Ten Card Rummy

A Contract Rummy variant contributed by Matthew Pryor .

Introduction

Ten Card Rummy is a version of contract rummy first known to have been played in the air-raid shelters in London during the 1941 Blitz.  It is similar to ‘May I?’, but is more straight forward and easier to play.  It is one of the best card games for larger (more than 4) number of players, making it a very friendly, family favourite.

Players

The game may be played by four to eight players, but is best when played by five, six or seven players.

Cards

For four, five and six players, Ten Card Rummy is played with two standard decks of 52 cards, plus four jokers, for a total 108 cards.  For seven and eight players, an extra deck of 52 cards, and two further jokers are added to make a total 162 cards.

Dealing

There are eleven rounds. The dealer for the first round is chosen at random.  In subsequent rounds the deal passes to the left (rotates clockwise).  

At the start of each round, players receive 10 cards, one card at a time. The remaining cards are placed face down in the centre of the table as the stock.  The top card is turned up alongside the stock, as the first card in the discard pile.

Object of the Game

In each round players attempt to be the first to dispose of all their cards (go out), by melding and laying off.  Before they are permitted to meld or lay off, a player must make an initial meld (their contract).  This gets progressively harder from round to round.

The player that goes out, i.e. gets rid of all their cards, receives no penalty points.  The other players receive penalty points equivalent to the value of the cards remaining in their hands (i.e. those that have not been melded or laid off).  The winner of the game is the player with the lowest number of penalty points after the eleven rounds.

Melding

There are two kinds of meld:

  • A run (sequence) of at least three consecutive cards of the same suit, such as club5 club6 club7.  Aces may count either high or low, and runs such as  spadeQ spadeK spadeA spade2 spade3 are permitted (known as ‘going over the top’).
  • A set (group or book) of at least three cards of the same rank, such as diamond10 spade10 heart10

Laying Off

Once a player has made an initial meld, he may lay off other cards from his hand by adding them to any set or run melded by any player.  Cards added to a set must be of an equal rank.  Cards added to a run must be of the correct suit and extend the sequence directly, at either end, i.e. a player may add only the diamond5  or diamond9  to the melded sequence  diamond6 diamond7diamond8.

Initial Melds (Contracts)

The initial melds in each round are:

First round - One 3
Second round - Two 3’s
Third round - One 4
Fourth round - Two 4’s
Fifth round - One 5
Sixth round - Two 5’s
Seventh round - One 6
Eighth round - One 7
Ninth round - One 8
Tenth round - One 9
Last round - One 10

For the initial meld, the player must lay down at least the number of sets and/or runs required for that round.  The player may make a meld with more than the minimum number of cards required, e.g. make an initial meld of a set of five cards in the Third Round (One 4).   However, in the rounds of Two 3’s,  Two 4’s,  and Two 5’s, the player may not join two runs together.  For example in the Second Round, the following cards must be placed in two runs, club3 club4 club5 and club6 club7 club8,  and not as one single run, club3 club4 club5 club6 club7 club8.

Once a player has made an initial meld, he may make any number of subsequent melds of three or more cards.  He may also lay cards off on sets or runs that were previously melded by any player.

A player may make subsequent melds, or lay cards off, immediately after the initial meld.  There is no need to wait until the player’s next turn to do so.  This allows players to go out concealed, i.e. get rid of all their cards in one turn.

Melding and laying off are optional, players are not required to do as soon as they are able to.

The Play

The player to dealer's left starts, and play proceeds clockwise around the table with players taking turns.

The player must either draw the top card of the stock or take the top card of the discard pile.  He must then throw out (discard) a card from his hand, face up, onto the discard pile.

A player may only make an initial meld, subsequent melds or lay off cards immediately before his turn (go).  A player may make as many melds or lay off as many cards as he chooses at one time. 

Editor's note. The above rule means that unlike almost every other rummy game, in this game you can only meld before drawing from the stock or discard pile. A card you draw cannot be melded in the same turn: if you draw acquire a card that completes a meld or can be laid off, you must wait until the start of your next turn before you can meld it. JMM

To make an initial or subsequent meld, the player must place the run or set of cards in a fan face up on the table in front of him.    

Play continues until one player gets rid of all the cards from their hand.

If the stock runs out of cards, the cards in the discard pile should simply be turned over, without shuffling, to make a new stock, and the top one turned over to start a new discard pile, and play continues as before.

Buying (taking the discard out of turn)

From the fourth round (Two 4‘s) onwards, players are allowed to ‘buy’ the top card in the discard pile (the discard) when it is not their turn.  The player must ask for the discard by calling out the word “buy”. 

If the player whose turn it is wants the discard he may take it in the ordinary course of his turn (and deny the player who wishes to buy).  But if he does not, he must allow others to buy if they wish.  They are only allowed to buy the discard before the player takes his turn, i.e. takes a card from the stock.  In a fast paced game, players need to be very vigilant for discards that may be of use to them.

The player who buys the discard must also take the top card from the stock, face down.  Buying thereby increasing the number of cards in their hand by two.

If more than one player wished to buy a card, it goes to the first player round the table clockwise from the player whose turn it is.

After someone has bought the discard out of turn, it is possible for the same or a different player to buy the next card of the discard pile in exactly the same way. There is no limit as to how many times this can be done.

Players are permitted to buy three times within any round.  Any player discovered to have bought more than three times is penalized 100 points.

Play resumes, after a discard has been bought, from its original point.  The turn to play does not jump to the person who takes the discard.

Jokers and 2’s

Jokers and 2’ are wild, and may be used in runs or sets (or laid off) to substitute for any missing card, so long as the run or set does not contain more jokers and 2’s than ordinary cards.  A 2 of the correct suit played in the correct sequence in a run may be regarded as an ordinary card for this purpose, so spade2 spade3 diamond2 would be permitted as a run of three Spades, where heart2 spade3 diamond2  would not.

Once played, a joker or 2 must stay.  It may not be substituted / reclaimed by a player who has the card which the joker or 2 is representing,

Scoring

When someone goes out, play ends and the other players add up the value of the cards they have left in their hands, to determine their penalty points.

Number Cards 3-10 : spot (index) value
Face cards (J,Q,K) : 10 points
Ace : 11 points
Joker and 2’s  : 15 points

At the end of the last round, the player with the lowest total score wins.

Strategy

Beyond the seventh or eighth round it becomes impractical to collect sufficient cards as a set for the initial meld, and players have to build runs. Where there are more than four players this means that at least two players will be collecting the same suit.  The ability to change suit or from collecting runs to collecting sets, in response to the cards picked up / used by other players, is important.

The more times a player buys the easier it is for them to make the initial meld, but the greater the penalty points that they might receive if caught by another player going out before they can make their initial meld.

In collecting particular cards during a round, better players will tend to focus as much on the potential for making subsequent melds and laying off, as on forming the initial meld, as the ability to go out quickly is more important than making the initial meld as soon as possible.

In the final round when a player has a sizeable points lead, they may attempt to ‘minimise’, i.e. collect only low point value cards and discarding high value cards (especially wild cards), rather than risk ending up with a large number of high point cards in hand. 

You may also be tempted to get rid of a high value card - even a wild card - if you suspect that an opponent has all the cards he needs and is waiting to go out at the start of his next turn. There is however the risk that the opponent has deceived you. If you discard a wild card there is also the risk that an opponent may buy it and together with the extra card obtained from the stock it may enable him to go out even though he could not do so before. JMM