Rummy-Style Card Games, an Overview

The term Rummy is often used incorrectly as an individual game of cards when in actual fact Rummy is a group of card games where the objective is to match as many cards as possible, creating melds, or sets of matching cards. The more colloquial term for these types of games is the self explanatory title – matching card games.

This family of card games includes old favourites like Canasta, the very strategic Chinese card game, Mahjong and of course the evergreen Gin Rummy – the one game that seems to cause a lot of confusion amongst card playing rookies who insist on calling it only Rummy!

General Features

Many of the Rummy-style games share similar features and we take a brief look at each of these features in turn:

  • The Book or Meld – simply consists of three cards of the same rank or three consecutive cards of the same suit. Variations do occur from game to game but generally all games feature a book, also referred to as a ‘meld’ in Canasta
  • The Deal – in all games of this nature a large number of cards are generally dealt to each player from standard 52-card decks including jokers and wild cards in some instances. The deck is never entirely depleted during the deal and these cards are retained as the ‘stock’ and turned over face down in the middle of the table. The top card of the stock is turned over to form the discard pile.
  • The Play – players may either pick up a card from the stock or from the discard pile and according to the different variants of Rummy, different rules will apply. Once the card has been picked up the player must attempt to create as many melds or books as possible in hand, as well as adding cards to existing melds or books that have been placed face up on the table by other players. Again, each different variation will have dedicated rules pertaining to play. A player will finish play by discarding a card on top of the discard pile.
  • The Score – as soon as any player at the table melds all his or her cards apart from a single discard, the hand is complete and scoring commences. Generally points are allocated for each meld and points are deducted for non-melded cards in hand. In some forms of the game, bonuses are given to players who achieve difficult melds as is the case with Canasta, where huge bonuses are paid out to players who have created a 7-card meld, called a Canasta, or basket in Spanish!