“Rummy” may sound like an antique card game, but this pastime is actually the forefather of many popular modern games (including the inspiration for games that don’t use a traditional deck at all). It’s also easy to pick up and a great way to chill with friends if you don’t want to think too hard for an evening.

Interested in learning? Cool: Rummy is all about forming basic combinations with the hand you are dealt, and it’s a great way to show off your custom playing cards. Here’s what you need to know!

Step 1: Dealing

For a basic game of rummy, the dealer will shuffle and deal, face down:

  • Two, three, or four players: 10 cards
  • Five players: 6 cards
  • More than five players: 7 cards

Some variations of rummy mandate 13 cards for each player, which is also fine and a normal way to play. Two decks may be used, and is also a popular choice, especially for larger groups. The remaining cards should be placed face down in the center of the table. Someone should also be the designated scorer, which requires pencil and paper or, if you can’t be bothered, pulling up the notes app on your phone and typing everyone’s name in.

Step 2: Picking and Discarding

Now everyone works to find combinations in their hand. There are only two key combinations that rummy allows:
Sequences: Three or more numerically sequential cards in the same suit. Sets: Three or four cards of the same rank (includes identical cards if playing with more than one deck). Starting on the dealer’s left, players take turns choosing to draw a card from the face-down pile and discard, searching for better combinations. Cards are discarded face up, and once discarded, the following player may choose from the top of the discard pile as well. When a player creates a combination, they are able to lay down the combination, face, in front of them.

Step 3: Declaring and Scoring

The round of rummy ends when a player declares, which usually means they have formed all their cards into combinations (some variations only require two sequences to declare). At this point, all the cards left in the other players’ hands are added up as points and given to the winner of the round. Kings, Queens, Jesters, and Aces are worth 10. All other cards are face value.

While rules can vary a bit, one of the common rules is that you need to have at least one sequence before declaring and laying all your cards down, so you can’t use just sets. This is why rummy players typically try to form a quick sequence first, so they are ready to declare whenever the rest of their hand looks promising. This is also why many versions of rummy allow for both “pure” and “impure” sequences, with an impure sequence allowing for wild cards or certain substitute cards to be used to form the sequence. Typically, a pure sequence is required for declaration. Obviously, the specifics here can get a little complicated, so make sure to discuss these rules beforehand if necessary (or just ignore them for a simpler session).

Play as many rounds as you want, and the player with the most points wins, or set a point total for someone to reach first.

Key Terms to Know

  • Books: Another name for a set
  • Runs: Another name for a sequence
  • Meld: Any valid combination, or the act of combining when used as a verb.
  • Stock: The face-down cards at the center of the table
  • Declaration: Ending the round by being able to discard all your cards

The Weirder Rummy Rules

These rules aren’t necessary to play, but they add some unique flavor to rummy and are sort of fan favorites:

  • Aces can count as high or low, based on where they are in a sequence. However, they cannot function in the middle of a sequence, between a King and a 2.
  • Most types of rummy allow a player to lay off cards on partial sets or sequences that have already been laid on the table by other players, as way to get rid of even more cards.
  • If a player declares all at once without laying off or putting down any previous melds, it’s called going rummy, and they get double points. This is the incentive to hold onto combinations instead of putting them down.
  • You may use wild cards as potential substitute cards in a sequence, but this is for players to decide.

Now you know how to play rummy any time you’re looking for a casual and fun game to play with friends or introduce to newcomers. It’s also a great way to “bridge” into more complicated games for those learning about the deck!

If you are ever interested in creating or designing a custom deck of cards please check out some of our past projects or reach out to the Expert Playing Card Team at custom-orders@expertplayingcard.com or by calling us at 212.629.4702!