How to Play Kentucky Rummy

By Michele M. Howard
The key to playing Kentucky rummy is concentration.

Kentucky rummy is a variation of gin rummy, contract rummy, Liverpool rummy and "May I?" rummy. The game is best played with four people; however, as many as six can play. Several card decks are used, depending on the number of players. To win, you must understand the rules, know the strategic subtleties of the game and concentrate.

Shuffle all the card decks together. Use two decks of cards, including jokers, for three to five players and three decks for six players. Deal 11 cards to each player, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Place the remaining cards face down in the middle of the table. With each hand, players try to make the required sets or runs with the cards. A set is three cards with the same value, such as three kings or three aces. A run consists of a sequential order of cards with the same suit. For example, a run of four might be the 10, jack, queen and king of spades.

In each game, you will play a sequence of 10 hands. Each hand has a different requirement. The first hand requires two sets of three cards with no wild cards. Hand No. 2 requires one set of three cards and one run of four cards without using wild cards. The third hand requires two runs with four cards; one wild card is allowed in each. Hand No. 4 has three sets of three cards with no wilds. The fifth hand requires two sets of three and one run of five cards; two wild cards are allowed. Hand No. 6 has one set of three and one run of seven cards; one wild card is permitted. Hand No. 7 requires three runs of four cards; one wild in each run is allowed. Hand eight has one set of three and one run of 10 cards; three wilds are allowed. For the next hand you need two sets of three and one run of five cards; two wild cards are permitted. The last hand requires three runs of five cards with two wild cards allowed in each. Play each hand until one player is left with no cards in his hand or until there are no more cards left in the face-down deck.

The player to the left of the dealer starts by picking up the top card from the face-down deck.

Combine the drawn card with others in your hand to make the necessary sets and/or runs for each hand. When you have all the required cards, lay them face up in front of you—this is referred to as your meld—and then discard a card onto a separate face-up discard pile. You can only do this when it is your turn. Continue with the next player; he has the option to take your discarded card or draw one from the face-down pile.

Play cards onto your own meld or another player's meld when it is your turn. For example, if you have drawn a 10 of clubs and you have already laid down a set of three 10s, you can add this card to your meld or, if another player has a run consisting of a jack, king, queen and ace of clubs, you can choose to add this card to that player's run. Lay it down in front of you and declare where it goes.

Say "May I?" if you want another player's discarded card; do this before it is the next player's turn. The player whose turn it is has the choice of taking the discarded card or allowing you to have it. If you are allowed to take it, you must also draw a card from the face-down deck as a penalty, and you are not allowed to discard. You are only allowed three "May I?" calls per hand.

Yell "Kentucky" when you notice that a discarded card could have been played onto a player's meld. Place the card in front of you, adding it to your meld. You cannot call "Kentucky" on your own discarded card.

When the hand is over, add up your points. Add up the cards in your meld and any that remain in your hand. Wild cards are worth 50 points, aces are worth 20, 10 through king are worth 10 and all other cards are five points. Subtract the total points of your hand from your meld. Add the points to your previous played points. For example, if your meld adds up to 60 points and the cards in your hand total 20 points, the total for the hand is 40 points. If you had 100 points from previously played hands, your new point total is 140. When all 10 hands have been played and all the points have been tallied, the person with the highest point total wins.