South African Kaluki Rummy Games

South African Kaluki Rummy Games

South African Kaluki

Note: European and North American Kaluki and Jamaican Kalooki are covered on other pages.


South Africa is one of the countries where a rummy game called Kalookie is popular, and there as in Jamaica, Kalookie is a version of Contract Rummy. The following description is based on information received from Lorraine Kruger.

As in any rummy game, the aim is to form your cards into combinations which can be melded (placed face up on the table). There is a series of seven rounds, each with different minimum requirements that must be satisfied before a player is allowed to meld. The aim is to go out by laying down all your cards, at which point the other players are penalised for the cards they have left.

Players, cards, stake and deal

There can be from three to five players. Two standard 52 card packs are used with four jokers - 108 cards in all. The point values of the cards, used when calculating the penalty for the cards that each player has left at the end of the play, are as follows:

At the start of a session, the seating and the first dealer are chosen as follows: if there are four players, an ace, a king, a queen and a jack are taken from the pack (with three players just A, K, Q; with five players A, K, Q, J, 10). These cards are shuffled them and one card is dealt to each player. Whoever receives the ace is the first dealer; the player with the king sits to that player's left, then the queen and so on down, in clockwise order.

Before the first round, each player puts a stake (say R1.00) into a kitty. Further money is added to the kitty in the course of the game, and after all seven rounds have been played, the whole kitty is collected by the overall winner - the player with the lowest total number of points.

At the start of each round the dealer shuffles all the cards and the player to dealer's left cuts. The person who cuts the pack must check to see whether the cut card, which will become the bottom card of the deck, is a joker. If it is, the player who cuts keeps the joker and is paid R1.00 by each of the other players.

The dealer then deals 13 cards to each player (but if the player who cut found a joker that player gets only 12 more cards). The next card is turned up to start the discard pile, and the remaining cards are placed face down to form the stock. If at this point any player has three (or more) jokers they show them and are paid R1.00 by each of the other players.

After each round is scored, the turn to deal passes to the left.

The play

The player to the dealer's left begins, and the turn to play passes clockwise. A player's turn consists of drawing the top card of the stock or the discard pile, optionally laying down (melding) some cards, and discarding one card face up on the discard pile. Note that in this game (unlike versions of Kaluki played in other countries), you have the choice of drawing either the top card of the stock or the previous player's discard, even you have not yet melded.

The valid melds are:

  • a group of three or four cards of the same rank and in different suits;
  • a run of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. Aces can be at either end of a run (A-2-3 or A-K-Q), but not in the interior (2-A-K is invalid).

Jokers can be used to as substitutes for missing cards, subject to some restrictions. A player's first meld in each round must conform to the requirement for the round, as set out below. When laying down your first meld of the round, you can only put down exactly what is required. In later turns, you can put down additional meld (groups and runs), and add cards to your own or other players' existing meld. Consecutive cards can be added to either end of a run (for example if ♠4-♠5-♠6-♠7 is on the table, ♠3 or ♠8 can be added to it), and the fourth suit can be added to a group of three of a kind. A four of a kind is closed, and can no longer be extended, and the same would apply in theory to a run of 14 cards with an ace at each end.

There is a penalty for discarding a card which could be played on the table - either to extend a run or to complete four of a kind or in exchange for a Joker that represents that card. The player who discarded must pay 10 cents (R0.10) to the kitty, and the card cannot be picked up from the discard pile by the next player nor bought by any other player.

The play continues until one player is able to get rid of all their cards, either by melding them all or by melding all but one and discarding. Play then ends and the other players count the points for the cards they have left in their hands.

If the the face-down stock of cards from which players draw is exhausted, the discard pile is shuffled and placed face-down to form a new stock, and play continues as before.

Initial meld requirements

There is a different requirement for each round, as shown in the following table.

1Blitz. You must meld all of your cards at once. When going out in this round, you are not obliged to discard: you can either meld all of your cards in groups and runs, or meld all but one card, which you discard to end your turn. You are free to use any combination of groups and runs, and jokers can be used freely - they do not have to be "half safe". When a person has "blitzed" (melded all their cards) each of the other players lays down any groups and runs they can make from their hands; no laying off on other players' melds is allowed. Whatever cards they have left count against them as penalty points.
2A group of three of a kind
3A run of three cards in a suit
4A run of three cards in a suit plus a group of three of a kind
5A run of four cards in a suit
6A group of four of a kind. (This round is sometimes known as "penalties", because the initial meld requirement is hard to satisfy.)
7A run of five cards in a suit


A joker can be used to substitute for a missing card in a group or run, but in all cases the player must state exactly which card the joker represents. For example, if playing ♠5-♡5-Joker as a group, you must say whether the joker represents the ♢5 or the ♣5.

A joker can be used in your initial meld of a round, but other than in the Blitz round (1), only one joker can be used in the initial meld. Also, in all rounds except Four of a Kind (round 6) and Blitz (1) the card the joker represents must be at least "half safe". "Half safe" means that there is only one card outstanding that could be used to reclaim the joker; in other words, at least one of the two copies of the card that it represents must already have been played (either discarded or used by some player in another meld).

In later melds and when laying off cards on existing melds, jokers can be used freely to substitute for any card. You must still specify exactly what card each joker stands for, but you can use more than one joker in a meld and it does not matter if both copies of a card represented by your joker are still at large.

If you hold the real card that a joker melded in a group of three or a run represents, you can take the joker from the meld into your hand in exchange for the real card, but only at your turn, and only if you have already put down your initial meld in a previous turn. A group of four cards of a kind is "closed" and can no longer be touched. If it contains a joker, the joker cannot be reclaimed. The same would apply to a 14-card run.

Buying cards

If you want a card that has been discarded, but it is not your turn to play next, you may be able to buy the card. If several people want the same discard, the player in turn always has prior right to it, and if this player does not want it, it goes to the first player in clockwise order after the player in turn who wishes to buy it. The player in turn can take the discard without payment, but if another player buys the discard the procedure is:

  1. the player whose turn it was draws the top card of the stock;
  2. the buyer adds 10 cents (R0.10) to the kitty;
  3. the buyer takes the top discard and also draws the top card from the face down stock;
  4. the buyer cannot meld or discard at this point, so will now have two extra cards;
  5. the player whose turn it was continues their turn. Each player can buy a maximum of four cards in each round, which would increase the size of their hands by eight cards. These extra cards can obviously be useful in forming combinations, but can also be expensive if you are caught with them when someone else goes out.


When a player goes out, each of the other players adds up the point values of the cards left in their hands. These points are recorded on the score sheet under the player's name and added to their points from previous rounds. Also there are some immediate payments:

  • Each of the other players pays to the player who went out ten cents for each 10 points or part of 10 points in their hand - for example a player who has 71 points would pay 80 cents to the one who went out; with 36 points you would pay 40 cents.
  • If the same player goes out in three successive rounds, everyone pays them an extra R1.00, in addition to the normal payment for winning the hand.
  • In round 5 (Blitz), everyone pays R1.00 to the player who goes out in addition to the money for the cards left in their hand after they have formed whatever groups and runs they can.

At the end of the seventh round, the winner is the player with the lowest total number of points from the seven rounds, as recorded on the score sheet. This winner takes the kitty, which consists of the R1.00 that everyone put in at the start of the game, plus all the 10 cent payments that have been added by players buying cards during the game.


Some play that throughout the game, all jokers played (not only those used in initial melds) must be "half safe" - i.e. at least one of the two cards of that suit and rank must be out of play. Others ignore the "half safe" rule altogether and allow a joker to represent any card at any time.

Some require a discard from the player going out in the Blitz round.

Some play that if a player goes out in the Blitz round without using any jokers, they are paid double - that is R2.00 plus 20 cents per ten points or part of ten points left in their hands.

Some play that a player is allowed to go out in a single turn in any round, not only the Blitz round. To do this, they would first need to lay down the initial qualifying meld for the current round, and then lay down all the rest of their cards as well (except for their final discard), by making new melds and/or adding cards to melds on the table. This is sometimes known as a Kaluki.

Some allow up to five cards to be bought in each round, rather than four.

Some allow the run of five required for the last round to contain two jokers, provided that both are "half safe".

Some play that a player who receives four pairs of identical cards in the initial deal shows them and is paid R1.00 by each of the other players.

Some people play the rounds in a different order. For example, the first version explained to me by Lorraine Kruger had the following sequence of rounds:

1A group of three cards of the same rank
2A run of three cards in a suit
3A group of four of a kind
4A run of four cards in a suit
5Blitz (meld all your cards at once: other players may then lay down any complete runs or groups in their hands)
6A run of three cards in a suit plus a group of three of a kind
7A run of five cards in a suit