The major focus of any game of Kalooki 51 is the arranging of cards into what are known as “runs” and “sets”
- Runs are arranged from cards in the same suit, and must contain three more cards, in order. An example of a run is the Jack, Queen, King and Ace of spades.
- A set is built on cards of the same rank. For instance, a player holding the ten of hearts, spades, and diamonds could meld them to the table.
Unlike many other Rummy variants, however, Kalooki 51 allows the Jokers to remain in the deck, and these can be used to complete any run or set as well.
Players win the game by either Going Kalooki or Going Out, but it is only Going Kalooki that prevents any penalty points from taking away a win.
It all starts with the decks of cards:
All games of Kalooki 51 require that two full decks of playing cards, including the Jokers, are used. The numeric cards are assigned points based on their face values. For instance, the four of clubs is worth four points.
All of the face cards are worth ten points, but the Ace cards can be worth either 1 or 11 points during the game. When an Ace is in a winning player’s hand at the end of play, it is stuck with the higher 11 point value. During play, the Jokers are worth the actual value of the card they are substituting and 25 points in the hand at the end of the game.
How to Play a Game of Kalooki 51
All games of Kalooki 51 require that the players each receive 13 cards. After dealing out the appropriate number of cards, the dealer then places the remaining cards, face down, in the center of the table. They turn the top card over and lay this next to the deck facing upwards. The pile of cards facing downward is known as the “stock pile”, and the pile with the overturned card is the “discard pile”.
A game requires each player to take a turn, and during a turn the player can:
- Take a single card from the stock or discard pile;
- Create a new meld or add to an existing one; and
- Discard a card into the discard pile.
While creating a new meld is not mandatory, both the taking and discarding of cards is so. Interestingly, a lot of Kalooki 51 players will strategically hold their melds in order for them to be used to their benefit at some point later in the game.
If, at any time, the players work their way to the bottom of the stock pile, and have only two cards remaining in the deck, the dealer must shuffle the cards from the discard pile and lay them face down as the new stock pile. The final discarded card remains in place as the first in the new discard pile.
Players keep taking turns and building melds in order to bring the game to its conclusion.
All players must wait to put down their first meld until it has a total points value of 51, or more. Once they have done this they can begin using their own melds, as well as those of other players, in order to discard cards they are holding. This is defined as “building”.
The rules of building are as follows:
- Players can add the fourth suit to a three card set, but only if there is no Joker already in the set (no repeated suits are permitted);
- Players can add the cards to either end of a run;
- Jokers are allowed in any meld in place of the card that would build it;
- Jokers can be "released" from three card sets in exchange for the two cards of the missing suit, but it must ALSO be used elsewhere at the same time;
- Sets becomes "closed" when a player adds only a single missing suit to a set of three already holding a Joker;
- Players can release the Joker from a three card set that contains two Jokers, but this means that the building cards must be two of the missing suits;
- When a run contains a Joker, the player with the card that it is representing can replace the Joker with this card and use it elsewhere on the table; and
- Melds cannot be rearranged, only increased.
Each player keeps taking turns and following the rules of building until someone is in a position to bring the game to a close. This is done by:
- Going Kalooki – when the player is able to lay down all cards in their hand at one time; or
- Going Out – when a player can gradually lay down melds until all cards are disposed of, and this can be done by building on existing melds or creating new ones. When using Going Out the player must wait until the meld is valued at 51, and then they can put it down.
When a player Goes Out, the remaining players cannot lay off any cards, and must tally their score based on their hand and existing melds.
Winning and Scoring a Game of Kalooki 51
To determine a winner requires the scoring to be done. The scoring must follow some guidelines based on the way the winner actually finished the hand. For instance:
- Going Out - automatically requires opponents to receive the total of their remaining cards in penalty points; or
- Going Kalooki - automatically demands that opponents receive the sum of their remaining cards PLUS a 25 point penalty.
If a game of Kalooki 51 has a pool it is usually distributed along a pre-set plan. Generally the winner gets 75% of the prize, and the remainder is divided between the remaining opponents. Any player who is over 100 points behind the winning score does not get a share.
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