Contract Rummy is played with two standard decks of 52 cards, including the jokers. The number of jokers in play is determined by the number of players, and should always be one less than the number of players in the game. Contract Rummy is played with three to five players, but the best games are played when there is an equal number of four players.
There are seven rounds to the game. Play takes place in a clockwise direction and the initial dealer is chosen at random. All cards are dealt one at a time, and for the first three rounds of the game each player receives a total of ten cards. The four remaining rounds, each player receives a total of twelve cards each.
After each player has received their alloted cards, the remaining cards are placed face down on the table to form the stock pile, the top card of which is turned face up and placed alongside to start the discard pile.
The object of each round is to dispose of all your cards by a combination of either melding, laying off and discarding. In order to do any melding or laying off, a player must begin by fulfilling their contract for the round currently being played.
A meld can be done in two ways, either in sequences or in groups. A sequence in this game will consists of at least four consecutive cards of the same suit, or a group which consists three cards of the same rank. An ace can count as low or high but not both at the same time.
Any sequence can be extended by adding further consecutive cards to what is already on the table. When a player goes out, by means of disposing of all their cards, the other players score penalty points for all the cards remaining in their hands. The object of the game is to have the lowest score at the end of the game (seven rounds).
Each successive round of the game has a contract which is as follows:-
- Two Groups of 3’s = total of 6 cards
- One Group of 3’s and One Sequence of 4’s = a total of 7 cards
- Two Sequences of 4’s = a total of 8 cards
- Three Groups of 3’s = a total of 9 cards
- Two Groups of 3’s and One Sequence of 4’s = a total of 10 cards
- One Group of 3 and Two Sequences of 4 = a total of 11 cards
- Three Sequences of 4’s and No Discard
Jokers may be used in either sequences or groups, to substitute for any missing card.
Once the round commences, the player must either draw the top card off the stock pile or they may take a card from the top of the discard pile. A player who chooses to draw a card from the stock pile rather than use the top card of the discard pile, must first give any other player who wishes, the opportunity to take the discarded card.
The player may place groups or sequences from hand face up on the table. This can only be done once by each player during each round. When melding, you must lay down exactly the combination of groups or sequences which is required by the contract for that round. When a player melds, they can only meld the minimum number of cards required.
Laying off is adding cards to groups or sequences which have already been melded – both the players own and those melded by the opponents. Players may lay off only if they have already melded in some previous turn of the current round. Players may not lay off before or on the same turn as another player. There is no limit as to how many cards a player may lay off in one turn. To complete each turn, he player must discard one card from their hand and place it face up on top of the discard pile.
Play continues with players taking turns clockwise around the table until one person has got rid of all the cards from their hand. It can occasionally happen that the stock pile runs out of cards. If a player wishes to draw a card when there are no cards left in the stock pile, then you take all the cards of the discard pile except the top one, shuffle them together, and place them face down to make a new stock. The top card of the old discard pile remains face up to start the new discard pile. Play then continues as before.
If at the start of the players turn they choose to draw from the stock rather than take the discard, any player who desires the card on the top of the discard pile may ask for it If several people want the discard, it goes to the earliest in turn to play after the person who is about to draw from the stock. The player who takes the discard in this way must also take the top card from the stock as a penalty card. There is no limit as to how many times this can be done, but the same player is not allowed to take two successive cards from the discard pile in this way.
If a joker is played in a sequence, any player who has the card which the joker is representing, and who has already melded their contract on a previous turn, may, during the laying off phase of their turn to play, take the joker, replacing it in the meld with the card it represents. Any joker gained in this manner must be laid off in the current turn – it cannot be saved for play in a later turn.
Jokers played as part of a group are considered “dead”; they cannot be reclaimed and played elsewhere.
In rounds in which the contract requires multiple sequences, players are not allowed to meld two sequences in the same suit which are contiguous. For example 3 4 5 6 and 7 8 9 10 are not acceptable as two sequences in a contract. To be valid, sequences in the same suit must either have a gap between them or overlap.
In the final round, the player must meld all their cards at once. In this round only, the sequences you meld are allowed to be longer than four cards. If the player has melded all their cards, there is no discard – play ends immediately after the meld.
- Joker = 15 Points
- Ace = 15 Points
- King = 10 Points
- Queen = 10 Points
- Jack = 10 Points
- 10 = 10 Points
- 9 = 9 Points
- 8 = 8 Points
- 7 = 7 Points
- 6 = 6 Points
- 5 = 5 Points
- 4 = 4 Points
- 3 = 3 Points
- 2 = 2 Points
At the end of the seventh and last round, the player with the lowest total score wins.