Contract Rummy

Contract Rummy is the general name given for a whole class of Rummy games, all sharing two central features:

  • A specific number of deals comprise a game.
  • In each deal a contract - a particular, predetermined pattern of melds - must be met in order to lay down any cards.

What is the history of Contract Rummy? David Parlett reports that all Contract Rummy games (of which there are numerous variations under a variety of names) date "from the Contract Bridge boom of the 1930's". Richard Fry notes that the first version was "probably the game developed by Ruth Armson, called Zioncheck". Albert Morehead stated in 1950 that Contract Rummy "is one of the most popular games played by women's clubs and card-playing groups that meet regularly."

The rules detailed below are representative of all Contract Rummy games, though there are numerous regional and local variations even among games with the same name. Some of the particular variations are:

Other names for Contract Rummy include "Combination Rummy", "Deuces Wild Rummy", "Hollywood Rummy", "Joker Rummy", "Shanghai Rummy", and "Zioncheck".

Contract Rummy Rules

Number of Players: 3 to 8; each plays for himself (no partnerships).

The Deck: For 3 or 4 players, use two decks of 52 cards each, plus one joker, for a total of 105 cards. For more than 5 players, use three decks of 52 cards each, plus two jokers, for a total of 158 cards. The cards are ranked (hi) K-Q-J-7-6-5-4-3-2 (lo). An ace may be ranked either high or low. Jokers are wild.

Starting a Game: To determine who deals first, the deck is shuffled and cut, and each player draws a card. The player drawing the lowest card deals first. Thereafter, the deal passes from player to player to the left.

Dealing: In deals 1 through 4, ten cards are dealt to each player; in deals 5 through 7, each player receives twelve cards. Cards are dealt clockwise, starting with the player at the dealer's left. After dealing, one card is turned as the upcard, and the remainder of the deck is turned face-down to form the stock.

Objective: A game consists of seven deals. In each deal, the objective is to complete a certain meld, called a "contract", which increases in difficulty as the game proceeds. The player who lays off all their cards first wins the hand. The player with the lowest cumulative score after seven deals wins the game.

Play: Each players turn consists of a draw, possible melding or laying off, and a discard. Each player's turn must end with a discard, which is placed face-up on the discard pile.

Melds: Each meld consists of either a set, consisting of three or more cards of the same value, or a sequence, consisting of four or more cards of the same rank and consecutive value. An ace may rank either high (A-K-Q) or low (3-2-A), but sequences may not extend "round the corner" (K-A-2). Jokers are wild, and can stand in for any card.

When two or more sequences are required, they must be in different suits, or if in different suits, not in consecutive order (i.e. they must be separated by at least one card).

Contracts: Each deal has a different contract, which consists of some combination of sets and sequences:

Deal NumberCards DealtContract
110Two Sets
210One Set and One Sequence
310Two Sequences
410Three Sets
512Two Sets and One Sequence
612One Set and Two Sequences
712Three Sequences

The Upcard: The player in turn may draw either the top card of the discard pile, or the top card of the stock. If he does not want the discard, he may decline it, and any other player may take it. The right to take it passes to the player's left (clockwise around the table). If an out-of-turn player takes the top of the discard pile, he must also draw the top card of the stock (as a penalty), but he may not yet meld, lay off, or discard, since it is not yet his turn.

Once the fate of the discard has been decided, the in-turn player must take the top card of the stock. Since he has refused the discard, he cannot take the top of the discard pile, even if a new card has been revealed.

Fulfilling The Contract: Once an in-turn player has drawn a card, he may fulfill the contract by laying down the appropriate melds. He may only lay down the precise melds as called for in the contract; he may not lay off any additional cards at this time.

Laying Off: In the subsequent turns after a player's contract has been met, he may lay off additional cards to any meld on the table, whether his own or his opponents. However, he may not create any new melds of his own.

A player may not lay off any cards until he himself has met the contract.

Jokers: A joker is a wild card, and may be used to in place of any other card as part of a meld. When doing so, the player must state its suit and rank. Any player in turn (providing he's already fulfilled his contract) may later trade the actual card for the joker, and may then either use the joker immediately, or hold it in his hand.

Going Out: When a player has discarded his last card, the hand is over, and scored. If the stock is exhausted before any player has gone out, the discard pile is shuffled by the original dealer and turned face-down to form a new stock.

Scoring: At the end of a hand, each player scores the sum of all cards in his hand. For purposes of scoring, the cards remaining in the players hand have the following values:

CardPoint Value

The player with the fewest points at the end of the seven deals wins the game.


  • Some play that dueces are also wild cards. If so, they also count for 25 points in scoring.
  • In some variations, number cards (2 through 9) count as 5 points, rather than their index value.
  • Some variations give bonus points for winning a hand, not using wild cards, etc.
  • Some play that jokers may be substituted by any player at any time, regardless of whether it's their turn or not. In this case, if more than one player claims a joker, precedence goes to whoever's turn is next.

Other Contract Rummy Rule Links

Other Contract Rummy Variations

Additional Information