Hand

This page is based on information from Sultan Ratrout.

Introduction

Hand is a popular Rummy game played in Arab countries in the Middle East. This page describes the form played in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, with notes at the end on other known variants.

As in all Rummy games the objective is, by drawing and discarding, to collect groups and sequences of cards. These combinations can be placed on the table as "melds". The round ends when a player wins by disposing of all the cards from their hand by placing them in melds and discarding their final card. The term "hand", which gives its name to the game, refers to the case where a player melds all their cards in one turn.

The game is played for penalty points. At the end of a round the winner's opponents add penalty points for the cards remaining in their hands, while the winner is rewarded by subtracting some points from their score. The objective is to have the lowest score at the end of seven rounds.

Players and Cards

Hand can be played by 2, 3 or 4 players playing as individuals, or by 4 players in fixed partnerships with partners sitting opposite each other.

It is played with 2 standard international 52-card packs and 2 jokers (106 cards in total). The two Jokers or two of the Aces are used as wild cards, as explained below.

The cards have point values, which are used to check that a player's first meld meets the minimum requirement of 51 points, and count as penalty points for cards remaining in a player's hand at the end of the play. The values of the natural cards are A=11, K=10, Q=10, J=10, pip cards (10 to 2) face value. The value of wild cards varies and is explained below.

Deal and play are counter-clockwise.

Melds

Each player has an area in front of them in the table for melding cards. During their turn, players may meld valid combinations of three or more cards from their hand by placing them face up in their own area. After they have put down their first meld they can also add cards to any melds on the table, in their own area or other players' areas.

There are two types of meld: sequences (runs) and groups (sets).

A sequence (or run) consists of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. The Ace can be either the highest or the lowest card of a suit, but not both in the same sequence. So an Ace can be at the top end of a run next to the King or at the bottom end next to the Two, but an Ace cannot be in the interior of a sequence (K-A-2) and it is not possible to have a sequence of more than 13 cards. Examples of valid sequences are clubA-club2-club3, heart8-heart9-heart10-heartJ, and spadeQ-spadeK-spadeA. It is customary to arrange the cards of a melded sequence in ascending order in a row from left to right as seen by the player and some players insist on this.

A group (or set) consists of three or four cards of the same rank and different suits. Valid examples would be diamond5-spade5-heart5 or spadeQ-heartQ-clubQ-diamondQ. A set cannot contain two identical cards - for example heart9-spade9-heart9 would not be valid.

Initial Meld

Each player's first meld in each round must consist of valid sequences and groups whose cards have a total value of at least 51 points. For this purpose Aces count 11, kings, Queens and Jacks 10 each, and cards from 10 to 2 face value. Note that an Ace is always worth 11 even when used in the sequence A-2-3. So for example the following is a valid initial meld: diamondA-diamond2-diamond3-diamond4-diamond5, heart9-spade9-diamond9 (11+2+3+4+5+9+9+9=52).

After a player has laid down their initial meld they can in the same or a later turn add cards to their own meld and to melds belonging to other players (their opponents' melds and their partner's melds) in such a way that each meld remains valid. The next consecutive card of the same suit can be added to either end of a sequence or the fourth card can be added to a group of three. They can also put down additional melds of their own irrespective of point value.

Exception. If a player who has not yet melded is able to get rid all their cards in a single turn by forming melds and possibly adding some cards to other players' melds, they are allowed to do so even if the value of the melds they put down is less than 51.

Wild Cards

The wild cards are determined during the deal by an indicator card placed face up on the table. The wild card indicator cannot be a Joker. If the card initially revealed as the indicator card is a Joker, it is buried in the middle of the stock pile and the top card of the stock is turned up is a new indicator card.

  • If the wild card indicator is not an Ace, the two Aces of the same suit as the indicator are the wild cards. In this case the two Jokers are used as the natural Aces of the indicator suit. For example if the wild card indicator is the club8 then the Aces of clubs are wild and the Jokers are used exactly as though they were natural Aces of clubs.
  • If the wild card indicator is an Ace, then the two Jokers are the wild cards, and all the Aces are natural cards, including the Ace of the same suit as the indicator.

A player may use one wild card in any meld to replace any natural card. It is not possible to use both wild cards in the same meld.

Examples, with club7 as the indicator card, so that the clubA is wild;

  • diamond7-clubA-diamond9 is then a valid sequence, with the clubA representing the missing diamond8.
  • spade5-club5-clubA is a valid group with the wild clubA representing the two missing fives.
  • clubJ-clubA-clubK-Joker is a valid sequence. Here the wild clubA represents the clubQ and the Joker functions as a natural clubA.
  • clubQ-clubK-clubA is also valid, using the clubA as a wild card representing the clubA.
  • However, clubA-clubK-clubA is not a valid sequence, because a combination cannot contain more than one wild card and the clubA is wild.
  • spadeA-diamondA-heartA-Joker is a valid natural set of four Aces.
  • clubA-heartA-Joker is also valid. Here the natural club Ace is already present in the form of a Joker, so the wild club Ace represents the other Aces, the diamondA and the spadeA, and the natural versions of either of these can be added to the group later.

Examples, with the clubA as the indicator card. This is easier: both Jokers are now wild and the other cards are all natural.

  • diamond7-Joker-diamond9 is a valid sequence.
  • spade5-heart5-Joker is a valid group, with the Joker representing the two missing fives.
  • spade5-heart5-clubA is not valid now, because the club Ace is just a natural Ace, not a wild card.

Value of Wild Cards

When a wild card is used in a player's initial meld the value of the wild card is equal to the value of the natural card it represents. So for example if spadeQ is the wild card indicator, heart5-spadeA-heart7 is worth just 18 points, counting 6 for the wild Ace in this case.

If a wild card is placed at one end of a sequence, its position determines what card it represents and therefore its value. Still with spadeQ as the wild card indicator, the sequence club9-club10-spadeA counts as 29 for the purpose of an initial meld, whereas spadeA-club9-club10 is worth only 27.

A wild card in a three-card group has a value equal to one natural card of that group. So for example with spadeQ as the wild card indicator, the group spade7-diamond7-spadeA is worth 21 points, the same as a natural group of three sevens. The wild spadeA is worth 7 points (not 14) here, even though it may be thought of as replacing both missing sevens.

A wild card remaining in a player's hand at the end of the play has a value of 15 points.

Replacing Wild Cards

A player who has already put down their initial meld and who holds the natural card(s) represented by a wild card in their own meld or another player's meld can replace the wild card with the corresponding natural card(s) from their hand during their turn.

  • A wild card in a sequence can be replaced by the natural card corresponding to its position. For example if the sequence diamond7-wild-diamond9 is on the table a player who holds a diamond8 can place it in the sequence and take the wild card in exchange.
  • In a group consisting of two equal cards and a wild card, the wild card can be replaced by the two natural cards of the same rank in the missing suits, creating a four-card group. For example if the group spade5-club5-wild is on the table, a player who holds both a heart5 and a diamond5 can place these two cards in the group and take the wild card in exchange.
  • In a group consisting of three equal cards and a wild card, the wild card can be replaced by the natural card of the missing suit. For example if the group spadeK-heartK-diamondK-wild is on the table, the holder of a clubK can place it in the group and take the wild card in exchange.

The player who takes the wild card can reuse it as part of an existing meld on the table or in a new meld with cards from hand, or can keep the wild card in their hand for later use.

Note that melds on the table cannot be manipulated or rearranged. In particular it is not possible to move a wild card from one place to another unless the player first replaces the wild card with the appropriate natural card(s) from hand. For example if the sequence club9-club10-wild is on the table, a player who holds a club7 is not allowed to add it to the sequence, treating the wild card as a club8. Since the wild card was originally placed as a clubJ it must remain in that position unless and until it is replaced by a real clubJ. However, a player who holds both a clubJ and a club7 could first exchange the clubJ for the wild card and then add the wild card and the club7 to the lower end of the sequence.

More on Groups with Wild Cards

It is legal to meld from hand three equal cards of different suit plus a wild card as a group (for example diamondQ-heartQ-spadeQ-wild), provided that the player has already melded or can meld at least 51 points on this turn. This type of meld is, however, unusual since the three equal natural cards (diamondQ-heartQ-spadeQ) form a legal meld by themselves, and a player would normally prefer to keep the wild card for some other purpose. Nevertheless such a meld is sometimes useful, for example as a way to achieve the 51 points needed for an initial meld or to avoid having a wild card in hand when another player goes out. In such a group, the wild card can later be replaced by an equal card of the fourth suit (the clubQ in the example).

However, if a group is melded as two equal cards plus a wild card (such as club8-heart8-wild), normally the only option to modify this group is to replace the wild card by both missing equal cards (a spade8 and a diamond8). It is not normally legal to add just one of the two missing natural cards to make a group of 8-8-8-wild. There are two exceptions to this:

  1. The player melds all their remaining cards except one on this turn and discards their final card, ending the play.
  2. At the the end of the player's turn, after they have discarded, there will be at least one player in the game with only one card remaining in their hand. This case can arise in two ways. Either
    1. some other player has already announced 'one card', or
    2. after melding, the player has only two cards left, discards one of them and then announces 'one card'.

In these cases, the addition of just one card (spade8 or diamond8) to the group club8-heart8-wild to make a four-card group is allowed.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient method. Usually the cards are spread face down, each player draws one card, and the player who draws the lowest card deals first. Subsequently the the player with the highest (worst) score for the previous round is the dealer for the next round. In case of a tie for highest score, if the dealer is involved in the tie, the same player will deal again. If not, the new dealer will be the first player involved in the tie in counterclockwise order from the previous dealer. In a round that ends with no score, the same dealer deals again.

The cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by the player to dealer's left. The dealer then deals 14 cards to each player, two cards at a time, and then a single extra card to the player to dealer's right, so that this player begins with 15 cards. The remainder of the deck is stacked face down at one side of the table to form a stock pile from which cards will be drawn during the game.

Next the dealer takes the top card from the stock pile and places it face up on the table next to the stock. This is the wild card indicator.

  • If it is a Joker, the dealer must insert it back into the stock pile and draw another card to be the wild card indicator.
  • If it is an Ace, it indicates that the Jokers will be the two wild cards for this deal.
  • If it is a suit card other than an Ace, it indicates that the Aces of that suit will be the two wild cards for this deal, and that the printed Jokers will act as the natural Aces of that suit.

The players look at their cards. Any player who has four pairs of identical cards (for example club5-club5-diamond7-diamond7-diamondJ-diamondJ-Joker-Joker) may show them and demand a redeal. In this case the dealer must collect all the cards and they are shuffled, cut and dealt again. A hand with pairs of identical cards is normally bad because identical cards cannot be used together in any group or sequence, and the duplication reduces the chance of collecting cards that form a valid meld. However, a player with four identical pairs is not obliged to ask for a redeal. The player has the option not to show them and to let the play continue as usual.

A player who has three pairs of identical cards and a wild card is also entitled to demand a redeal. This is not so bad as four pairs of identical cards, but the logic here is presumably that the player can use the wild card to represent a card identical to some other natural card from their hand, and thus claim the privilege of demanding a redeal if they wish. In the same way, a redeal can be demanded by a player with two pairs of identical cards and two jokers.

Play

The player to dealer's right, who has 15 cards, starts the play by discarding any one card from hand face up to start a "discard pile" in the middle of the table. The turn then passes anti-clockwise.

A player's turn consists of the following actions:

  1. Draw one card, either from the top of the face down stock pile or from the top of the face up discard pile.
  2. Optionally, place some cards from hand face up on the table as meld.
  3. Discard one card from hand face up on top of the discard pile.

There are some restrictions, as follows.

  1. A player who takes the top card from the discard pile in step 1 must place it on the table in step 2 together with at least two cards fro hand to form a new meld. If this is not possible, either because the card does not fit with any meld the player can make or because the player has not yet melded and cannot satisfy the minimum meld requirement, the player must draw from the stock pile.
  2. A player's first meld laid down during a round must have a value of at least 51 points. This can be made up of one or more groups or sequences of three or more cards. The cards must come from the player's own hand, optionally including the card just drawn from the stock or discard pile. A player who has not yet laid down their first meld is not allowed to add cards to other players' melds nor to take a wild card from the table in exchange for a natural card. These options of adding to meld and reclaiming wild cards become available as soon as a player has satisfied the initial meld requirement, even during the same turn that the initial meld was laid down.
  3. A player's turn must always be ended by discarding a card. Therefore a player must always keep one card in hand after melding, so as to be able to discard. A player with only two cards in hand who draws a third card that forms a group or sequence with those two is not allowed to put down the three cards as a meld, because that would leave the player with nothing to discard.

Note. It is unusual, but not illegal, to discard a wild card or a natural card that could have been melded. When this does happen, because of restriction #1 above, the next player is not allowed to take the discarded card and add it to a meld on the table. If the card is taken from the discard pile it must be used immediately with cards from the player's hand to form new meld. Discarded wild cards are subject to an additional restriction:

  1. If a wild Ace is discarded, the player taking it can only use it as a natural Ace of the suit printed on it. If a wild Joker is discarded, the player taking it can use it as an Ace of any suit, but not as any other card.

End of the Play and Scoring

The round ends in one of two ways:

1. A player wins
If a player melds all but one of their remaining cards and discards their last card, so that they have no cards in their hand, the play ends immediately, and the player with no cards is the winner. The scores are then calculated as explained below.
A player who has three cards or fewer remaining in hand after discarding must warn the other players by saying "one card", "two cards" or "three cards" as appropriate. A player who has three or fewer cards and has not announced this is not allowed to end the play on their next turn. Instead, on their next turn they must keep at least one card after discarding, announce the number of cards held, and wait until their following turn before they can end the play.
2. The stock is exhausted
For the play to continue, there must be more cards in the stock than there are players in the game. If at the end of a player's turn the number of cards remaining in the stock is equal to the number of players, the round ends. In this case there is no score and no winner. The same player deals again.

A player is not allowed to meld all their cards and win on their first turn to play: they must wait until everyone has completed one turn and can then end the play by melding all their cards on their second turn.

When a player wins by melding their cards over the course of more than one turn, this is known as a "partial hand" or "dhamoon". The winner scores -30 points, and the winner's opponents calculate their penalty points as follows:

  • A hand of 14 cards, belonging to a player who has not melded, has a fixed value of 100.
  • Players who have melded add up the values of the cards remaining in their hands. For this purpose wild cards count 15 points and other cards have their usual values: natural Aces count 11, court cards (K, Q, J) count 10, and pip cards (10-2) count as face value.

If the winner ends the play by melding their entire hand of 14 cards in one turn, without adding any cards to other players' melds, and having previously melded nothing, this is known as a "hand" or a "full hand" and the winner scores -60 points. In this case the opponents' calculate their penalty points as above and double them. So an opponent who has not melded scores 200 penalty points and those who have melded score twice the value of the cards in their hands.

If the winner, without having previously melded, melds some of their cards in combinations from their hand, and then disposes of the remainder of their cards in the same turn by adding them to other player's melds, this counts as a partial hand. The winner scores only -30 and the opponents' penalties are not doubled.

As mentioned above, the 51-point minimum for the initial meld does not apply to a player who melds all their 14 cards in a single turn. In this case the player's meld can be worth less than 51 points, irrespective of whether it is a full hand (no cards added to other player's melds) or a partial hand (at least one card added to other players' melds.

In an individual game, a cumulative score is kept for each player, and the player with the lowest score at the end of seven rounds is the winner. Cumulative scores can be negative.

In a partnership game, a cumulative score is kept for each team. At the end of a round the winner's team subtracts 30 or 60 points for a partial or full hand. The the opposing team add the values of both players' hand to their score. (So in the case of a full hand where neither opponent has melded, the losing team will score 400 penalty points - that is 200 for each player.) The winner's partner's cards are not counted and have no effect on the score. The team with the lower score at the end of seven rounds wins.

Rounds which are not scored, either because the cards are thrown in by a player with identical pairs or because the stock is exhausted, do not count towards the seven rounds that make up a game. However, if the final round cannot be dealt more than three times. That is, if six rounds have been scored, and two attempts have been made to play the seventh round but ended with no score, then the third deal of the seventh round must be the last deal of the game. If this ends with no score the seventh round is abandoned and the winner is the player who had the lowest score after six rounds.

If there is a tie for lowest total score at the end of the game, in order to determine the winner further rounds are played until there is a single player or team with the lowest score.

Variations

Dealing

Some play that the players take turns to deal. After each round that ends with a score, the turn to deal passes to the right.

Wild card selection

Some people play Hand with Jokers as the only wild cards. In that case, Aces are natural cards and no wild card indicator is revealed in the beginning. This arrangement is much more straightforward than the normal game and makes no significant difference to the play. The motive for the usual more complicated arrangement where the wild card can be either a Joker or an Ace is presumably to reduce the temptation for a dishonest player to try to recognise the wild cards from their backs. If the wild card changes from round to round, this kind of cheating becomes significantly more difficult.

Some people play with a deck of 104 cards without Jokers. In this case the wild cards are always the Aces of the suit shown by the wild card indicator and there are no natural Aces of this suit. If the indicator card is an Ace there are two possibilities:

  • The Ace is replaced in the stock and a new indicator card is displayed.
  • The other identical Ace of the same suit is the only wild card in the game.

Value of Aces

  • Some play that an Ace in the hand of a player at the end of a round counts 10 points rather than 11.
  • Some play that an Ace used in a sequence A-2-3 counts as only 1 point rather than 11 for the purpose of valuing a player's initial meld.
  • Some play that an Ace used in a sequence Q-K-A counts as 10 points rather than 11 for the purpose of valuing a player's initial meld.

Taking a discarded card

Some players allow a card taken from the discard pile to be added to an existing meld on the table, either alone or together with a card or cards from the player's hand, provided that who discarded the card already has meld on the table and also the player who takes it has already melded or can satisfy the initial meld requirement.

If a wild card is discarded, some players allow it to be taken by the next player only if it is melded in a group of Aces, not in a sequence A-2-3 or J-Q-K.

Some players do not allow a discarded wild card to be taken by the next player in any circumstances.

On the other hand, some allow the next player to take the discarded wild card and use it in any meld where a wild card could normally be used (always provided that they already have meld or can satisfy the initial requirement).

Replacing wild cards

When replacing a wild card with a card or cards from hand, some require the wild card to be reused immediately on the table, either in a new meld or by adding it to an existing meld. The player is not allowed to keep the wild card in their hand for later use.

Adding to a group of two equal cards and a wild card

Some allow a third equal card to be added to group of two equal cards and a wild card by any player who has already melded or can meet the initial meld requirement. For example if clubQ-heartQ-wild has been melded, the spadeQ or diamondQ can be added to it. The restriction that this can only be done when a player is going out or when at least one player is reduced to one card is not enforced.

Exhausted stock

Some allow the play continue until the face down stock is completely empty. In this variant, if the player who draws the last card of the stock does not meld all their cards and win, the round ends without a score and the same dealer deals again.

Winning on the first draw

Some allow a player to win by melding all their cards on their first turn to play.

Bonus Scores

In Egypt, and maybe in some countries of the Arabian Peninsula, scores are doubled for winning with certain special types of hand.

If a player goes out with a Full Hand of 14 cards by discarding a wild card as their 15th card, the scores are twice those for a Full Hand - that is -120 for the winner, 4× the value of their cards for players who have melded, and +400 points for those who have not melded and still hold 14 cards.

Some play that if a player goes out with a Full Hand of 14 cards of one colour (all red or all black), the Full Hand score is doubled (-120 for the winner, 4× the card value for players who have melded, and +400 points for players who have not melded). Such a hand may include one or two wild cards, whose colour is irrelevant.

Some play that a Full Hand of a single suit (all hearts or all diamonds or all clubs or all spades, possibly with wild cards) scores twice as much as a Full Hand of one colour (-240, 8×, +800).

Some play that a player who goes out with 13 natural cards that form valid combinations plus two wild cards that are not needed can discard the two wild cards and score twice as much as for a full hand discarding one wild card (-240, 8×, +800).

These doubles for ending with wild card discards, single colour and single suit can be combined. For example a single colour Full Hand with a wild card discarded would score four times as much as an ordinary Full hand (-240, 8×, +800). The maximum score would be for a single suit Full Hand with two wild cards discarded: -960 for the winner, and 32× card values or +3200 for the losers.

Other Websites, Software and Online Games

The Jawaker website has rules in English. Hand can be played online on their website or using their Hand app for Android or iOS. Hand is also available within their games bundle for Android or iOS.

The Kuwaiti website Koutbo6 has rules in English. They also offer a Hand app for iOS.

There is a Hand Wikipedia page in Arabic.

Bojacob offer a Hand app for iOS.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2019. Last updated: 13th September 2019

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