Shanghai Card Game Rules

Shanghai Rum is a card game based on the popular card game Rummy. Its rules are derived from other versions of the game Rummy like Gin Rummy and Manipulation Rummy. Other common names for Shanghai Rummy include California Rummy and Contract Rummy. All you need to play this card game are two standard decks of cards and a basic understanding of the rules.

Setting Up

When playing Shanghai Rummy it is important to understand the card values. The entire deck of cards is played, aces are high and deuces and jokers are wild. There can be between three to eight players. To begin the game, each player is dealt 11 cards for the first hand. After each hand, the person to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer and another hand is dealt. The game consists of 10 hands total. During each hand, after the cards are dealt the remainder of the deck is placed in the middle of the players. The deck in the middle is the stock pile. A card from the top of the stock pile is placed face up next to it, and this is called the discard pile.

Game Play

Game play in Shanghai Rummy always goes counterclockwise. On each turn a player will choose between picking a new card from the stock pile or taking the card that is face up on the discard pile. Players may also choose to "buy" a card. This means that on their turn they take a card from both the stock pile and discard pile. Players are limited to how many times they can buy a card. On hands one through nine each player gets three buys, and on hand 10 they can have 4 buys each.

The goal of each hand is to "meld" or come up with the combination of cards needed to complete that hand. The combinations needed to meld are made up of card sequences or consecutive pairs. Card suits are not relevant. Players can use as many wild cards as they want in a hand to meld. A player can only meld on his own turn and he must start his turn as he normally would. Then he lays down his cards that make the desired combination and holds on to any remaining cards. At this point the player can play on the melds of the other players or discard. If he discards and has no cards remaining, he is the winner of that hand. The player has to play any cards that can be played before discarding. If the player has no cards left after play, he has to draw a card from both the discard and stock pile, play any cards that can be played and then discard.

After a player has melded his cards, if he hasn't won the hand he continues to play. However, he cannot buy a card anymore. On each turn that player will draw a card from the stock or discard pile. He continues play by laying down cards on the melds that have already been laid down by himself or someone else. For instance, if the meld required a player to have three cards of the number 3 and the player draws a 3, he can lay an additional card down on any player's set of 3s, or if the meld is a sequence like 1 through 5, the player can lay down a 6 if he draws it. He can also play wild cards.


If a hand requires one set and one run of four, that means you need one pair of any two cards that match in value and four cards that make a numerical sequence.

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


To win Shanghai Rummy you need to have the lowest total score from all 10 hands played. After each hand the players are given points based on the amount of cards they have left. The player who has won the hand is given 0 points. All of the other players add up the points they have left in their hand based on the game's scoring system.

Scoring system: Cards 3 to 7 are worth 5 points each Cards 8, 9, 10, J, Q, and K are worth 10 points each Ace is worth 15 points Deuces are worth 20 points each Jokers are worth 50 points each

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About the Author

Hillary Marshall has been writing professionally since 2006. Before writing instructional articles online, she worked as a copywriter and has been published in "Ideal Living" "Sass" "Science Edge" and "Shopping Cents" magazines along with countless websites including Gadling a blog by the Huffington post. Marshall studied early childhood education at the Stratford Career Institute.