Vazhushal

This page is based on information from India Cardmaster.

Introduction

This rummy game originated in Chennai and is very popular in southern India. The Tamil name Vazhishal or Vazhushal translates to "Wipe". It differs from the better known Indian Rummy played further north, in that it is possible to take more than one card from the discard pile (here called the discard "line"), as in the Western game Rummy 500.

Players and Cards

From 2 to 6 people can play. Two players use a single standard 52-card deck plus two jokers. With 3 or more players a double deck including four jokers (total 108 cards) should be used.

Deal

The dealer shuffles deals 13 cards to each player, clockwise one at a time. The dealer than offers the undealt part of the deck to the player to his right to cut, removes the top card from the bottom half and places it face down and places the remainder of the of the deck on top of it: this forms the stock pile. The players pick up their 13 cards and sort them as they wish.

When playing with two or more decks, if any player is dealt three or more "doubles" (pairs of identical cards, such as club3 and club3), this must be declared. The dealer takes all the cards back, shuffles again, and redeals.

The dealer now reveals the card under the stockpile, placing it face up at right angles under the stock so that its value is visible. This is the negative joker: all cards of the same rank and opposite colour become wild cards (jokers). For example if the spade8 is turned up as the negative joker, all red eights are wild, as well as the printed jokers. Note: the negative joker is revealed after it is established that no one has three doubles, to avoid the temptation for a player who finds he has wild cards to suppress the three doubles declaration.

The dealer then removes the top card from the stock pile and place it next to the stockpile face up, and this starts the discard line.

The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Combinations

As in any kind of rummy the objective is to collect cards that form valid combinations: sequences and sets.

A sequence consists of three or more consecutive cards in the same suit. An ace can be high or low but not both at once, so A-2-3 and Q-K-A are valid sequences but K-A-2 is not.

A set consists of three or four cards of the same rank in different suits. Since no duplicates are allowed, the maximum size of a set is four cards, even when playing with two decks.

Wild cards can be used as substitutes for any card needed to make up a sequence or set. A sequence is called pure if it is made without wild cards. A wild card used to represent itself can also be included in a pure sequence - for example with the spade8 turned up as the negative joker, diamond10-diamond9-diamond8 counts as a pure sequence. It may not be wise to meld this, however, since the diamond8 will often be more valuable for use as a wild card.

When a player lays down a valid combination face up on the table it becomes a meld. Melds belong exclusively to the player who laid them down - in this game it is impossible to add cards to other players' melds.

There are several restrictions on the melds that a player can lay down.

  1. There must always be at least one pure sequence. Therefore a players first meld must always be a pure sequence. Subsequent melds can be sequences or sets and can include wild cards.
  2. It is illegal for a player to have two identical melds, such as diamond7-diamond8-diamond and diamond7-diamond8-diamond

  3. Melds must consist of at least three cards each.
  4. It is illegal for a meld to consist entirely of printed jokers.

Play

Play starts with the player to the dealer's left and continues clockwise. A turn consists of:

  1. Drawing the top card from the face down stock or taking one or more cards from the top of the discard line.
  2. Optionally laying down one or more melds, or adding cards to your existing melds.
  3. Discarding one card face up on top of the discard line.

The cards in the discard line are overlapped with the most recently discarded card on top, so that all their values can be seen.

Taking cards from the discard line

When a player takes cards from the discard line, the last (deepest buried) card taken must immediately be used in a new meld. Taking several cards from the discard line is known as "wiping", which gives the game its name.

A player's first meld must be a pure sequence. A player who has not previously laid down any meld can take cards from the discard line only in two cases:

  1. The player can use a card or cards from the discard line to complete a pure sequence. In this case the discard line can be taken up to and including the deepest card used in the pure sequence, and no further.
  2. The player already has a pure sequence in hand. He lays down this pure sequence and takes the discard line up to and including a card that he can use in a second meld, which he must also lay down.

In either case the player is allowed in the same turn to lay down any further melds he wishes to make from the cards he has in his hand and those obtained from the discard line.

Example: The discard line from top to bottom is diamond9-spadeK-diamondJ-heartQ-heart6. The next player, who has not yet melded, holds among other cards diamond8, diamond10, spade6 and club6. With these cards he can take the top card of the discard line and lay down diamond10-9-8, or he can take the top three cards to lay down diamondJ-10-9-8 keeping the spadeK in hand or using it in a second meld. He is not allowed to take line as far as the heart6 in this turn to complete a meld of three sixes, since this is beyond the last card that can be used in a pure sequence. If he wants the heart6 he must wait until his next turn to take it from the discard line.

Note that even if only the top card is taken from the discard line, it must be used in a new meld. Also the discard line cannot be taken just to lay off the deepest buried card on a meld that the player already has. The meld must be a new one. However, this new meld can involve other cards taken from the discard line, and could be formed entirely from cards in the discard line.

Example 1. If the discard line is (from top to bottom) heart3, spade7, diamond5, spadeJ, a player who holds a diamond4 and a diamond6 may take the top three cards and meld the 4-5-6 of diamonds, but may not draw the diamondJ (unless also able to make a new meld that includes the diamondJ).

Example 2. If the discard line, from top to bottom, is club9-heartK-heart3-club7-spade9-spade and the next player holds a club8, she may take the top four cards of the pile to meld the 7-8-9 of clubs.

Example 3. If the discard line is spade8-heart5-heartK-club8-diamond4-diamond8 the next player can take the whole pile and meld the three eights, provided that he already has a pure sequence.

Laying off and rearranging melds

When melding or laying off cards, a player may also rearrange the cards in her melds so as to make new melds and accommodate jokers. After rearrangement the melds must still satisfy the conditions above: at least one pure sequence, at least three cards in each meld, no two identical melds, no meld consisting entirely of printed jokers.

Cards that have been melded must remain melded. A card that has been part of a meld on the table can never be returned to the player's hand, nor can it be discarded.

Joker as first card of discard line

Special rules apply if the card turned up by the dealer to start the discard line is a joker. Since a player's first meld must be a pure sequence, the joker can only be picked up if either:

  1. the joker can be used in the pure sequence to represent itself. For example the negative joker is heart4, the first card of the discard line is club4 (wild) and the first player has club5 and club6 to meld with it.
  2. the player already has a pure sequence in hand or on the table.

In these cases the player is allowed to pick up the whole discard line including the joker. The pure sequence must be melded (if it is not already on the table) but in case (b) the joker does not have to be melded in that turn.

Note that if a player with no meld completes a pure sequence by drawing from the stock, and there is a joker at the bottom of the discard pile, the pile cannot be taken in the same turn. The player must wait until his next turn and can then take the whole pile including the joker, if it has not already been taken by another player.

Making a pure sequence using cards in one's hand together with cards in the discard line does not entitle the player to take the joker from the bottom of the discard line on that turn. The player can take the discard line only as far as is needed to make the pure sequence. Then, with the pure sequence melded, on his next turn if the joker is still there, he can take the whole pile including the joker.

Going Out

Play continues in the same fashion until one player can draw from the stock pile or discard line and place all but one of the cards in his hand into valid melds on the table, and place the final card from his hand face down on the discard line and complete the game. This is known as going out. The player wins a game and the next player deals a new hand.

It may occasionally happen that the stock runs out before anyone has gone out. In this case play ends at the end of the turn in which the last card is drawn from the stock. All players then have the opportunity to put down additional cards from their hands to make new melds, add to melds, and to rearrange their melds according to the above rules. However, no further cards can be taken from the discard line. The winner is determined by counting the values of the cards that each player has melded and subtracting from this the values of any cards remaining in the player's hand. Aces, kings, queens and jacks are worth 10 points, numeral cards 2-9 are worth face value, and all jokers take on the value of the card they are representing. For example diamond7-diamond8-joker is worth 24 points, counting 9 for the joker. The player with most points wins.

By agreement, the session can continue until one player has won a set number of times, usually until a player has 5 wins.

Variations

The one-deck, two joker version is meant for two people; however, it is possible for 3 people to play with one deck, although this may be tough as there are only 13 cards in the stock pile (after dealing 13 cards for each player, 1 card for negative joker and 1 card to start discard line). One solutions is to add more jokers, though this may make game play very short. Another solution is to allow room for only 10 cards in the discard line. When the number of discards exceeds 10, the last discard is moved to the bottom of the stock pile, once again leaving 10 cards in the discard line and 3 in the stock pile.

The two-player game is sometimes played without a negative joker. In this case only the printed jokers are wild. This makes it a little more difficult to meld.

There are several variations of the rules that apply when the card turned up to start the discard line is a joker.

  1. Some people play that this joker can only be taken if it can immediately be used in a meld. The consequence is that (unless the joker is used to represent itself), the joker can only be taken by a player who can put down two melds: a pure sequence and a meld that uses the joker.
  2. Some people play that if first card of the discard line is a printed joker, and no one has a pure sequence in their original hand, the joker is placed back in the deck and a new card is turned to start the discard line.
  3. Some players play that if no one has a pure sequence in their original hand and the first card of the discard line is a joker, the player to the dealer's left simply takes the joker and discards a card to restart the line.