Jamaican Kalooki

There are many versions of Kalooki that are experienced all over the world. One in particular is extremely popular. Although this particular type of Kalooki has the same name, they have almost nothing in common with the European and North American versions of Kalooki. In fact, it is more similar with contract rummy which is also a popular type of game.

In Jamaican Kalooki there are usually 3 to 6 players, and tournaments are played with 4 players. Two decks of cards are used, with 52 cards each and 4 jokers. The object is still the same, which is to lay down all of your cards and go out before your opponent’s do. However, the penalties that are involved if you get left with cards in your hand are different. The joker is worth 50 points, the black Ace is worth 15 points, the King, Queen, Jack, and 10 are worth 10 points, the 2 through 9 is face value, and the red Ace is worth 1 point.

The melds are called threes and fours. A “three” is a set of cards in the same rank such as all 4’s or all Queens. The suits of the cards do not have to be different, so you can have duplicates. A “four” is a run of at least four or more consecutive cards but of the same suit. Aces can be used either for high or low, but can only be used at the end of the run, not in the middle. For example, A, 2, 3 is acceptable, but K, A, 2 is not.

The jokers in Jamaican rummy are still used to substitute for any card in a three or four, but in a “four” the jokers can’t be used for consecutive cards. For example, you can have 3, Joker, 4, but you cannot have 3, Joker, Joker, 6. They must be used only by themselves. If using a joker in a “three”, there must be at least two non-joker cards. For example, Q, Q, Joker is acceptable, but Q, Joker, Joker is not acceptable. Jokers can never be reused or removed from a meld. However, in a four, a joker can be moved within the same meld by the person who has the card that the joker represents. It may never be moved to a different three or four.

The big difference in this type of Kalooki comes when the players take turns to deal or share the cards. The first dealer is chosen at random. It takes 9 deals or games to make a set, and the winner is the person who has the lowest combined score at the end of the set. The cards are dealt only one at a time, and the number of cards that are given tot hem depends on the game being played and how many “deals” you make. The next card is turned face up for the discard pile, and the remaining cards are put face down next to it. You have to open with a minimum “contract” or quota of threes or fours. That means that on certain games you have to open with a very specific number of melds, sometimes including both threes and fours. Here is the quota per game:

Game No. Cards dealt Contract
1 9 three threes
2 10 two threes, one four
3 11 two fours, one three
4 12 three fours
5 12 four threes
6 13 three threes, one four
7 14 two threes, two fours
8 15 one three, three fours
9 16 four fours

When it a player puts down more than one four, it is required that it must be of a different suit. When a player puts down more than one three, it also must be of a different rank. The play goes clockwise from the dealer’s left. When it is your turn you must draw a card from the stock or the discard pile, lay down cards which is optional, and discard any card other than a joker face up on the discard pile.

If you haven’t made your initial quota and you want to take a card that was discarded by another player and it is not your turn to play next, you can “call” the card. The player whose turn it is next can do one of two things. They can either allow the call which means that they give you the top discard. At this point you must also draw one other card from the stock pile but you cannot lay down or discard. You will then have two extra cards in your hand. The play then goes to the person who was interrupted by the call who plays in a normal fashion. They can also refuse the call which means they can take the discard for themselves. The call then doesn’t mean anything, and play continues.

There may be a time when several people try to call the same card. The person who calls it first will get it, if the next person allows it. You can only have one call per turn. You cannot call a card underneath the first called card. You only get three calls per game. Also, once you have laid down cards, you can no longer call.

Once you lay down according to the contract for each game, you are no longer allowed to take cards from the discard pile. You must also draw from the stock. Also, if another players calls in your turn, you must always allow the call, no matter what. You can then continue to lay down additional cards in the same turn, or the turns after your initial contract is made. You can also “tack on” cards, which means that you are adding to your threes or fours.

Jokers can never be discarded during the play. You can use them in your threes and fours, so really there is no reason to get rid of them anyhow. When a player goes out by putting his last card in the discard pile, the other players add up the total value of the cards in their hand. They then add this to the cumulative total of penalty points they have from previous rounds. If a player goes out in the same turn in which they laid down their first card, this is called “bending the table” which means that the other points in the players hands that lost are then doubled. The player with the lowest score at the end of 9 rounds is the winner.