Contract Rummy is from the same family as Canasta and Gin Rummy. Unlike Canasta, it is possible to know when it’s going to end, and when you can at last have something to eat. Unlike Gin Rummy, the underlying demands grow more demanding as the game progresses.
So, some card players might find it a bit less long-running than Canasta, and a bit more challenging than Gin Rummy … or is that sacrilege 😊
In all Rummy games, players seek to collect and lay down groups of cards. These may be sets, such as three nines or four Jacks, or runs / sequences: consecutive numbers in the same suit.
Laying these sets or sequences down is called melding.
Before you start … some small details
1 – Aces can be either high or low when used within runs: but never both at the same time.
► Thus, a run may be Ace – 2 – 3.
► At the other end, we may have Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
But an Ace cannot act as both low and high at the same time, so a run like King – Ace – 2 is not permissible.
2 – Jokers are wild, and can be used as substitutes for any card. The player using a Joker simply tells the others what it represents: “the three of Spades”.
3 – For four players you need two decks of cards and three jokers.
For six, it’s three decks and five Jokers. For five players use just four Jokers.
4 – It is played over seven hands (or deals).
Dealing the cards
Having randomly chosen the dealer, the first deal begins: it then passes around in clockwise direction.
Interestingly, the number of cards that players receive changes: nothing too complicated.
In the first four deals, players receive ten cards each.
In the last three deals, they receive twelve.
After all the cards have been dealt, the rest are put face down to form the stock pile. The top card is revealed and placed alongside. That card is now the top of the discard pile.
What players must do.
When it’s their turn, they must firstly draw one card from either the discard pile or from the deck.
► But wait a few seconds and read the next bit.
There is an optional element – include it in the game if you wish.
If a turn-holder says they do not want the top card of the discard pile, any other player can ask may I? If the turn holder doesn’t change their mind, the top discard card is picked up by the “may I” player. That player must also take the top card from the stock pile: ending up with two extra cards in their hand. That player can do nothing more yet: it’s not their turn.
(If more than one player asks, precedence goes to the player whose turn comes first.)
After “may I”, play returns to the player whose turn it is. They draw the top card of the stock pile: they may not take newly revealed card atop the discard pile.
So – back to what the player can do
● Optional – lay down cards (meld): the type of group or sequence that can be melded will be determined by what round it is (below).
If they can and if they wish, they lay down cards that form the basic contract for this hand (below), thus “fulfilling the contract”. Only the specified number of cards needed for the contract may be melded when fulfilling the contract.
No other cards can be laid down until turns that follow.
● Optional – if player has melded, they may lay off onto a meld that’s already been put down: anybody’s. So if someone had put down three Jacks, the player is allowed to add to the set. There is no limit to the number of cards that a player may lay during their turn.
● Optional – if player has melded, they may take a joker into their hand from any meld on the table, replacing it with the card it represents. And, a Joker in a sequence may be moved to either end by a player who wishes to lay off the natural card on the meld where the Joker was (no sequence may be more than 14 cards).
Here are the seven rounds
This is what players are permitted to put down when fulfilling the contract: as stated here, and nothing else.
(You may read slightly different versions elsewhere, but this one works well.)
Ten cards each ….
► Round one – two sets of three and no more (like 3,3,3 and 8,8,8).
and the remainder always have to be laid off or used for further melds later: in subsequent turns.
► Two – one set of three and one set of four (like 5,5,5 and k,k,k,k)
► Three – two sequences of four in a suit (like 2,3,4,5 ♥ and 10,J,Q,K ♦). Sequences using the same suit may not be continuous: there must be a gap. (2,3,4,5 ♥ and 6,7,8,9 ♥ are not separate runs – it is just one run).
► Four – three sets of three.
From now on, it’s twelve cards each ….
► Five – two sets of three and one run of four.
► Six – one set of three, and two runs of four.
► Seven– two runs of four and one run of five cards (13 altogether), and all cards must be melded at once, with no discard.
“May I” is not permitted during this final round.
Contract Rummy is …
- a chin scratcher
- highly replayable
- plays in a quite short space of time
- luck is there, but strategy is called for
- not head-on combative, but definitely competitive
- may appeal even to experienced card players