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Kalooki is a card game with the ancestry rooted back to Israel. It is exceptionally famous amongst the Jewish communities where they habitually spell the game as kaloochi. Kalooki is also named as Jamaican Rummy due to the reverence the people of Jamaica hold for the game. It is well known in Greece too.

There are significantly distinct versions of the game prevailing around with the prominent ones being European, North American and the South African versions. The games inherit the names from the regions they are played. Kalooki is almost similar in play to Straight Rummy but for some changes in rules. The rules presented here are for the European version of the game and the North American version mostly has the same rules, the changes the later has with the former are noted whenever necessary.

The main rule with which both the versions vary is the cards dealt to the players. In a two player game 13 cards are dealt in the European variant and it is 15 cards in the North American variant.

Components of the play

The components of the play constitute three different sections, such as

Initiating the play

Playing the cards

Winning the round and scoring

Initiating The Play

In European Kalooki a pair of decks with 52 cards and a joker is used for the play thus handling a total of 106 cards. Whereas in North American Kalooki a pair of decks with 52 cards and two jokers is used thus working with a total of 108 cards. Kalooki can be played by anywhere between 2 to 5 persons.


European Kalooki

North American Kalooki 
Number Of Players

2 to 5 Players

2 to 6 Players
Numbers Of Decks

2 Decks (104 cards and 2 Jokers)

2 Decks (104 cards and 4 Jokers)


To choose the dealer and to determine the seats to be assumed by the players a small procedure is employed in the game. The cards Ace, 2,3,4,5 are taken and shuffled, now each player is made to draw a card. The player holding the Ace card is the dealer and this player is free to assume the seat he wishes. The remaining players holding the cards 2 through 5 assume the seats starting from the dealers left and moving counter clockwise. An example as how the players assume the seats can be seen in the figure below, player 'P5' is considered as dealer.

The chosen dealer now shuffles the cards and leaves the cards to be cut by the player on his right. Once the player cuts the deck the dealer lifts these cards and deals 13 cards to each player. In the North American kalooki the cards dealt to the players as the players rise in the game can be known from the table below:  


European Kalooki

North American Kalooki 
Number Of Players

2 to 6

2 to 4 5 6
Numbers Of Cards Dealt 13 15 13 11


The main objective of the player in kalooki is to play all the cards in the hand on melding and later go out to win the hand. Winning the game in this way is reffered as "Calling Up" in kalooki. Thus the player standing with the least score after a series of deals are played is the winner. After a player goes out in a deal the other players sum up the scores of the cards remained in their hand and these scores are counted as penalty points for the players. In playing a chain of deals the player who reaches a score of 150 points is eliminated from the play. Thus the player persisting till the end of the game and the one standing with the least score wins the money from the pool.

The players agree upon a stake for each of the constituents involving the play, before starting the game. The different stakes that are agreed upon can be seen in the scoring section.

Playing The Cards

The main course of play involve two important moves




The player on the dealers left starts the play on drawing a card from either the stock or discard pile. In the first round of the play the players can draw the card from any of the two piles, but once the first turn of the players comes to an end they are not allowed to pick the card from the discard pile until they meet an initial meld requirement of 40 points. But in a move to meet the initial meld count the player can pick a card from the discard pile.

In the case of North American kalooki the initial meld requirement is 51 points and here in this version the cards laid onto the existing melds are also accounted under the initial meld count if the player has formed at least one meld of his own. But this is not a valid operation in European kalooki.


Melding is forming the combinations out of the cards in the round. The two valid combinations that can be formed are Sets and Sequences.

  • A set (or a group) is a mixture of 3 or 4 cards of the same rank and different suits.
    For Example : and .

  • A sequence (or a run) is a combination of 3 or more successive cards of the same suit
    For Example : and 

The run with six or more cards as in the above example can be laid on the table as a single run or as two or more runs. It is preferably laid in as a single run since this could bar a player from expanding on these cards.

These melded cards are placed face up on the table. There is no obligation on the part of the player to place the melds but it is desirable to place them as these cards can count against the player if any other player goes out.

The Ace cards carry a high rank value in the game and hence the meld cannot be formed. Similarly a meld is also invalid as the Aces invariably bear a higher rank. Thus only a meld like is valid.

The Initial Meld:

The players to draw a card from the discard pile in the later turns of the play are bound to meet an initial meld requirement. In European kalooki the meld requirement is 40 points whereas in North American version it is 51 points. This meld requirement is the count got on summing up the card values of the first meld that is to be laid on the table. For example, a meld with cards J Q K and A can account for the initial meld as the total point value of these cards comes up as 41 that is higher than 40 points.


Joker is a wild card and can be worked out to replace any card in a meld, let it be a Set or a Sequence. The card the joker is standing for has to be revealed when a player is willing to form a run with the joker, as this cannot be changed later by any player. This revelation is also demanded when a meld like the one following
is built by a player. The player has to specify whether the formed meld is a Set or a Run.

In the game the Jokers can be reused or precisely moved among the melds. On a turn when a player lifts a card (stock pile/discard pile) which a joker has stood in till then, the player can replace the joker with the card and the picked joker has to be laid on to a different meld immediately. Hence a joker can never be taken in to the hand. The player has to be mindful of the initial meld requirement before going for replacing a Joker, as a player is allowed to switch a joker only on meeting the initial meld requirement.

Consider a meld on the table similar to , now if a player holds in the hand, he can lift the joker with the cards. But if he has just a single and wants to pick the joker, it cannot happen as adding would make it a closed set . In another case with the meld on the table, a player can add two cards and to just lift a single joker.

Laying Off:

Laying off is the process of adding the cards to the existing melds by a player on his turn and this is called “Building” in Kalooki. Laying off is done in European kalooki only on reaching an initial meld requirement.

If a meld of three 5’s is on the table, a player on his turn can add the fourth 5 on to the meld and he should be careful enough to see that the set of 5’s has all the cards of different suits.

An existing meld of a sequence can be built on either ends, but the only matter of concern is that no side can be added with more than 2 cards. Consider a meld with the cards and thus a player can add and or , and but the cards .

Stockpile Finishes:

If the stock pile is drained out of cards the discard pile is lifted leaving its top card and upon shuffling is placed as the new stock pile. The top card left works as the upcard for the new discard pile. If the stock pile runs out of cards for the second time in a deal, such a deal is ceased and no scores are counted for the players and a new deal is started with the same dealer.

Winning The Round And Scoring

The player who plays all the cards on melding and laying off and goes out discarding his last card is the winner of the game. The winning move is termed valid only with a discard and going out playing to the last card is an illegal move.

Once a player goes out no player can meld or lay off the cards and entire players have to sum up the card values remained in their hands. These card values are termed as penalty points. This score of the hand is added to their respective cumulative scores. As said earlier a player arising with a score of 150 points is eliminated from the play. This player can return to the play by paying the pool certain stake that is decided upon by the players.

In the game a ‘win’ where all the 13 cards of the hand are meld on a single turn is called as “Kalooki”. Winning on a “Kalooki” would fetch the player a greater bonus than going out on “calling up”. In North American kalooki there is no bonus accounted for going “Kalooki”. After discarding on each turn a player has to reveal the number of cards he is holding, slipping this would bar a player from going out on his next turn.


The point values of the cards differ with the versions and this can be seen in the table below :

Card Type Jokers Aces Faces(J,Q,K) Others
European Kalooki 15 points 11 points 10 Pip Value
North American Kalooki 25 points 15 points 10 Pip Value

The Jokers in a meld assume the card values they are standing in. The joker values given in the table above are carried by them when are in the hands of the players. A joker remained in the hand when any other player goes out, counts against the player.


The different stakes for the various constituents of the play can be seen in the table below:


Paid To Whom Suggested
Call up Amount paid to the winner of each hand (deal )by the other players 1 Unit
Kalooki Amount paid to a winner who goes out by placing all 13 cards down at once 2 Units
Initial Stake Amount paid to the pool by all players during the start of the game 5 Units
Buy In Stake Amount paid to the pool to return to the game by a player who exceeds target score 5 Units

The stake is paid to the pool by all the players at the start of the play. The winner of the hand gets paid by the remaining players for going out on “Calling up” or “Kalooki”. The eliminated player doesn’t pay any stake.

The units suggested in the above table are in multiples and are to be understood as if a call up pays 1 unit, it is like 10 cents and a kalooki paying 2 units is like 20 cents. In the similar way the Initial stake and Buy In stake each would be 50 cents worth.

Buying In:

The eliminated player can return to the pool on paying a stake and this is generally referred as Buying In. Once a player Buys In, his score is made equal to the highest score existing in the play at that point of time. This Buying In cannot happen in North American version of kalooki. There are two important rules to consider here:

  • During a game, the player can only Buy In twice.

  • Buying In can be done only if there are at least two players under 150 points.

The money of the pool goes to the player who stays in the game till the end. All the scores are drafted on a score sheet and the payments are settled at the end of the game.

Score Sheet

Penalty Score   Players Payment
Round P1 P2 P3 P4 Pool P1 P2 P3 P4
0         20        
1 70 30 Cal 60   -1 -1 3 -1
2 Cal 90 45 48   2 -2 2 -2
3 120 145 Kal 62   0 -4 8 -4











5 151 200 170 162   -2 -6 10 -2

Add Pool to Winner

The Winner Total 35  
  • In the Round 1, player P3 wins the hand on calling up and each player pays him 1 unit.

  • In the Round 3, player P3 wins on going “Kalooki” and each player pays him 2 units.

  • In the Round 4, player P2 is eliminated as he crossed 150 points; he returned again on paying 5 units to the pool.

  • In Round 5 as three of the players have a score over 150 the game ends making the Player P3 winner of game and he takes the pool.


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