Crazy Rummy - card game rules.

Crazy Rummy

Introduction

This Rummy game consists of series of deals each using a different wild card. In the first deal Aces are wild, then Twos, Threes and so on, usually ending with the 13th deal in which Kings are wild. Unlike 3-13 Rummy, in this game every deal is played with 7-card hands, and during the play the players can meld part of their hand and lay off cards on other players' melds.

This game goes by a large number of different names, and the rules differ from place to place. Most of the descriptions I have seen come from North America, but it is also played in South Wales in the UK and maybe in other places. Alternative names for the game include Lamsees, Lambz, Dummy Rummy, Dumb Dumb, Biddies, Beanie, Mexican Rummy, Cleveland Rummy, Canadian Gin, Crazy Gin, Ace to Ace, Montana 13, 13 Brasses, Nokomis and several others.

I am grateful to the many people who have sent descriptions of different versions this game. They include Jennifer Gregorio, John Greer, Michael Jones, Shayne Lewis, Dave McManus, Rammy Meyerowitz, William Mihalic and Michael Oxner.

The basic rules common to most or all of these versions of the game will be given first, followed by a survey of the variants that I have come across.

Players and Cards

From 3 to 6 people can play, using a standard international 52-card pack. The cards of each suit rank from high to low K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A. Deal and play are clockwise.

Objective and Melds

A complete game consists of 13 deals. In each deal, the players aim to get rid of all their cards by melding them, that is laying them down in valid combinations (or melds) face up on the table.

There are two types of melds: sets and runs.

  • A set consists of three or four cards of equal rank - for example diamond8-spade8-heart8 or clubQ-heartQ-spadeQ-diamondQ.
  • A run consists of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit - for example spade2-spade3-spade4 or diamond10-diamondJ-diamondQ-diamondK or club4-club5-club6-club7-club8.

Note that Aces are always low in runs. A-2-3 of a suit is a run but Q-K-A or K-A-2 of a suit are not valid runs.

In each deal the cards of one rank are wild. In the first deal all Aces are wild, in the second deal all Twos, then Threes, Fours and so on upwards until the thirteenth and final deal when all Kings are wild. A wild card can be used as a substitute for any card in a combination. For example in the seventh deal club7-club10-heart10 is a valid set and heartA-heart2-spade7 is a valid run.

When a wild card is used in a run, the arrangement of the cards indicates which card it represents. A player holding heart5, heart6 and club9 in the ninth deal could lay them down as heart5-heart6-club9 in which case the 9 represents the heart7. This run could later be extended by adding the heart8 but not the heart3. Alternatively the same three cards could be laid down as club9-heart5-heart6 with the 9 representing the heart4, so that the run can be extended by the heart3 but not by the heart8.

In a set, a wild card can represent any missing suit. In the ninth deal a player who puts down heartQ-spadeQ-spade9 does not need to specify whether the 9 represents the club or the diamond Queen.

There is no limit to the number of wild cards that can be used as substitutes to make up a set or run. When two or more wild cards are used, the player putting down the combination must state, if there is any ambiguity, whether it is meant to be a set or a run and what the wild cards represent. For example in the third deal diamondJ-diamond3-spade3 could be a set of three Jacks, or J-Q-K of diamonds, or 9-10-J of diamonds if seen from the other side. The player must say which it is when putting it down and it must be treated as such in the subsequent play if it is extended or wild cards reclaimed.

Note that a set can never contain more than four cards. In the eleventh deal clubK-heartK-clubJ-diamondJ is a set of four Kings, with the Jacks representing the Kings of diamonds and spades, but it is impossible to add another wild Jack to this set, as there is no fifth King that it could represent.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient random method. For example players may draw cards from the shuffled deck and the player who draws the lowest card deals first (in case of a tie for lowest the tied players draw again).

The dealer deals seven cards to each player, one at a time, and ends by dealing an eighth card to the player to their left, who has the first turn. The remaining cards are stacked face down to form a drawing stock.

Play

The first player begins by (optionally) putting down any melds that can be formed from their hand of eight cards, and then discarding one card face up beside the stock pile to start the discard pile. The turn to play then passes to the left and each turn consists of:

  1. drawing either the top card of the face down stock or the top card of the discard pile, then
  2. optionally putting down valid melds, and finally
  3. discarding one card face up on top of the discard pile.

The first meld a player lays down must be a new set of 3 or 4 cards or run of 3 or more cards. Players who have done this may, in the same or in later turns, add further cards from their hand to extend any sets or runs already on the table, both their own and those originally laid down by other players, as well as laying down new melds.

A player who has already laid down a set or run may take a wild card from the table if they hold the real card that it represents. This can only be done in stage 2 of their turn after drawing. The wild card that is taken can be used as the player wishes - it can be put down as part of the same or another meld, or they may risk keeping it in their hand for later use. For example if in the second deal (Twos wild) there is a run heart7-club2-heart9 on the table, a player holding heart5 and heart8 could - provided that they had already laid down a set or run of their own, replace the club2 by the real heart8 and move the club2 to represent the heart6 so that the heart5 could be added, making heart5-club2-heart7-heart8-heart9. Since a wild card in a set can represent any missing suit, in the second deal the wild Two in the set clubK-diamondK-spade2 can be claimed in exchange for either the spadeK or the heartK.

A player who is able to lay down all their cards but one in step 2 of their turn can discard their last card and "go out", ending the play. A final discard is always required. A player who has two cards in hand and draws a third that completes a set or run cannot lay down this combination, because that would leave them with no card to discard.

It may happen that the whole stock is exhausted before anyone has gone out. This may happen, for example, if all the melds on the table are sets of four, which cannot be extended. When the player who drew the last card of the stock discards without going out the play ends immediately and the hand is scored: everyone gets penalty points for the cards they have left.

Any player who has only one card left in their hand is subject to extra restrictions:

  • They must start their turn by drawing from the stock, not from the discard pile.
  • If they can get rid of one of their cards by adding it to a meld on the table, they may do so and discard the other card to go out.
  • If they do not go out, they must keep the card they drew and discard the card that was previously in their hand.

One purpose of these restrictions is to prevent a player with one card from minimising their loss by drawing a low card such as an Ace and then hanging onto it until the end while drawing and discarding other cards. They must keep replacing their card and thereby risk having a 10 in hand when some other player goes out.

It is never compulsory for a player to lay down cards just because they are able to. It is legitimate to keep playable cards or even entire melds in your hand, and it is sometimes good tactics to do so. Of course cards held in this way will count for penalty points as usual if some other player goes out.

Scoring

A cumulative score is kept for each player. A player who goes out scores no points and the others score penalty points for the cards remaining in their hands.

Wild cards count 25 points each, and non-wild cards score as follows:

Aces: 1 point each
Number cards 2 to 10: face value
Jack, Queen, King: 10 points each

The player with the lowest penalty point total at the end of the game is the winner.

Variations

Some deal 10 cards each when 2 or 3 play.

Some use a double deck of 104 cards when there are more than four players. In this double deck game a set can include duplicate cards - for example spadeQ-spadeQ-diamondQ is a valid set, and a set can therefore contain as many as eight cards. Some allow a set that includes wild cards to have more than eight cards even though there is no real card in the pack that the excess wild cards could represent.

In some groups it is the dealer, rather than the player to dealer's left, who is dealt eight cards and plays first.

Some do not allow the first player to meld in their first turn - this player must just discard one of their eight cards and wait for their second turn to put down any sets or runs they may be holding.

When a player claims a wild card from the table in exchange for the card that it represents, some do not allow the player to store the wild card in their hand but insist that it be reused immediately to extend an existing meld on the table or as part of a new meld.

Some descriptions do not mention the special restrictions for a player who is down to one card. This maybe an oversight, but probably there are many groups who play without these restrictions.

Some play that when the last card of the stock pile is drawn the discard pile is shuffled and stacked face down to form a new stock pile, the discard of the player who drew the last card from the stock starts the new discard pile, and play continues.

Some count wild cards as 15 or 20 points rather than 25.

Some groups score 11 points for Jacks, 12 for Queens and 13 for Kings.

Some play that when the the wild card is 7 or King, all penalty points for that hand are doubled.

Some give a bonus (say 15 points) to the player who went out rather than just letting them score zero. If you write penalty points as positive numbers, that would mean that the player who goes out subtracts 15 from their cumulative score while the other players add the value of the cards remaining in their hands.

Some play for money, typically at a rate of 1 cent per point, rounded to the nearest 5 cents. There are two ways to manage this:

  1. Every player pays to or receives from every other player according to the difference between their scores.
    Example: player A ends with 184 points, player B with 137, player C with 250, player D with 241.
    Player A pays $0.45 to B, receives $0.65 from C and receives $0.55 from D: total gain $0.75.
    Player B receives $0.45 from A, $1.15 from C and $1.05 from D: total gain $2.65.
    Player C pays $0.65 to A, $1.15 to B and $0.10 to D: total loss $1.90.
    Player D pays $0.55 to A and $1.05 to B and receives $0.10 from C: total loss $1.50.
  2. Only the winner receives the difference in score from each other player.
    Example: with the same scores as above player B wins $2.65 as before but A loses $0.45, C loses just $1.15 and D loses just $1.05.

Some play that in addition to the above, the winner of each deal is paid 5 cents by each other player.

Some begin with Deuces (Twos) wild and play only twelve deals, ending with Kings wild, or sometimes carry on with a thirteenth deal with Aces wild. Some play 14 deals, beginning and ending with Ace wild.

John Greer has provided detailed rules of a variant called Forth Worth Gin.

Shayne describes the variant Biddies played in South Wales. In this game for 3 or 4 players the wild cards are called "biddies", the melds are called "downers" and a player who goes out is said to be "up". The first dealer is found by dealing cards face up around the table until a Jack appears. Aces can be used as high or low in runs, but not in the interior of a run (K-A-2 is not valid). A player who after discarding has nothing but a 2 in their hand, if the 2 is not a beanie, can go "up for 2" and end the play, scoring just 2 penalty points. When scoring, Aces count 10 points rather than 1. At the end of the thirteenth deal the player with the lowest score is the winner and is paid the difference in scores by each of the other players.

Several websites (for example cribbage.ca) give a short description of a French Canadian version called Treize Brasses (13 deals or shuffles) for two or more players, in which 13 cards rather than 7 are dealt to each player. It is played with a double deck of 104 cards, but sets consist of a maximum of 4 equal cards. A player who draws the top card of the discard pile must immediately use it in a meld. When scoring Aces are worth 1, 2 to 10 face value, Jack 11, Queen 12, King 13 and wild cards 25.

The game Beanie, played mostly in Canada, mostly follows the basic rules given on this page. The wild cards are called "beanies", and the verb "to beanie" also means to go out. Some descriptions give a few special rules:

  • Some play that no player is allowed to meld until everyone has had one turn and the play returns to the first player.
  • Some play that it is possible to go out at your first turn, but in that case any players who have not had a turn get one opportunity to reduce their hand value by putting down any melds they can make from the cards they were dealt, including playing on previous players' melds.
  • Some start with the King as the wild card and work downwards to Ave wild for the last deal.
  • Some use simplified card values for easier calculation of the scores: Ace to 8 are 5 points, 9 to King are 10 points, wild cards 25.
  • Some play that when the draw pile is empty play can continue so long as the next player wishes to take the top card from the discard pile, but as soon as a player refuses to do that, the play ends and the hands are scored.

Rammy Meyerowitz describes Ace to Ace a 14-deal game for 2 to 4 players that incorporates some features of Rummy 500. It is possible to take more than one card from the discard pile, and players score positive points for melded cards as well as negative points for cards remaining in their hands. Here is a summary of the rules.

  • The game begins and ends with Ace wild. Aces used in a run can be either low cards (A-2-3) or high cards (Q-K-A) but not both at once (K-A-2 of a suit is not a valid run).
  • Seven cards each are dealt as usual plus an eighth card to the person to dealer's left, who plays first.
  • When drawing, a player who has not yet put down their first meld can draw the top card only of the discard pile, but only if they immediately meld it as part of a set or run. Otherwise they must start their turn by drawing the top card of the stock pile.
  • A player who already has melded may either draw the top card of the stock pile or any number of cards from the top of the discard pile. However a player who takes cards from the discard pile is not allowed to meld any of them in the same turn. They may meld cards from their hand in that turn, but cards taken from the discard pile cannot be melded until the player's following turn.
  • To end a player's turn any card may be discarded, including a card that the player has just taken from the discard pile. The cards in the discard pile are overlapped so that players can see what is in it.
  • Because cards are scored for the player who melded them, any cards that are melded, whether a new combination or an addition to a combination that is already on the table, are placed in front of the person who melded them, and not on the combination they are added to if that belongs to another player. A wild card can be taken from a run in exchange for the natural card it represents, and that natural card is placed in front of and scores for the player making the exchange. A wild card can be taken from a set of equal cards in exchange for a natural card of the same rank. If a set consisting entirely of wild cards is melded, no cards can be taken from it.
  • When a player goes out, each player scores plus the value of melded cards in front of them minus the value of cards remaining in their hand. Wild cards score 25 points, Aces 15, pictures 10 and number cards 2 to 10 face value. The player with the highest score at the end of 14 hands is the winner.

Michael Oxner describes a number of variants of the basic game.

  1. "The Press" is a rule whereby if one player is 50 or more points behind their nearest rival at the end of a hand (i.e. their score is 50 or more greater than that of any other player), all the card scores are doubled in the next hand. When playing this variant, a player may voluntarily add extra penalty points to their score at the end of a hand in order to put The Press into effect. For example if you trailing by 48 points you might choose to take 2 more penalty points so as to have the scores doubled in the next deal and improve you chance of catching up.
  2. The "Auto-Press" is a further development in which the player with the highest hand value after play of the first hand in a game with 4 or more players automatically takes a score 50 points above the next highest player to put "The Press" on. If two or more players tie for the high score after the first hand, they all go to the new value.
  3. Another variant is to allow the dealer, after looking at their hand, to choose and announce the wild card for each deal before the first player takes their first turn. Each rank can be called only once, so the choice becomes more limited as the game progresses and for the last deal the dealer has no option but to call the last remaining rank as wild. This may see to give the dealer a large advantage, but in fact the dealer runs a greater risk than the other players of being caught with a wild card when another player goes out, and for that reason some dealers may even choose to call as wild a card that they do not hold.
  4. Another variants is to add one Joker to the deck which is always wild and counts 50 penalty points if found in a player's hand at the end of the play. In this variant a 14th deal can be played in which the Joker is the only wild card.

Tactics

Michael Oxner and others have contributed some ideas on skilful play.

It is sometimes a good idea to hold onto playable combinations rather than lay them down at the first opportunity. This gives other players fewer combinations to play on and therefore fewer chances to go out. The risk is that if another player does go out a player who has held onto cards will score more penalty points than if they had been laid down. This risk is greater in five- and six-handed games where you may get only one or two turns before a player goes out.

Often people will discard the highest cards in their hand if they can't play them, so as to reduce the penalty point value of their hand. Other players can take advantage of this by holding onto high cards that can potentially be combined with a discarded high card to make a set or run.

Several people have suggested the tactic of putting down a combination including a wild card while holding a card that will enable it to be retrieved later. For example with Nines wild, holding club5, club6, club7, diamond9 in your hand you put down diamond9-club6-club7 as a run and keep the club5 in your hand, planning to use it to release the wild card later when you can use it to go out. This gives you the flexibility of the wild card without risking the penalty for being aught with it should another player go out before you.

A player with a low score may play low card combinations in the hope that they may help another player who has kept low cards to go out by adding to or robbing from these combinations, thereby catching a third player with a lot of cards.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2020. Last updated: 29th April 2020

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