- Introduction; Equipment
- Sabra Rummikub® - Variations
- American Rummikub®
- International Rummikub®
- Software and Online Games
Rummikub® is a group of tile rummy games, played with a set of 106 coloured and numbered tiles. They were introduced to Western Europe and America by the Israeli games inventor Ephraim Hertzano. An article in Israel21c (September 2003) tells the story of the genesis of the idea in 1940's Romania where Hertzano grew up and its subsequent international success. Some other sources place the original conecption earier, in the 1930's. Hertzano's "Official Rummikub® Book", published in 1978, describes three different games with the tiles: American, Sabra and International. Subsequently, Sabra has become by far the best known in the West, and modern Rummikub® sets include only the Sabra rules, with no mention of the other versions. Since "Sabra" is the word for a native-born Israeli, it may be that the version to which Hertzano gave this name was invented in Israel, while the "American" game is more closely related to the traditional rummy games played in his native Romania.
In the Rummikub® set, 104 of the tiles have numbers, running from 1 to 13, and there are four colours: black, red, blue and orange. There are two tiles of each number and colour. The other two tiles are jokers, which show smiling faces instead of numbers. In most sets the two jokers are different colours, but in the games they are identical, as though they had no colour.
This version of Manipulation Rummy is the only game whose rules are included with recent Rummikub® sets. Surprisingly, the rules supplied with different editions differ from each other and from the rules in the 1978 book in several details.
There are two, three or four players, and the game is played clockwise. The tiles are shuffled face down on the table and each player takes 14 tiles, which are kept on a rack so that the other players cannot see them. The remaining tiles stay face-down on the table to form the pool.
The object is to be the first to get rid of all of your tiles by melding them in combinations on the table. The possible combinations are:
- groups, consisting of three or four tiles of the same number and different colours
- runs, consisting of three or more consecutive numbers of the same colour. (Note that unlike some other games, in Sabra the '1' tiles are always low in runs: 1-2-3 is a valid run; 12-13-1 is not.)
No tile may belong to more than one combination at the same time.
Jokers can be used as substitutes for any numbered tile of any colour to make up a valid combination.
A turn consists of either drawing one tile from the pool or melding one or more tiles from hand by placing them face up on the table.
The first meld made by each player must consist of one or more combinations formed entirely from that player's hand, where the total numbers of the tiles used add up to 30 or more. If a joker is used, it counts as the number of the tile it represents.
Having placed an initial meld, in the same or subsequent turns a player can meld by placing one or more tiles from hand face up on the table, and if necessary rearranging the tiles on the table to form new combinations. At the end of the player's turn at least one tile must have been added from hand, and all the combinations on the table must be valid groups and runs.
A combination which contains a joker can have further tiles added to it, but nothing can be taken from it, nor can it be rearranged in any way while there is a joker in it. For example if a run has a joker at one end the joker cannot be moved to the other end in order to add a tile. However, a player who has in hand the tile which is represented by a joker on the table, the player can substitute the real tile for the joker and then re-use the joker in some combination on the table. A joker released in this way cannot be taken into the player's hand for later use. In the case of group consisting of two equal tiles and a joker, the joker can be replaced by a matching tile of either of the missing colors.
Because of the complexity of the possible rearrangements, it is usual to set a time limit for a turn, for example two minutes. When you have finished your turn, you say "pass", and the next person can play.
If you begin manipulating the tiles on the table, but when the time limit is reached you have not managed to arrange all the face up tiles on the table into valid combinations, you must return the tiles on the table to the configuration they were in when you started your turn, take back any tiles you played from your hand, and draw three tiles from the pool as a penalty. To facilitate the returning of the tiles to their original positions if necessary, when starting a complex move you should place any tiles you play from your hand crosswise and keep them that way until you have concluded your turn successfully.
The first player who manages to play all their tiles wins. The other players add up the numbers on the tiles remaining in their racks, counting jokers as 30. They each score minus the total of their remaining tiles, and the winner scores plus the total of all the losers' tiles.
Rarely, a situation may be reached in which the pool of tiles is empty, no one has gone out, and the next player in turn cannot or does not wish to lay down any tiles. Since this player cannot draw from the pool, the play ends and players count the total value of tiles in their racks. The player with the lowest tile count wins. Each of the other players calculates the difference between their tile count and that of the winner, and loses that amount. The winner wins the sum of these differences, so that the players' scores for the deal add up to zero as usual.
The Official Rummikub® Book specified that the game should be played counter-clockwise. Recent rules supplied with Rummikub® sets all specify clockwise play.
According to the Official Rummikub® Book, some play that if a joker is melded as part of a set of three equal tiles, tiles of both missing colours must be added to the set in order to retrieve the joker. This variation is not mentioned in the rules provided with recent sets, but the 1980 Pressman Toy Corp. edition of the game did include this rule.
Most rule sets do not explicitly state whether two jokers can be used in the same combination. It would be unusual to want to commit both jokers in this way, but since there is no rule against it, it is reasonable to assume that it is allowed. Indeed the current edition of the online rules from Lemada Light Industries Ltd. does explicitly allow it. A player who puts down a combination of a three tiles of which two are jokers must clearly state whether it is meant to be a set of equal tiles or a sequence, and this will determine the tiles that are needed if a player later wants to reclaim a joker from this combination.
A lot of confusion has been caused by the rule from the "Official Rummikub® Book" that says that when a melded joker is replaced it must immediately be used in a "new" meld. What restriction, if any, does this place on the way the retrieved joker has to be used? The rules supplied with various editions of Rummikub® sets have interpreted this rule in different ways.
- The most liberal interpretation is that the joker can be reused in any meld. The only restriction is that you cannot pick up the joker and store it on your rack for future use - you have to incorporate it in some meld on the table. This version is found in the rules with the Goliath Games edition (1994), where the only condition is: "However, you must use the joker immediately, as part of that same go." Also the 1980 Pressman Toy Corp. rules just say: "It [the joker] may not be placed back on the rack, but must be used in the same turn." The current Lemada Light Industries Ltd. rules seem to favour this interpretation - they simply say: "Once a player replaces a joker, they must use it in the same turn as part of a set."
- A stricter interpretation is that the meld to which the joker is moved must be one that did not exist on the table before. The tiles for this new meld do not have to come from your hand - they could be taken from other melds that previously existed on the table. This seems to be the interpretation favoured by the older (1999) Lemada Light Industries Ltd. rules: "A joker that has been replaced must be used in the player's same turn, as part of a new set."
- A still stricter interpretation, which seems to be preferred by many players, is that the joker must be reused in a new meld formed by combining it with two tiles from your hand. I have seen two sets of rules which support this view. The J W Spear & Sons rules (1988) say: "A joker that has been picked up in this manner must be used in that player's same turn, as part of a new set, along with tiles from his rack." The Pressman Toy Corp rules (1987, 1998) say even more explicitly: "A joker that has been replaced must be used in the player's same turn with 2 or more tiles from his rack to make a new set." But even this is ambiguous: it is not clear whether the new set can also contain tiles from the table. Some players allow this. For example: on the table is a set of four 4's and a run of blue 8-7-joker; in your hand you have two blue sixes and a blue three; you may substitute one blue 6 for the joker and make a new blue run of 6-joker-4-3, stealing the blue 4 from the set of 4's. The new run uses two tiles from your hand, along with the joker and one other tile from the table.
- Some prefer the interpretation that a replaced joker has to be used to make a new set consisting only of the joker plus two or more tiles from hand. Tiles can be added to the set from elsewhere on the table later in the same turn by further manipulation, but the new set with the replaced joker must first be formed without them. Under this strictest version of the rule the example play in version 3 above would not be allowed, because the new run cannot be made without using another tile from the table as well as the joker.
The Goliath (1994), Pressman (1998) and Lemada (1999) rules depart from the rules from the official book in another respect however. These rules allow a set or run containing a joker to be manipulated, added to or split apart. Each includes the same sentence: "A set containing a joker can have tiles added to it and can be split apart or have tiles removed from it." The current online Lemada rules clarify this further, saying: "Sets containing jokers can be split and manipulated like regular sets." This implies that it is permissible to remove the joker from the set and place it elsewhere, or even to destroy the set completely by moving each of its tiles to a different set, provided that the joker continues to represent the same tile, and of course that all the resulting sets are valid. Care must be taken not to change the tile represented by the joker when doing this. The only way the joker can be made to represent a different tile is if the player supplies from hand the tile that the joker originally represented, and this replacement of the joker may be subject to additional restrictions as discussed above.
The Dutch translation of the Official Book, Spelregelboek Voor het originele Rummikub (Goliath, 1985) includes the version where sets containing a joker can be manipulated as a variation, known as Dutch Sabra. On the other hand, the 1987 edition of the Pressman rules agrees with the Official Book: "You can add a tile to a meld containing a Joker" but "You may not take a tile away from a meld which includes a Joker."
The current (2014) Lemada Light Industries Ltd. online rules do not require the tile used to replace a joker to come from a player's hand. They explicitly say: "The tile used to replace the joker can be taken from the table or from the player's rack."
Another variation concerns the point at which manipulation can begin. Most sets of rules agree that as soon as you have laid down your initial sets and runs to a value of 30 or more points, you can in the same turn start manipulating the sets and runs on the table and adding further tiles to them. According to the Dutch Spelregelboek, however, manipulation can only begin on your next turn after the turn in which you laid down your initial meld. Manipulation on the same turn that you lay down your initial meld is, however, allowed in the "Dutch Sabra" variation in that book. The Lemada (1999) rules also appear not to allow manipulation on the turn in which you make your initial meld. The Spears (1988) rules explicitly do allow it ("once players have entered the game they can on the same turn 'play the table'..."). The Pressman (1987 and 1998) and Goliath (1994) rules are somewhat ambiguous, but seem to allow manipulation to begin on the same turn as the initial meld.
Some play that the total value of tiles in a player's initial meld must be at least 50 points, rather than at least 30. This version is given in the 1987 edition of the Pressman rules, though in the 1998 edition the requirement is reduced to 30, as it is in most other rules sets, including the Official Rummikub Book.
Some count a joker remaining in a player's hand at the end of play as 25 points rather than 30. The value of 25 is given for example in the Dutch edition of Hertzano's Official Rummikub® book (6th edition, 1985).
The Pressman Toy Corporation Rummikub® Rules are available on line.
This game was placed first in Hertzano's 1978 book, but is no longer included in the rules distributed with Rummikub® sets.
Two, three or four people can play. The tiles are shuffled and built into 15 stacks of 7 face-down tiles, with one tile left over. Each player takes two stacks and arranges the 14 tiles on his or her rack. The left over tile is placed face up in the centre of the table. The book calls it the "trump", though it is not a trump an any usual sense of the word.
The starting player for the first game is chosen at random (by drawing tiles before the deal), and the turn to play passes counter-clockwise. The turn to start passes to the right after each game.
Initially, a turn consists of
- drawing one tile from the face-down stacks in the centre of the table;
- optionally melding valid groups and runs, placing the tiles face up on the table;
- discarding one tile face up to your right.
Discards are stacked so that only the most recent discard of each player is visible.
As in Sabra,
- a group, consists of three or four tiles of the same number and different colours;
- a run, consists of three or more consecutive numbers of the same colour. In American Rummikub® '1' tiles can be used as high or low, but not both at once. So 1-2-3 and 12-13-1 are both valid runs, but 13-1-2 is not.
No tile may belong to more than one combination at the same time.
Jokers can be used as substitutes for any numbered tile of any colour to make up a valid combination.
In order to be allowed to meld, you must play one or more groups and runs from your hand with a total value of 21 points or more, counting number tiles at face value. If you use jokers, they count as having the value of the tile they represent. After you have laid down your initial meld, according to these requirements, additional options are available to you.
- You may meld additional groups or runs from your hand, irrespective of value.
- You may extend your own or other players' melded groups or runs by adding tiles to them.
- If you hold the tile represented by a melded joker, you may replace the joker by this tile, provided that you immediately use the joker in a "new" meld of your own. [It is not quite clear from the book whether the meld has to be completely new - the joker with two or more tiles from your rack - or whether the joker can be reused to help extend an existing meld.]
- From your next turn onwards, you may take the tile just discarded by the previous player instead of drawing a face down tile from the centre.
The play ends when a player manages to meld all the remaining tiles in his hand except for one, which is the final discard. This player is the winner. Note that you are not allowed to draw a tile and then meld all your tiles, leaving yourself with no discard.
The face-up "trump" tile in the centre of the table can be drawn instead of a face-down tile or the previous player's discard if the player who draws it can thereby win the game.
When the play ends, each of the players other than the winner totals the value of the tiles remaining in their hands. Each of these players scores minus the value of their remaining tiles, and the winner scores plus the total value of all these tiles. Thus the scores of the players always add up to zero. A joker remaining in a player's hand counts 30 points, and '1' tiles count 1 point.
The book does not say what happens if no one wins before the face down stacks are exhausted. I suggest that the same rule is used as in Sabra Rummikub®: all players count the total value of tiles in their rack and the player with the lowest tile count wins. Each of the other players calculates the difference between their tile count and that of the winner, and loses that amount. The winner wins the sum of these differences, so that the players' scores for the deal add up to zero as usual.
As in Sabra, some players count a joker in a player's hand at the end as 25 points rather than 30.
This can be thought of as a more complicated form of the American game described above. It is possible to win by melding all your tiles, as in American, or by constructing various special hands, somewhat reminiscent of the special hands in Mah Jong.
Two stacks of seven tiles are dealt to each player, and the odd tile is given to the starting player, so that this player begins with 15 tiles. The top tile of one of the remaining 7-tile stacks is turned face up and is the "trump".
The mechanism of play is the same as in American, except that players are always permitted to draw the previous player's discard, instead of drawing from the pool.
There are three ways of winning.
- This is a normal win by getting rid of all your tiles except for a final discard, having melded them in stages, as in American. You need at least 50 points for your initial meld, as usual counting any joker used as the value of the tile it represents. When you have three or fewer tiles left on your rack, you must announce this. You are not allowed to take the "trump" as your final draw.
- This is a win in which you meld 14 tiles at once and discard your 15th tile. Some of your 14 tiles will be melded as your own groups and runs; others will be added to other players' melds. Your 14 tiles must add up to at least 50. If you can meld all your tiles without adding to other players' melds then you have a more valuable closed win (see below), so a Foot win in practice only occurs when another player is going for an Open win.
- This is a win in which you meld all 14 tiles at once, without adding anything to any other player's meld. These have various values, according to the type of hand.
If no one has claimed a win by the end of the turn in which the last face down tile is drawn from the stacks, the play ends with no winner.
The scoring works as follows.
- The winner (if any) wins a number of points based on the type of winning hand.
- Each of the other players who has melded loses the total value of their unmelded tiles. For this purpose only, tiles 2-9 as face value but tiles 10, 11, 12, 13 and 1 as 10 points each.
- Each of the other players who has not melded loses 100 if the hand ended in an Open or Foot win or without a winner, but loses the same amount that the winner won if the hand ended in a Closed win.
If the player who wins the hand by any of the three methods discards a joker as his final discard, all scores for that hand are doubled.
The winner of an Open hand scores 100 points, or 200 if no other player has melded.
The winner of a Foot scores 200.
The descriptions of and scores for the various types of closed hand are as follows. Most of them vary according to the number of jokers included. When a hand belongs to several possible types, it counts only as the most valuable type. For hand types involving total value of tiles, 1's count as 1 point.
|Hand Type||No jokers||One joker||Two jokers|
|1. Basic. 14 tiles in groups and/or runs||500||400||300|
|2. Hand minor Groups and/or runs with no tile higher than a 9.||800||700||600|
|3. Hand minor 51. Groups and/or runs with no tile higher than 9 and tiles add up to 51 or less.||1000||900||800|
|4. Minor 51 groups. Groups only; total 51 or less.||1600||1400||1200|
|5. Minor 51 runs. Runs only; total 51 or less.||1600||1400||1200|
|6. Piccolo 41 odd. Any 14 tiles with total value 41 or less.||800||700||600|
|7. Piccolo 41 sets. Groups and/or runs with total value 41 or less.||1400||1200||1000|
|8. Piccolo 41 runs. Runs only with total value 41 or less.||1600||1400||1200|
|9. Piccolo 41 groups. Groups only with total value 41 or less.||1600||1400||1200|
|10. Grand odd. Any 14 tiles; no tile lower than 10 (1 counts as high)||700||600||500|
|11. Grand sets. Groups and/or runs with no tile lower than 10 (1 counts as high)||1400||1200||1000|
|12. Grand square. Eight tiles of the same number - the other six can be anything.||1600||1400||1200|
|13. Four colours. Four runs of different colours.||900||800||700|
|14. Four colours minor. Four runs of different colours with no tile higher than a 9.||1000||900||800|
|15. Four colours major. Four runs of different colours with no tile lower than 10 (1 counts as high).||1000||900||800|
|16. Three colours. Three runs, each a different colour.||700||600||500|
|17. Three colours minor. Three runs, each a different colour with no tile higher than a 9.||900||800||700|
|18. Three colours major. Three runs, each a different colour with no tile lower than 10 (1 counts as high).||900||800||700|
|19. Two colours. Two, three or four runs, using only two colours.||1000||900||800|
|20.Two colours minor. Two, three or four runs, using only two colours, with no tile higher than a 9.||1400||1200||1000|
|21. Two colours major. Two, three or four runs, using only two colours, with no tile lower than 10 (1 high).||1400||1200||1000|
|22. Single colour odd. Any 14 tiles of one colour.||1600||1400||1200|
|23. Single colour runs. Two, three or four runs of the same colour.||2000||1800||1600|
|24. Royal. A single 14-card run from 1 (low) to 1 (high).||2400||2200||2000|
|25. Sticks. Four groups.||1000||900||800|
|26. Sticks minor. Four groups with no tile higher than a 9.||1400||1200||1000|
|27. Sticks major. Four groups with no tile lower than 10 (1 high).||1400||1200||1000|
|28. Mosaic. Single run of mixed colours, 1 (low) to 1 (high) with no two consecutive tiles of same colour.||1000||900||800|
|29. Little Wave. Two mixed colour runs 1 to 7, each with no two consecutive tiles of same colour.||1200||1000||900|
|30. Big Wave. Two mixed colour runs 8 to 1 (high), each with no two consecutive tiles of same colour.||1200||1000||900|
|31. Little wave single colour. Two runs 1 to 7, both the same colour.||2600||2400||2200|
|32. Big wave single colour. Two runs 8 to 1 (high), both the same colour.||2600||2400||2200|
|33. Little wave two colours. Two runs 1 to 7, each in a different colour.||2200||2000||1800|
|34. Big wave two colours. Two runs 8 to 1 (high), each in a different colour.||2200||2000||1800|
|35. Seven pairs. Seven pairs of identical tiles.||1700||1500||1300|
|36. Seven pairs minor. Seven pairs of identical tiles with no tile higher than a 9.||2000||1800||1600|
|37. Seven pairs major. Seven pairs of identical tiles with no tile lower than 10 (1 high).||2000||1800||1600|
|38. Seven pairs single colour. Seven pairs of identical tiles, all the same colour.||2200||2000||1800|
|39. Little Blitz. 14 tiles in groups and/or runs on your first turn.||1600||1400||1200|
|40. Grand Blitz. 14 tiles in groups and/or runs in your original hand (not available for first player).||2000||1800||1600|
Some play that if you have the identical tile to the trump, either in your original hand or by drawing it later, you score an extra 50 points.
At the end of the session, each player pays each other player in proportion to the difference between their scores.
Software and Online Games
Rummikub.com, the official site published by Lemada Light Industries Ltd, the original distributors of Rummikub®, now provides an online version of Sabra Rummikub.
With RRRummy, by YPR software, you can play a form of Sabra Rummikub against the computer or on line over the Internet against live opponents. YPR also publishes Pup Rummy for Apple iOS, Android, Windows or Macintosh PC with which you can play several similar Tile Rummy variants.
The Rummikub® pages of Rany Rasa's Rummy-Games.com site include a description of Sabra Rummikub and reviews of several Rummikub and tile rummy packages.