How to Play Russian Rummy

By Marc Wright
In Russian rummy, cards must be sorted into books and straights.

Russian rummy is a form of contract rummy. The object of the game is to arrange your cards into "books" or "straights." A book is three of a kind, such as three kings. A straight is four cards of the same suit in numerical order. One deck of cards, including jokers, should be used for every two players taking part. If there is an odd number of players, the number of decks should be rounded up. The scoring system dictates that jokers are worth 25 points, aces 15 points, face cards and 10s are 10 points and all other cards 5 points. The game is played over five hands, and each hand ends when one player discards all of his cards. The scores from the five hands are totaled for each player. The winner is the player with the lowest score.

Shuffle the decks of cards together and deal 13 cards to each player. The remaining cards should be placed in the middle of the table. This becomes the "draw pile." Turn over the top card of the draw pile and place it face up next to the draw pile. This becomes the "discard pile."

Begin the game by having the player to the dealer's left pick up a card from either the draw pile or the discard pile. If another player wants the card at the top of the discard pile, they can try to claim it, but it is up to the player who is drawing to decide whether he wants the card. If he decides he doesn't want the card, the player that claimed that card may pick it up, but also must pick up a card from the draw pile as a penalty. Play continues in a clockwise motion round the table. Each player must discard a card every time he picks one up (unless he claims a discard out of turn).

Lay down cards once the compulsory contract for that hand is completed--you must have two books during the first hand, a straight in the second hand, two books and a straight in the third hand, three books in the fourth hand, and two straights and a book in the fifth hand. This means that a player cannot lay anything on the table until he has the correct number of books or straights. Once a player has laid these initial cards, he cannot lay another straight or any other books; he can play only on the cards placed on the table by himself or other players.

Play jokers as wild cards. This means that jokers can be used to replace other cards in a book or straight. Once a joker has been laid, other players are able to replace it with a card of their own, as long as it corresponds with the book or straight.

End each hand once a player has laid all of her cards into books or straights. Other players count the points on the cards they are still holding. The cards that you have laid into books and straights count for nothing.

Repeat steps 1 to 6 for four more hands.

About the Author

Marc Wright has been writing professionally since 2004. He has been published in the literary magazine "Things," as well as the student newspaper "The Demon" as a music critic. In 2009 Wright graduated from De Montfort University of Leicester with a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and English.