Posted by: Kate | January 7, 2007

Wonder What Grade I’ll Get?

I just got homework from my dad’s girlfriend, to send her the rules to gripe rummy. We played it while she was here the other week, and she wants to share the madness with her daughter. This ended up being way more complicated than I thought it was going to be. Not her fault… just, have you ever tried to write out the rules to any card game? It’s like those early programming lessons where you have to write out every step that is needed to make a peanut butter sandwich – you can just go and do it without conscious thought, but when you have to write it out it’s hard.

And this is an obscure and complicated game, so it’s like handwriting out step-by-step instructions to make Baked Alaska, for use by the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. But I think I managed it, and I’ll post ’em here for posterity and so that anyone (all two of you) else who plays it can point out my errors and idiocy.

Without further ado… The Rules to Gripe Rummy per Kate…

  • You need two decks of cards, jokers removed.
  • Runs are consecutive cards counting in the same suit.
  • Sets are matching cards, any suit.
  • 2s are wild, which means that runs can start from 3-4-5 and go up to Q-K-A, but A is always a high card; you can’t have a K-A-2 run.
  • You need a minimum of three players, but the game is awkward then. Four is the best, and we’ve played with up to six. Past six would be possible, but I think you’d need a third deck.
  • To play: Rotate dealers for each hand. The first person deals 11 cards to each player, turns one card face-up on the table and leaves the remaining cards in a face-down stack. The play moves clockwise. At your turn, you draw one card – either from the face-down stack or the top card in the discard pile (but you cannot draw that card if the previous discard was already “bought” – more on that in a minute). To end your turn, discard one card, face up on the discard pile.
  • Buys: The play moves clockwise, and that includes dibs on the discard from the person to your right. You have first dibs on their discarded card, which you can take up, or you can choose to take a card from the face-down stack. If you do not want that discard, then before you take the card from the face-down stack, the other players have the option to “buy” that card: they can take it up, along with the top card in the face-down stack. This is useful early in the game, if you need a specific card to complete your hand but the person “upstream” from you isn’t being helpful with their discards, and it is necessary in the last few hands – you are dealt 11 cards, but the last few hands call for more than that to be completed. You are allowed three buys each in the first nine hands, and four buys in the last hand.
  • Object: Each player attempts to gather the necessary cards to make up each hand, and has to keep ALL cards in hand until s/he has the complete hand (so, the first hand is 2 sets of three – you can’t put down 1 set of three and wait to get a second set). Once you have a complete hand, you can “go down” – place those cards in front of you on the table. The lowest number of points wins, so you want to get cards out of your hand and onto the table wherever they play.
  • Discards: You cannot discard any card that would play in front of someone else. So, if someone put down a set of 4’s, you can’t discard a 4. Once you have “gone down,” then you can place that 4 onto the other person’s pile. Similarly, if someone had a 4-5-6 run in spades, you can’t discard the 3 of spades until you have “gone down,” and then you can place that 3 on the bottom of the other person’s pile. Likewise, if someone created a run in spades of 4-2-6 (remember, 2s are wild), and you had a 5 of spades, then you hold onto it until you “go down,” at which point you can replace the 2 in that run with your 5, placing the 2 at the bottom or the top of that run.
  • Going out: When you have gone down, you will usually have a few cards left in your hand. You play as many of these as possible on top of other people’s plays. The hand ends when someone is able to play all of their cards with one remaining to discard. Everyone else counts the points for the cards left in their hands; you get zero.
    • Rarely, it happens that you are not able to discard – say, you had a 4 in your hand, and you play that on someone’s set of 4s. You couldn’t simply discard it, because it plays, but now you’re left with no cards in your hand. Now you’re what’s called “floating” – play resumes around the table, and the next time it’s your turn, you pick up the top card from the face-down stack and – unless it plays too – you discard it and end the hand.
  • Scoring: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 = 5 points. 9, 10, J, Q, K = 10 points. A = 15 points. 2 = 20 points.
  • The ten hands are as follows:
    • 1. 2 sets of three
    • 2. 1 set of three, 1 run of four
    • 3. 2 sets of four
    • 4. 3 sets of three
    • 5. 1 set of 3, 1 run of seven
    • 6. 2 sets of 3, 1 run of five
    • 7. 3 runs of four
    • 8. 1 set of three, 1 run of 10
    • 9. 3 sets of three, 1 run of five
    • 10. 3 runs of five

Viola! And if you actually play it, perhaps under a different name (rumor has it that some philistines in New Jersey play a similar game called “May I?”), let me know… especially if you’re close enough to play it here.


  1. I love unfrozen caveman lawyer.

  2. Man – you need to learn Polish Poker. Its way easier to remember and only requires pennies.

  3. WTF? Sounds confusing but I bet it would make a helluva drinkin’ game!

  4. Kate-
    Ever heard of Phase 10? It’s like your playing a cracked out version of it. Kinda like here in Indiana we play Euchre, which is a cracked out version of Spades and no one from anywhere else ever seems to know how to play it.

  5. Hah… we’ve never actually allowed card-playing to get in the way of drinking, so we haven’t used it as a drinking game. Just a vessel to keep us all at the same table while we imbibe, usually.

    Tara, I think Phase 10 is the game that my dad’s girlfriend and her family play – they wanted the rules of Gripe Rummy to have something new to try.

    And we play Euchre, too…

  6. Phase 10 is very similar to what you are talking about. Euchre really? I didn’t think Euchre ever made it past Ohio 🙂

  7. Rochester, NY is Euchre central. Practically everyone I know from there plays it. I grew up there and I’ve played it for almost 20 years.

    It is, however, a boring and horribly basic game. I used to think it was great, but now, not so much.

    Pinochle. Now, there’s a game.

  8. sounds a lot like a card game called Phase 10

  9. lol

    i guess i should have read the rest of the comments first!!

  10. […] bedtime, Willem and I pounced on the opportunity to drag new victims into a favorite card game, gripe rummy.  I like Dan, but have found him difficult to get to know.  He’s a doctoral student in […]

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