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Kalooki (also known as Kaluki and Kalookie) is
a popular game often played with wild cards and one that originated in Israel. There are many variants of Kalooki and the rules may differ depending on where the game is played or which version of Kalooki is being played. The most popular versions originated in Europe and North America but it is worth mentioning that there are also Jamaican and South African versions of the game.
The rules and general order of play is the same as for standard Rummy, with a number of minor exceptions. The version we cover here is the European version of the game and we have commented about differences between that and the North American version in italic print.
Kalooki is hugely popular amongst Jewish communities and can be spelled Kalooki, Kaluki, Kalookie, Caloochi or even kaloochi. In the North American game, 15 cards are dealt if there are two players. In the European version, 13 cards are dealt and only two jokers are included in a deck which comprises 106 cards in total.
The Deck - In European Kalooki, only two jokers are included for a deck of 106 cards. North American Kalooki is played with two standard playing card decks, including all four jokers for a full Kalooki deck of 108 cards. Kalooki
may be played by two to five players.
Card Values - Card values differ among the different variants of Kalooki as follows:
North American Kalooki
South African Kalooki
*This is a joker in the hand not in a meld, where it carries the value of the card it represents.
In European Kalooki, when used in a hand, a joker takes on the value of the card it represents. However, if the joker is left in the hand at the end of play, its value is 15 penalty points.
The object of a hand of Kalooki is to be the first player to play all of the cards in your hand by melding them or "calling up". All the other players score penalty points based on the cards values left in the hand at the end of play. Anyone accumulating more than 150 penalty points over a series of hands is eliminated from the game. The last surviving player wins the game and takes the money from the pool.
The Stake: Before beginning play, players must decide on the following stakes:
Paid To Whom
Amount paid to the winner of each hand by the other players
Amount paid to a winner who wins by placing all 13 cards down at once
Amount paid to the pool by all players at the start of the game
Buy In Stake
Amount paid to the pool to re-enter the game by a player who exceeds target score
The units in the above table are a proposed ratio. For example, using the "Suggested" units proposed in the table above, if a call up pays 1 unit for example, 10 cents, then a kalooki pays 20 cents and the initial stake and buy in stake will be 50 cents each.
The Deal - The deal and order of play are decided by a draw of the cards. An Ace, two, three, four and five are shuffled together and each player draws one card. The player holding the Ace gets the first deal, and
the choice of seat. The remaining players take seats clockwise in order from the dealer – the holder of the two to the dealer’s left, the three to his left, etc. The deal likewise moves around the table clockwise with each hand.
The dealer shuffles the cards and offers them to the player to his right for the cut. After the cut, he deals the cards one at a time around the table clockwise until each player has 13 cards. In North American games, 15 cards are dealt if there are two, three or four players, 13 are dealt if there are five players, and 11 are dealt if there are six. The remainder of the deck is placed face down in the center of the table, and the top card turned face up to the right of the deck to start the discard pile.
turn by turn play
The player to the left of the dealer plays first, with turns moving around the table clockwise from there. Each turn consists of four parts:
(1) Draw (Compulsory) - The first player may draw from either the stock or the discard pile without having to lay down a meld. After the first play, players may only draw from the stock until they have made an initial meld totalling at least 40 points (or 51 points in North American games where cards built onto other players' melds can be counted towards this provided that the player makes at least one new meld of his own). The single exception to this is if the player takes the top card of the discard pile and uses it immediately to make their initial meld.
(2) Melding (Optional) - Cards may be discarded by placing combinations of three or more cards from your hand face up on the table before you. Alternatively, you may keep melds in your hand. You may only lay down one meld during a turn. There are two kinds of combinations: runs and sets.
A set (aka group) is three or four cards of the same rank and different suits:
Example of a Valid Set
Example of an Invalid Set
A run (aka sequence) is three or more cards of the same suit in sequence:
Example of a Valid Run
Example of an Invalid Run
Note above that A 2 3 4above is sited as an example of an invalid run because aces rank high only in Kalooki. So therefore QKA is a valid run however A23 is not valid. Aces do not go around the corner and therefore a run of KA2 is not valid either. In the North American game, Aces can be counted as high or low and therefore in the North American game the first three would be examples of valid runs but the last (KA2) is still not valid.
When melding six or more cards in a suit consecutively, the play can either put them down as a single run or alternatively, may divide them into two (or more) runs. Normally it is considered better to put them down as a single run on account of the fact that it gives opponents less opportunity to build upon them.
(3) Laying Off (Optional) - After you have laid down your initial meld, you can in the same turn or in later turns add cards from your hand to melds already on the table - your own or other melds formed by another player with the object of forming a larger valid meld. In succeeding turns, you do not have to meld in order to build. In Kalooki, this is known as building and only happens in a turn and not at the end of a hand.
For example, you can add the card of a fourth suit to extend a set. If there was a 666 on the table, you could add a 6 but not anything else. The cards of a set must all be of different suits, so there is no fifth 6 that can be added to that meld. If that three card set contained a joker, there would be a choice of suits that could be added to it.
You can also add cards to either end of a run so long as they form a valid meld but you cannot add more than two cards to the same end of a single run in a single turn. Thus, if there is a run of 456 on the table, you may add 3 or you could add 2 and 3 or you could even add 23 and 7. You could not add 789 to that existing meld but there is nothing to stop you placing it down as a new meld.
Note that although you can build in the same turn as having laid down your initial meld, the values of cards that you build cannot be counted towards the 40 points you need to make your initial meld valid.
(4) Discarding (Compulsory) - Unless you melded all the cards in your hand, you must place a card from your hand face up on top of the discard pile to complete your turn. Once the player has discarded, his turn is over and he may not play any cards until it is his turn again.
The Use and Reuse of Jokers
All Jokers () are wild cards that can stand for any card in a meld and even a duplicate of a card already in another meld. If you use a joker at one end of a run, you must declare what card the joker represents as this cannot be later changed by any player. Also if you put down two jokers melded with a natural card, for example, 2 then you must make it clear whether it is a set or a run and if it is a run you must say what the two cards represent. However, you do not need to specify the suit represented by a joker used in a set.
You can, in some circumstances, re-use a joker previously melded by yourself or by another player. This can only be done by a player who has laid down the initial meld that met the 40 point requirement and the released joker must immediately be used in a new meld or built upon an existing meld - it can never be added to a hand of a player.
(1) If a set of three cards contains a joker, the joker can be released in exchange for equal ranking cards of both missing suits from the players hand. For example, in a situation where there is 22 melded, a player who has 22 can add both of these cards to it to form a "closed set" and take the joker to use elsewhere in the same turn. However, if you add just 2 to that set and thereby form 222 then it becomes a four card "closed set" and so the joker cannot be taken.Note that in the North American game, only one natural card is required to take a joker from a set.
On the other hand, if the three card set contained two jokers as such 2 then you could add any two of the three missing suits in order to obtain just one joker. For instance, you could add 2and 2 which, after you take one joker, would leave a closed set of four cards222 .
(2) If a run contains a joker, a player who holds the card that the joker represents can place it on the run, in substitution for the joker, and reuse the joker elsewhere. Remember, the joker cannot be taken into the hand but must be used in the same turn.
The Initial Meld
As mentioned earlier, after the first play, players may only draw from the stock until they have made an initial meld totalling at least 40 points. The initial meld may include a card taken from the top of the discard pile or a player may make their initial meld on a turn when they drew from the stock pile.
The End of Play
The play ends when one player melds all the cards, discards their last card and thereby goes out. Note that even when calling up you must end your turn with a discard - it is not legal to draw, meld all your cards and discard nothing. Once any player calls up or goes out, there is no opportunity to lay off cards or lay down melds. Play ends immediately and all players are stuck with the points that are in their hands. Those points are totalled and added to the players' cumulative scores.
Winning by melding all 13 cards on the same turn is known as "Kalooki" and earns a larger point bonus than calling up. If after discarding to end your turn, you are left with 1, 2 or 3 cards then you must warn the other players how many cards you have left in your hand, otherwise you will be barred from going out on your next turn.
What if the Stock Pile Finishes
If the stock pile runs out of cards, the discard pile is shuffled and put on the table face down to form a new stock. The card discarded by the player who drew the last card of the old stock is placed face up beside the new stock to start the new discard pile. However, if the stock pile runs out a second time, there is no second reshuffle and the game is declared void. When this happens there is no score or payment and the same dealer shuffles and deals a new hand.
How to Score in Kalooki
Player Payments - At the start of the game, each player will make a payment or stake to the pool. The winner of a hand, is paid this stake for a call up or a
Kalooki as per each of the other players in the hand. Players who have been eliminated from the game will not pay.
Penalty Points - The total point value of the cards held in the hands of each of the other players are penalty points. These determine who is eliminated from the game and who will eventually win the prize pool. A cumulative total of penalty points is kept on a regular score sheet.
If a player reaches 150 points, he/she is eliminated from the game, unless he chooses to buy in by paying the buy-in amount that was agreed upon at the start of the game. If he buys back in, the score is reduced to the score of the highest scoring player who is still below 150 points. Buying in is subject to two rules:
A player can buy in only twice during a game.
Buying in can only be done if there are at least two players under 150 points.
Players settle up on the call up and Kalooki at the end of each hand. The pool goes to the last player remaining in the game. All scores can be managed on the score sheet and payments settled at the end. Note that in the North American game, there is no pool or buying in. Only cards remaining in the hands of players are counted at the end of each hand for scoring purposes. Also there is no bonus for going Kalooki.
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