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Shanghai Rummy is a popular version of the contract rummy game. The basic rules for Shanghai Rummy and contract rummy are similar despite the distinctive variations that prevail between the games. The standing differences among the two games are with the number of deals played, the cards dealt and the limit to the number of buys included in a particular deal.

Shanghai rummy is played for a series of 10 deals and for each deal there is a combination of melds to be formed which is generally referred to as a contract. The 10 deals have 10 different contracts to be met and these can be seen in the later sections.


  Shanghai Rummy Rules


Number Of Players & Decks

For the play with 2 through 4 players, two decks of 52 cards and a joker (a total 105 cards) are used and for 5 or more players, three decks of 52 cards and 2 jokers (a total 158 cards) engage the play.


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Contract rummy Variations

  Contract Rummy  
  Shanghai Rummy  
  Liverpool Rummy  
  Progressive Rummy  
  Continental Rummy  
  Russian Rummy  

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To determine the dealer, a random player shuffles and cuts the deck and each player draws a card from the deck. The player drawing card of lowest rank value is the dealer. In the draw if any player draws an ace card, it has to be considered low. As in shanghai rummy the ace card can have both low and high rank values (this is elaborated in the sections following). Now the dealer deals the cards to every player starting from his left and moving clockwise. As said earlier there are 10 deals played in the game and every deal has the players dealt with 11 cards each.

The cards remained after dealing are turned face down as a pile calling it the stock. A card is turned face up and placed beside the stock, this card works as an upcard and also as a card starting the discard pile.

In the first deal the dealer deals 7 cards to each player and in deals 2 through 4 the players are dealt 10 cards each. For 5 and 6 deals the players are dealt with 12 cards and finally for the 7th deal 14 cards are dealt.

Once the dealing is done, the remaining cards are turned face down and made the stock pile. A card from the stock is turned face up and put beside the stock to intend the discard pile.


The main object of the game is to build the contract in each of the deals and play the remaining cards if any are left in the hand, to go out to finish the game. The player who does this before any one else do is the winner. With each deal the contract changes but the cards dealt are the same, this makes the game tricky on its part and challenging for the player. The player holding the least cumulative score after all the 10 deals are played is the winner of the game.

There are two types of combinations of cards that can be formed; they are sets (or groups) and sequences (or runs).

  • A set is a combination of three or more cards of the same rank, irrespective of the suit. For example: .

  • Sequence or run is a combination of four or more consecutive cards of the same suit. For example: .

An Ace card in the game can assume high or low ranks, but not both at the same time. Hence the melds with cards and are considered valid sequences, but a meld do not.

As we have known earlier that each deal has a specific contract to be met with, the contracts can be seen in the following table:

Deal Number Contract

Two Sets of 3


One Set of 3 and One Sequence of 4

3 Two Sequences of 4
4 Three Sets of 3
5 One Set of 3 and One Sequence of 7
6 Two Sets of 3 and One Sequence of 5
7 Three Sequences of 4
8 One Set of 3 and One Sequence of 10
9 Three Sets of 3 and One Sequence of 5
10 Three Sequences of 5


In the table above we can see the deals 1 through 10 with their corresponding contracts. Consider deal#1 where the contract is to form two sets of 3, here the player is intended to build two sets of 3 cards each and lay off the contract on the table. The remaining cards in the hand are to be laid off on to the existing melds on the table.

In the deal#4 two sequences of 4 cards is to be formed, in such a case a meld does not make a valid contract as it is continuous, but a meld with cards makes a valid contract because of the break between the two sequences.





There are certain essential elements involving in the single turn of the play, they are


Once the dealing is completed, the player to the left of the dealer picks a card; he may draw this card from the stock pile or pick the upcard on the table. The player who has started the play ends his turn by discarding a card. Now the play moves in the clockwise direction and thus the turn to pick the card goes to the ones on the left of the current player.

Similarly the play continues until there is a break in the chain where a player wants to buy a card or a player finishes the game.


A “Buy” is a process arising when a player claims a discard even if it is not his turn to play. A player buying the discard is made to accept an additional card from the stock pile which is called as a “penalty card”. The player cannot immediately play these cards as this is not his legitimate turn. This player who has bought has to pick a card again on his turn. There may arise a situation where two or more players want to buy, then the player whose turn is yet to come has the priority over the discard. Once the player is done with buying, the play again shifts to the player where the play has stopped. This player from which the play resumes is not allowed to pick the card from the discard pile, as he already refused this discard and has to go for the stock pile.

Unlike other versions of contract rummy game, there is limitation fixed on the number of buys for a particular deal, thus

  • In deals 1 through 8, each player is allowed 3 buys per hand and

  • In deals 9 and 10, each player is allowed 4 buys per hand.


Melding is done by the players on their respective turns on laying off the right combinations of cards for the contracts. Thus the contracts are fulfilled and the players finish the game on laying off the remaining cards on to the existing melds.

Laying Off 

Laying off the cards can be done only after having laid the contract on the table. The laying of contracts and the remained cards in hand can not be done on the same turn. It is on the subsequent turn that the cards can be laid off on to the melds on the table.

Joker Substitution

Jokers are the wild cards used to replace the natural cards in a meld. A joker in a meld laid on the table can be picked by any of the players on a turn and can be replaced by the natural cards. These jokers can be utilized for the melds in the hand or on the table. For using the jokers for the melds laid there are certain conditions to be kept in mind as there is a limit attributed to the number of jokers that can be used in a set or a sequence.

They are discussed below,

  • For a set of 3 cards or a sequence of 4 cards, only 1 joker can be used

  • For a sequence of 5 cards, 2 jokers can be used

  • For a sequence of 7 cards, 3 jokers can be used

  • For a sequence of 10 cards, 4 jokers can be used


A player in the game ends his turn on discarding a card which he needs the least. The card to discard,  is placed face up on the discard pile. As the player discards the turn to play moves to his left and the game continues.

Going out

Once the player is done with forming the contracts and laying off the cards, he can go out to finish the hand.

When To Shuffle Discard Pile

If the stock pile finishes before the completion of the game, the discard pile forms the new stock pile. The original dealer of the hand shuffles the discard pile and places it as the new stock pile.




The cards in Shanghai rummy are ranked from high to low as K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A.

The scores calculated are according to the cards remained in the hand of the players at the end of a deal. The winner of the game is the player who finishes with the least cumulative score after all the 10 deals are played. The score values attributed for the cards can be known from the table below:


Jokers Aces Faces Number Cards
Value 15 points 15 points 10 points 5 points
Example 1 - 15 points 10 points 5 points
Example 2 - 15 points 10 points 5 points


We can notice from the table, the points counted for the number cards as 5 points unlike other contract games where the score is counted with the pip value.

In shanghai rummy there exists a condition called "go out blind", which means a player discarding all the cards in a single play of the deal. In such a situation the player earns a bonus of 25 points and if he does this without any joker in the hand then he earns a bonus of 50 points. One thing to consider here is the bonus earned is subtracted from the points earned, as in this game standing with the least score gives a win.


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