Caribbean Kalooki

Note: European and North American Kaluki and South African Kaluki are covered on other pages.

Introduction

Kalooki is very popular in Jamaica, and is also played to some extent in Trinidad and Tobago. But apart from the fact that they are both types of rummy, Caribbean Kalooki has nothing in common with the European and North American games of the same name - it is in fact a form of Contract Rummy. A version called "Super Kalooki" is often played in Jamaican tournaments.

This page begins with a description of Jamaican Kalooki, based on information received from Robert Ebanks, Jason Chang and Mary Sorum. This is followed by details of the somewhat different version played in Trinidad and Tobago.

Players and Cards

There are usually from three to six players; tournaments are played with four players at each table. A pack of 108 cards is used, consisting of two standard 52 card packs plus four jokers.

As in most rummy games, the object is to go out by laying down all of your cards. The penalty values of the cards, if left in a player's hand when someone goes out, are:

    Joker   . . .   50 points
    Black Ace   . . .   15 points
    King, Queen, Jack, Ten   . . .   10 points
    2 to 9   . . .   face value
    Red Ace   . . .   1 point

Threes and fours

A "three" is a set of three or more cards of the same rank, such as 5-5-5 or K-K-K-K-K. The suits of the cards do not matter and duplicates can be included.

A "four" is a run of four or more consecutive cards in the same suit, such as heart8-heart9-heart10-heartJ-heartQ. Aces can be high or low but can only be used at the end of a run, not in the interior, so A-2-3-4 and J-Q-K-A are valid, but K-A-2-3 is not.

Jokers can be used wild cards to substitute for any card in a three or four, with the following restrictions:

  • In a "four", jokers cannot be used for consecutive cards - so heart5-Joker-heart7-Joker is OK but heart5-Joker-Joker-heart8 is not allowed.
  • In a "three" there must be at least two genuine (non-joker) cards, so in a minimum "three" of three cards you can only include one joker. K-K-Joker and Q-Q-Joker-Joker are OK, but 9-Joker-Joker is not allowed.

Jokers that have been used in a three or four can never been removed from that combination. A joker used in a three cannot be moved at all. When a joker used in a four, it can in certain circumstances be moved to the end of the sequence by the holder of the real card that it represents (see tacking on below), but never moved to a different three or four - there is no possibility for the holder of the real card that the joker represents to play it and take the joker in exchange, as in some other rummy games.

Deal and contracts

Players take turns to deal (or "share") the cards, the first dealer being chosen at random. Nine deals (or "games") make up a "set", and the winner is the player who has the lowest cumulative score at the end of the set. The cards are dealt out one at a time, the number of cards dealt to each player depends on the game being played as shown in the table below. The next card is turned face up to start the discards pile, and the remaining undealt cards are stacked face down beside it, to form the stock.

In each game, there is a minimum contract or quota of threes and fours that a player can lay down; this is also shown in the table.

Game No.Cards dealtContract
19three threes
210two threes, one four
311two fours, one three
412three fours
512four threes
613 three threes, one four 
714two threes, two fours
815one three, three fours
916four fours

When more than one four is put down by one player, they must be of different suits, and when more than one three is put down by one player, they must be of different ranks.

The play

The player to the dealer's left begins and the turn to play passes clockwise. A player's turn consists of:

  1. drawing one card from the top card of the face-down stock or the top of the discard pile;
  2. optionally laying down some cards;
  3. discarding any one card (other than a joker) face up on the discard pile.
Calling
If you have not yet laid down any cards, and you want to take a card discarded by another player when it is not your turn to play next, you can call the card. The player whose turn it is to play has two options:
  1. Allow the call. The player whose turn it is gives the top discard to the player who called it. The calling player takes the discard and must also draw one extra card from the stock, but cannot lay down any cards or discard at this time. The caller will from now on have two extra cards in their hand. The play then reverts to the player whose turn was interrupted by the call, who must draw from the stock, and continue the turn in the usual way.
  2. Refuse the call. If the player whose turn it is has not yet laid down, they have the right to take the discard for themselves, rather than giving it to the caller and drawing from the stock; the call then has no effect.
Calling is subject to the following rules.
  • If several people try to call the same card, the person who calls first gets the card, assuming that the person whose turn it is allows the call. No one can call a card before it reaches the table.
  • There can only be one call per turn: the card underneath the called card cannot be called - anyone who wanted it should have called it when it was first discarded.
  • Each player is allowed a maximum of three calls per game (deal). Since each call adds two cards to a player's hand, you can check how many calls you have made by counting the cards in your hand. Calls that were not allowed by the player whose turn it was or which were unsuccessful because another player called first do not count towards the three.
  • A player who has laid down cards can no longer call.

Laying down
The first cards you lay down must satisfy the contract for the game being played. You place these cards face up in front of you, where they stay for the rest of the game, and then discard as usual. For example, in game 3, you must lay down a group of three or more equal ranked cards, plus sequences of four or more cards in two different suits. If you are not able to do this, you cannot lay any down any cards yet.
A player who has laid down is no longer allowed to take cards from the discard pile. When you have laid down you can no longer call for a discard, and in your turn you must draw from the stock. If another player calls in your turn, you must allow the call.
After laying down the required threes and/or fours, you are allowed to lay down additional threes or fours in the same or a later turn if you have collected the appropriate cards, provided that you respect the rule that you cannot put down two fours in the same suit.
Tacking on
After you have laid down cards you can in the same turn, or in later turns of the same game, add cards to your own or other players' threes and fours. This is called tacking on or laying off. Further cards of the same rank can be tacked onto a three. A four can be extended by tacking on the next higher card in sequence only. When the sequence reaches the ace, so that no further tacking onto the high end is possible, then and only then is it permissible for cards be tacked on to the low end of the sequence. Example: if the sequence diamond9-diamond10-diamondJ-diamondQ has been laid down, it is possible to tack on the diamondK but not the diamond8. After the diamondK and diamondA have both been tacked on, it is then possible to tack on the diamond8, followed by the diamond7 and so on.
Jokers can always be tacked onto a three. They can be tacked onto a four provided that the rule prohibiting two adjacent jokers in a four is respected. Also, if a joker has been used in a four, the holder of the real card that the joker represents can tack on by placing the real card in the four in place of the joker, and moving the joker to the high end, provided that this has not already reached ace, in which case it is moved to the low end. However, this cannot be done if there is already a joker at the end where the displaced joker would have to be put, since it is not permissible to have two jokers next to each other in a four.
No player may tack cards onto a three or four until they have laid their contract.

Jokers cannot be discarded, but apart from that there is no restriction on what card you may discard from your hand at the end of your turn. It is legal to discard a card that could be tacked onto a three or four on the table, and it is legal to discard the same card that you just picked up, if you find it is in your interest to do so.

Running out of stock cards. It sometimes happens that the entire stock is used up before any player has gone out. If this happens, the discard pile, except for its top card, is reshuffled and placed face down to form a new stock. Play continues as before. If the stock runs out a second time, which may happen if players are holding back the key cards needed by others to lay down their contracts, the play ends with no score. All the cards are thrown in, shuffled and dealt again by the same dealer and the play is restarted (playing for the same contract).

End of the play and scoring

As soon as a player goes out by getting rid of all their cards, the play ends. The other players count the total value of the cards they have in their hands (see above) and add the result to their cumulative total of penalty points.

If a player manages to go out on the same turn that they first lay down cards, this is known as bending the table or down and out, and the other players score double penalty points for that game. When bending the table you can tack cards onto other players' threes and fours and discard a card at the end of your turn as usual, but you must of course begin by putting down from your hand the appropriate threes and fours for the game being played.

At the end of the set of nine games, the player who has the lowest cumulative score is the winner.

Variations

Some players deal 12 cards cards each in the first three games, rather than 9, 10 and 11.

Some players only allow one joker in a minimum four - so three genuine cards are required, but further jokers can be tacked on later.

It sometimes happens that a player will carelessly call more than three times in one game. This can be verified by counting that the player is holding too many cards - for example in game 4 or 5 no one should ever have more than 18 cards. If this happens, the player in question is penalised (the penalty ranges from 50 to 500 points according to prior agreement) and is not allowed to bend the table in that game. A similar penalty can be applied to a player who lays down cards but is found not to have the required threes and fours for the current game.

It is possible to vary the number of jokers used - for example some groups use two packs with 6 jokers - 110 cards in all. It is also possible to play with more than six people by adding more packs.

Kalooki in Trinidad and Tobago

The following version of Kalooki played in Trinidad and Tobago was described to me by Samuel Alexander. At least two packs with four jokers (108 cards) are used, but with a larger group more packs and extra jokers can be added as desired. For example Samuel Alexander refers to a recent eleven-player game with five packs and 15 jokers (275 cards).

The deal is always 12 cards to each player. As in Jamaica, sets consist of at least three equal cards and runs of at least four consecutive cards of a suit. In Trinidad there are seven rounds and the contracts are as follows:

  1. 2 sets
  2. 1 set and 1 run
  3. 2 runs
  4. 3 sets
  5. 1 run and 2 sets
  6. 2 runs and 1 set
  7. 3 runs

Players who have put down their contract can tack onto a set or onto either end of a run.

Jokers can be substituted for any cards needed to make up a set or run. There is no restriction, except that each set or run must contain at least one genuine card. A player who holds a real card that is represented by a joker in a run can (at his turn) place the real card in the run and take the joker in exchange. If you replace a joker by a real card in your own run, you may may reuse the joker immediately in the same or another run or set that you own or store it in your hand for later use. If you replace a joker with a real card in another player's run, you must move the joker to one or the other end of the same run - you cannot move it to a different run or set or take it into your hand.

Each person has 3 'calls' per round, to take the top discard out of turn, but players can call on any turn, even after they have laid down their contract. As usual, if a call is allowed, the player receives an extra card from the face-down deck along with the face-up card. You can 'challenge' a player if you think he/she has made more than 3 successful calls thus having more than 18 cards in his/her hand. If the challenge is wrong (player does not have more than 18 cards), the challenger counts the value all his cards and adds an extra 50 points: this is his score for the round. His cards are stacked on the bottom of the discard pile and he drops out of the play until the next round is dealt. If the challenger is right, the player with more than 18 cards is punished in the same way.

When when the first player shouts "kalooki" indicate that he has played his last card, the others add up the point value of the cards in their hands, and add these to their scores. The values are: Jokers 50 each, King, Queen and Jack 10 each, Black Ace 15, Red Ace 1, 2-10 face value.

The player with the fewest points after the seven rounds wins the game.