Robber Rummy

Invented by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: Rummy games are entertaining but placid. In contrast, Robber Rummy becomes boisterous as players steal each other's scoring cards.

Players: For 2 to 5 playing individually. Also for 4 players paired into two partnerships.

Equipment: Two 52-card packs (with identical backs). A set of coloured poker chips or similar markers, with a different colour for each player or partnership.

Objective: Score the most points in a single deal. Win Game by being first to 400 points across deals.

Deal: Deal 13 cards to each player. Turn one card face up for the start of the discard pile. Place remaining cards in a face down pile to compose the draw pile.

Play: In his turn, a player:

  1. Either draws one card from the draw stock ---OR--- takes the entire discard pile into his hand. If the player chooses to take up the discard pile, he must first take the topmost card only and meld it to the table. Only after melding it does he take the rest of the discard pile into his hand (which he is required to do).
  2. The player optionally makes any melds he wishes. The player may also steal meld(s) from his opponent by adding one or more cards to each he steals.
  3. The player discards one card face up onto the top of the discard pile. If he took up the discard pile into his hand in his turn, this single card forms the start of a new discard pile.

Melds: A set of matched cards is called a meld. The two kinds of melds are:

Set meld
3 or more cards of the same rank 4-Hearts,
Sequence meld
3 or more cards of one suit in sequence 6-Hearts,
8-Hearts, 9-Hearts

All cards in melds must be placed on the table such that they are fully visible to all parties at all times.

Since two decks are used, it is possible to have a single set meld of up to 8 cards.

For sequence melds, cards rank, from low to high: A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A. This is also the maximum length sequence meld. Aces may be played high or low.

Stealing Melds: To declare a meld, a player places it face up in front of him on the table. To denote his ownership, he places a poker chip of his own colour on top. The player scores points for this meld only if he still owns it when the hand ends.

In his turn, a player may steal any of his opponent's melds by adding one or more extra card(s) to that meld, then marking it with his own colour poker chip.

Example: Player A declares the meld 3-Hearts + 3-Spades + 3-Clubs by placing it face up before him on the table along with his own colour poker chip. In his turn, Player B adds another 3-Hearts to the meld and steals it. He replaces the original owner's poker chip with his own.

Example: Player A lays down a Spades sequence of 9-10-J-Q. In his turn, Player B steals the meld by adding the King and Ace of Spades to it. He denotes his ownership by changing the identifying poker chips.

Melds can only be added to and/or stolen. They may not be merged together or split apart. 

The Discard Pile: The discard pile starts as a single face up card placed on the table after the initial deal of cards to the players. At the end of each player's turn, he is required to discard one card face up onto the top of the discard pile. The cards must be stacked and "squared up" such that only the top card is visible at any one time. Players may not peek underneath the top card of the discard pile.

In his turn, instead of drawing a single card from the drawing stock, a player may take the entire discard pile into his hand. To do this, he is required to immediately meld the top card of the discard pile to the table. The player cannot use cards from the discard pile below the top card when melding the top card.

The player then takes the entire discard pile into his hand and makes any melds he wishes. Any cards he does not meld he keeps in his hand. When he discards, his single face up discard starts a new discard pile.

Hand End: A hand ends when either:
  1. One player melds his entire hand and goes out (goes rummy). A player may rummy either with or without a final discard.
  2. The last card is drawn from stock. In this case, the player who drew the last card finishes his turn, then the hand immediately ends. No other players may make any plays.

Scoring: Scoring is performed after the hand ends. Players score points for all cards in melds they own at the end of play. Cards still in players' hands score negative points against the players holding them. There is no "going out" bonus for rummying.

For set melds, each player scores for his melded cards as per the scoring chart below. For sequence melds, melded cards are worth double those in the chart:

Ace (played high or in a set of aces)
King, Queen, Jack, 10
9 down to 2
Ace (played low)

Example: A meld on the table of 4-Hearts, 4-Spades, and 4-Clubs is worth 5 + 5 + 5 points, or +15 points total.

Example: A sequence meld on the table of 9-10-J-Q-K-A is worth:  5 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 15 times 2, or +120 points total.

For players still holding cards in hand when the hand ends, negative points for those cards are scored as per the above table. Penalty card values are never doubled. Aces in hand are always valued as high.

Example: A player has the following cards in hand when play ends: 2, 3, 4, 5, Jack, Ace. The penalty assessed against his score for the hand is -5 + -5 + -5 + -5 + -10 + -15 = -45 points total. These negative points are applied against any positive points the player scores for melds on the table for which he is credited.

Example: At hand end, a player owns a single table meld having cards 9-10-J in Hearts. In his hand he still holds the 2-Diamonds, A-Spades, and Q-K-A in Clubs. The player scores 5 + 10 + 10 times 2 or +50 points for his table meld. For those cards still in hand he scores -5 + -15 + -10 + -10 + -15 or -55 points. The player's final score for the hand is 50 + -55 = -5 points.

Advanced Rules: Should a player either inspect or take up the discard pile without first properly melding its top card, he has reneged. He immediately drops out of play for the hand and loses the hand with an assigned score of -100 points.

Aces may be played either high or low, but not "around the corner" (eg, K-A-2).

Players must tell opponents how many cards they hold in hand upon request.

Four Player Partnership Game: Partners use one colour of chips and total their points for each hand. If a player goes out (rummies), the card points still in his partner's hand count against the partnership.

Two Player Game: This is one of the few rummies that plays very well for two players, though the dynamics shift. Optional Rule: Best 4 of 7 Games wins the Sitting.

Tips for Play: Holding melds in your hand as long as possible before playing them to the table reduces the chances your opponents can steal them. You also lull opponents into complacency and gain greater victory if you put down a lot of cards to rummy while they still hold many cards in hand. However, retaining melds in hand increases your own penalty should an opponent surprise you and suddenly rummy.

Cards played to sequence melds are worth double those used in set melds. Always check whether sequence melds are possible versus the cards already melded and your assessment of opposing hands. And play Aces high.

Play a large meld as two smaller melds instead. Example: Play Hearts 3-4-5-6-7-8 as the two melds Hearts 3-4-5 and Hearts 6-7-8. This scores the same point total and makes it harder to steal those points, since two melds are harder to steal than one. (Players are not allowed to reform or combine melds on the table.)

Keep a steal back card in your hand. A steal back card allows you to easily steal back one of your melds an opponent steals from you. Example: You play Hearts 3-4-5 to the table, but keep in hand your 2-Hearts. Should your opponent steal this meld with a 6-Hearts, you can then steal it back again by playing your 2-Hearts. Or maybe you kept the 7-Hearts in hand in case the opponent plays the 6-Hearts. Keep in mind that, since you are playing with two full packs, there are two of each card in the game. Unless you know its location, some one else might hold the same steal back card as you.

A meld is locked when it becomes impossible to steal. For example, a set meld of 8-of-a-kind cannot be stolen, since there are only 8 of each card rank in play. A sequence meld becomes locked if the cards required to extend it have already been played to the table in other melds. If you can lock a meld under your control you've guaranteed you'll score for it at hand end.

Carefully consider when to take up the discard pile. Taking the pile often confers a huge melding advantage, with the scoring potential increasing proportional to the size of the pile. But beware! You'll suffer big penalties if an opponent suddenly rummies while you still hold those cards in hand. If you're close to rummying, consider seeding the pile with an alluring card to tempt your opponent to take it up just before you rummy. Judge how many melds he'll immediately steal with the discards versus the penalty he'll score for cards still in hand when you rummy.

Note that rummying does not guarantee victory. Mentally total points before going out to ensure you'll win the hand if you do.

License: Feel free to print, copy, and distribute these rules, so long as you retain this paragraph. Invented by Howard Fosdick © 2023, distributed under Creative Commons License BY-ND.      HOME