Introduction, History, Rules, Strategies, Game Play
The results for each game are computed by negative scoring. The winner of each round receives minus points. All of the losers score plus or positive points. As you will see, this is switched around in the final scoring so that the winners and losers for the day are clearly indicated.
If the round is not finished by the time the entire pool is used up the scoring is a bit different. Any player who has not melded receives 100 minus points. A player who has melded scores plus or positive points for the total sum of the tiles remaining on his rack. If a player wins by discarding a joker, all the scores are doubled. If the winner’s score has been doubled because he has discarded a joker as his final discard, then the loser’s scores are also doubled.
The winner of an Open game scores minus 100 points. A Foot scores minus 200 points. If the winner of an Open game is the only player to have melded, he scores minus 200 points, as if he had won a Foot. The number of jokers, or in some cases, the lack of them, does not matter in the scoring of Open or Foot.
The scores for each winning Hand from #1 to #40, with no jokers, one joker, or two jokers, are located in the score sheet. The winning scores are the indicated amount as minus or negative points.
The player who has melded, scores only the value of the tiles remaining on his rack, regardless of how much the winner has scored. This is done with the loser scoring plus points. The values of the tiles that are left in an Open player’s rack are face values for the tiles 2 through 10. Tiles 11, 12, 13, and 1 are counted as 10 points each. To make the scoring a bit easier many players adopt a table rule that states that after adding the tiles left on a losing player’s rack, the total is rounded off to the next highest 10 point division. For example, if a player scores 14 points, it will be rounded up to 20. Another example would be with the player who scores 51 points. He will then be rounded up to 60. This rule must apply to all the players at the table.
A player who has not melded at all in a game which is won by an Open player or by a Foot player, scores 100 plus points. A player, who has not melded in a game which is won with a Hand, loses the exact amount that the winner has scored. That is, if one player goes Rummikub with no jokers, Single Color Odd, he scores minus 1600 points, and any player who has not melded receives 1600 plus points for that round.
A popular table rule which you may want to adopt into your game involves the trump. According to this rule, the player who has the tile which matches the trump, either in his original 14 tiles or later by drawing it, is entitled to an extra 50 minus points. This holds true for a joker as well as numerical tiles. If you decide to include this rule in your game, be sure that everyone agrees to it in advance, and remember to announce the matching tile and claim the 50 points during the course of the round.
Like all games with tiles or cards, Rummikub is a game of both luck and skill. The degree to which the game is played with skill is largely determined by the players. For the beginner the game can be played with a lot of luck with each player drawing and melding as the tiles come up with no particular strategy. Basically they are allowing chance to determine their success during any given hand. This way can be a great deal of fun and still bring on lively games, but it is not very competitive.
With a player who is more competitive it becomes important to maximize the chances of winning by playing the most strategic way that you can. With 106 tiles available there is an exorbitant amount of possible rack combinations. In fact the combinations range into the trillions. However, most of these are useless when it comes to melding, therefore you need to play the rack and table wisely to maximize your ability to meld all of your tiles.
With this many possibilities, there is still a huge amount of luck involved for every player at your table. However, you do not want to live on just luck alone. The difference between the beginner and the expert player is that the good player takes advantage of all opportunities to improve their chances of winning. Even if the good player is on a streak of extreme bad luck, they will still lose less often than the random player. If luck is on the good side for the better player, they will win with much larger scores than the random player.
When you are given your starting tiles, it is basically chance on what tiles you actually get. The key to being a good player is to be able to arrange the tiles to very specific melds that are needed to lay them on the table in a way that works for you later on. This can be done by exchanging them for other tiles. The other tiles must come from either the discard of the previous player or from the drawing pile. There are only certain tiles on any given play that are advantageous to you. It is important to know what your chances are of getting these tiles. For this reason, you need to try to figure out the location of as many of these tiles as possible. At the beginning of each hand, the only ones that are going to be known to you are the tiles on your rack, but as the game progresses there will be clues which you need to pick up on that tells you where the remaining tiles are.
This is what is going to differentiate a player that plays his game on random chance and luck, and the player that is using intelligent strategy to win.
The International version of Rummikub is by far the most complicated, as well as the most varied of all three versions. It takes a considerable amount of time to master with each playing choosing from three different approaches to winning the game. Once they choose one approach, it is then further subdivided into forty different winning combinations. This is what you have to look forward to playing when you play International.
Even the scoring of International is unusual. Not only can the final scores be extremely high, but the method for computing them has been devised to add more excitement to an already absorbing matching of the wits. As play proceeds, the leading players receive minus scores for their efforts, but then at the end of the game session you can change up some of the mathematical equations and suddenly the minus scores become winners and the positive scores become losers.
This game requires four or five players. When five people play, the fifth player acts as dummy, sitting out the opening of the game and cutting in at regular intervals. To determine the dealer, the seating arrangement, and (if necessary) the dummy, you need to select four or five tiles in numerical order and place them face down on the table. Then you shuffle and draw. The high tile is the dealer, the next highest sits to his right, and so on counter clockwise around the table. The fifth player is the dummy. He does not play until four rounds have been completed. He then replaces the fourth player for four rounds, and after four more rounds the fourth player comes back into the game, replacing the third player, and so on around the table.
After the players have been seated according to the draw, you place all the tiles face down on the table. You shuffle them and arrange all of the 106 tiles in stacks of seven. The odd tile, also face down, goes on top of the first stack, and the top tile of the last stack is turned face up to become the trump.
The dealer deals out the stacks one at a time in two counter clockwise rounds of the table, starting with player #2 on his right, who will have 15 tiles instead of 14. Players study their tiles and arrange them on their racks. Player #2 discards an unwanted tile, placing it face up on the table to his right, and the game begins.
The basic object of this game is to be the first to get rid of all of their 14 tiles. This may be accomplished by putting together any of the 40 combinations or by melding. Play is counter clockwise and continues until one player declares “Rummikub”, making him the winner.
The key to developing melds is to look for and hold combinations that give you the greatest number of possibilities to draw the additional tiles needed. A combination is any two tiles which, with the addition of a third tile, will form a meld.
For example, if you have a black 1 and a black 2, you can form a meld if you pick the black 3. This is an example of the least possible combination to meld, since only one tile will complete it. Any combination of two tiles, such as the red 7 and 9, which must be filled with a tile that comes between them, is also a combination that you are least likely to fulfill. When you are trying to make any combination, you need to be able to determine the maximum possible draws that it may take to complete them. This is where knowing the odds will definitely come into play.
As your hand progresses, of course the odds will improve that you will make your combinations. Some of the available tiles will become dead in the discard piles as well. Perhaps others appear on the table in the open melds and may or may not be available to you, depending on the tiles in the rest of your rack. What will make you a better player then the people you are playing against is your ability to keep track of all the tiles that have been played and form your own combinations to keep the maximum number of useable picks available. You also need to be able to drop a combination when you realize that your odds are not with you. A sign of a good player is one that can change course throughout the hand in order to improve your odds of going out.
In most cases, you will start out with several combinations. As the play continues you will have more opportunities to form additional combinations and melds. This is when choosing which combination you wish to hold becomes important. If your entire rack is made up of combinations and melds, and the draw gives you a choice of changing one combination for another, it is almost always best to make the change for the combination with the greatest number of melding possibilities. However, before you do this, you must make sure the change also has defensive qualities as well.
If by changing the combination you actually improve your opponent’s chance to make a meld then it would not be advantageous for you to change your combination. You may have fewer odds with what you have in your rack already, but it would still be better than placing a tile for discard that your opponent immediately picks up to use and go out. Therefore, the best plays for your combinations should be both defensive and offensive at the same time.
One of the most difficult situations you will have to handle with strategy is discarding early on in the hand. Since you know very little information except for the tiles in your own hand, it can be difficult to come up with a strategy for discarding early. Beginning players almost always start discarding from the high tiles and working their way down. Unfortunately for the better players, they often keep up with this habit, much to the detriment of their game.
The idea is that your point count should be reduced as much as possible, but playing against these opponents also gives you an advantage as long as you are not one of them. While they are discarding all the high tiles you can hold your high tiles and let them fill up your melds. In this way, they get rid of one high tile while you meld at least two of yours. Conversely, if you discard low tiles, your opponent can only pick them up to fill low-count melds. This may encourage him to discard higher tiles to you. If he is a good player then he will realize what you are doing and will start discarding in the same range as you, but it is often worth the risk at first.
Most discarding tends to occur in groups around the same numbers and colors because these are the safer tiles because some of them may be known to be out or dead. This fact can be used to your advantage by discarding “bait” tiles. This is when you are basically discarding a tile that will bring you back the tile that you need. This is a tactic that can only be used so often before the other players realize that you like to do it. Therefore, it should be done with some candor and discretion. It is always smart to consider which tiles can be used as bait tiles when you have a choice of several discards, by taking into account all the other factors. The bait tile can be very attractive if all other factors point in that direction.
By watching the discard patterns of your opponents you will quickly notice their pattern. If one of them make s a discard out of their normal pattern, you can be reasonably certain that they are fishing for specific tiles. Fishing is most often used when you are playing a single opponent versus two or three opponents mainly because the response is more immediate which gives you the time to really focus on what you or they are doing. If you are playing with good players who carefully watch all of the discards, this tactic can still be very useful. By constantly fishing you can even disorient your opponent until he is basically afraid to throw any discard close to the ones you throw. Eventually this forces him to hold a lot of useless tiles and it lets you throw odd tiles from your rack with great defensive effect.
|Hand Jokers||With 2 Jokers||With 1 Joker||With No Jokers|
|Hand Minor 51||-800||-900||-1000|
|Minor 51 Groups||-1200||-1400||-1600|
|Minor 51 Runs||-1200||-1400||-1600|
|Piccolo 41 Odd||-600||-700||-800|
|Piccolo 41 Sets||-1000||-1200||-1400|
|Piccolo 41 Runs||-1200||-1400||-1600|
|Piccolo 41 Groups||-1200||-1400||-1600|
|Four Colors Minor||-800||-900||-1000|
|Four Colors Major||-800||-900||-1000|
|Three colors Minor||-700||-800||-900|
|Three Colors Major||-700||-800||-900|
|Two Colors Minor||-1000||-1200||-1400|
|Two Colors Major||-1000||-1200||-1400|
|Single Color Odd||-1200||-1400||-1600|
|Single Color Sets||-1600||-1800||-2000|
|Little Wave Single Color||-2200||-2400||-2600|
|Big Wave Single Color||-2200||-2400||-2600|
|Little Wave Two Colors||-1800||-2000||-2200|
|Big Wave Two Colors||-1800||-2000||-2200|
|Seven Pairs Minor||-1600||-1800||-2000|
|Seven Pairs Major||-1600||-1800||-2000|
|Seven Pairs Single Color||-1800||-2000||-2200|
The Rummikub game is available in a variety of cases, each of which compactly holds the 106 playing tiles and the racks for four people. That is what makes up the entire set. Over time, some of the most popular and ingeniously devised sets were made to make the racks part of the actual case. It was just another way to make it easier to store and play this brilliant game. The lid of the box slides out to form two racks, while the other two racks for the base. If you slide them out, and attach the two supports to each, you will then have four racks total that will hold up to 24 tiles each.
Of the 106 tiles included, two are Jokers and the remainder of the tiles consists of eight sets in four colors. They are red, blue, yellow, and black. There are two sets of tiles in each color, numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. Because you need to have plenty of room to play this rather large game, you should play on an area no smaller than a card table.
The general rules are simple. Each player sets up his rack in front of him and the tiles are placed face down on the table. The tiles are thoroughly mixed by shuffling them around with the hands, and then the players arrange them in stacks of seven and line them up to form the pool. The pool provides the tiles which are drawn as the game progresses. The last stack of tiles will contain eight tiles. The use of this extra tile depends on the rules of the individual game in which you are playing.
There are three variations of the game in which you will be playing:
American Rummikub – The simplest of the three versions of Rummikub and the most like traditional rummy games. Once you have learned the basics of American Rummikub, you can adapt what you know to the other rummy games if you choose, or you can vary it with your own rules.
Sabra Rummikub – This adds another facet to the more simple rules of the American version. It is also an easy game to learn, but the extra manipulation allowed makes it a bolder game with aggressive tactics. The action is often quick but demands that you think ahead and visualize the changing configuration of the tiles. There is a strict time limitation in which you will have to make fast and furious plays.
International Rummikub – A highly sophisticated variation of this game, which bears a strong resemblance to Mah-Jongg. It is a challenge to complete a variety of winning patterns and combinations. The scoring is unusual and the ever-changing possibilities of play are thoroughly absorbing.
Both the dealing and the playing always go counter-clockwise. This is because this game, although originally conceived in Romania, really began its journey to the world in Israel, where in Hebrew everything reads backwards – from right to left. So, Rummikub always goes counter-clockwise because it is staying true to its roots
In the Israeli version of Rummikub, the joker is used far differently than that of the American version. If everyone plays Open Rummy, the jokers then become more or less common tiles since they can be replaced and used in other melds. They are not as versatile as they are in the American version, even under these circumstances, since they can be used only to make new melds instead of being rearranged. They can, of course, be layed off on runs or groups of three, but here they serve only the advantage of lowering your rack by one tile. If this is the tile that puts you out then that is great. Otherwise it would be a basically worthless move.
On your rack the joker is still the most versatile tile you can hold. The player having one joker has a considerable advantage over those with none when everyone is on the rack. A player with two jokers is in a very strong comparative situation. The joker becomes basically a tile that can take any position needed. Therefore if you are using it to form a run or group, and you pick the same tile, you have actually picked the equivalent of two tiles at once since the joker can now be used to fill any other combination that you are holding.
The other advantage of a joker is that it is the highest scoring tile. In the Israeli version of Rummikub, 50 points are needed to meld on the table. The joker is often the key to being able to make an initial meld. It is advantageous to open without using one because the joker then loses its versatility on your rack and becomes available for other players to use. They cannot use it to make their own initial meld, but once they have melded, it is no longer your exclusive property.
In any even, as in the American game, if you play a joke in an open meld, try to place it so that it cannot be reused. If both of the tiles which the joker represents are already tied up in sets or in the discard piles, the joker is absolutely safe on the table and at that point counts for no more value than any other tile.
The probability of Hand is extremely high considering there are over 634,000,000 ways to make a hand. As the easiest hand to play for, many people choose to play for it for the quick score. It can occur almost five times as often as the next better hand, Seven Pairs. Hand scores minus 500 versus minus 1700 for Seven Pairs. Although it is not that high scoring it is important to realize that Hand occurs quickly and is perfect for the times that you need a score and fast.
Look at the next hand, Hand Minor. Hand occurs 7.6 times as often and Hand Minor scores only 1.6 times as much. Give the choice between playing for either of the two; it is almost five times more profitable to play with the easier hand. With Seven Sticks Minor, you see Hand 76 times as often. You score only four times as much. The scoring odds swing in your favor by 19 to 1. This shows you how powerful this hand can be.
If the game were strictly a random collecting of tiles, you would obviously always play for Hand or the even simpler Foot and Open Melds. Of course, it is not strictly a random game, since after the deal, you now have considerable control over the rack you are playing. You do not discard in a random fashion, nor do you pick completely at random, since you have a discard visible to choose each time. Therefore, the chances calculated from the table must be tempered by what you think you can do with your rack. If the initial rack favors one of the low probability hands, consider this as a possibility to play. After all, this is what makes the game so much fun. If you stick only with Hand then there won’t be any true competition in the game, and you may get bored with it.
The table that calculates odds does not include the plays called Open Rummy and Foot. The reason for this is very simple. Both of these plays involve all of the same possibilities as Hand plus the option of laying off tiles on the open melds. There are, they are at least as likely, if not more probable.
The discards are even more important in this game than they are in the American version. First, there are always four players, so that without picking form the discards, each player has an opportunity to draw only 12 or 13 tiles with which to complete their hand. If you are playing for any of the more complicated hands, it is absolutely necessary to have as many picks as possible. Therefore you should always pick from the discard pile often, even if some of the tiles are picked on total speculation. Do not pick unless you can form a reasonable combination, but a guaranteed combination, particularly one which can go several ways, is better in most cases than gambling on an unknown tile.
Besides filling melds or forming combinations, tiles picked form the discard pile leaves more picks in the drawing pile. They also keep tiles in circulation, and you want as many chances at them as possible. Of course this gives the other players more chances also. Thus it is very important to choose your own discards with the maximum amount of care.
If everyone is playing on the rack, the discards are the only clues you have to the tiles that are available. A good memory is extremely important here. You wan tot remember not only which tiles remain in the discard piles and are therefore no longer available, but you also want to remember which tiles your opponents pick up. With four people, remember the discard piles are more important than remember what was picked up, if you have trouble remembering both. Your own discards have little influence on any player other than the one on your right. You directly control that player’s hand to some extent, and you obviously do not want to give them the tiles that match previous discards.
The buried tiles will determine which hands you still have a chance to make and which ones are impossible. This is important even in playing Open Rummy, because you still have far fewer tiles to work with than you do when playing the American version of open melds. As always, the more information you can gather and retain, the more of an edge you have on your opponents. The discards are the only good source of information you have on tiles not on your rack or on the table in open melds. Use them to their fullest advantage. There is probably no one factor which will more quickly separate the expert player from the good player than his or her ability to use the discard data.
The point value of your discards is of little importance as far as your final score is concerned when playing any of the hands. If someone else goes you have 100 points scored against you regardless of what is on your rack. Therefore, resist the tendency to discard high tiles first. Discards should be chosen for two reasons only. The first is always choosing tiles that have the least possibility of filling any particular hand or possible hands you could develop. The second is the defensive possibilities of the discard. Remembering this will allow you to use the discard pile to your advantage to win the game.