Contract Rummy

Contract Rummy is a variation of Rummy where the game changes from hand to hand! On each hand, players have a different “contract” to fulfill in order to go out: some hands require a certain number of runs, while others require a certain number of sets. No matter what, though, the basic rummy gameplay flow—draw-meld-discard—is the core mechanic of the game. It has been adapted by Mattel into one of their proprietary games, Phase 10.

Contract Rummy is ideal for four players, but can be played with three or five as well. Score is only kept to keep track of unmatched cards (deadwood) at the end of the hand; therefore, scoring as few points as possible is the way to win the game.

Object of Contract Rummy

The object of Contract Rummy is to score the lowest number of points by being the first to deplete your hand, primarily by forming melds. In order to do so, the player must lay down a certain combination of melds that meet the contract for the hand.

Setup

Contract Rummy is played with a deck formed by taking two standard decks and adding one fewer jokers than the number of players. That is, three players play with a 106-card deck (104 cards plus two jokers), four with 107 (three jokers), and five with 108 (all four jokers). If you’re using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, not only do you get all the benefits of their durability, but you also get to play with jokers that have an awesome dragon on them.

You will also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works best, but, by all means, use an Etch-A-Sketch if you think that’ll work better.

Shuffle and deal ten cards, face down, to each player on the first three hands, or twelve on the fourth through seventh hands. The remainder of the deck is placed face-down in the center of the table, forming the stock. The first card of the stock is turned face up; this card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Drawing

The player to the left of the dealer plays first. They begin their turn by drawing either the top card of the stock or the upcard of the discard pile. If they draw the upcard, their turn simply continues. If, however, they draw from the stock, the other players have the opportunity to take the undrawn discard by asking “May I?” If multiple players ask “May I?”, of the players that asked, the first player to the active player’s left has priority. The player that takes this upcard draws both the upcard and the top card from the stock as a penalty. If other cards have been discarded this hand, the act of taking the upcard exposes a new upcard under it; this new card may then be taken by any other player in the same way. This can continue indefinitely, with the only restriction being that a player cannot draw two consecutive upcards. The play then reverts to the active player (i.e. the player whose turn was interrupted by the first “May I?”)

If the stock is depleted when a player wishes to draw from it, set the upcard aside and turn the the remaining cards of the discard pile face down, then shuffle them to form the new stock. If both the stock and the discard pile are exhausted, the hand ends immediately.

Melding

After the draw has been settled, the player may meld cards if able. There are two types of melds in Contract Rummy: sets or groups, which are three or more cards of the same rank (e.g. 9-9-9), and runs or sequences, which are four or more cards of the same suit in sequence (e.g. 10-J-Q-K). Suit is irrelevant when it comes to sets; one can have two identical cards (i.e. of the same rank and suit) in the same meld. In sequences, aces may be low or high, but not both at the same time; A-2-3-4 is a valid meld, and so is J-Q-K-A, but Q-K-A-2 is not.

All melding is subject to one restriction: their first meld of the hand must, all at once, make the contract for the hand. The contracts for each hand are as follows:

  1. Two sets of three.
  2. A set of three and a run of four.
  3. Two runs of four.
  4. Three sets of three.
  5. Two sets of three and a run of four.
  6. One set of three and two runs of four.
  7. Three runs of four, melded all at once.

Note that for the purposes of fulfilling a contract, sequences of the same suit may not be continuous; 3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10♣ would be considered one eight-card sequence, not a 3-to-6 sequence and a separate 7-10 sequence. (Two separate runs may later be joined together by layoffs as described below; this does not affect fulfillment of the contract.)

After a player has made an initial meld that makes the contract, they may on subsequent turns lay down further melds.

Jokers are wild cards and may be put into a meld in place of any card. If a joker is placed in a sequence, any player who holds the card it represents may, in the lay-off phase of their turn (see below), add the card to the meld and take the joker into their hand (e.g. if a meld of 5-6-★-8♠ has been played, a player who has the 7♠ may substitute it for the joker and reuse the joker for another meld later). Jokers that are part of sets may not be reclaimed in this manner. Any joker which has been taken in this manner must be played to a new meld on the same turn.

On the seventh hand, no initial meld or laying off takes place. Instead, all twelve cards must be melded all at once, with no discard.

Laying off and discarding

Before a player has melded, and on the turn that a player makes their initial meld, they simply discard a card and their turn ends. On subsequent turns, they may lay off cards by adding them to melds on the table, either their own or another player’s. As many or as few cards may be laid off as one desires.

After laying off, a player discards one card and play passes to the player on their left.

Ending the hand

The hand ends whenever both the stock and the discard pile is depleted, or, more commonly, when one player has gotten rid of their entire hand. At this point, all players with cards left in their hand score points for the cards remaining:

  • Jokers and aces: 15 points
  • Face cards: 10 points
  • All other cards: face value

The deal then passes to the left and the next hand is played. Game play continues until the end of the seventh hand, at which point whoever has the lowest score is the winner.

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Guts

Guts is a simple betting game that can quickly escalate into a high-stakes game that takes a lot of bravery to make it through! Like Red Dog and In-Between, Guts isn’t a poker game, but it is often played in dealer’s choice games to change things up. It is best for five to ten players.

Object of Guts

The object of Guts is to win money by accurately judging the strength of your hand.

Setup

Guts uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. It doesn’t take a lot of guts to decide on using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You also need poker chips or something else to bet with.

Before you begin play, the players should agree to the amount of the initial ante. You may also wish to decide on a maximum amount the pot can reach, if desired. This will prevent the amount the players must pay if they lose, allowing the players to limit their risk.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal two cards to each player. The deck stub is set aside and takes no further part in game play.

Game play

Each player looks at the cards dealt to them and determines whether they are in (playing the hand and risking their money) or out (dropping out of the hand). Beginning with the player to the dealer’s left and continuing clockwise, each player declares “in” or “out”. Players who are out discard their hands to a central discard pile.

After all players have declared whether they’re in or out, it’s time for the showdown. If only one player remained in, they take the pot uncontested and are not obligated to show their cards. If more than one player stayed in, the players reveal their cards and the player with the best hand takes the pot.

Guts hands are evaluated by their ranks and whether or not they form a pair. Aces are always high, and the other cards rank in their usual order. Pairs rank higher than unpaired hands; if multiple players have pairs, the higher-ranked pair wins. Unpaired hands are compared using their higher-ranked card, with the lower-ranked card breaking ties. In any case, two hands that are identical other than by suits tie.

The winner of the hand takes the existing pot (multiple tied winners split the pot as evenly as it will go, with the remainder staying in the pot as “flavor” for the next hand). Each player who stayed in but didn’t win the pot must contribute the amount of the pot to the center, forming the pot for the next hand. (For example, if the pot was $25, and four players stayed in to the showdown, the winner of the hand collects the $25 and each of the three losers contributes $25 toward the next pot, forming a total pot of $75 for the next hand.)

If a maximum pot amount was established, losing players will continue adding to the pot as normal until it exceeds the maximum.

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Anaconda

An anacondaAnaconda is a very informal poker game that causes its players to make a lot of gut-wrenching decisions! You might form an excellent hand, but have to break it up between betting rounds. It’s also a split pot game, with half the pot going to the player with the best hand and the other half going to the player with the worst hand.

Anaconda is mostly played as a part of dealer’s choice games; it’s not likely to be found at your local casino. It can be played by up to seven players, and is best with four or more.

Object of Anaconda

The object of Anaconda is to form either the highest-ranking or lowest-ranking poker hand by selecting cards to pass to the other players.

Setup

Like most poker games, Anaconda is played with one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Since an anaconda is a snake, we suggest using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, which have a dragon on the ace of spades, keeping the reptile theme going. You also need something to bet with; poker chips work well, but you can use cash, matchsticks, bottle caps, pieces of gum…

All players ante. Shuffle and deal seven cards, face down, to each player. The deck stub is set aside and has no further effect on game play.

Game play

After everyone has had a chance to look at their hands, the first betting round takes place. This follows the norms of betting in poker. After the betting round concludes, the players that are still in the hand select four cards from their hand that they want to keep, setting the other three face down in front of them. After everyone has made their choices, everyone passes these discards to the first player to the left of them. Everyone picks up the cards that they received and adds them to their hand.

After the first pass, there is another betting round. Then, a second passing round occurs; this one is conducted the same as the first, except instead of passing to the left, the cards are passed to the second player to the right. A third round of betting happens after this.

Now, each player decides whether they will compete to have the highest hand or the lowest hand. Each player takes a chip in their hand and shuffles it from hand to hand under the table, out of view of the other players. The players then form one of their hands into a fist and bring it above the table. On the count of three, the players open their hands to reveal whether or not they are holding a chip; those holding a chip are indicating that they intend to compete for high hand, and those with no chip are going for low.

The players now form their final hands, discarding three cards face down into a discard pile. Each player then turns four of the cards making up their hand face up on the table in front of them, placing the fifth card face down next to the rest of their hand. Then, one last round of betting occurs. (It’s worth noting that at least part of the outcome will be fairly obvious in many cases, because at this point, the players know 80% of their opponents’ hands and whether everyone is going high or low. But some surprises can come out with the last card!)

After the final betting round, the fifth card of each active player’s hand is revealed, and the pot is split between the best high hand and the best low hand. (See “Rank of poker hands” and “Lowball poker” for information about how to determine the best hand.) Any remainder is left in the pot as “flavor” for the next hand.

Anaconda strategy

Anaconda plays a bit differently than other forms of poker simply because the player is unable to simply “stand pat” with the cards they are holding; one card of any given five-card combination must be passed. For this reason, royal and straight flushes are useless unless lucked into after the second pass, and regular straights and full houses will be difficult to keep filled. The best hand to hold is four of a kind, not only because it is a very powerful hand, but also because the only card that will need to be passed is the kicker, which is irrelevant for four of a kind. Pursuing a flush is also a decent option, because with four to a flush, there are nine possible cards that can make the hand, although in larger games it is more likely that a full house will be present.

Players should also keep in mind that going for low is an option. Many players naturally tend toward going for high, so it is not all that rare for a player to win the low half of the pot with a fairly weak hand simply because they were the only one who declared low. A player intending to go high who misses their hand going may, rather than folding immediately, consider seeing if they can refashion their hand as a suitable low hand.

Remember that bluffing with the final reveal is possible, and both be wary of this from other players and take advantage of it yourself. Careful selection of which cards are revealed can help represent hands both stronger and weaker than what you actually have. A revealed hand of Q-Q-Q-3 could be four of a kind (Q-Q-Q-Q-3), a full house (Q-Q-Q-3-3), or even just three of a kind (Q-Q-Q-3-?). With jacks full of 9s, a player can choose to reveal J-J-9-9 to try to convince their opponents that they only hold two pair, or J-J-J-9 to bluff that they have quads. Keep your table image in mind too; if you are known to the other players to play conservatively, try representing a higher hand than you really have, and if you’re known as a loose player, show a poor hand.

Naturally, it is important to pay attention to what the other players are revealing. It is pointless to try to bluff that you have four 10s if one of your opponents is showing a 10 plain as day on the table. Likewise, if there are multiple possible four-of-a-kinds or full houses on the table, you are likely to be unable to get anyone to fold to your flush no matter how hard you bet it.

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Mille

Mille is a Rummy-type game that plays very similar to Canasta. Unlike Canasta, however, Mille is played by two solo players, not partnerships. Mille is likely of Canadian origin, beginning in Quebec and spreading east into Ontario by the 1990s. While it’s possible to play Mille just for fun, it is typically played for money.

Object of Mille

The object of Mille is to be the first player to score 1,200 points by melding cards of the same rank.

Setup

Mille uses a 104-card deck formed by shuffling together two standard 52-card decks with the same back design. (Unlike Canasta, Mille does not use jokers.) We, of course, would be overjoyed to know you’re using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You will also need something to keep score with; pencil and paper is probably your best bet.

The players should mutually agree as to whether to play for money, and if so, how much the stakes will be. Stakes are typically expressed as two dollar amounts, the second three times as much as the first, e.g. $1-$3, $2-6, $50-$150, etc. (The purpose of these amounts will be described in “Ending the game” below.)

Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Place the remainder of the pack face down in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn one card face up from the stock. This card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Play of the hand

The non-dealer goes first. As in most rummy games, a turn consists of drawing, melding if able, and then discarding. If a player has two or more cards in their hand of the same rank as the upcard, they may immediately meld the upcard along with these cards, then take the entire discard pile into their hand. Otherwise, they draw one card from the stock.

After drawing, the player may lay down, face up, as many melds as they have in their hand. A meld consists of three or more cards of the same rank. Melding is optional; a player may choose to retain an entire meld or some cards of the same rank in their hand. All cards of the same rank that are laid down by a player are considered to form one meld. If a player melded, say, three kings, then on later turn melded three more, this would form one six-card meld.

2s are considered wild cards, and may be melded alongside any other combination of cards. Note, however, that players who do not meld any 2s are awarded a bonus. Three or more 2s can also be laid down as a meld of 2s, which does not prevent the player from claiming the bonus. A 2 cannot be used to take the discard pile; this can only be done with two or more natural cards of the same rank as the upcard.

After melding, the player discards one card, and the turn passes to the next player, with this discard as the new upcard for the next player’s turn. If the stock is depleted, the upcard is set aside and the remainder of the discard pile is shuffled and turned face down to form a new stock.

The hand ends when one player has melded or discarded all of their cards. A player may discard on the turn they go out, but if they are able to exhaust their hand by melding all of their cards, they may end the hand without discarding.

Scoring

The cards in Mille have the following values:

  • Q♠: 100 points
  • J♦: 50 points
  • Aces: 15 points each
  • K-10: 10 points each
  • 9-3: 5 points each
  • 2s: 20 points each

If a player manages to meld all eight cards of one rank without using any wild cards, this is called a natural, and the value of this meld is doubled in their hand score. If the player did not meld any 2s at all (other than as part of a meld of 2s), this is also considered a natural, and the value of all of their melded cards is doubled. When a player scores a natural of either type, it is indicated on the score sheet with an asterisk next to their score for that hand. If a player scores both types of natural, two asterisks are recorded on the score sheet, the natural meld scores 4× the value of the cards, and all other cards score double.

At the end of the hand, each player scores the total value of the all the cards they have melded, then they deduct the value of any cards left in their hand. As a result, It is possible that the player who did not go out can have a net negative score for the hand; this is called a chapeau (French for “hat”) and the negative hand score is circled on the score sheet.

Ending the game

The game ends when one player has scored 1,200 or more. This player is the winner.

If the losing player failed to score at least 600 points, this is a skunk. If the losing player ended  the hand with a negative score, it is a double skunk.

If playing for money, the loser pays the winner according to the stakes. As mentioned before, the stakes are expressed as two amounts, e.g. $1-$3. Using these values, the loser pays:

  • The larger amount once for losing the game.
  • The larger amount once for each natural scored by the winner.
  • The larger amount once for each of the loser’s chapeaux.
  • The smaller amount is paid once for each 100-point difference in score between the two players. To calculate this, round the scores to the nearest 100, subtract the smaller from the larger, and divide the difference by 100.

In the event of a skunk, the payment is doubled; in the event of a double skunk, the payment is tripled.

See also

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Beggar My Neighbor

Beggar My Neighbor is a simple game for two players. Much like War, there is no skill involved; the entire game consists of turning up cards and taking action based on what comes up, meaning it is a good game for the young or anyone who isn’t up for focusing too hard on a game.

Beggar My Neighbor was the game played by Pip in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations.

Object of Beggar My Neighbor

The object of Beggar My Neighbor is to collect all of the cards. All of them.

Setup

Beggar My Neighbor is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you don’t have a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, go beg your neighbor to let you borrow theirs.

Shuffle and deal 26 cards to each player (the entire pack). Each player squares up their cards into a pile. Players may not look at their cards.

Game play

The non-dealer plays first, turning one card face-up from their pile. The dealer responds by turning over one of their cards on top of their opponent’s card, and so on, players turning cards alternately, leaving the cards in the center of the table, forming a face-up pile.

When a player turns up a face card or an ace, their opponent must immediately pay a penalty of four cards for an ace, three for a king, two for a queen, and one for an ace. These cards are turned face up one by one and placed on the pile, as usual. If they are all number cards, then the person who played the penalty card collects the entire central pile, turns it face-down, and adds it to the bottom of their pile. However, if one of the cards paid is a penalty card, the payment stops, and the other player is then liable for a penalty payment. This continues until there are no more penalty cards played; whoever played the most recent penalty card takes the pile.

Game play continues until one player has amassed all 52 cards in their pile, or until one player is out of cards (in which case the other player takes the pile and thus the entire deck). The player with all the cards is the winner.

See also

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Daifugo

Daifugo (大富豪, in English, Grand Millionaire) is a Japanese card game for three or more players. Those who have played President will find its climbing-style game play and use of titles to reward winners and shame losers very familiar. Its simple mechanics, meanwhile, mean it is a good introduction to climbing-type games in general.

Object of Daifugo

The object of Daifugo is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards.

Setup

Daifugo is played with a standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Real grand millionaires would never be caught dead with anything other than Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

For the first round, determine the dealer randomly. Shuffle and deal the deck out as evenly as it will go. Some players may have more cards than others.

Card ranking

Daifugo uses the unusual card ranking common to other climbing games: (high) 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 (low). Suits are irrelevant.

Game play

Play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. They start by playing any number of cards of the same rank from their hand (as few as one card or as many as four). The player to the left must then play the same number of cards of the same rank, but higher than the previous player, or else pass. For example, if the first player began by playing three 5s, the next player must play any three of a kind of 6s or higher, or pass. Players who pass may not play again until the current round is over.

A round ends when all players but one have passed. The sole remaining player may then play any card or cards they wish to begin the next round.

As players run out of cards, they are assigned titles in order of their finish:

  1. Daifugo or grand millionaire (first to finish)
  2. Millionaire (second to finish)
  3. Commoner
  4. Poor (second-to-last to finish)
  5. Destitute (last player left with cards)

If playing with three players, use the Daifugo, Commoner, and Destitute ranks. With four, don’t use the Commoner rank. If playing with more than five players, use all the ranks, using Commoner as many times as appropriate.

The Destitute player is required to clean up the previous deal, shuffle, and deal the next hand. Many players also require the Destitute to carry out whatever task the other players require, such as fetching drinks or snacks. Before game play begins on the second and subsequent hands, the Destitute must pass their two highest-ranked cards to the Daifugo, who passes any two cards (usually low-ranked cards) back to them. The Daifugo then leads to the first round of the hand.

Game play continues until an agreed-upon stopping point, like a certain number of deals or a specified time. Whichever player was the Daifugo on the final hand is considered the winner of the overall game.

See also

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