How to play rummy? Complete Guide for First Timers

Some games can be confusing for beginners, especially when a lot of calculations and patterns are involved. Rummy is one such game. While it is very well designed, it is really hard to understand the whole game without having sufficient knowledge. If you are trying to play rummy, online or offline, you need to understand some rules.

In this guide, I have decoded everything you need to know about playing rummy.

About Rummy

How to play rummy? Complete Guide for First Timers

Rummy is undoubtedly one of the most popular playing card games of all time and stands on top with other addictive games. It is of all time and it has many different variants across the globe. Experts believe that it has multiple origins across geographical regions.

According to the most widely cited theory, the game originated in Spain and later spread across the Americas when the Spaniards started migrating there in the 19th century. It was originally known as conquian, which was likely the first variant of this traditional skill game.

Although rummy has several versions, the basics of the game remain the same. It is played with played with two decks of cards containing a total of two Jokers. The players need to keep constantly strategizing to pick and discard the right cards from the two given piles. One of the piles is a closed deck, where the player is unable to see the card that he is picking, while the other is an open deck that comprises of the cards discarded by the players. To win in a rummy card game, the player needs to group cards in valid sequences and sets.

Each player is dealt 13 cards that they need to arrange in sequences, or sequences and sets. On each turn, the player must draw a card from either the open deck or the closed deck (placed in the center of the table) and then discard a card to the open deck. The winner is the player who succeeds in making a valid declaration first, following all the rules of rummy.

The cards in each suit, ranked from lowest to highest, are as follows:

  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K and A. {A (the ace) can also be the lowest card and be used to create a sequence such as A-2-3.}
  • The face cards K, Q and J, along with A (the ace), are worth 10 points each, while the number cards are worth their face value.

In a game of rummy, the points have a negative value.

The winner receives zero points, whereas a losing player can get a maximum of 80 penalty points in a points rummy game.

Important terms in rummy

Let’s begin by getting acquainted to some of the common terms you will come across when playing rummy.

Table

It is the virtual or physical table where one plays the rummy card game. As per the rules of the game, two to six players can sit at each table. 

Deck

Each deck has 52 cards and a printed Joker. It includes four sets of 13 cards of 4 different suit rank - Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds. All of these cards have sets of Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and the other cards from 2 to 10.

Joker cards and wild cards

Each open deck has a printed Joker card. After the cards are distributed to the players. A wild card is randomly chosen. Players can use the joker card and wild card as a replacement for the desired card to form sets and impure sequences. If the open joker happens to be a printed joker, then the Aces are considered to be wild cards. All of these cards carry zero points at the end of the game.

Sorting

It is the process of arranging the cards at the beginning of the game once the cards have been dealt. Every player sorts their cards in a specific manner to help form sets and sequences and to prevent the mixing of cards.

Rummy points

Each card in the rummy game carries a certain number of points. For example, the face cards such as Ace, King, Queen, and Jack contain 10 points each. All other cards have points equal to their respective number; for example, a 7♦ carries 7 points.

Sequence

In rummy, a sequence consists of a group of three or more cards of the same suit in consecutive order. It can be either pure or impure, which we will discuss later.

Set

It is a group of three or four cards of similar kind – of the same rank and of different suits. You can also form a set by using a wild card or Joker.

Drop

A player can choose to drop out any time during a rummy game, but is slapped a penalty for doing so. I have explained the penalty for dropping out at different times in the game later in this guide.

Objectives of the rummy card game

The objective of playing rummy is to arrange the 13 cards dealt in valid sets and sequences.

According to the rummy sequence rules, every player must form at least two sequences including one pure sequence. The second sequence can be either pure or impure.

When it comes to rummy sets, you can make a maximum of two sets using the same cards from different suits. To make a valid declaration, one must have a pure sequence.

Any player who makes a declaration without a pure sequence will lose the game and get penalty points. Thus, it is one of the most important rules to keep in mind when learning how to play rummy.

Every rummy game begins with a toss that decides which player will move first. You need to work with a strategy depending on whether you are playing on a 2-players table (one deck) or a 6-players table (two decks). Regardless of your strategy, making a pure sequence needs to be your first priority. Since the 2-players table rummy game is relatively fast-paced, it is relatively easier to make a strategy over there because you can count your opponent's discarded cards.

How to form sequences in rummy?

We have already learned what sequences in rummy are.

There are two types of sequences that can be formed – pure and impure. To win a game of rummy, you need to have least one pure sequence in your rummy hand.

Pure Sequence

A pure sequence is a group of three or more cards of the same suit arranged in consecutive order. To form a pure sequence in rummy card game, you cannot use any Joker or wild card. However, a wild card Joker of the same suit can be a part of a pure sequence.

Below are some examples of pure sequences.

  • 5♥ 6♥ 7♥ (This is a pure sequence with three cards, without any Joker or wild card.)
  • 3♠ 4♠ 5♠ 6♠ (This is a pure sequence with four cards, with no use of any Joker or wild cards.)

Impure sequence

An impure sequence is a group of three or more cards of the same suit including one or more Joker cards.

Below are some examples to demonstrate the formation of an impure sequence.

  • 6♦ 7♦ Q♠ 9♦ (Here, Q♠ serves as a wild Joker replacing 8♦ to form an impure sequence.)
  • 5♠ Q♥ 7♠ 8♠ PJ (This is an impure sequence with Q♥ serving as wild joker and replacing 6♠, with the printed Joker replacing 9♠.)

How to form sets?

A set is a group of three or more cards of the same value but of different suits. Players can use wild cards and Jokers while forming sets.

Examples of sets are:

  • A♥ A♣ A♦ (In this set, all the Ace are of different suits; thus, it is a valid set.)
  • 8♦ 8♣ 8♠ 8♥ (This set comprises of four 8 cards of different suits.)
  • 9♦ Q♠ 9♠ 9♥ (Here, Q♠ has been used as a wild joker replacing 9♣ to form a set.)
  • 5♦ 5♣ 5♠ PJ (Here, a printed Joker replaces 5♥ to form a set.)
  • 5♦ 5♣ Q♠ PJ (In this set, Q♠ has been used as a wild Joker replacing 5♠, and a printed Joker replaces 5♥ to form a set.)
  • 5♦ 5♣ PJ Q♥ Q♠ (This is a set of five cards with a printed Joker, Q♥ as a wild Joker replacing 5♠, 5♥, and another wild Joker Q♠ to complete the grouping of 13 cards.)

Here’s a typical example: 2♥ 3♥ 4♥ 5♥| 5♣ 6♣ 7♣ 8♣ | 5♦ 5♣ PJ Q♥ Q♠ (a set of five cards is made to complete the grouping of 13 cards and make a valid declaration.)

Note: A set is formed with cards of the same value but different suits. However, a player can’t use two or more cards of the same suit; it is considered an invalid declaration. Keep in mind that a set can have more than four cards. Thus, if you have a set of four cards and are using an additional Joker, then it becomes a group of 5 cards and will still be considered a valid set. Also, the hand cannot have more than 13 cards at a given time.

Examples of invalid sets:

  • Q♥ Q♥ Q♦ (There are two Qs of the same suit ♥ here, making it an invalid set.)
  • 7♠ 7♥ 7♦ 7♠ Q♥ (This set has two 7 spades of the same suit. Although the wild card Q♥ as the fifth card is valid, having two 7♠ cards makes the set invalid.)

How to play rummy online?

As we discussed before, rummy is played between two to six players with two decks of cards. Each player is dealt with 13 cards and a random card is chosen as the wild Joker or Joker card of the game.

The player has to draw and discard cards to form valid sets and sequences of the 13 cards in hand. Also, the player can use the wild Joker or printed Joker of the deck to create impure sequences and sets.

According to Indian rummy rules, once a player has arranged 13 cards in two valid sequences, including one pure sequence and more groups (sequences or sets), they can make a declaration and win the game.

You can win rummy online by downloading one of the many rummy games on App Store or Play Store. There are some rummy websites, too, that let you play rummy online.

How to win a game of rummy?

Knowing the rummy rules is important, but it is equally necessary to play carefully and with focus. Below are some handy tips to help you win the rummy game and stay ahead of your competitors.

  1. Aim to form the pure sequence at the very beginning of the game. You cannot make a declaration without a pure sequence.
  2. Discard cards with high points (such as Ace, Jack, Queen and King) and replace them with the Joker or wild cards. It helps reduce the point load in case you lose the game.
  3. Avoid picking from the discard pile as much as possible because it lets other players see what hand you are trying to form.
  4. Keep an eye out for smart cards. For example, a 7 of any suit can work with 5 and 6 of the same suit and 8 and 9 of the same suit as well.
  5. Since Jokers play an important role in rummy, you should try using them to replace high-value cards. Keep in mind that you cannot use the Joker and wild cards to form a pure sequence.
  6. Once you are ready to make a declaration, check and recheck your cards before pressing the button. An invalid declaration (if the cards are not in valid sequences and sets) will result in you losing the game and your competitor automatically being declared as the winner.

How points are calculated in rummy?

Let’s now see how points are calculated in a game of rummy.

CardsValue
High value cards (Ace, King, Queen, and Jack)10 points each
Joker and wild cardsZero points
Other cardsSame point value as their face value
Example: 8♥, 9♥, 10♥8 points, 9 points, and 10 points, respectively

Losing player points

If the player doesn’t have two sequences including a pure sequenceThe value of all cards is added, capped at 80 points
If the player has formed two sequences including pure sequenceThe value of cards that are not in sequence is calculated
Wrong declaration80 points
First drop20 points
Middle drop40 points
Three consecutive missesConsidered as the middle drop (40 points loss)
Leaving the tableIf the player leaves the table after picking from the closed deck, it is considered the middle drop. If the player hasn’t picked any card, it is taken as the first drop.

Having read this guide, you must surely be well acquainted with the rules and concepts of rummy. I hope you follow the above guidelines to make your gaming experience more rewarding and memorable.