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 1 card from the top of the draw pile.
Exchange: The player may exchange a natural card for any 2 or Joker his
opponents have played as a wild card in their melds.
- For example, one of your opponents has the melded the set 4-4-Joker. You may take his Joker up into your hand by laying a 4 in his meld to replace it.
- You may not take up 2s or Jokers that are not used as wild cards. For example, if an opponent has a set of 2s or Jokers (eg: 2-2-2* or Joker-Joker-Joker), you can not replace and take up the wild card into your hand. You can only "exchange" for 2s or Jokers used as wild cards to represent some other card in the deck.
- Once you have exchanged for a 2 or Joker and taken it into your hand, you may use it whenever you like. (You are under no obligation to immediately use it).
- You may not exchange for a wild card in your own or your partner's melds, you may only exchange for wild cards used in your opponents' melds.
Meld: If the player/team has not yet played the contract meld and
is able to do so, lay it down on the table now. If the player's team
has already played the contract meld to the table, the player may do the
following if desired:
- Play any additional melds to the table.
- Lay off either 1 or 2 additional matching cards to any of the existing melds created by the player or the player's partner.
Offer: If the player has more than one card left in their had then their
turn ends by choosing and offering card to the other players. The card is
first offered to the player on the left of the current player. If that player
doesn't take the card then the offer proceeds clockwise to the other players.
- If no one accepts the potential discard, the current player keeps it in their hand.
- If the player has only one card left, they say, "1 card" and do not offer a potential discard to the next player.
- Aces and wild cards (2s and Jokers) are only offered to the next player to the left of the current player. If he or she does not accept it into their hand, the card is not offered to the other players. Instead the current player just keeps it.
- Whenever a player accepts and takes an Ace, 2, or Joker into their hand as an opponent's discard, that player skips step (1) and does not draw a card from the draw pile at their next turn. Aces, 2's, and Jokers are thus "stop cards" -- they stop an opponent from drawing a card at the start of their turn. For all other potential discards, whether a player accepts them into his hand or not, they always draw one card from the draw pile to start their turn.
End of Round
A round ends in one of two ways:
- Any player goes out ("rummies") by melding his last card to the table, or
- A player draws the last card from the draw pile and does not go out. He melds any last cards, then does not offer a potential discard and play stops.
The partnership that rummies gets a round bonus, the amount of points varies based on which round it is:
- 100 points for round 1, 2, and 3
- 200 points for round 4
- 300 points for round 5
- 400 points for round 6
- 500 points for round 7
If a partnership rummies before their opponents play their contract meld, they get an additional 200 point shutout bonus in addition to the hand bonus.
If no partnership rummies (the game ends with the last card from the draw pile), the team with the higher number of points for the round (see below) wins the hand and scores the hand bonus.
If no partnership rummies and the two teams have the exact same number of points, the hand does not count and no team wins it. (This case is extremely rare).
In addition to one team scoring the bonuses as described above, both teams score points for all cards they have in their melds on the table. Here are the points scored for each melded card:
|Joker-only meld||100 points per Joker|
|Joker as wild card||50 points|
|2s-only meld||50 points per 2|
|2 as wild card||25 points|
|K, Q, J, 10||10 points|
|9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3||5 points|
The team that did not rummy, if any, should subtract these points for each card still in their hands:
|K, Q, J, 10||10 points|
|9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3||5 points|
Rule Differences for Individual Play
Skarney can be played by 2, 3, or 4 persons as individuals. This game is called Skarney Singles. All rules are the same, specifically:
- Players may swap for the 2 and Jokers of any of their opponents in a turn.
- Players may only lay off (add cards to) their own melds.
- A player who goes out only receives the shutout bonus of 200 points if none of their opponents has yet played their contract meld.