Knock Rummy - card game rules

Knock Rummy

Introduction

Knock Rummy, sometimes known as Poker Rum, is a fast moving Rummy game for two or more players in which any player may choose to end the play ('knock') at the end of any turn. It is played in a similar way to basic Rummy: the objective is, by drawing and discarding, to collect sets of 3 or 4 equal cards and runs of 3 or more consecutive cards in a suit. When a player knocks all players expose their hands and the player with the lowest value of unmatched cards wins.

The main description on this page is based on a version found in many North American card game manuals, and this is followed by a few variants that have been reported.

Players and Cards

The game is suitable for 2 to 5 players. A standard international 52-card pack is used. Aces are low, so the ranking order of cards in each suit is A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K.

Deal and play are clockwise. The game is normally played for small stakes, each hand being a separate event. The stake per point should therefore be agreed in advance.

Valid card combinations are:

  • a set of 3 or 4 equal ranked cards, such as spade5-diamond5-club5 or heartQ-clubQ-diamondQ-spadeQ.
  • a run of 3 or more consecutive cards of the same suit such as heartA-heart2-heart3 or diamond7-diamond8-diamond9-diamond10-diamondJ. Note that clubQ-clubK-clubA is not a valid run since Aces are always low.

Deal

Any player may deal first. The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right cuts, and the dealer deals the cards one at a time, clockwise, 10 cards each if there are 2 players, or 7 cards each if there are 3 or more.

The dealer then stacks the remainder of the pack face down as a drawing stock, turns up the top card of the stock, and places it face up beside the stock to begin the discard pile.

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

Play

The player to dealer's left begins and the turn to play passes clockwise.

Each player begins their turn by taking either the top card of the face-down stock pile or the top card of the face-up discard pile and adding it to their hand. They must then either

  1. discard one card from their hand face up on the discard pile, after which the turn passes to the next player, or
  2. 'knock' by discarding one card from their hand face down on top of the discard pile, ending the play.

As in most rummy games, a player who takes the top card from the discard pile is not allowed to discard the same card, leaving the the discard pile exactly as it was before.

Note that a player may knock on any turn, even on their first turn of the game. Therefore some players may not have a turn at all before the play ends.

In this game players tend to knock early, so it is very unusual for the stock pile to run out. If the stock is empty and the next player does not wish to draw from the discard pile, the play ends and the hand is scored with no bonus or penalty for the knock.

Scoring

When a player knocks, all players place their cards face up on the table and arrange them into set, runs and other cards. Unmatched cards that are not part of any set or run are known as 'deadwood'. Each player counts the total value of their deadwood. Aces count 1 point, cards 2-10 face value, picture cards (J, Q, K) count 10 each.

The winner is the player with the lowest deadwood value. Each of the other players pays to the winner the difference between the value of their deadwood and that of the winner. In addition, if the player who knocked does not win, the knocker must pay an extra 10 points to the winner.

Example. Player A knocks and the players' hands are

  • A: heart8 heart9 heart10 heartJ heartQ club5 club7 (deadwood 12)
  • B: club2 club3 diamond3 diamond4 heart5 spade5 spade6 (deadwood 28 - no sets or runs)
  • C: heart6 diamond6 club6 club7 club8 heart2 spade7 (deadwood 21. No card can be used simultaneously in a set and a run. C therefore counts the two red 6's as deadwood, which is cheaper than claiming a set of 6's and leaving the 7-8 of clubs unmatched)
  • D: heartA clubA spade2 diamond6 diamond9 club9 spade9 (deadwood 10)

So D is the winner and the net result (including the 10 point penalty that A has to pay to D) is A: -12, B: -18, C: -11, D: +41.

In case of a tie for least deadwood between the knocker and another player, the other player collects winnings from the players with more deadwood and the knocker neither pays nor receives anything. In case of a tie between players other than the knocker they divide the winnings (including the knocker's penalty of 10) equally between them.

Knocking with no deadwood is called 'going rum'. In this case the knocker wins, even in the unusual case where another player also has zero deadwood (which will only happen when two players are dealt hands with no deadwood). Each of the other players pays the knocker the value of their deadwood plus 25 points.

Variations

Some play that when the a player other than the knocker wins, the knocker must pay the winner double.

Guillaume Carcaro from the Grenoble region describes a variant of 'Rami' (which is simply the French word for Rummy), which differs from North American Knock Rummy as follows:

  • Two Jokers are added to the 52-card pack. These are wild cards that can represent any desired card, but not more than one Joker can be used in any set or run. Unmatched Jokers count as 25 points when a hand is scored.
  • At the start, each player places an equal stake in the pool.
  • A player is not allowed to knock at their first turn to play - knocking is only allowed after every player has had at least one complete turn.
  • A cumulative score is kept for each player, starting at zero. When a hand is scored each player adds the value of their deadwood to their cumulative score. There is no extra penalty for knocking and not having the least deadwood. A player who has no deadwood subtracts 10 from their score.
  • A player who has a score of 100 points or more is eliminated from the game, or can choose to re-enter by paying to the pool half of its total contents. The re-entering player is given a score equal to the highest of those still in the game. Each player may re-enter only once during a game.
  • When all but one player have been eliminated, the last surviving player collects the whole pool.
This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2021. Last updated: 8th September 2021

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