Rules for Shanghai Rummy Card Game

By Sean Russell
Shanghai Rummy is a draw and discard game.

Shanghai Rummy (also called Contract Rummy, May I? or Shanghai Rum) is part of the larger “draw and discard” game family that includes Canasta, Kaluki and all other forms of Rummy. Shanghai Rummy, like most rummy games, originated in China and has since become one of the most common styles of playing rummy. Like most card games, several distinct rules must be observed.

Dealing the Cards

The dealer is chosen randomly for the first deal, but then the deal rotates clockwise as games progress. Players receive 10 cards each for the first three rounds and 12 cards each for the last four rounds. Of the remaining cards after the first deal, the top card is placed face up to start the discard pile.

The Contract

Shanghai Rummy is a contract game in which each round has a different and more difficult contract to fulfill. The player who can manage to fulfill the largest number of contracts meld more cards into packs and ultimately wins the game. The contract for round one is two groups of three (i.e. six cards,) then one group of three and a sequence of four cards, then two sequences of four cards, then three groups of nine cards, then two groups of three and one sequence of four cards, then one group of three and two sequences of four cards, then three sequences of four cards.

What to Do with the Draw

At the player’s turn, he must either draw a card from the deck (or stockpile) or take the top card from the discard pile (if he can use it.) The player taking from the deck must give all other players an opportunity to take the top discard from the pile. At the end of your turn, a card must be placed in the discard pile.

Melding

Players place packs (grouped according to contract) face up at the end of each round. If a player enhances his hand with cards received in later rounds, he can “meld” them into the pack at the end of the next turn.

The Lay Off

Players are also able to lay off cards that relate other players’ packs or his own packs from previous turns. For example, a 6 card can be laid off from a sequence of four cards 2 through 5.

The Goal

The object of the game is to run out of cards. Each card in the hand is a point and the player with the fewest points wins.

About the Author

Sean Russell has been writing since 1999 and has contributed to several magazines, including "Spin" and "Art Nouveau." When not writing, Sean helps maintain community gardens in Silver Lake and Echo Park, California. Russell also worked extensively on the restoration and rejuvenation of public parks in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi after damage from 2004-2005 hurricanes.