Hollywood rummy

During DIMACS REU 2022, I learned of an amazing card game called Hollywood rummy. On this page, I will try to explain the rules of the game.


Goal of the game

The game consists of up to 10 rounds. In each round, players try to obtain a combination of cards, which is revealed to other players, and get rid of the remaining cards. Players start their turn by drawing a card and they discard a card at the end; this is how players exchange cards. A player, who manages to obtain the desired combination for the current round "wins" the round and receives 0 penalty points. (There are some further details regarding this, keep reading!) Remaining players count the value of the cards in their hand and receive penalty points. The player with the fewest penalty points at the end of all the rounds wins (just like in golf).

Round setup

Each player is dealt 11 cards. Depending on the current round, the goal is to obtain the following combination (meanings of combinations are explained below):

  1. 2 sets of 3,
  2. 2 sets of 3 and a run of 4,
  3. 2 sets of 4,
  4. 3 sets of 3 and a run of 4,
  5. 3 runs of 4,
  6. 1 set of 3 and a run of 7,
  7. 2 sets of 3 and a run of 5,
  8. 1 set of 3 and a run of 10,
  9. 3 sets of 4,
  10. 3 runs of 5 (a so called "perfect hand").
Then the top card is revealed, i.e. placed into the discard pile.


A set of X is X cards of the same numeric value (the suit does not matter). Note that if one has, e.g. 6 cards with value K, this is not considered to be 2 sets of 3 but only counts as one.

For the purposes of creating combinations, jokers and twos are considered to be wild cards and can substitute any card in a combination. However, the number of wild cards in a combination cannot be more than a half of the combination. E.g. one can have at most one wild card in a set of 3, and at most 2 wild cards in a set of 4, etc.

A run of X is a poker straight flush of length X. Meaning that the numeric values of the cards have to be consecutive and all the suits must be the same. Ace is always the highest cards, i.e. A cannot be followed by a 3 for a run (3 because 2 is a wild card, remember?). Distinct runs have to have gaps between them. E.g., 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 is not considered to be 2 runs of 4 but just 1 run of 8.

A player's turn

(It is customary for the player to the right of the dealer to go first. The first player becomes the dealer in the next turn.)


The current player starts by drawing. They can either draw from the top of the deck or from the top of the discard pile.

Going down

If they have the current combination, they reveal the cards forming the combination in front of them. This action is called going down (probably because the cards are placed down on the table).

A player who went down

If a player has gone down, then they can start getting rid of their remaining cards in their hand. They do so by placing the cards in their hand into any pile of revealed downed cards. E.g., if in the first round I went down with a set of three 7's, and a set of three 8's, and another player went down with a set of three aces, and a set of three kings, then I can discard my kings into his pile of kings. In the same manner, one can discard cards by extending a run of any player. All cards discard-able in this manner must be discarded so.

Ending a turn

A turn is ended by discarding a card into the discard pile. There is an important distinction however:

  • if the current player has not gone down, then they cannot discard cards that could extend other player's revealed downed combinations. E.g., if another player has a run of 5, 6, 7, 8 of diamonds, then I cannot discard a 9 of diamonds, because it plays into this run.
  • If the current player has gone down, then they, by definition, discard a card that does not play. Because if it plays, then they are obligated to play into the combination.
Wild cards in runs have can be shifted. E.g., if there is a run of 5, wild card , 7, and 8 of diamonds, then I can play a 6 of diamonds into the run and shift the wild card either to the start or the end of the run.

The next player does not play yet however!


A discarded card can be bought by any other player. The price for buying a card is that they have to draw an additional card from the deck to go with the bought card.

A player can only buy 3 times per round. In the tenth round, a player can buy 4 times per round. This can be tracked by the number of cards they have in hand. I.e., 13 cards in hand means 1 buy, 15 cards in hand means 2 buys, etc.

If multiple players want to buy a card, then the player who goes the earliest after the discarder has priority. There is an exception for the player right after the discarder: they can draw it without having to draw from the deck.

Ending a round

A round is ended, when a player discards their last card into the discard pile. This means that all their other cards were played into other combinations on the table of downed players, and their last card does not play anywhere. Afterwards, every player counts the number of points of their hand.

  • 3 to 9 have value 5,
  • 10 to K have value 10,
  • A and wild cards have value 20.

The player who has gone down receives 0 penalty points by definition.

The player with the fewest penalty points at the end of all rounds is the winner. I do not know how to resolve tie-breakers yet.