Carioca (Loba)

Carioca is a rummy-type game for two to five players. It is a good example of a member of the Contract Rummy sub-group of the Rummy family. In Contract Rummy games, each player’s first meld must meet certain requirements called a “contract”, which change from hand to hand.

Carioca is mostly played by that name in Argentina, but it has been known to appear in Chile as well. In Central America, a version of the game with some variations is played under the name Loba. (There’s a game called Loba played in Argentina, but it’s not the same as Carioca.)

Object of Carioca

The object of Carioca is to score the lowest number of points by being the first to deplete your hand. Cards are disposed of by forming melds. In order to do so, the player must first make a certain combination of melds that meet the contract for the hand.

Setup

Carioca requires the use of two standard 52-card decks of playing cards, including jokers, shuffled together to make a 108-card pack. While you could use any old cards you have lying around, we know you’ll get the best results if you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Trust us on this one. You’ll also want something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal eleven cards to each player, or twelve cards on the seventh and final hand of the game. Place the remainder of the deck 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

The player to the right of the dealer goes first. This player may draw either the current upcard or the top card of the stock. If they are able to meld any cards, they do so after melding. Finally, they discard one card, ending their turn. The next player to the right goes after that.

Melding

There are two types of melds in Carioca. One is the trio, which is three cards of the same rank. The other is the escalera, which is four cards of the same suit in sequence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces either high or low (but not both at the same time).

Melding is subject to one big restriction: on each hand, on the first turn in which a player melds (their initial meld), they must, all at once, make the contract for the hand. The contracts for each hand are as follows:

  1. Two trios.
  2. One trio and one escalera.
  3. Two escaleras.
  4. Three trios.
  5. Two trios and one escalera.
  6. One trio and two escaleras.
  7. Three escaleras.

Note that on the sixth and seventh hands, meeting the contract will exhaust the player’s entire hand. On the first five hands, players will have cards left over when they make their first meld. On later turns, a player who has met the contract may extend any meld on the table with cards from their hand. That is, a player may expand a trio with more cards of the same rank, or they may add extra cards on the end or the beginning of an escalera. Any meld on the table can be expanded, whether you melded it or not.

Using jokers

Jokers are considered wild cards, and can substitute for any other card that you wish in a meld. However, when a player makes their initial meld, only one joker is allowed per meld. After making their initial meld, players may freely add as many jokers as they wish to a meld.

If there is a joker in an escalera, and you hold the natural card that it represents, you can play that card to the escalera in place of the joker. The joker then moves to either end of the meld. You can then extend the meld further from the joker, if possible.

Ending the hand

The hand ends whenever one player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand and scores zero. All other players count up the value of their deadwood (unmatched cards in hand) as follows:

  • Jokers: 50 points each.
  • Aces: 20 points each.
  • Face cards: 10 points each.
  • All other cards: Face value.

Each player’s deadwood value is their score for the hand. The deal then passes to the right for the next hand.

Whichever player has the lowest score at the end of seven hands is the winner.

See also

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Kalooki

Kalooki is a form of Contract Rummy that is played in Jamaica and also Trinidad and Tobago. (There is a separate, unrelated rummy game named Kaluki that is played primarily in North America and the UK.) It shares a lot of similarities with Contract Rummy—each hand has a different requirement for the initial meld, and the winner is the player who has the lowest score of unmatched cards at the end of the game.

Kalooki is normally played with three to five players.

Object of Kalooki

The object of Kalooki is to be the first player to go out by getting rid of all your cards through melding.

Setup

Kalooki is played with a 108-card deck formed by shuffling two 52-card decks and four jokers together. We would be honored if you picked Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like the tried-and-true pencil and paper.

Shuffle, then deal nine cards to each player. The number of cards dealt varies for each hand:

  1. Nine
  2. Ten
  3. Eleven
  4. Twelve
  5. Twelve
  6. Thirteen
  7. Fourteen
  8. Fifteen
  9. Sixteen

Place the remainder of the deck face-down in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn 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

Ordinarily, a player begins their turn by drawing a card from either the stock or the discard pile, as in any other rummy game.

However, if another player who has not laid down any melds would like the top card of the discard pile, they may call it. The active player then has the option to allow or to reject the call. If they allow it, the player who called takes the discard and a penalty card from the top of the stock; the active player then continues on with their turn by drawing from the stock. If the active player rejects the call, they simply take the discard and play their turn as usual.

Calling is subject to certain restrictions. A player who has already laid down melds on this hand cannot call for the rest of the hand. Players are limited to three successful calls per hand (attempted calls that were rejected by the active player are not counted.)  A player who attempts to call more than three times is charged a 50-point penalty for each offense. A player who has been caught calling too many times is also not allowed to score for bending the table (see “Ending the hand”).

Once a player has laid down their initial melds, they cannot draw from the discard pile for the rest of the hand. They must draw from the stock on each turn, and they must allow any calls made by other players on their turn.

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 this happens a second time, it usually means that the game has deadlocked, with each player holding onto cards the others need. Instead of shuffling again, the hand ends and is thrown out without being scored; a new hand is dealt by the same dealer for the same contract.

Melding

After the draw is settled, the player has the opportunity to meld. There are two different types of meld in Kalooki: the three, which is three or more cards of the same rank, and the four, which is a sequence of four or more cards of the same suit (e.g. 3-4-5-6♣). Threes and fours are equivalent to the sets and sequences, respectively, found in other rummy games. Suits are irrelevant in threes; all cards may be of different suits, or duplicates of the same card may be included. Aces may be either high or low when used for fours, but they cannot be both (K-A-2-3♦ is not a valid meld). A player may not have more than one four of the same suit.

Jokers are wild and may substitute for any card in a meld, with some exceptions. Threes must contain at least two natural cards. In fours, jokers cannot substitute for two consecutive cards (e.g. 7-8♥-★-★ would not be a valid meld, but 7♥-★-9♥-★ would be).

Each player’s first meld of the hand must meet the contract for that hand. The contract is a combination of threes and fours which changes on each hand, as shown below:

Hand No. Threes Fours
1 3
2 2 1
3 1 2
4 3
5 4
6 3 1
7 2 2
8 1 3
9 4

After a player has made their initial meld, they may lay down any additional legal melds they have with it, or any that they can form on subsequent turns.

Tacking on and discarding

A player who has made their initial meld also has the option to tack on (also known as laying off) to any melds already on the table. This is adding additional valid cards to extend a meld. One may do this to a three by adding additional cards of the same rank. Fours may only be extended by adding cards to the high end of the run; cards may only be added to the low end of a four when it has been extended on the high end all the way up to the ace.

If a player has the natural card that a joker is substituting for in a four, they may tack on that card and move the joker to the end of the four. If the meld has already been extended to the ace, the joker moves to the beginning of the meld. For example, with an existing four of 9-10-★-Q-K♠, a player holding the J♠ may add it in place of the joker and move it to the end of the run, such that the ending meld is 9-10-J-Q-K♠-★. If another player is holding the A♠, they could then add it to the end of the meld and move the joker to stand for the 8, i.e. forming a meld of ★-9-10-J-Q-K-A♠. Jokers cannot be tacked on or replaced if it would cause jokers to represent two consecutive cards in a four. Jokers may not be replaced in threes. Jokers cannot be moved from meld to meld, or taken into a player’s hand after being melded.

After a player has melded and tacked on as much as they want, they end their turn by discarding one card. This cannot be a joker, but any other card may be discarded (even the card they just drew or a card that could be melded or tacked on).

Ending the hand

The hand ends when a player manages to successfully get rid of all the cards in their hand by melding, tacking on or discarding. This is referred to as going out. Each of their opponents scores points against them for the cards remaining in their hand, as follows:

  • Jokers: 50 points each
  • Black aces: 15 points each
  • 10s through kings: 10 points each
  • 2s through 9s: face value
  • Red aces: 1 point each

If a player is able to go out on the same turn in which they make their initial meld, this is called bending the table and each opponent scores double points for the cards in their hand. To bend the table, a player draws as normal, lays down their initial meld to meet the contract for the hand, any other melds they can make, tack on to other melds, and finally discarding (if necessary).

The game ends after the ninth hand. Whoever has the lowest total score after this hand is the winner.

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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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