How to Play Rummy

how to play rummy

The Spruce / Claire Cohen

In This Article

Rummy is a family of card games, but the rules here are for the most basic of the rummy games and a good introduction to the concept for the entire family. It's a popular card game that's fun for all ages. It's perfect for two to six players. All you need to play is a deck of cards. 

Complete rules are also available for other games under the rummy umbrella, including gin rummy, Hollywood gin, Three Thirteen, Oklahoma gin, Phase 10, Manipulation, and canasta.

Players

Play rummy with two to six players.

Deck

Use a standard 52-card deck. The king is high and the ace is low (see "Ace Either High or Low" below for a common variant).

Goal

Your goal is to be the first to play (also known as "meld") all of your cards.

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Setup

Shuffle the deck and choose a dealer. The dealer will deal cards to the players as follows:

  • With two players, 10 cards each
  • With three or four players, seven cards each
  • With five or six players, six cards each

Cards that are not dealt are placed face down in the middle of the table to form the draw pile. Turn the top card from the draw pile face up and set it next to the draw pile; this card begins the discard pile. Note that as you play the game and the draw pile becomes exhausted (all cards are taken), shuffle all of the cards in the discard pile except for the one on top to form a new draw pile.

Gameplay

On each turn, players must follow this sequence:

  1. Draw one card, either from the top of the draw pile or the top of the discard pile.
  2. The player may (but does not have to) play a meld of cards (see "Meld of Cards" below) or add to another player's meld (see "Laying Off" below).
  3. The player must discard one card, adding it (face up) to the top of the discard pile. There is one exception to the requirement that you discard: If a player has melded all of his cards, he does not need to discard.

NOTE: If a player chose to draw the top card from the discard pile in step one, he may not discard that card on the same turn in step three.

Meld of Cards

A meld of cards can be played if it meets one of two conditions:

  • Groups (or Books): Three or four of a kind
  • Sequences (or Runs): Three or more consecutive cards of the same suit

NOTE: When making a sequence in basic rummy, the ace is always a low card. It may not be played above the king.

Laying Off

A player may play a card or cards from his hand that fits a meld already on the table. This is known as "laying off." Cards that are laid off get placed on the table in front of the player who plays them.

EXAMPLE: Player A has played a meld that includes three eights. Player B can lay off an eight from her hand.

EXAMPLE: Player A has played a meld that includes the eight, nine, or 10 of hearts. Player B can lay off the seven of hearts or the jack of hearts, or both, from his hand.

EXAMPLE: Player A has played a meld that includes the three. four, or five of clubs. Player B can lay off the six and seven of clubs from her hand.

Going Out

A player "goes out" when he plays the last card in his hand either by melding, laying off, or discarding.

NOTE: Some players require that the final card in a player's hand be discarded. That is, a player cannot go out by melding or laying off. He must discard the final card.

Animated gif illustrating how to play rummy
Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018

Rummy Scoring

When a player goes out, the round is scored. All of the cards remaining in other players' hands are credited to the winner of the hand, as follows:

  • Aces are worth one point.
  • Number cards are worth face value.
  • Face cards are worth 10 points each.

Going Rummy

A player "goes rummy" if he plays all of his cards (in any combination of melding, laying off, and discarding) in a single play, having played no cards at all previously during that hand. When a player goes rummy, all points are doubled for that hand.

Ace Either High or Low

Some players play that the ace can be either low card (as it normally is, as in ace, two, and three) or high card (so that a meld of queen, king, and ace would also be legal). If playing this way, aces should be counted as 15 points each in scoring to better reflect their value.

Winning Rummy

The first player to reach a predetermined number of points (such as 150), or to have the most points after a predetermined number of hands are played, is the winner.