How To Play Russian Rummy - Russian Rummy Rules
We do not have a great deal of information about Russian Rummy other than that it is an entertaining form of Contract Rummy and probably evolved over many years in Russia as a result of western originating influences and has slightly unconventional rules. This game is best played whilst consuming copious amounts of Vodka and it has been suggested that perhaps it should be known as "Vodka Rummy"!

Players & Deck - Russian Rummy can be played by 3 to 8 players. A single deck of 54 cards is used (including jokers) for every two players, rounded up for odd numbers, but 13 cards are dealt to each player no matter how many are playing.
Number of players Number of decks Number of cards dealt
2 Players 1 Deck 13 cards each
3 or 4 Players 2 Decks 13 cards each
5 or 6 Players 3 Decks 13 cards each
7 or 8 Players 4 Decks 13 cards each
The Deal - The dealer shuffles all the decks together and deals each player 13 cards face down. The next card from the deck is turned face up which indicates that it is the start of the discard pile. The rest of the deck is positioned face down and becomes the stock pile.
Object of the Game
The purpose of the game is to go out at the end with the lowest score. To complete a hand with most or all cards formed into sets (or books) and/or runs (straights) according to the hand requirement of that game. A run or straight is comprised of four cards of the same suit and in consecutive order, such as:
Example of a Valid Straight Example of an Invalid Straight
3 4 5  6 3 4 5
4  5 6 7  4 5  6 7 
A book or set is formed of three cards that are identical rank but most crucially, in Russian Rummy the suits are irrelevant so that a book may contain two or sometimes three cards of the same rank and suit, such as for example:
Example of a Valid Book Example of an Invalid Book
3 3 3   A A 9
9 9 9    K K Q 
A card can be used only once – either in a set or in a run. You cannot use the same card for both a run and a set. Also note that an Ace is always the last card in a straight and it can go on the top or bottom but Aces are low and do not go around the corner.
How Russian Rummy Is Played Turn By Turn
The two main elements observed during a single turn of Russian Rummy are simply the draw and the discard:

Drawing (Compulsory) - The first player to the left of the dealer draws first and must take just one card either from the discard pile or the stock and add this card to the 13 cards of his hand. The person whose turn it is has the option to take the card on the discard pile but if they do not want it, the first person to say "I want it" in Russian, gets that card but must also take a card from the stock (known as a "penalty card").

If another player takes a card from the discard pile in this way, then the person whose turn it is draws a card from stock. The discard pile is face up and the stock pile is face down. If that player chooses to take from the stock, his opponent will not see the card.

Discarding (Compulsory) - After drawing, you must examine your cards and decide which one is the card you need to get rid of. It will be a card that is probably not in sequence with the rest or is the only one of its kind making it impossible to add to a meld. You must then take this card and place it on the discard pile, face up.

Play then moves to the person on their left, moving anti-clockwise. Play continues in this way until one player has got rid of all their cards and any cards left in the hands of other players count against them in scoring.
The Requirements For Each Deal
In Russian Rummy, as in Liverpool Rummy and Contract Rummy, every hand has a requirement but in Russian Rummy there are just five individual deals with five basic contracts. For example in deal 1, players are required to form two books (ie two sets), for example: a book of 3 3 3 and a book of 7 7 7
Deal Basic Contract Example of Meld 1 Example of Meld 2 Example of Meld 3
Deal 1 2 Books Q Q Q 3 3 3 Not Required
Deal 2 1 Straight 4 5 6 7 Not Required Not Required
Deal 3 2 Books, 1 Straight 2 2 2  7 7 7  J Q K A
Deal 4 3 Books A A A Q Q Q Q 7 7
Deal 5 2 Straights, 1 Book 7 8 9 10 3 4 5 6 K K K  
The Role of Jokers - Jokers are wild cards in Russian Rummy and they may be substituted to take the place of any card. Once a joker has been placed on the table, another player may replace the joker with the card it was declared to be representing but only during his or her turn and only after they have laid down their books and straights. The actual manner and method of this play is unclear.
How and When To Go Out
There is no knocking in Russian Rummy. Therefore, if the player manages to meld all his cards into straights or books required for the specific deal and has a zero deadwood count ie no cards left to discard, only then can that player go out and only during their turn. They do so by placing their melds on the table, face up. The other players then count their hands to add to their score.

A person may not lay down any more books or straights than are required for that hand, but after they have laid theirs down, they may play on other players' books and straights but only during their turn. The exact nature of the way in which this element works in practice, is unclear.
What If The Stock Pile Runs Out?
If there is just one card left on the stock pile and the player, whose turn it is, does not want the card on the discard pile, then the discard pile is taken, shuffled and turned over to start a new stock pile.
Some Notes On Scoring
Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) score 10 points. Aces score 15 points. Jokers are worth 25 points. All the rest of the deck score 5 points each. For example, a 6 would be worth 5 points, a 10 is worth 5 points, etc.
Cards Value Example 1 Example 2
Jokers 25 points     is worth 25 points     is worth 25 points
Aces 15 points A is worth 15 points A is worth 15 points
Faces 10 points Q is worth 10 points K is worth 10 points
Others  5  points 5 is worth 5 points 9 is worth 5 points
Aces are high and the cards rank in this order: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Jack Queen King Ace. Although the Ace is always high in Russian Rummy, A 2 3 4 is not a valid straight and nor is K A 2 3 (Aces do not go around the corner) but on the other hand J Q K A is valid and therefore Aces are always the last card in a straight.

Once a player has melded their hands by laying them on the table or by discarding their last card, that hand is over and they have won the game. Each player or a designated party ie the dealer will have to tally up the value of each players unmatched cards (ie deadwood) and players are scored.

Cards laid down in melds do not score anything at all, only the deadwood scores are counted and the player with the lowest score wins. Players keep dealing the cards for subsequent games until the five hands are complete. The actual point at which play ends is unclear.
Other House Rules
Variations to the standard Russian Rummy rules are mostly related to scoring although it is important to note that a large number of people play a version of Russian Rummy which uses rule (2) below.

(1) Some play this game with jokers valued at 15 points instead of 25.

(2) Some house rules provide that other cards score their pip value.
We are conscious about the variations in different Rummy games and our features are therefore constantly subject to review. We urge our Russian readers to get in touch and help us amend these rules - contact us.
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