[ Turn Back My Son l Shake Hands With Beef l Behold The Eye Of Argon l Sail The Seas Of Cheese l Stuff The Wombat l See Mad Tom O'Bedlam l Darn This Bathrobe l Feets Don't Fail Me Now ]

Mark's Shanghai (Rummy) Page

"Darn this bathrobe! I could never play with it on anyway!" -Stanley L. Davis Sr. (Grandpa Davis)

For years my family has had a family card game which is played at every single family get-together. I don't know where they learned the game, but it was passed on to my entire family by Stanley L. Davis, Sr. and Mabel Davis (Grandpa and Grandma Davis). Every single member on my dad's side of the family plays this game, and we play it by Grandma Davis rules. I don't know anyone outside of my family that plays it, but we've been playing it for as long as I can remember. Thus I can vouch for years of playtesting this version at family gatherings and hammering out obscure rules, for which Grandma Davis was always the ultimate authority!.

I have a friend, David Dailey, who is addicted to games of all kinds. One of his favorite things to do on the internet is discuss game rules, and at the newsgroup he hangs out in there would occasionally be requests for the rules to a game called "Shanghai". That's our family game, and he would always forward the messages on to me. After the second time I developed a text file description of the game as my family plays it, and I would send it along to anyone interested.
Now I get to put it on the world wide web!
A man in England has a page containing rules to every card game he can find. His name is John McLeod john@pagat.demon.co.uk and under Contract Rummy he has a version he calls "Shanghai Rummy". This is not simply the rules to the game my family plays, it is the rules as I have typed them here! John got my text file from either me or David and used them as the basis for his rules on Shanghai Rummy (so called to categorize it and distinguish it from at least one other Shanghai card game which is very different). John's a very nice guy, we've exchanged e-mail and he updated his rules a bit after I finally checked his page and noticed a couple of minor points. You can reach John's page on card games by clicking here.
Now, without further ado, the rules to Shanghai, "Grandma Davis Version":
Our game is played with two standard decks, including all four jokers. There are seven rounds. The object of the game is to assemble books (3 or more of the same card, as in 3 4's or 3 kings) and runs (4 or more cards of the same suit in a row, as in 2-3-4-5 of clubs or 9-10-Jack-Queen of hearts). Aces are always high, so in a run they come after the king, as in jack-queen-king-ace. They can't be placed next to a 2 card in a run. Jokers are wild, so you can place a joker in a book (2 aces and a joker) or a run (jack-joker-king-ace of hearts). You can't place two jokers in a single run or a single book. Each round has a different combination of books and runs, and they follow a simple progression (seems simple to me... I've never had a problem following it, but many of my relatives need to write it down or they get confused). The rounds:

Round 1: two books
Round 2: one book, one run
Round 3: two runs
Round 4: three books
Round 5: two books, one run
Round 6: one book, two runs
Round 7: three runs, no discard allowed

Cards are shuffled and 11 cards are dealt to each person. The rest of the cards are placed in the center of the table, and the top one is turned over to form the first card of the "discard" pile. The discard pile is always face up so everyone can see what card has just been discarded. When your turn comes, you draw from the top of the deck, or you may take the top card from the discard pile. If all cards are drawn before the conclusion of a round, then the discard pile is turned over to form the "draw from" pile.
The object is to assemble the required books or runs for that round and then lay them down in front of you. So, in the first round, if you have three aces and two kings, and on your turn you draw a king, you may lay down these two books before you discard. If you have four or five aces in hand, you lay them all down to form one book.
You may not lay down two books of the same card. If you have six aces, you do not have two books, but one book of six cards. Sorry! Likewise, if you have one large run of eight cards, you can not simply break it in half and form two runs. You can not lay down 2-3-4-5 of spades and 6-7-8-9 of spades. However, you CAN lay down 2-3-4-5 of spades and 5-6-7-8 of spades, or 2-3-4-5 of spades and 7-8-9-10 of spades. As long as the two runs are not consecutive, they form seperate runs.
Once you are "down" you may also play cards on any other books or runs others have laid down. If the person across from you has laid down a book of 3's, and you have two threes in your hand, you may place your threes on their book. Once you are down you may not lay down other runs or books. In the first round you lay down only two books, and if you happen to have another in hand, too bad. You can hope someone else lays down a book of that card for you to play them on.
Jokers may be played on any book or run which does not already have a joker in it, assuming you are already down. A run extends from 2 through King to Ace; no car may be placed below a two or above an ace. A run of 2-3- 4-5-6-7-8-9-10-Jack-Queen-King-Ace may no longer be played on.
If you are already down, and can play no other cards, then you discard. Play continues until someone gets rid of all the cards in their hand.
The object, of course, is first to get down, and second to get rid of all your cards as fast as you can. The object of the game is to come in with the lowest score. At the end of each round -- as soon as one person has emptied their hand completely of cards -- the other players must add up the points of the cards still held in their hand (cards which have been laid down in the form of runs or books or placed on other runs or books do not count as cards still in your hand). Numbered cards through 7 (2-3-4-5-6-7) are five points each; 8-10 and face cards are 10 points, Aces are 20 points, and Jokers are 50 points. The SHANGHAI is used if someone wishes to discard a card which may be played on one of the runs or books down on the table. This normally would only happen if the person discarding this card is not down yet; otherwise they could play the card rather than discard it. The person discards the card while saying "SHANGHAI". This card may NOT be picked up by the next player, so that person must draw. Conversely, if someone accidentally tosses a card that may be played, any person may call out "SHANGHAI". In this event (per my grandmother mind you!!!) the card is removed from the discard pile and placed in the spot where the person calling SHANGHAI saw that it could be played (this is important if you're trying to add cards to a run... if there's a 5-6-7-8 of spades down, for example, and you have a 2 and a 3 of spades, you definately want someone to play the 4 of spades on that run so that, on your turn, you can get rid of the 2 and 3. So if someone tosses a 4 of spades accidentally, you yell "Shanghai", then place the 4 of spades at the lower end of the run.) The other thing that happens in this case is that the person caught tossing the card must draw a card at random from the hand of the person who called "SHANGHAI". Naturally if you're not down yet, you probably don't want to call out "SHANGHAI" because you then loose a card, perhaps one you need to get down. In the above example, it's also possible that the 3 of spades may be drawn from the hand of the person who called "SHANGHAI", thus spoiling their plans to get rid of both the 3 and 2 of spades. So it goes.
The MAY I: I don't know if this is a standard rule or something my family made up ages ago. According to our rules, twice during every round you are allowed to draw a card off of the discard pile out of turn. This can be essential to assembling a book or a run. How it is done: If you see a card discarded which you want, but it is not your turn to draw, you may call out "MAY I" before the next person draws a card. In this event, the person who is to draw must agree that they do not want to pick up the discarded card themselves rather than draw -- they have first right. If they only wish to draw from the top of the deck, then they can not refuse you the right to take the discarded card... but when you "MAY I", you not only take the discarded card, but you also draw two cards from the top of the deck. You do not discard anything since you are doing this out of turn. This means you add 3 cards to your hand, and if you MAY I twice in the round, you will have 17 cards in hand, quite a lot to get rid of. But sometimes it will be more important to simply get DOWN first, and the MAY I can help you do this.
In the event of a MAY I, any person between you and the person who's turn it is also has first right to the discarded card. We play clockwise, so that the person to your right draws before you do and discards to you. So if the person two seats to your right is the person in play, if it's their turn, and you call "MAY I", then not only does that person have first right at the card, but the person immediately to your right has second right to the card... of course, if the person immediately to your right really wants the discarded card, they will have to MAY I for it as you are attempting to do. They do not have to call out MAY I before you do, they just have to be willing to add three cards to their hand. If they have already done the MAY I twice then of course they can not do it again, so they can no longer keep you from the card.
The last hand is three runs, no discard. This means after drawing from the discard pile or from the top of the deck, you must be able to lay all your cards down and have them form just three runs. Naturally in this round everyone else will be caught with all their cards still in their hand, so winning the last hand can be a big key to winning the game.
Those are most of the rules. There is one other obscure rule I can think of... according to my grandmother, although a "SHANGHAI'd" card may not be picked up or MAY I'd, if another card is placed on top of it, then MAY I'd, (thus exposing the Shanghai'd card again), it may now be drawn or MAY I'd and put into play in normal fashion.
We normally play with four people, sometimes three. A four-person game in our family usually lasts 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours. More than four people can be very cumbersome and time consuming, so we generally don't allow more... if there are 5 or six people wanting to play, we usually start a second game, or someone will play for part of the game and then turn their hand over to another person.
I could go on forever about all the Shanghai lore in my family, but there's no call for that. Let's just say that my favorite memory, and probably everyone's, was the time my grandfather, a former preacher mind you, was losing badly, and suddenly stood up, started swearing, ripped his robe off, threw it in the corner, and swore in all seriousness that "I NEVER COULD PLAY IN THAT ROBE!" Family legend, that...


So write me already!

© 1998 nausicaa@sprynet.com

Page built with spider Arachnophilia 3.4