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About Shanghai Rum

About Shanghai Rum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (

Shanghai rum is a Rummy card game, based on gin rummy and a variation of Manipulation Rummy played by 3 to 8 players. It is also known as shanghai rummy, contract rummy, or California rummy.



Shanghai rum is played with multiple decks of 54 standard playing cards, including the Jokers. Aces are high (above a King), and Jokers and 2′s are wild cards. The number of decks varies from 2 to 4 and is based on the number of players (see chart). Each game is based on 10 hands, and the rules for each hand are unique. One person begins as dealer for the first hand, and then the person to the dealer’s left becomes dealer for the next hand, and so on. Each player is dealt eleven cards. The rest of the deck is then placed face down in the middle of the players; this is referred to as the stock. One card is taken from the top of the stock and placed face up next to it. This card is called the upcard and becomes the beginning of the discard pile.

The first player to play is the player to the dealer’s left. Play always progresses in this clockwise direction. Each player has a choice at the beginning of their turn. They may either pick up one new card from the top of the stock or take the upcard. Also, the other players in the game have the ability to buy the upcard. After the player draws his card, either from the stock or the upcard, he must then choose any card in his hand to discard, and he then places this card face up on the discard pile. That card then becomes the new upcard, which the next player in turn can take or other players can buy.


To buy a card, a player says “Buy it,” and they take the upcard plus one new card from the top of the stock, which serves as the cost for buying the card. Thus, each time a player buys a card, they end up with two additional cards in their hand. In other variations of the game, a buyer takes the upcard plus two additional stock cards, giving the buyer a total of three additional cards. A player is limited to how many buys he can have during a hand (see chart). If multiple players want to buy the same card, the person who first said “buy” gets the card. In another variant, the priority for buying goes in the order of play. In case of a tie, the person seated in closest order to the left of the current player gets priority. The current player cannot buy a card. However, the current player has precedence over the other players, so he can take the upcard even if other players want to buy it.


The object of each hand is to come up with the correct combination of cards to be able to meld, or “lay out”. The combination for each hand is different (see chart), and they become more difficult with each subsequent hand. In some hands (7 through 10), the number of cards required to meld is greater than the number of cards a player is dealt, so the player must buy cards before he can meld. The combinations for each hand are either sets or runs or a combination of both. A set is a combination of a specific number of cards of the same rank, and the suit is not important. An example of a “set of 3″ is three cards that are all 8′s, and the 8′s can all be of different suits. A run is a combination of a specific number of cards of the same suit that have consecutive ranks. An example of a “run of 3″ is the 3 of clubs, 4 of clubs, and the 5 of clubs. An example of a combination for a hand is for hand #2, “1 set of 3 and 1 run of 4.” This means that a player must have both a set of 3 cards and a run of 4 cards in his hand before he can meld. The cards in the set and the run must be unique, meaning that you cannot use the same card in both the set and the run. There is a limitation to how many wild cards a player can use in forming each set or run (see chart).

A player can meld only when it is his turn. As always, he must start his hand by drawing a card, then when he has the correct sequence of cards, he can meld or “go down.” He does so by laying his meld cards face up on the table in their correct sequence. He can only lay out his meld cards and no additional cards. After melding, a player can then play on the melds of other players. When done, he must then discard. If the player has no more cards in his hand after discarding, he is declared the winner. The player must have a discard and may not discard a playable card. If the player does not have a discard he must take the top card from the discard pile and the top card from the stock, play any cards playable, and then discard.

If you “go out blind” (discard all your cards in one play), you earn a bonus of 25 points (50 if you have not used a joker). A bonus subtracts points from your score.

Play for the player who has gone down

When a player is “down” (meaning he has already melded), he still takes his turn in turn with the other players, and he still must draw a card and discard. However, a player who is down cannot buy a card, nor can he stop a player from buying the upcard when it is his turn. A player who is down can play his cards on the melds that have been completed either by himself or by other players. For example, if a player has laid down a set of 3 8′s, and on a subsequent turn he then draws another 8, he can play this 8 on his set of 8′s. He does this by placing the 8 with the set of 8′s. If he has a card that he would like to play on a run, he must be sure to keep the order of the run. For example, if there is a run of 5 consisting of 4-5-6-7-8 of clubs, the player can play a 3 of clubs or a 9 of clubs. If a run has a wild card in it, the player can replace the wild card with the appropriate card (the wild card is covered by the replacing card). For example, if the run had 5-6-Joker-8-9 of clubs and he had a 7 of clubs, he could replace the Joker with the 7 of clubs. Unlike the limitation of the number of wild cards in the original meld, there is no limitation as to how many wild cards can be put into a hand that is already down.

Winning the game

Play progresses until one of the players “goes out,” meaning he is able to discard the last card in his hand. That player is then the winner of that hand, and the hand is then over. The winner for the hand gets zero points, and the other players count their cards to determine their score for the hand. After all ten hands are played, the winner is the player with the lowest score.

Sequence of Hands

Hand Sequence
1 2 sets of 3
2 1 set of 3 and 1 run of 4
3 2 runs of 4
4 3 sets of 3
5 1 set of 3 and 1 run of 7
6 2 sets of 3 and 1 run of 5
7 3 runs of 4
8 1 set of 3 and 1 run of 10
9 3 sets of 3 and 1 run of 5
10 3 runs of 5

Rule charts

Number of decks required

  • 2 decks: up to 4 people
  • 3 decks: 5-6 people
  • 4 decks: 7-8 people

Note: Increase the number of decks beyond 4 to allow more than 8 players

Number of buys allowed

  • 3 buys in hands 1-9
  • 4 buys in hand 10

Number of Wild Cards allowed in a meld

  • 1 Wild Card in a set (of 3)
  • 2 Wild Cards in a run of 4 or 5
  • 3 Wild Cards in a run of 7
  • 5 Wild Cards in a run of 10


Card Points
3 to 9 5 points
10 to K 10 points
Ace 25 Points
2′s & Jokers 50 points

Rules to play Shanghai with Rook playing cards

Shanghai can also be played with the regular Rook playing cards, with the Rook card and the deuces as the wild cards. The 1 card is the Ace, and the other numbers are played in order of high to low cards.

Courtesy of

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