How To Play Contract Rummy

Contract Rummy also commonly known as Liverpool Rummy and Pinochle Rummy is a rummy style game with a specific, set number of deals per game. During each of these deals, players attempt to obtain a specific combination of melds.

Contract Rummy can be played with from 3 to 8 players. The number of decks used in the game is dependent on the number of participating players: Cards used in the game of Contract Rummy The rank of the cards in Contract Rummy is as follows (A,K,Q,J,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,A). The aces (A) can be considered either high or low (being the lowest card before the Deuce or the highest card after the King).

For purposes of scoring each card has a specific point value. Aces and wild cards (Jokers) score 15 points each. Kings, Queens and Jacks are 10 points each and all other numbered cards (2 through 10) are worth their numerical value.

To determine which player is to be the first dealer, each player should draw a card from the face down deck. The player whom draws the lowest card is the first dealer. For purposes of this draw the ace is considered low. For the next hand, and each one thereafter until the end of the game, the deal rotates clockwise from player to player around the table.

Once the dealer is selected he shuffles the deck and the player to the dealers immediate left should cut the cards. The dealer then starts by dealing one face-down card to each player, starting at the player to his left and continuing in a clockwise direction until each player (including himself) has the requisite number of cards for this deal (see below). Once the initial hands are dealt, the dealer places the remainder of the deck in the center of the table face down as the stock pile. He turns over the top card of the stock pile and places it face up beside the stock pile. This is the upcard, which forms the first card of the discard pile.

Melds in Contract Rummy In Contract Rummy players will attempt to meld cards to the center of the table in either groups or sequences in an effort to be the first to play all of their cards:

- A group is 3 or more cards of the exact same rank, regardless of suit. i.e. 4 threes or 3 Jacks.
- A sequence in Contract Rummy is 4 or more cards of the same suit that are in contiguous sequence. For instance, a player might meld the 3, 4, 5, and 6 of diamonds ().

Jokers are considered wild cards and can be used to replace any other single card in a sequence or a group.

A game of Contract Rummy consists of exactly seven deals. What makes this game unique, is that during each of these deals, the players first meld must constrain to a very specific requirement. The specific first meld requirements as well as the number of cards dealt in that hand to each player are shown in the following table:

Deal NumberNumber of Cards in HandMeld Requirements
110Two Groups
210One Group and One Sequence
310Two Sequences
410Three Groups
512Two Groups and One Sequence
612One Group and Two Sequences
712Three Sequences

When fulfilling an initial meld requirement of two or more sequences, these sequences must be separate sequences. It cannot be one long sequence simply divided into two or three shorter ones. In other words, there must be a gap of at least one missing card between each sequence.
An Ace may be melded as either high or low in a sequence, but the sequence cannot roll over or go "round the corner" (i.e. a sequence containing a 2 would have the 2 as either the lowest or highest card in that particular sequence). Thus, a long sequence could possibly contain two aces, one at each end although it may not contain any other duplicate cards (other than possibly jokers, as appropriate).

Example of Contract Rummy Seventh meld
An example of a possible meld in the Seventh hand in the game of Contract Rummy
The player to the immediate left of the dealer is the first to play. His turn, and each subsequent turn by each player consists of several things.
First, the player decides if he wants to take the top, face-up card of the discard pile. If he opts to take this card he immediately adds it to his hand. If, however, he chooses not to take this card, he must indicate this and each other player, in the order of their regular turns, has the option to take this card. If any player, in this way, does take this card out of their regular turn, they must also immediately take the top card of the draw pile. They do not discard after taking these cards as this is not considered an actual turn for that player. If the original player chose not to take the card, regardless if any other player took the card or not, the original player must then take the top card of the stock pile. After this, regardless of which card this first player took he continues his turn as normal.

A player may not lay down any melds or lay off cards on other players melds until he plays the entire initial meld contract requirement for the deal on the table in front of himself. When laying down this initial meld, he must meld the required meld down exactly, no more or no less cards can be played when playing this original meld. Once a player has laid down this required initial meld, he may not meld any other entire melds, but may add to any melds already on the table (either his own or other players melds). After melding, if willing and able, the player must discard one card from their hand to the discard pile. However, on the seventh, last hand of the game, the player need not discard and can simply lay down his initial meld on the table in going out. After discarding (unless it was the players last card) the turn rotates clockwise to the next player.

When a player has no more cards after discarding at the end of the turn (or playing all his cards on the seventh hand) the hand immediately ends and scores are totalled for each player.

Jokers: When a joker is played on the table, the individual playing the card must state what this card is to represent. If a player, on their proper turn, has the natural card for which the joker represents in their hand, they may replace the joker from the table with the natural card from their hand, taking the Joker into their hand. In order to make this exchange, however, the player must have already on this hand, played to the table the initial meld for the hand. This Joker can then be used, at the players option as any other card of their choice in melding.

Scoring and Winning the Game:
Once one player plays his last card the hand immediately ends and the hand is scored. The cards remaining in each of the other players' hands is then added to that players score as per the scoring values given above. After the completion of the seventh hand, all the players scores are totalled and the player with the lowest score is declared the winner of the game.

If the stock pile is exhausted before any player has won the deal, the discard pile (all but it's top card) should be shuffled together by the original dealer and placed face down to start a new stock pile.

Variations of Contract Rummy

Twos are often used as a wild card in some variations of Contract Rummy Twos Wild: In this version of the game, not only are the added jokers wild, but the deuces (2's) are wild cards as well. For scoring purposes, each 2 is scored as a joker at 15 points each. Any additional wild cards used however, cannot be exchanged for its' natural replacement card as can actual Jokers.

Progressive Rummy: Progressive Rummy is played very similarly to Contract Rummy. The main differences are in the number of cards dealt in each of the seven deals. The first deal starts with 6 cards dealt, the second deal 7 cards are dealt, and so on until the 7th deal where 12 cards are dealt. The initial meld requirements are the same as in standard contact rummy. The player generally completes the hand by playing all his cards to the table to meet the contract, as he will usually not have any additional cards in his hand (unless he opted, on another players turn to take the current upcard, as described in the rules for Contract Rummy, above). If this is the case, the player may play cards to other melds on the table (if any) once they have made their initial meld. A player may also play their last card by discard, at which time they also win the deal. Scoring in progressive rummy is the same as in Contract Rummy, except that jokers are worth 25 points each.

King Rummy: This is a version of Contract Rummy that is specifically for four players. King Rummy is played with two standard 52 card decks, along with four jokers.

This game follows the same rules as Contract Rummy, described above, however, each hand consists of only four deals with the following initial meld requirements:
Deal NumberInitial Meld Requirement
1One Group and One Sequence
2Three Groups
3Two Sequences
4Two Groups and One Sequence
           Meld Requirement in deal 1

Each hand consists of 10 cards dealt to each player. As in standard Contract Rummy a sequence must consist of four or more cards. When playing their initial, required melds, a player can also add additional cards to these melds. However, on the fourth and last hand, the initial meld must contain exactly ten cards, which is the players entire hand.

When any player melds a joker to the table, all other players immediately have the opportunity to replace this joker with the actual natural card it represents. The player will add the joker into their hand and place the natural replacement card in its place. If multiple players are able and want to do this, the player closest to being next in turn is given the first opportunity to do this. After this exchange occurs, the original player continues their turn as normal.

The scoring in King Rummy is similar to the standard game:
Shanghai Rummy: Shanghai rummy is another variation that is very similar to the basic game of Contract Rummy. The game is played identically, except for the following differences:

Garbage Rummy: The cats encountered this game some years ago but never afterwards found published rules for the game. After a thorough search, a few listings were found, so it seems although Garbage Rummy is a rare game, it is still played. It is a great variation of Rummy, featuring the differing contacts through a variable number of hands.

As in other, similar forms of Contract Rummy, Garbage rummy has a number of separate contracts in which a player must complete before winning. However, as opposed to standard Contract Rummy, each player may be striving for a different such contract depending on how may previous meld contracts they have previously fulfilled. This game uses two standard 52 card decks shuffled together plus four Jokers. The traditional ranking of the card denominations is used in this game as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace. As can be noticed from this ranking an Ace can either be used at the top of a sequence or at the bottom, but no around the corner runs are permitted (i.e. A run of Ace, 2, 3 or Queen, King, Ace is allowed but a run of King, Ace, 2 is not).

After determination of first dealer and seating positions, the dealer will then begin the deal. In a feature borrowed from other games such as six pack Bezique, the dealer attempts to pull off the exact number of cards from the stock as required for the deal. This would equate to 10 cards for each player plus 1 extra dealt to the first player. If the dealer is able to do this, he instantly is able to reduce his current score by 50 points.

The dealer would then deal the cards in a clockwise rotation. All participants would receive 10 face down cards except the player to the immediate left of the dealer who receives a total of 11. He then places the stock in the center of the table and play begins.

The first player to the immediate left of the dealer takes the first turn. Since he was dealt one extra card, his turn consists of melding (if able) and then discarding any card from his hand. After this first player takes his turn, each subsequent turn during the hand consists of a player drawing a card (either the exposed top card of the discard pile or the top card of the draw pile), melding if able and then discarding one card to the discard pile.

The final goal of each player is to complete all 11 of the following meld requirements over the course of a series of hands. The first player to have achieved each goal, in order, in a separate hand is declared the game winner. The following chart shows the entire list of goals a player must complete:
OrderMeld Requirement
12 sets of 3 cards each
22 runs of 3 cards each
31 set of 3 cards, 1 run of 4 cards
42 sets of 4 cards each
51 set of 3 cards, 1 run of 5 cards
63 sets of 3 cards each
71 run of 7 cards
81 set of 3 cards, 1 run of 6 cards
92 runs of 4 cards each
102 sets of 5 cards each
111 run of 11 cards
The four Jokers are considered wild cards and can be used as a replacement for any other card of the players choosing. If a player later during the hand obtains the actual card the Joker represents in their exposed meld, they may substitute the card during their turn and use the Joker to extend or create a new meld.

Potential last meld in Garbage Rummy
The game ends at such time as one player manages to complete all 11 meld requirements. This player subtracts 100 points from his score for the feat. All the scores are then calculated and the player with the lowest score is declared the winner. When a player completes his goal for the hand, he may then meld the cards making up that goal to the table. After making this meld, he may then create additional melds and lay cards off on melds of other players or his own. When any player melds or discards the last card in his hand, the hand ends. Each card remaining in the opponents hand is added to that players current score. The values for these cards found remaining in the players hand are as follows:
CardPoint Value
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 95
10, Jack, Queen, King10
If a player was unable to complete his last meld requirement in the last hand, he must again attempt this during the current hand. Once accomplishing a specific meld requirement in a hand (even if he is not the winner of that hand) he can then move to the next requirement in the next hand of play. A player must actually make the required meld to the table, as cards in the hand but not melded are not regarded as valid melds. A players turn consists of drawing a card, making any melds if willing and able, and then discarding. On his last turn of a hand, instead of discarding, a player may also meld his 11th and last card. In the last contract this is actually required as a full 11 card run is necessary in order to fulfill a players 11th and final meld.

South African Kaluki: A variation of Contract Rummy which is very popular in South Africa is the game South African Kaluki. Although sharing some resemblance to the game Caloochi (described in the "Rummy" section) and a similar name, this game more closely resembles Contract Rummy and is thus described here.

This game is designed for three to five players. It uses two standard 52 card decks along with four Jokers. The ranking of cards in the deck is as in other Rummy type games (from high to low): Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace. Aces can be considered high or low in this game, and can thus appear, as appropriate as the top or bottom card of a run. Jokers are wild cards and can be used to replace any other card in melds. Each card in the deck has a specific value used for calculating any penalties for cards remaining in a players hand when an opponent plays his last card. These are detailed in the following table:
CardPoint Value
2 to 10Value marked on card
King, Queen, Jack10
Seating positions and the first dealer are determined in a special method in this game. For each player a specific card is taken from the regular deck. These cards are one each of the following; Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10. This small packet is then shuffled face down and one card dealt to each player. Whoever receives the Ace is the first dealer and has first choice of seating positions at the table. The player who receives the King sits to the dealers immediate left, the player receiving the Queen sits to that players left, the Jack next in rotation and the player being dealt the 10 takes the last remaining seat. These cards are then added back into the regular deck for normal use during the game.

Once all players have been seated, the dealer then shuffles the deck and the player at his right cuts the deck. The player who cuts should look at the bottom card of the cut pack. If this card is a Joker, that player has the option to keep it and will add it to his hand when the cards are dealt. After the cut the dealer then deals out 13 card hands, one at a time in a clockwise rotation around the table. If the cutter cut and kept the Joker, that player would only get 12 cards in the deal. After each player has the appropriate sized hand, the dealer turns up the top card of the stock to start the discard pile. The player to the dealers immediate left will take the first turn, with the turns rotating around the table in a clockwise rotation.

Groups and Runs in South African Kaluki On his turn, a player draws either the top face-up card of the discard pile or the top face-down card of the stock pile. He may meld if he can and wants to, and then finishes his hand by discarding one card face up on the top of the discard pile. There are two types of legal melds used in South African Kaluki:
As in most other games of the Contract Rummy family, this game is played out in a set number of hands, in this case seven. The specific melding requirements for each hand and the order are as per the following chart:
HandMelding Requirement
1All cards must be melded at the same time. Any combination of legal melds is allowed. The player may meld 11 cards or meld 10 and discard their last. No other players may lay off any cards when a player goes out. This is called Blitz.
2A player must meld one group of three of a kind
3A player must meld one run of three cards
4The player must meld one run of three cards and one group of three cards
5A run of four cards in the same suit
6The player must meld one group of four of a kind
7One run of five cards

Except for the first hand, a player's first meld of each hand must consist of exactly the melding requirement for that hand, no less and no more. On subsequent melds he may meld any number of legal melds, as able. After making his initial meld, on later turns, a player may also add cards to his own or other players melds on the table. As mentioned previously, the Jokers are wild cards and can be used to represent any other card in the deck. If a player, on his turn, has already made their first meld and has the card in which a melded Joker is replacing, they may substitute the card and take the Joker into their own hand. A player can go out by either melding all their cards or melding all but their last card and discarding that card. When a player does go out, the other players may then lay off any legal melds they contain in their hands and may also lay off cards on any other players melds. The players then count all the points for cards still remaining in their hands (as per the chart above) and this amount to their current score on the score sheet. On the first (Blitz) hand, however, players may not lay off cards on any other players melds, although they may still lay down any of their own melds.

There are a few stipulations on the play of Jokers during the game. First and foremost, when a player is playing a Joker he must state exactly what missing card the Joker is set to represent. On rounds 2 to 7 only one Joker can ever be used in a players initial meld. Also, on all rounds except 1 and 6, a Joker can only be used to represent a replacement for a card in which there is only one unplayed card that could be used to reclaim it. Thus, one or more of the cards it represents has already been played to a meld or discarded. This is called half-safe. A meld consisting of four cards or a run of 14 cards (a full run in one suit with an Ace at the top and bottom) is considered closed and cannot be modified in any way, including reclaiming a Joker from that meld.

If the deck runs out during play of the hand, all but the top card of the discard pile is shuffled together and turned over to make a new stock pile.

Another unique feature of this game is the concept of buying a card. This occurs when a player would prefer to add the current discard to his hand, but it is not currently his turn. In this circumstance, a player may have the option to buy the card. He may only do this if the actual player whose turn it is does not want the card. The opportunity to buy a card then proceeds in a clockwise rotation around the table from the player whose current turn it is. If any player except for the person whose actual turn it is, elects to buy the card, the following steps occur:
  1. The player whose actual turn it is, takes the discard pile as his draw.
  2. The player with the right to buy the card then takes the discard and also must draw one card from the stock.
  3. The game then continues as normal with the player whose turn it originally was, who may then meld and discard to finish his turn.
Note that the player who bought the card will now have taken an extra card. This is expected, and will require that player to be able to also meld an extra card during the round. A player may buy a maximum of four cards in any given hand.

After all seven rounds have been completed, the player with the lowest grand total is declared the winner of the game.
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