Bridge Rummy

Growing up, my brothers and I spent (and still do, whenever we're together) hours and hours playing a card game our grandmother Nanni taught us called Bridge Rummy. It is perhaps the most complicated card game ever invented, with rules that you can only make certain plays if someone else has one or three cards. That's just one example, there are many more. But it was particularly good to keep young boys occupied, and taught us to be observant and to do some math in our heads. We each had, and sometimes still do have, our own particular traits to the game. John didn't play it as much with us, so we'd have to go over the rules with him each time. Curt tends to take a long time during play, Peter tends to get dealt a nearly perfect hand from the start, and I just plain tend to lose!

But the best part of playing was the time we had together with our grandmother. She was a magnificent player of the game after all those years at it, and Peter, the best player of us brothers, apparently didn't do so well when he had the opportunity to play with Nanni's old friends -- those old Hungarian ladies were merciless! Nanni was gone by then, so it was wonderful to have this game tied from that generation down to ours.

We each got a printed copy of the rules from one of our grandmother's friends several years ago, and is often the case, we all lost track of them. My own copy just surfaced, and rather than take the chance of it being lost again, I thought it might be a good idea to get it out on the web for everyone. In addition to including the typed rules as it is, I've also put in a section to spell things out a little more clearly, too.

Basics

Bridge Rummy typically has about four players. A full game consists of seven rounds, and the object of each round is to get rid of all your cards. The winner of the game is one who has the lowest score, not the highest. When someone gets rid of all their cards, it's called "going out." The other players add up the points of the cards in their hand, and that's their score for the round. Details on that below!

You get rid of your cards by grouping them, either straight flushes of the same suit, or same card in different suits (three kings, for example). The cards you get rid of in either way are placed face up in front of you, for all to see. You can play cards from your hand on theirs, and they can play on yours.

A turn is each time a player takes a card and discards, a round or hand is until someone gets rid of all their cards (then you shuffle again), and a game is seven of these rounds.

Starting The Game

Have a lot of time, like an afternoon, for all seven rounds. The game is best played with four people, but you could just play with two or up to five. Have drinks and snacks ready, and be prepared to tease other players with phrases like, "You're wearing the spots off them," "Give me what I need," "I'm getting old, here...," and my personal favorite, "Today, dahling, today!"

Take two decks of cards, and if you're not sure, double check to make sure every card is there -- it can be critical if one is missing! Along with the two full decks of cards, include one Joker from each deck. Jokers are the wildcards, they are extremely useful; more on that later. Shuffle the cards until someone uses the line about wearing the spots off, and do your best to impress the other players with how well you can shuffle. One-handed shuffling of two decks deserves praise and adoration of other players.

Cutting The Deck

Once the cards are smoking from vigorous shuffling, it's time to cut the deck. Now, bear in mind, this is two decks plus two Jokers, so it's a pretty big stack. The person to the left of the dealer picks up about half the deck, takes the bottom card from this stack, and turns it face up on the table. If it's a Joker, they cheer and say The Force is with them or words to that effect while everyone else claims they cheated. They get to keep a Joker, but most of the time it's not, and whatever other card it is they put face up on the table, with the rest of their stack placed face down perpendicular on top of it so you can still see what it is. This card is out of play for the rest of the round, no matter how long it goes. This stack of cards is the one players will be drawing from each turn.

Dealing

Cards are dealt counter-clockwise. Say you have four players, one at each of the cardinal points of the clock. Noon is the dealer for this round. The person to the dealer's left, in this case three o'clock, just cut the cards. They took the top half, the dealer takes the bottom half and starts dealing with that (remember, counter-clockwise). Each person gets two cards at a time from the top of the stack the dealer has, until everyone has 14 cards. Note that if the cutter did get the Joker, the first round of dealing they only get one card instead of two. So, two cards first go to nine o'clock, then two to six o'clock, then only one to three o'clock if they were lucky enough to get the Joker, or two cards if they weren't. Then it's two cards to each player again, until everyone has 14 cards. The dealer then puts the remaining cards onto the pile in the center of the table.

Objective

The idea of each round of play is to get rid of all your cards before anyone else. Starting with the player to the right of the dealer, each player takes turns drawing one card from the stack in the middle, seeing if it helps their hand, and if it does they keep it and discard a different card. Or discard what they just drew, if it's not helping you. This means that in addition to the stack of face-down cards from which you draw, there is also a discard pile of face-up cards. When a player has a group of cards they can set down, the put them face up in front of them. Preferably color coordinated -- red, black, red, not red red black, etc. It's untidy, and other players will mock you.

Discard

You MUST have a discard at the end of your turn, even if you are getting rid of all your cards! If you don't have a discard for the discard pile, you can't go completely out!

Getting Rid Of Cards

In order to start getting rid of your cards, you need to have 50 points or more that can be put down -- the first time you lay them down for the round. Once you lay out your first 50, however, you can freely lay down cards where you can, even one at a time, for the rest of that round of play. Only certain groups of cards can be put down, and sometimes you can only play on face-up cards under certain circumstances!

As mentioned, you can play cards on other people's groups. So if someone else has already gone down, and one of their groups is three, four, and five of clubs, if you have the six of clubs you can play it, and that counts as 6 more to your needed total of 50 or more to go down the first time. Once you have gone down that first time, you don't need 50 points again -- if you get the two of clubs next turn, for example, you can play it right away on that same group.

Groups Of Cards

Groups can be of two kinds, either three or four of the same value, different suit, or three or more of the same suit, in value order. So, three Kings, one heart, one spade, and one club is a group. Two cards is not enough to lay down, but hang onto them, as you may pick the one you need during your turn from the stack on the table. You can't use King of clubs, another King of clubs, and King of diamonds, however; the suits must be different. If you have, say, six Kings, you would not lay them all down together as a group, but do two groups of three unmatched suits.

Flushes must be three or more of the same suit. Aces can be used as a one, or may come after a King -- so Ace, two, three is okay, as is Queen, King, Ace. When used in this way, the Ace's value is either 1 or 10 -- so in the first example, that's only 6 total points, in the second example it's 30 points (much better for the 50 needed to go down the first time).

Note that you can't put a two on top of a Queen, King, Ace run to get rid of it. I've tried.

Drawing Cards

During each turn, you usually take from the top of the face-down stack of cards. If play goes so long that the stack is completely exhausted and no-one has yet gotten rid of all their cards to win the round, that stack (not the face up one on the bottom!) is taken, shuffled by the dealer, and placed face down again for play to resume.

Sometimes, however, the player to your left will discard onto the discard pile a card you could use. You can pick that card up instead of the one from the face-down stack, but you have to play it (lay it down) right away, before you discard, which is the finish of your turn. So, if you haven't gone down yet and the card won't give you 50 points or more, you can't pick it up. Also, if that card is a playing card on something that's already down, you can't pick it up. But you are encouraged to mock the person to discarded a playing card.

Jokers cannot be discarded, unless the person is going out (getting rid of all their cards, thereby winning the round).

Jokers

Jokers turn the tide of games, the bastards. You'll love them, you'll hate them.

Jokers can be used as a substitute, or Wild Card, for a card you don't have. Most of the time. You can user a Joker, for example, as a third King if you only have two Kings of different suits.

Jokers can also be claimed by players once they've been laid down, to use in their own hands. If a Joker is claimed, it must be used right away during that player's turn. In order to take a Joker from the two King example above, the person wanting it must have BOTH of the other King suits, replacing them for the Joker. If the Joker was used as a fourth of a group, it can also be claimed by that one card. Jokers can but shouldn't be played with three of a kind, you really should find a better use for them -- unless you're going out completely, winning the round! Jokers may be claimed from a run at any time. However...

... you can't play Jokers in a run, unless... keep reading...

One Or Three Rule

The most complex thing about Bridge Rummy is the One Or Three rule. If someone ELSE has one OR three cards left in their hand, you can do two things:

Why the one or three card rule? If someone has one or three cards, they may be able to go out, winning the round, their next turn. If they have one card, their next draw may be a playing card, and the card in their hand is the required discard. If they have three cards, the card they draw (perhaps from your discard!) may complete a set with two others in their hand, again leaving the required discard.

All players MUST announce to everyone when they have one or three cards remaining in their hands. But only the first time, not every turn.

"Cinch"

As cards are discarded on the discard pile, it's face up. So, if you're waiting for a particular card to help your hand, pay attention to that! One thing that is done as a courtesy (but really it's just to show off how well you've been keeping track of this kind of detail) is to say "cinch" when discarding a card that's the duplicate of one already out of play -- either it was already discarded, or it's sitting on the table in a group.

Where One Or Three Meets Cinch and Jokers

Here's another important and blisteringly obscure rule of Bridge Rummy: Normally you can't play a Joker in a run unless someone else has one or three cards (see One or Three Rule). However, if the card the Joker is being substituted for is "cinched" out (i.e., both of the four of clubs are discarded or in a run elsewhere), then you can use a Joker for it even if no one else has just one or three cards. This is, allegedly, the real reason for cinch.

Scoring

There are three kinds of scoring: the points you have in your hand to get up to 50 to go down the first time during a round, the points you have left in your hand when someone else wins the round, and the winning score for that round (and thereby the whole game, eventually).

Points To Go Down
When you start playing, everyone has 14 cards in their hand. The objective is to get rid of your cards, but in Bridge Rummy, you can't just start laying down groups and runs of flushes. In any round, each player must have a total of 50 points being laid down the first time. The rest of the round, you can lay things down as the come in sets of three, or as single cards played on other groups already down. That means you can't, for example, lay down two Kings, hoping for a third, but you could put them on a pre-existing set, one King here, and another King there.

Points Left In Your Hand If You Lose A Round
If someone else gets rid of all their cards in a round before you do, you lose. If you have all your cards in your hand because you hadn't gone down yet, you don't have to add them all up -- it's just 100. If the other person went Hand Rummy, though, it's 200.

If you have gone down, but someone else went out (they won), you need to do some math. Face cards are their value, Aces are 10, Jokers are 15, regardless of how you intended to use them. Once you have the total points, round to the nearest 10, but not mathematically -- six or more is rounded up, not five or more. So if you have 25 points total, it's rounded to 20, but if you had 26, it's rounded to 30.

If the person went Hand Rummy, you double the points first, then round to the nearest 10.

Points To Win
When you win a round, that's typically -20 from your score (remember, lowest number wins the game). If you go Hand Rummy, it's -40. When you win a round, you also get a "star" (*) next to your name, showing that you won. If any player gets four stars (they won four rounds) during a game, they get an additional -100 from their score. With this kind of scoring, someone can come up from behind on a Hand Rummy, particularly if they catch other players with everything (-40 for you, +200 for them!).

Hand Rummy (a.k.a., "Going Whammy!")

The Holy Grail of wins. It's when you are able to not just go down, barely getting the total 50 points needed, it's when you get rid of all your cards at once -- including the discard, you must always have a discard. You write -40, they write double the value of the cards in their hand (or 200, if caught with everything). Oh, and you get a star, of course!

Rule of Voices

Whenever possible, and even when it's not, it is keenly encouraged to throw in movie and television trivia, and to use character voices like Homer Simpson and Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. More of a guideline than a rule...

Glossary

Original Document

Two decks of cards and two Jokers are required. Can best be played four handed; however, two, three, and even five handed games may be played.

Jokers have a 15 point count if they remain unplayed. Aces and all other picture cards are counted 10 points. Other cards count as designated. However, when a Joker is used in a sequence, it has the point count for the card it is played. Aces may follow Kings in a flush sequence, such as Queen-King-Ace (in the same suit), which would have a 30 point value. When used as Ace-Two-Three (in the same suit), the point count is 15. Aces if left unmelded in hand have a 10 point value.

Playing Rules

Cards are dealt two at a time until each player has 14. Before dealing, the deck is "cut" by the last player to receive cards. This cut card is never playable unless the cut card is a Joker, and it is retained by the person cutting who then receives only 13 dealt cards.

Game is played similar to Gin Rummy by picking a card from the center deck and discarding one to be considered by the following player. [ed. note: that means in the middle of the table you have one face up card (the one that was cut), the rest of the deck face down perpendicular on top of it, and a discard pile, face up.] Melding consists of suit-sequencing (straight flushes) and melding 3 or 4 like cards, providing each of these similar cards are of a different suit. Discarded card may only be picked up for immediate melding of the required 50 or more (not as in Gin Rummy). Additional cards may be placed on table melds and these points too are added by the melding player to secure the 50 point initial meld requirement.

The object of the game is to play out all your cards ahead of the others. In order to score, player must always have one card to discard. It is the usual policy to meld Jokers with pairs for the reason that it can only be claimed by another player who has both of the missing suit cards with which the Joker was melded. It is a bad policy to meld one playing card to the Joker for then it can be easily redeemed by another player. It is even worse policy to place the Joker in a flush sequence, for then it can be redeemed by the one card it is melded for. When Jokers are thus exchanged from the table, they must immediately be played by the retriever. In most games, additional game rule is that the Joker cannot be placed in a sequence-play nor can a one card lay-off be made to a melded Joker until one player at least holds either 3 cards or 1 card, as this is the dangerous scoring out possibility. The 3 or 1 card holder must also announce this status aloud to the other players.

Scoring is by a 10 point multiple. 5 points or less is not counted, but 6 points is counted for 10. Each game consists of 7 deals to complete a winning score. The lowest score wins and is attained by the deduction of 20 points from the winning player's score sheet (a minus 20) while the unplayed points in the other three players' cards are added to their scores. If a player has all 14 cards unplayed, he is charged 100 points. There is a deduction of 40 points from the score when Hand Rummy is made (an all 14 card layout in the first meld). The other players are charged double the count of cards still being held; while the non-melder is charged 200 points. Besides receiving the specified deductions, each winning hand gets a "star". If four stars are earned by any player during the 7 deals, an additional 100 points are deducted for his score. This is in addition to the 20 or 40 points he is entitled to depending on whether it was a gradual melding out or a hand rummy out.

Sample Score Card

Mary
Tom
Dick
Alice
-20* 40 0 100 1st Deal

Mary melded out -- got -20
Tom held 36 points -- got 40
Dick held 5 points -- got 0
Alice didn't meld -- got 100

80 20* 50 120 2nd Deal

Mary had full hand
Tom won
Dick held 53 points
Alice held 25 points

40* 140 250 170 3rd Deal

Mary made hand rummy

140 170 230* 270 4th Deal

Dick won deal, no hand rummy

120* 200 240 320 5th Deal

Mary made 3rd star, no hand rummy

160 180* 250 420 6th Deal

Tom won this deal, no hand rummy

40* 200 280 620 7th Deal

Last deal. Mary made 4th star, received 100 bonus deduction plus 20 regular points for winning the round.