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Tips & Tricks for Playing Rummy: How Do You Win?

Rummy is one of the world’s most popular card games. It can be played for serious cash in professional tournaments or for fun on a Sunday afternoon with your kids. There are a bunch of different variants of it to keep things interesting, but are all so similar that you can switch from one to the other without missing a beat. 

Basic Rules

The fundamentals of all versions of rummy, be it Rummikub, classic rummy or gin rummy basically come down to creating “melds” until you either have played all the cards from your hand or the pile of cards in the middle of the table (the “stock”) runs out. The biggest difference between most versions of rummy is how you score and whether you play your melds as you get them or hold them until the end of the game.

“Melds” are simply sequences or sets of cards. These can be either a sequence of cards (or numbers in Rummikub) of the same suit (or color in Rummikub) or sets of the same card (or number) of different suits (or colors). The least amount of cards you can play to make a meld is 3. So, a meld can be a 9, 10 and Jack of Hearts or it could be three 9s (one of each of Hearts, Clubs and Spades). 

The maximum number of cards you can play in a meld is four for sets (one of each suit; each card has to be of a different suit) and a full sequence from Ace to King (or 1 to 13 in Rummikub) in sequence-based melds. Some versions of the game allow you to “wrap” by playing an Ace after a King, but you may not follow it with any other numbers. 

In rummy games where you play melds as you get them allow each player to manipulate other players’ melds to make their own. So, for example, if someone plays a 4, 5, 6, 7 of Hearts and you have a 7 of Clubs and a 7 of Spades, you may take that 7 of Hearts and create your own meld. This is not an option for versions of the game where you play all your melds at the end of the round or game.


This last point is crucial because strategies for rummy are very much dependent on whether you play melds as you go along or only at the end.        


Tips for Rummy Games Where You Play Melds as You Go

In most versions of the game outside, most notably, of gin rummy, you play the melds as you go along. 

Here are a few simple tips to help you win. Worth mentioning, though, is that though rummy is not purely a game of chance, the luck of the draw will heavily influence how the game goes for you and a bad hand can cripple even the best strategies.

Tip 1: Know the rules of the version of rummy you’re playing and agree on things like whether to allow an Ace to “wrap” around a King and whether you need a certain amount of points to come down (as in your card’s values need to add up to, say, 25 or 30).

Tip 2: Even if you start with melds in your hand, it might be worth waiting a couple of turns to see if others will play theirs. This will keep you from having played all your melds but having little to work with. Don’t do this for more than a turn or two, though, or you’ll start filling your hand with unwanted cards.

Tip 3. Always keep your eyes on the discard pile! This allows you to figure out what other players might have in their hands and whether it will be possible to make melds from the cards in yours.

Tip 4: Melds on the table may have you reconsidering which melds to build on your part. You may, for example, be building a set of 2s and you have in your hand a couple of 2s, but then you see that there are two 7s on the table and one in your hand and you may prefer to focus your attention on that. The minute melds are played, always compare the cards in your hand, the cards on the table and the cards in the discard pile, and play accordingly.

Tip 5: Sequence melds are much more versatile and that can be a good thing for both you and your opponent. Start off with smaller sequences of 3 cards and add to it as you go along to stop your opponents from getting too much use out of your sequence.  

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Tips for Rummy Games Where You Play Melds Only at the End

There is less to do with this sort of rummy – again, usually gin rummy – each turn, but still many important things to do to help you win.

Tip 1: Follow tips 1 and 3 above. Especially tip 3! 

Tip 2: Don’t try and make sets from a single card in your hand. All single cards in your hand are disposable until they become part of a potential meld.

Tip 3. Don’t try to make one long sequence meld. The odds would be very much against you. Two or more melds are normally the way to go.

Tip 4: Keep in mind that you need to discard one card at the end of the game so make sure you don’t get stuck with all the melds you need but no card to discard at the end. Though this only applies if you want to win by playing your hand and not waiting for someone else to.

Tip 5: If the cards are running out or someone else is about to “knock” (put down their melds) make sure that all extraneous cards in your hand (those that aren’t part of a complete meld) are of a low value.

Keep these simple things in mind and you can be well on your way to becoming a rummy master.

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