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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