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Rules of Contract Rummy - How To Play Contract Rummy
Contract Rummy is believed to have originated from a game called Zioncheck that was devised by Ruth Armson. David Parlett suggests that Contract Rummy card games followed on from Contract Bridge which was popular in the 1930's. Other names for Contract Rummy include Shanghai Rummy, Liverpool Rummy, Joker Rummy, Progressive Rummy, Combination Rummy, King Rummy and Continental Rummy.

Some of these are slight variations on the original Contract Rummy but the basic principles are the same. There are a series of deals, each of which have a set requirement in terms of the type of melds that need to be achieved for going out and are of a fixed character.
Contract Rummy rules require that there are set pre determined contracts (the "Basic Contract") for each deal in a game. For example, in deal #2, one set (3 cards) and one sequence (4 cards) are required as on the left. Each successive deal has a new contract and this keeps the game challenging whilst adding a new dynamic to each hand.
The Deck - To start, shuffle together two decks of 52 cards, including just one joker (105 cards in total). With five or more players, you use three decks with two jokers (158 cards in total). These will act as wild cards, which can take the place of any card in the game.
Number of players Decks Jokers Total Cards
2 to 4 2 Decks 1 105
5 Plus 3 Decks 2 158
The Deal - The dealer is chosen at random. Cut the cards and deal one card out to each player. The person with the lowest card starts out as the dealer, Ace is lowest in the draw. Each round, the dealer moves to the left, starting a hand by dealing out ten cards to each player. From here, play moves to the left. In each of the first four deals, each player receives 10 cards and for the last three deals, each player receives 12 cards.
Deal Cards Dealt To Each Player
Deals 1 - 4 10 cards
Deals 5 - 7 12 cards
After the cards are dealt to all players, the dealer places the remaining cards face down in a pile on the table forming stock. The top card is flipped over to start the discard pile.
Object of the Game
The object of the game is to arrange your cards into melds of sets (aka groups or books) and sequences (aka straights or runs) as with standard Rummy and most other Rummy games. Sets are groups of three or more cards that have the same value or rank (all 3’s, all Kings, etc). Note that sequences in Contract Rummy are groups of "four or more" cards that are all the same suit and are in consecutive order. For each deal that occurs there is a different “Basic Contract” must be put adhered to, which is a specific mix of sets and sequences. They are as follows:
Deal Cards Basic Contract Example of Meld 1 Example of Meld 2 Example of Meld 3
Deal 1 10 Two Sets QQ Q 4 4 4 Not Required
Deal 2 10 One Set, One Sequence 8 8 8 3 4 5 6 Not Required
Deal 3 10 Two Sequences 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Not Required
Deal 4 10 Three Sets AA A 8 8 8 Q Q Q
Deal 5 12 Two Sets, One Sequence K K K 5 5 5 A 2 3 4
Deal 6 12 One Set, Two Sequences 3 3 3 6 7 8 9 5 6 7 8
Deal 7 12 Three Sequences 3 4 5 6 4 5 6 7 A 2 3 4
The heading "Cards" in the above table refers to the number of cards dealt to each player for the corresponding deal. It should also be noted that the minimum number of cards required to form the Basic Contract of the deal increases by one card for each subsequent deal. For example, in Deal 1 you only require 6 cards to form two sets. In Deal 2, you require at least 7 cards to form one set and one sequence, and so on. In Deal 7, the first meld of this deal ends play and it must be achieved with no unmatched cards. In other words, it must be a complete hand.

Any three cards of the same rank form a set regardless of suit and therefore a set formed of A A A is a valid set. Also, where two sequences are required, they must be of different suits. If they are not of different suits, then they must not be in consecutive order. For example, a sequence of 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 counts as just one sequence. However, 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 10 is considered as two because of the break between the 5 and the 7.
How Contract Rummy Is Played Turn By Turn
There are a number of elements observed during a single turn of Contract Rummy:

(1) Drawing (Compulsory) - The first player to the left of the dealer draws first and must take just one card either from the top of the discard pile or from the top of the stock pile and add this card to his hand. Then, a card must be laid down on the discard pile.

(2) Buying (Optional) - If the card on top of the discard pile (the upcard) is not wanted by the player whose turn it is, that card may be “bought” which means it can be picked up straight away by any player. The player who "buys" must also pick up a card from the stock pile which is known as a "penalty card". The player that does this may not meld, lay off or discard since it is not his turn. Also he must still must pick up a card on his turn, which means that he will have two extra cards, though one or both may help him complete a meld.

In this situation, play then reverts to the player whose turn it still is, who draws from the top of the stock. He may not draw the next card on the discard pile, having already refused the first one, but he must make one discard to end is his turn.

(3) Melding (Compulsory) - Once a player whose turn it is, has drawn a card he may lay down the melds required for the contract. This is known as "fulfilling the contract". Melding can be considered compulsory in so far as the player can actually lay down the basic contract of the deal as defined in the above table. He may not lay off any additional cards on the same turn during which he fulfilled the contract.

(4) Laying Off (Optional & Conditional) - It is only on a turn subsequent to that during which a player has laid down the basic contract, that he may lay off cards on any melds on the table but he may not meld additional sets or groups at any time after the contract has been met.

(5) Joker Substitution (Optional & Conditional) - Jokers are wild cards used in place of any other card in a meld. Once a player has laid down the basic contract he is eligible to take a joker into his hand from a meld on the table by replacing it with the card it represents. If more than one player is able to do this, then the player whose turn is due earlier takes precedence on this move. A joker in a sequence may be moved to either end by a player who wishes to lay off the natural card on the meld (but no sequence may be comprised of more than 14 cards).

(6) Discarding (Compulsory) - After drawing, the player must then examine his or her cards and decide which one is needed least of all. The player must then take this card and place it on the discard pile, face up. Note that discarding is not compulsory in Deal 7 as the first meld of this deal ends play and it must be achieved with no unmatched cards. In other words, it must be a complete hand. Once the discard has taken place, play then moves to the person on their left.

If The Stock Pile Finishes - In the event that the stock pile runs out of cards before a player has gone out, the discard pile is shuffled by the dealer and turned over to form a new stock pile.
Scoring Information
Play continues in this way until one player has got rid of all their cards by melding or laying off. When this happens, play ends and the scores of other players are added up. In Contract Rummy the Ace ranks high (Q-K-A) or low (A-2-3) but do not go around the corner and therefore K-A-2 is not viable.

An Ace may be laid off at either end of a sequence, even in a situation where there are two Aces (one at either end). At the end of the game, the cards are tallied up as per usual and the cards are valued as follows for scoring purposes:
Cards Value Example 1 Example 2
Jokers 15 points     is worth 15 points     is worth 15 points
Aces 15 points A is worth 15 points A is worth 15 points
Faces 10 points J  is worth 10 points K is worth 10 points
Others Pip value 2 is worth 2 points 8 is worth 8 points
Other House Rules
The above are the most commonly used items included in the standard Contract Rummy rules but the following individual house rules may be introduced to the game at the discretion of the those organising it, including:.

(1) According to some rules, the game is to be played with two decks of 52 cards, plus jokers. The number of jokers used is one less than the number of players, so 3 players play with 106 cards, 4 players with 107 cards and 5 with 108 cards.

(2) According to Hoyle, each set in a basic contract must comprise exactly three cards (not three or more) except for Deal 7. In this case, a player having a set of four or more may only meld three cards. The additional cards may be laid off at a later turn.

(3) Some play with number cards (2 through 10) counting as 5 points each instead of their pip or number value. Some play with jokers counting as 25 points.

Our features are constantly subject to review. If you have some feedback on this article or know better about the official Contract Rummy rules, we would appreciate you letting us know so that we can reconsider the rules. Please contact us via the support page.
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