Kaluki (Caloochi)

Kaluki (also known as Caloochi) is a game in the Rummy family that was popular in the eastern United States in the middle part of the 20th century. It can be played by two to four players, but is best for four.

Despite its homophonic name, it is not to be confused with the Caribbean game named Kalooki, which is a totally different game based on Contract Rummy.

Object of Kaluki

The object of Kaluki is to be the first player to deplete their hand of cards. A player achieves this by forming combinations of cards called melds.

Setup

To play Kaluki, shuffle together two standard 52-card packs of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, complete with jokers. You’ll be left with a 108-card pack that has two of each card, ace to king, in each of the four suits, with four jokers.

You also need some form of token to keep track of the scoring with. Poker chips work well, as do buttons, pennies, or any number of other small doodads. Establish whether or not each counter will hold some form of monetary value. If so, determine how much they’re worth and exchange them for cash appropriately. (If you’re using pennies as tokens, you really shouldn’t make them worth anything more than 1¢, since otherwise, you risk making a mockery of fiat currency systems.) Simply distribute the tokens equally between the players if you opt not to play for money.

Shuffle. The player to the dealer’s right cuts the cards, exposing the bottom card of the half of the deck they lifted up. Should this be a joker, the player cutting the cards keeps it and is dealt one fewer card than the other players. The player then completes the cut. Deal fifteen cards to each player (unless the player at their right kept a joker, in which case skip them in the last round of dealing). Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn over the top card of the stock. This card, the upcard, will become the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Before actual game play begins, the dealer gets a chance to draw the upcard. If they do, they replace it with a discard from their own hand, which becomes the new upcard, and their turn ends. If they choose not to take the upcard, the play simply passes to the dealer’s left. They do not get a draw from the stock or any other consideration if they simply don’t like the upcard.

The player at the dealer’s left gets the first full turn. They may draw either the top card of the stock or the upcard. If they take the upcard, it must immediately be used in a meld. After drawing, they may meld, as described below, if able. Thereafter, they discard one card, and the turn passes to the next player.

Melding

Each card in Kaluki has a point value, used to determine the value of melds it is used in. Aces are worth eleven points, face cards ten, and all other cards their face value.

Valid melds are the same as in most other Rummy games: three or four of a kind, or three or more cards of the same suit in sequence. An added stipulation is that duplicate cards are not allowed in melds. That is, in three or four of a kind, all of the cards must be of different suits. J♠-J♣-J♦ is a valid meld, but J♠-J♦-J♦ is not. Aces may be either high or low in sequences, but not both. K-A-2 isn’t something you can meld.

The first set of melds a player makes in each hand is their initial meld. These melds must total at least 51 points. If other players have melded, the player may lay off on their opponent’s melds as well, and count these toward their initial meld total. However, a player must lay down at least one meld of their own to satisfy the initial meld requirement.

After a player has made their initial meld, they may meld on their turn as much or as little as they please.

Ending the hand

The hand ends when a player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand. Each of the winner’s opponents pays them one unit for each unmelded card left in their hand, and two units for each joker. If a player is able to meld all fifteen of their cards in one turn, they have gone Kaluki and the payouts are doubled—two units for each unmelded card in hand, and four for each joker.

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