Rummy Strategy:


Hand reading

So this is going to be a strategy article about hand reading in Rummy games. Knowing what your opponent is holding is a very important part of getting an edge in any card game. If you know your opponents exact hand, you can adjust appropriately and discard cards that are not helpful to him, or start dumping high cards, if you know he’s close to winning. There are a few factors you can use to determine your opponents hand, so let’s take a look at some of them…

Previous picks from the discard pile

This is probably the most important factor when trying to determine your opponents hand. Always keep track of what they are picking up. Here’s an extreme example:

You are playing one-on-one and you have discarded two kings in a row, your opponent picked up both of them. It’s pretty obvious here that your opponent is making a set of kings, so if you get another one, try not to discard it.

When your opponent is forming sets there’s actually not much you can do, since he’ll probably have a complete set already when you figure it out, but it’s a bit different with runs… if your opponent picks up connected cards twice in a row, you should figure out that he is making a run, and not give him any extra cards that would make it even longer.

Previous discards

Now that you are taking his discard picks into account, you should look at his discards. You can use this to narrow his hand even further. For example:

Your opponent picks up your discarded king and discards another king himself. You can determine now that he is not making a set, but rather a run including the king you discarded.

You can take this even further by remembering his previous discards. So if he discarded 6 of clubs two turns back and now he picks up your discarded 6 of diamonds, you can be pretty sure he’s not making a set.

Taking formed meld into consideration

This is pretty obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway. Always look at the melds that your opponent has already tabled, so you don’t consider your discarded card that is not even in play anymore.

Opponent tendencies

In any card game you should know your opponent. As far as hand reading in rummy goes, this basically means that you should find out a few things during the game:

  • Does your opponent pick up discards only to form 3 card melds or does he like to form 2 card melds with discards as well?
  • Is your opponent inclined to table formed melds right away or does he like to hold them for a while?

Apart from these questions, you should look for anything else you think might help.

Don’t forget your cards!

Important, don’t forget your cards! I’ll show you what I mean on an extreme example:

You discard the 7 of diamonds, he picks it up. Now you pick up the 6 of diamonds and discard it and he picks it up. Now you pick up the 5 of diamonds, you are obviously not going to discard it, since that would give your opponent a finished run. Now your next pick is the 8 of diamonds… now it’s pretty obvious that what you would at first thought was your opponent forming a run, is actually your opponent forming two sets(unless you are playing a two deck game).

Playing in a live game

Did you see the movie High Roller The Stu Ungar story? It’s a biographical movie about a legendary poker player that started out as a rummy player, supposedly a pretty much unbeatable one. Well in the movie he reads his opponents hand perfectly (except the color of one card, but let’s not be picky).

How does he do it? Well he looks at where his opponent puts certain cards in his hand. People always have tendencies to arrange cards in a certain fashion, which makes sense, since you need some kind of order, so that you don’t accidentally break melds, miss possible melds etc. Well, if you can »break the code« by which your opponent is arranging his cards, you can pretty much know what he has after just a few discards.

This might seem like a lot of work at first, but if you are playing for real (by real, I mean for money) you really should learn to do this.


So this is it, now you know how to read your opponents hand in Rummy games. I hope that this will help a little and that the next time you play online or with your friends, you’ll crush your opposition and be able to brag a little.

Enjoy playing Rummy!