RUMMIKUB – THE GUIDE FOR ALL RUMMY LOVERS!
This is a complete guide to the rummy game Rummikub.
I will explain how Rummikub is played.
I will tell you all about its rules and variations.
Sounds good? Let’s dive in…
What is Rummikub?
In this chapter I will tell you about Rummikub’s beginnings. I will give you some basic data on the game. Then, in later chapter we will go through the rules.
Rummikub (“rummy-cube”) is another form or rummy games played with tiles. It is a game for two to four players. The game obviously has elements of the card game rummy and mahjong.
There are 104 number tiles in the game and two jokers. Each player has 14 or 16 tiles initially. Players take turns putting down tiles from their racks into sets (groups of runs) or at least three. If not, you draw a tile.
Rummikub was invented by Ephraim Hertzano, a Romanian-born Jew. He was the one to make the first sets with his family in the backyard of his home. Over the years, the family licensed it to other countries. In 1977, the game became widely popular across the United States.
Hertzano published Official Rummikub Book in 1978 where he describes three different versions of Rummikub: American, Sabra and International.
Rummikub has a pool of 104 number tiles and two joker tiles. The number tiles range in value from one to thirteen in four colors (black, orange, blue and red).
Players each have a rack to store tiles without revealing the face of the tiles to the other players.
For this game, tiles are shuffled together and placed face down on the table. Then players draw and reveal one tile. The player whose tile has the highest number value will start the game.
After this tiles are brought back into the pool and players take 14 random tiles and arrange them on their racks.
Then the game starts with the starting player and usually continues clockwise.
For your first move, you need to make a set with a value of at least 30 points. If you are not able to make this initial meld, then you need to pick up a single tile from the pool and add it to your rack and with this your turn is over.
However, once you make your initial meld, every time it is your turn you can play one or more tiles from your rack and add them to groups and/or runs. Again, if you are not able (or you choose not to) play any tiles, you must pick a tile randomly from the pool and add it to your rack.
2: Making Melds
In this chapter we will go through creating melds. I will explain the rules of the game. And you will see what it takes to win the game.
One type of melds is a set. In sets all tiles need to be arranged in sets of at least three tiles. There are two valid set types and they are called runs and groups.
Runs are composed of three or more, same-colored tiles, in consecutive number order.
Groups are made of three or four same-value tiles in distinct colors.
It is possible to amend already existing sets with your tiles. Yet, groups are limited to four because colors may not repeat within a group.
There are several possibilities when it comes to sets of tiles. Those that have already been played can be added more tiles.
Players can add the appropriate tile to either end of a run. Upon doing it they can remove a tile from the other end for use elsewhere. If, for example, red 3, 4, and 5 have already been played, a player may add the red 6 to the end and remove the 3 for use elsewhere.
Players can split long runs and put proper tiles in between. This means that, for instance, if blue 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are already a run, the player may insert his own 8 to make two runs: 6, 7, 8 and 8, 9, 10.
Furthermore, players can replace any of the tiles that are in a three-tile group with another tile of the fourth color and the same value. If blue 6, red 6, and orange 6 are already a group, the player may add the black 6 and remove any one of the other three for use elsewhere.
Tiles can be removed from the ends of runs as long as the remaining tiles still form a valid run.
As for the Joker, you can use it to replace it with a tile that matches the color and value of a joker. If you use the joker in a set of three, and if you can split the set so that only the joker remains, it can be used as any tile. However, you need to use it immediately with at least 2 tiles from your rack.
The joker must be played that same turn in a set with at least two other tiles from the player’s rack. Mind you, the color and the value of the joker can change when this happens.
When it comes to scoring, the winner gets values of the other players’ tiles remaining in their racks. The joker has a penalty value of 30.
If there is no winner, then the player with the lowest number of tiles in their rack is the winner and scoring is then carried out in the normal manner.
The game is carried on until one player has used all of the tiles in the rack and after this they should call out “Rummikub”. The player is thus declared the winner.
There is one interesting rule. At the end of each turn, the rule is that all sets placed on the table must be valid. However, during the very course of a turn, it is possible to have completely arbitrary temporary re-arrangements.
3: Rummikub Variations
In this chapter I will talk about Rummikub variations. You will learn something about these variations. And you will read about computer and online versions as well.
As you could see, there are three variants of Rummikub. One is Sabra. In this game there can be two, three or four players, and the game is played clockwise. The tiles are shuffled while placed face down on the table and each player takes 14 tiles.
The object of Sabra, as in all other rummy games, is to get rid of your tiles first by melding them in combinations. As generally in Rummikub, the possible combinations are groups and runs.
One tile cannot belong to more than one combination at the same time. Of course, jokers can be used to replace any numbered tile of any color.
As in general rules, after an initial meld is placed, players can meld by placing one or more tiles from hand face up on the table.
A combination containing a joker can have more tiles added to it, but nothing can be taken from it. Furthermore, it cannot be rearranged in any way while there is a joker in the combination. For example if a run has a joker at one end the joker cannot be moved to the other end in order to add a tile.
However, if a player has a tile represented by a joker on the table, he or she can replace the real tile with the joker and then again use that joker in some combination on the table.
A joker released in this way cannot be taken into the player’s hand for later use. In the case of group consisting of two equal tiles and a joker, the joker can be replaced by a matching tile of either of the missing colors.
Since possible rearrangements can indeed take time, as they are quite complex, usually one turn is time limited. For example, players can agree on this time, and it can be, for example, two minutes. After you finish your turn, you should say “pass” and then the next person can play.
Interestingly enough, if you started to rearrange the tiles, but your time is up, and you have not managed to make valid combinations, you must return the tiles on the table to the configuration they were in the moment before you started your turn. You should also take back any tiles you played from your hand. Furthermore, there is even a penalty for this, since you must draw three tiles from the pool.
To make the returning of the tiles to their original positions easier if necessary, when starting a complex move you should place any tiles you play from your hand crosswise and keep them that way until you have concluded your turn successfully.
The first player who manages to play all their tiles wins. The other players add up the numbers on the tiles remaining in their racks, counting jokers as 30. They each score minus the total of their remaining tiles, and the winner scores plus the total of all the losers’ tiles.
There is another possible situation that actually happens seldom. It is when the pool of tiles has become empty and yet no one has gone out. Then the game ends and players rather count the total value of tiles they have in their racks.
In this case, the player with the lowest tile count wins. Each of the other players calculates the difference between their tile count and that of the winner, and loses that amount. The winner wins the sum of these differences, so that the players’ scores for the deal add up to zero as usual.
This game was explained first in Hertzano’s 1978 book, but is no longer included in the rules distributed with Rummikub® sets.
In American Rummikub verision, there can be two, three or four players. The tiles are shuffled and placed into 15 stacks of 7 face-down tiles, with one tile left over.
Then, every player takes two stacks and arranges the 14 tiles on his or her rack.
The remaining tile is placed face up in the center of the table. Hertzano’s book calls it the “trump”, though it is not a trump in any usual sense of the word.
The first player is chosen randomly and then the game continues counterclockwise. The turn to start passes to the right after each game.
Initially, a turn consists of drawing one tile, optionally melding and discarding one tile face up to your right.
Discards are stacked so that only the most recent discard of each player is visible.
There are certain similarities with Sabra, since a group consists of three or four tiles of the same number and of different colors, and a run consists of three or more consecutive numbers of the same color. In American Rummikub® ‘1’ tiles can be used as high or low, but not both at once. So 1-2-3 and 12-13-1 are both valid runs, but 13-1-2 is not.
One tile cannot belong to more than one combination at the same time.
Jokers can be used to replace any numbered tile of any color to make up a valid combination.
To be allowed to make a meld, you need to play one or more groups and runs from your hand with a total value of 21 points or more, counting number tiles at face value.
After you have laid down your initial meld, then you are given some additional options. For instance, you can meld additional groups or runs no matter the value. You can add tiles to your or other players’ melded groups or runs. If you have the tile represented by a melded joker, you can replace the joker by this tile, but you need to use the joker immediately in a “new” meld of your own.
Nevertheless, in the book it is not quite explained whether the meld has to be completely new – the joker with two or more tiles from your rack – or whether the joker can be reused to help extend an existing meld.
After your next turn, you can take the tile just discarded by the previous player instead of drawing a face down tile from the center.
Of course, the game ends when a player manages to meld all the remaining tiles in his or her hand, except one which will be the final discard. This player is then proclaimed winner.
Note that you are not allowed to draw a tile and then meld all your tiles, leaving yourself with no discard.
Furthermore, the face-up “trump” tile in the center of the table can be drawn instead of a face-down tile or the previous player’s discard if the player who draws it can thereby win the game.
When the play ends, each of the players other than the winner totals the value of the tiles remaining in their hands. Each of these players scores minus the value of their remaining tiles, and the winner scores plus the total value of all these tiles. Thus the scores of the players always add up to zero. A joker remaining in a player’s hand counts 30 points, and ‘1’ tiles count 1 point.
The book does not explain what happens if there is no winner before the face down stacks are exhausted. Thus, it is probably possible to apply the rule used in Sabra: all players count the total value of tiles in their rack and the player with the lowest tile count wins. Each of the other players calculates the difference between their tile count and that of the winner, and loses that amount. The winner wins the sum of these differences, so that the players’ scores for the deal add up to zero as usual.
This type of Rummikub can be seen as somewhat more complicated form of the American game.
You can win the game by melding all your tiles, as in American, or by constructing some special hands, which reminds of MahJong.
Each player is dealt two stacks of seven tiles, and the odd tile is given to the first player. Thus, the first player begins with 15 tiles.
The top tile of one of the remaining 7-tile stacks is turned face up and is the “trump”.
The mechanism of play is the same as in American, except that players are always permitted to draw the previous player’s discard, instead of drawing from the pool.
In the International Rummikub, there are three ways of winning: open, foot and closed.
This is a regular way of winning, as it includes getting rid of all your tiles except for a final discard. You need at least 50 points for the initial meld. When you have three or fewer tiles left on your rack, you must announce this. You are not allowed to take the “trump” as your final draw.
This is a win in which you meld 14 tiles at once and discard your 15th tile. Some of your 14 tiles can be melded as your own groups and runs while others will be added to other players’ melds.
Your 14 tiles must add up to at least 50. If you can meld all your tiles without adding to other players’ melds then you have a more valuable closed win (see below), so a Foot win in practice only occurs when another player is going for an Open win.
In this way of winning you meld all 14 tiles at once, without adding anything to any other players’ meld. These have various values, according to the type of hand.
If no one managed to win by the end of the turn in which the last face down tile is drawn from the stacks, the game ends with no winner.
There are certain rules for scoring. The winner wins a number of points based on the type of winning hand. Those players who made melds will lose the total value of their unmelded tiles. Those players who have not melded will lose 100 points if the hand ended in an Open or Foot win or without a winner. However, the player loses the same amount that the winner won in the hand ended in a Closed win. If the player who has won the hand (by any of the three methods) discards a joker as his or her final discard, then all scores for that hand are doubled.
The winner of an Open hand scores 100 points, or 200 if no other player has melded.
The winner of a Foot scores 200.
Some play that if you have the identical tile to the trump, either in your original hand or by drawing it later, you score an extra 50 points.
At the end of the session, each player pays each other player in proportion to the difference between their scores.
There are many variations of rules of Rummikub games, since they vary even in the book. This includes rules on joker and melding it, or for instance, most rules do not explicitly explain if two jokers can used at the same time in the same combination.
Interestingly enough, one particular rule from the “Official Rummikub® Book” has caused a lot of confusion. According to this rule when a melded joker is replaced it must immediately be used in a “new” meld. The rules in various editions of Rummikub® sets have interpreted this rule in different ways.
The Official Rummikub® Book specified that the game should be played counter-clockwise. Recent rules supplied with Rummikub® sets all specify clockwise play.
So, there have been several versions of the book with altered rules. It is interesting to read the book, however, sometimes certain rules are altered depending on the number of players, region, game variant, or simply the way the players agree upon.
The currect Pressman Toy Corporation Rummikub® Rules are available on line.
Software and Online Games
Rummikub can be played online and there is the official site published by Lemada Light Industries Ltd, the original distributors of Rummikub® on Rummikub.com where you can find an online version of Sabra Rummikub.
With RRRummy, by YPR software, you can play a form of Sabra Rummikub against the computer or online with live opponents. YPR also publishes Pup Rummy for Apple iOS, Android, Windows or Macintosh PC with which you can play several similar Tile Rummy variants.
There is also a game similar to Sabra Rummikub that can be played online under the name Rummy at the turn-based servers Yourturnmyturn.com (English), Brettspielnetz.de (German) and Jijbent.nl (Dutch).
The Rummikub® pages of Rany Rasa’s Rummy-Games.com site include a description of Sabra Rummikub and reviews of several Rummikub and tile rummy packages.