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Jack queen and king of spades

Rummy: Tips and Tricks

Ah, rummy. This classic card game and occasional board game is a classic for a reason. It’s easy to play, highly adaptable for both adults-only tournaments and fun bonding time for the whole family, and each game is a fast, snappy affair that is different every time.

Though, of course, “rummy” actually refers to a whole group of subtly different games. All versions of rummy require you to make “melds” to win – which is to say, creating sets of cards, either of sequences of the same suit/ color (say, 3, 4, 5 of Clubs) or three or four of a kind of different suits (say, three 3s of Clubs, Spades, and Hearts). The primary differences between them is how you score and whether you play your melds only at the end of a round or as you make them.

 

Things to Remember

All versions of rummy are pretty easy to play, but if you want to get really good at it, especially if you’re playing professionally in a tournament, here are some basic tips and tricks to make the most of your game:

 

  • Know the version you’re playing. In particular, understand whether the version you’re playing requires you to play the cards only at the end of each game (gin rummy, in particular) or as you make each meld.  
  • For gin rummy or any other variant where you only play your melds at the end of the game, the main thing to keep in mind is to make sure that if the “stock” (the face-down pile on the table that the players draw from) is running out or you’ve been playing long enough for one of the other players to be nearly ready to rummy that the cards in your hand that don’t make a meld are of a low value. Remember: the lower the value of these “spare” cards, the less you are penalized in the scoring for that round. 
  • For versions of the game where you play melds as you make them, it’s a much more involved and often much more fun game because not only can you make melds from the discard and stockpiles, but from other melds on the table. Because of this, these kinds of rummy games – the majority of them, in fact – have their own strategies for you to employ that don’t apply at all to gin rummy and the like: 
    • Even in games where the Ace wraps around the King (literally, can be played after the King in a sequence), sequences made up of middle numbers are much easier to manipulate than those on either extreme. So, if you’re looking to manipulate other sequence melds, look for those in the 4 to 10 range; to prevent others from manipulating your own, look for those in the picture cards and ace to three range.   
    •  Sequence melds are always much easier to manipulate than melds made of sets of numbers, but when those sets are made of all four suits, they’re even more useful than long sequences.  
    • Always, always, always pay special attention to what has been discarded as well as what has been played to make sure you’re not trying to make melds with unavailable cards. This is true in gin rummy too, but is especially true here. Don’t be afraid to switch the kind of melds you’re trying to make based on what others have played. 

Beyond these tips, the rest really comes down to what cards you’re dealt and, of course, what cards your opponents are dealt. It’s really that simple.

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