Shanghai rummy

Shanghai rummy is a part of the bigger »contract rummy« family. This means that you play a set number of rounds and you have to fulfill your contracts in order to lay down melds. Sounds confusing? Well... it is at first, but you'll get the hang of it.

The game itself is played between 3-8 players. If there are 3 or 4 players then you use  two standard 52 card decks plus a joker. For 5+ players you use three standard decks of 52 cards and two jokers.

Like in pretty much every other rummy game, the goal of the game is to discard, meld and lay off all the cards in your hand. The player that succeeds in doing so, wins the round.

Dealing and rounds

In shanghai rummy there are 10 rounds of play each game. Each round 11 cards are dealt to each player and the rest of the deck forms the stock pile. After the deal the top card of the stock pile is turned face up, this is the first card of the discard pile The »contracts« for each round go like this:

1             Two Sets of 3

2             One Set of 3 and One Sequence of 4

3             Two Sequences of 4

4             Three Sets of 3

5             One Set of 3 and One Sequence of 7

6             Two Sets of 3 and One Sequence of 5

7             Three Sequences of 4

8             One Set of 3 and One Sequence of 10

9             Three Sets of 3 and One Sequence of 5

10           Three Sequences of 5

How is it played?

It starts like any other rummy game. Each players turn begins with a draw, continues with laying off a meld or laying off single cards and ends with a discard of one card.

The draw

Drawing in shanghai rummy is a bit different than in other rummy games. Player who's turn it is has the option to draw from either the stock pile or the discard pile. If he doesn't draw from the discard pile, any other player can draw the top card of the discard pile. If any of the players take this option, they also have to draw the top card of the stock pile and the player on turn then draws the next card. Every player can use this option only 4 times per round.

Laying off/melding

Like in pretty much any other rummy game you can meld either sets or runs. Sets are combinations of 3 or more cards of the same rank(example: 7s7d7h) and runs are 3 or more consecutive cards of the same suit(example: 6s7s8s). In shanghai rummy sets can be formed with same suit cards as well. Aces can be used as a high or low card.

The specialty of shanghai rummy(and all contract rummy games) is that you can lay down only melds that »fit the contract« of the current round. For example, in the first round you can only lay down two sets of three cards in one turn.

Until you fulfilled the contract at least once in the current round, you are not allowed to lay down single cards either.

You can only either lay down melds or lay down single cards in one round, you can not do both. You can lay off single cards to any meld that is on the table.

Jokers are used as wild cards and can be used as a substitute for any card when forming a meld. When a joker is in a meld on the table, any player can pick it up, if he replaces it with the missing card. If a joker is picked up from a meld, it has to be used in the same turn.


At the end of a players turn, he discards one card.


In case the stock pile runs out, the discard pile is reshuffled and put face down in it's place(the top card of the discard pile is left on the table)

If both, the stock pile and the discard pile, run out, the round ends. All players count their points and score the appropriate amount.


When a round ends(one player gets rid of all his cards) all other players count the value of cards still left in their hands. Each player then gets a score equal to the value of his remaining cards. The point of the game is to get as little points as possible.

  • Value of cards:
  • Cards 2-9 are worth their face value in points
  • Tens, Jacks, Queens and Kings are worth 10 points
  • Aces are 15 points
  • Jokers are 25 points

If a player wins by getting rid of all his cards in one turn, he gets a bonus of -25 points (-50 points if he didn't use a joker).

Enjoy playing Shanghai Rummy!

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