Rook Shanghai

Contributed by William A. Robfogel - April, 2000

This is based on the game Contract Rummy or Shanghai Rummy (see also Toonerville Rook - another Contract Rummy game played with Rook cards).

Best with 4 - 6 players

Use 2 decks of Rook cards. Some people use 3 decks (6 wild cards) with 6 or more players.

Wild cards - 4 are needed (Use the 2 Rook cards and 2 advertising cards if your set has some. If not, use 2 black 14s with the rook cards. If you use the black 14s, you must remove the other 14s from the deck). These wild cards can be used in the place of any card or color. Wild cards cannot be exchanged for the card they were substituted for during any hand.


To be the first to play all the cards from your hand (goes out) by playing your cards on your or other player's sets and/or runs, thereby getting the lowest score.

The Hands

There are 7 hands in the game:

1st hand2 sets
2nd hand1 set, 1 run
3rd hand2 runs
4th hand3 sets
5th hand2 sets, 1 run
6th hand1 set, 2 runs
7th hand3 runs

A set is a minimum of 3 cards (can be more than 3 cards), all the same number and any color. Example: Green 5, red 5, yellow 5,

A run is a minimum of 4 cards (can be more than 4 cards) all of the same color and consecutive numbers. Example: Green 9,10,11,12.

To Begin Play

  1. Deal 11 cards
  2. Place remaining cards (draw pile) in the middle. Turn over the top card and place it (face up) at the side to start Discard pile. If a wild card is turned over as the discard, then it should be buried in the draw pile and the next card exposed as the first discard.
  3. Player to the left of the dealer begins.
  4. A player begins his turn by choosing a card from either pile.
  5. He ends his turn by discarding a card onto the exposed pile.
  6. You are not allowed to lay any cards down until you can lay the required sets and/or run down. At that time you can also play cards on the other players' sets and runs. Only the required sets and/or runs can be laid out for each player in each hand, i.e. A player can play only the 2 sets in the first hand/or 1 set and 1 run in the second hand. The 1 is the low card and the 14 (the 13, if you use the black 14s as wild cards) is the high card.
  7. After you have laid your cards down, on that turn and subsequent turns, get rid of your remaining cards, by adding them to any sets or runs already laid down - your own or others. Example:. An extra 2 could be placed on someone else's set of 2's or a red 7 at the end of a run of red 3,4,5,6. You cannot add cards below the 1 or above the 14 in runs.
  8. The hand ends when anyone has played of all his cards (goes out).

Buying Cards

  • Prior to laying down the required sets and/or runs, you may "buy" the top card on the discard pile, even if it is not your turn -- if
    1. The person whose turn it is does not want it. This person may take it as his regular draw.
    2. Any person whose turn comes before yours does not want to buy it. Example: If your turn is 4 people away, the person whose turn it is may take it as his regular draw and each of the other 3 people whose turn comes before you may buy it before you -- according to the order of their turn.
  • To buy, you must also take another card from the draw pile also.
  • You may have 3 buys during a hand - (maximum cards in the hand - 17)
  • After you lay down your required sets and/or runs, you may not purchase cards even if you have not used all your buys.

Pick and a Buy

When it is your turn, you may declare that you are going to do a "pick and a buy." This means that you are taking your normal card from the discard pile and buying the card that is under it. This counts as one of your 3 buys. You must declare that you are doing a pick and a buy prior to making your draw.


After a player has gone out, the score is added up. The lowest score wins the hand. The person with the lowest score from all the hands wins the game.

The person who has played all of his cards gets 0 points

Cards left in a player's hand after the end of play count against him.

Card values

  • 1 - 9 = face value - Example a 6 = 6 points.
  • 10 - 14 = 10 points - Example: an 11 = 10 points.
  • Wild cards = 20 points each.

Examples: A person who has 2 - 6s, 9, 10, and an 11 remaining in their hand at the end of play has 41 points against him. A person with a wild card, 2 - 10s, and a 1 has 41 points against them.

You can download a printable Rook Shanghai score sheet (zipped Microsoft Excel file - 4kb).

Play with fewer than four people

  • Use 2 wild cards instead of 4.
  • Deal one more card than is required to lay your cards out to start the hand. The last 2 hand (2 runs, 1 set and 3 runs) would have only 11 cards dealt as per the regular rules. Example: to lay 2 runs requires 8 cards so you would deal 9.
  • Otherwise, play as above.