Also known as Straight Rummy, Traditional Rummy, Basic Rummy, or simply just Rummy. This game is probably the most popular style of Rummy game, and many other games have evolved from this one and its variations.
Players: Two to six players.
Cards: One standard 52-card deck. Cards rank from Ace low to King high, with Aces having a value of 1.
The Deal: The number of cards dealt depends on the number of players. If there are 2 players then they get 10 cards each. If there are 3 or 4 players then 7 cards, 5 or 6 players get 6 cards each.
Objective: The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards. If multiple rounds of the game are played then points from each round, or “hand”, will accumulate until a predetermined score is reached.
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: A card must be drawn either from the stock pile or the discard pile and added to the player’s current hand. If the card is drawn from the stock pile then it is not to be shown to the other players. If it comes from the discard pile then the other players will know what it is since it has been seen. The choice between stock and discard piles may depend on the strategy the player is using.
- Meld (optional): If the player has cards in their hand that form runs or sets then they may place the cards face up on the table in front of them. The player is not required to do so but may instead hold onto their melds for strategic reasons.
- Lay off (optional): The player may choose to add cards from his or her hand to existing melds already on the table. The added cards must keep the meld legal. The player is not allowed to take cards from an existing meld to form new ones. The player may play as many cards onto existing melds that they want, including none. There is no obligation to lay off cards. In Standard Rummy a player may not lay off until they have formed at least one meld of their own.
- Discard: The player ends his or her turn by discarding one card face up to the discard pile. If the player drew the card at the top of the discard pile at the beginning of the turn they are not allowed to discard that same card on the same turn, but they can on subsequent turns if desired. Once the discard is done then the turn is over and the player cannot meld or lay off any additional cards until it is the player’s next turn.
End of Hand
A player wins the hand by “going out”, in other words, to dispose of all their cards by forming melds, laying off, or adding a final card to the discard pile. In Standard Rummy the player must have a spare card to place on the discard pile, they are not allowed to play all remaining cards in a meld. However a common variant of this rule allows for a meld of all remaining cards.
Once a player has gone out then the hand is over and other players may not meld or lay off cards even if they have valid combinations in their hand.
When a player goes out then all the remaining players add up the points of the cards they still have in their hands. Cards have the following point values:
The total value of all remaining cards are added to the score of the player who won the hand. Additional hands are played until a predetermined cumulative score is reached (usually 100 or 300) or until a previously agreed number of hands have been played. Some gamers will set the target score to be based on the number of players, like (N-1)*100 or similar.
If a player is able to dispose of all his or her cards at the same time, without having made any prior melds, then this is called “going rummy”. A player who goes rummy will receive twice the number of points for that hand that they normally would. The player should say the word “Rummy” at the time they are laying down all their cards.
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.
- One meld: A player may lay down only one meld per turn.
- High Ace, or both: This variation causes the Ace to come after the King in sequence order, instead of before the two. Or it can be used in both ways, depending on context. In other words, the Ace could be allowed in runs like A-2-3 or Q-K-A, but not K-A-2. Either way, the point value for the Ace is 15 instead of 1, due to its increased value and versatility.
- Lazy go out: It is not required to include a discard card when going out. It is okay for the player to go out by playing their 3 remaining cards as a meld and not discard anything.
- Block Rummy: In Block Rummy the discard pile is not reused. If nobody has gone out when the last card has been drawn from the stock pile, and the current player does not want the top card on the discard pile, then the current hand is ended. Players tally up the value for the cards remaining in their hands and the winner is the one who has the smallest number.
- Penalty points: Instead of giving the points remaining in a player’s hand to the winner of the round, the points are instead deducted from the players score. This means that a player could have a negative score, and that it will likely take much longer to reach the target winning score. When playing this way it might be preferable to set a limit on the number of rounds instead of using a target score.
- Lowest score wins: This is similar to the above variant except points are added instead of deducted. At the end of a hand players add up their deadwood score and it is added to their own total. The game ends when any player reaches a predetermined total. The player with the lowest score is the winner. This is a common variant and is considered by some as the standard scoring model for Standard Rummy.
- Elimination: Similar to Lowest score wins except when a player exceeds the predetermined target they are eliminated from the game, and the next round continues without that player. The winner is the last player standing after all other players have been eliminated. If the last 2 players both exceed the target score on the last round (due to the hand being ended by running out of stock cards, see Block Rummy) then the player with the lowest score wins.
- Jokers wild!: The 2 jokers in a standard deck can be added to a game, with the jokers being used as wild cards, meaning that they can be used as a substitute for any card in a meld. If another player has the card that the joker represents he or she is able to swap the card for the joker on their turn. At the end of the round, any Jokers remaining in a player's hand is worth 25 points.
- Extra first card: Instead of turning the top card on the stock pile to be the first card of the discard pile at the beginning of a hand, the dealer will deal an extra card to the first player. That player can then decide which card they wish to discard, possibly making a meld first.
- Challenge: This variant adds an interesting twist for 2-player games. At any time a player may challenge his opponent. The opponent may either accept or reject the Challenge. If he accepts the Challenge, both players total the points in their hands, and the player with the lower point total wins the hand. He scores the total points in his opponent’s hand -- without deducting his own remaining point total. If the player rejects the Challenge, play of the hand continues as per usual. A player who is having trouble melding might stock up his hand with low point total cards, then challenge his opponent. The large hand with a deceptively low point total will often succeed in a Challenge. This game is also known as Colonel.