Rummy Games: A Comparison

Written by Howard Fosdick ©

All rummy games have certain elements in common. Most obvious is the procedure each player follows during his or her turn. The process is simple: draw, meld, and discard.

Beyond this definitional aspect, it's interesting to compare other rummy features. These distinguish one rummy from another and give each its particular appeal and "feel."


Probably the biggest distinction is between those games where the goal is solely to go out, or "rummy," versus those games that emphasise scoring melds to the table.

Gin is the prototypical example of a going out rummy, where melds strictly occur within the players' hands. Skarney Gin is an intriguing variation we present on this website.

In contrast, in "scoring rummies" the goal is to score the most points during the hand through table melds. Prominent games of this category include 500 Rummy, Fortune Rummy, and Skarney.

A very few rummies allow players to win either by scoring through table melds --or-- by rummying. Players must determine which strategy best fits their hand and follow it to successful completion. Our own invention, Wildcat Rummy, explores this tension. Such rummies require a delicate balance of elements within the game so that they play well. While there are few rummies in this category, they provide some of the most challenging and intriguing games.

Another area of difference among rummies: the cards they employ. Some rummies are single-deck, while others use two card packs. A few add Jokers to the mix. Some of these rummies use Jokers and/or 2's as wild cards. Others have no wild cards at all.

The rules surrounding discards also vary. Some rummies splay the discard deck, so all cards are visible at all times. 500 Rummy is of this kind.

My new games Robber Rummy and Crib Rummy square the discard pile and forbid inspecting the cards hidden by the top card (the "up card"). Players are well advised to remember which cards reside in the discard deck.

A few rummies forgo a discard deck altogether, in favour of other discard mechanisms. Most notable among these are those invented by John Scarne, such as Skarney Gin and Skarney. In these two games, players directly offer a discard to an opponent when they conclude their turn.

As far as taking up the discard pile goes, some rummies only allow players to draw the single up card. Colonel is one example. Others require that players take up all the discards. 500 Rummy lets players select a designated card and all those above it, while Crib Rummy is unusual in that it specifies players take all the discards in the pile up to a maximum of 7.

You can find the rules to all the rummy games I invented here and all those that are traditional rummies here.

The chart below summarizes key features that distinguish these different rummies from one another:

Rummy Comparison Chart

Game: Decks: Cards Dealt /
Discard Deck: Wild Cards Maximum
Cards /
Play on
Play Aces As: Rummy
to Win:
Robber Rummy   2   13 squared none not limited   yes! High or Low   0  400
Wildcat Rummy   2 +
  11 squared 2 to 4 jokers   4    no High  50  500
 2 + 2
  11 squared 2 jokers 4 for sets, any number seqs.    yes Low  0  121
Fortune Rummy   2   11 squared  2’s 4 for sets, any number seqs.    no High or Low   0  500
  2   13 squared  2’s 4 for sets, any number seqs.    no High or Low 100 1000
Skarney  2 + 4
  11 none  2’s, jokers not limited    no High or Low varies varies
500 Rummy   1    7 splayed none not limited   yes High or Low   0  500
Persian Rummy  1 + 4
   7 splayed none not limited   yes High or Low   0  500
Iceberg  1 or 2    7 none none not limited   yes n/a   0 5000
Colonel   1   10 squared none 4 for sets, any number seqs.   yes High   0  n/a
Gin Rummy
  1   10 squared none 4 for sets, any number seqs.   no Low   20  100
  1   10 none none not limited   no High or Low   20  200

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