Rummy vs Rummikub – What’s the Difference?

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You’ve heard of Rummy and Rummikub, but you’re wondering–what’s the difference?

In both games the objective is to play all your cards/tiles by building sets. Yet while they are similar, Rummy is based on a 52 card deck (plus 2 jokers), and Rummikub uses 106 tiles.

Rummy and Rummikub are both beloved games played by people across the globe. They have a similar premise, and even their names are similar. However, there are some important distinctions between the two.

This article breaks down the differences between Rummy and Rummikub while also answering some common questions about the games, their rules, and different variations.

Ready to learn more? Keep reading to get started.

What is Rummikub?

Close up shot of number tiles

Rummikub is a strategy tile-based game invented by Ephraim Hertzano. It’s designed for two to four players and includes 106 tiles of four different colors, including two joker tiles.

Players begin by spreading all the tiles over the table, face down. Each player draws 14 tiles to begin, and the remaining tiles form the pool. The players’ objective is to be the first one to play all their tiles.

In modern Rummikub sets, each player has their own rack to hold their tiles. Before play begins, each player draws one tile and reveals it. The player with the highest value tile goes first. Those tiles are returned to the pool and mixed up. Players then choose their 14 tiles, leaving the other tiles as the pool. Game play passes clockwise.

Players must make an initial meld of at least 30 points. Once they’ve played their initial meld, players are free to play on any sets. Sets consist of runs and groups. Runs are at least three tiles of consecutive numbers in the same color. Groups are three or four tiles of the same value but different colors.

If a player cannot play, they must draw a tile from the pool, and their turn ends. The first person who lays down and uses all of their tiles on the table is the winner of the round.

You can manipulate the tiles on the table as long as you use all of the tiles in the proper manner. If you don’t, all of the tiles must be returned to their original positions and you have to draw 3 tiles as a penalty.

Unlike Rummy, in Rummikub, you are able to manipulate all of the tiles on the table since the played tiles do not count toward the final score. Jokers are wild and can be used as any number. But if you are caught with jokers on your tile rack, that’s a penalty value of 30 points.

Ultimately, the winner is the person who gets the highest score after a certain number of rounds or the one who reaches a predetermined number first, normally 200-400 points.

At the end of each round, all of the losing players add up the points left on their rack and those points count as a negative score. The total of all of these negatives is then tallied as a positive score for the winner of the round. 

What is Rummy?

Two people playing rummy

Rummy is a match-making card game where players attempt to build runs or sets. Runs consist of three or more cards of consecutive numbers in the same suit. Sets are three or four cards of the same number.

Several variations of Rummy games are played around the globe, but they all share the same basic premise: Draw cards and build sets. Rummy is played with a standard 52-card deck.

The exact origins of Rummy are unknown, but there are several theories. One of the earliest known Rummy games was Conquian, played in Mexico in the 1800s. This game traveled to the American Southwest, where it was called Cooncan.

Another theory is that the game originated in China. There is a Chinese card game called “Khanhoo”, and another known as “Kon Khin,” which goes back to at least the late 1800s. The games require players to create combinations (sequences and groups) of cards. Many Chinese domino games are also built on this mechanism, such as Mahjong.

In this game, players attempt to empty their hands by building a set or run as quickly as possible. When your turn is over, you must discard one of your cards. The next player has the option of picking up your discard or drawing a new one.

The winner of the game is the person who uses all of the cards in their hand and has the most points laid out on the table. 

At the beginning of the game, each player draws a card. The player that gets the lower card deals first. Game play passes clockwise, just like in Rummikub.

The number of cards dealt depends on the number of players playing the game. If there are just two players, such as in Gin Rummy, each player receives 10 cards. Four players receive seven cards each, and five or six players receive six cards. For four or more players, you can also use two decks and deal 10 cards to each player.

On their turn, each player draws the top card from the stock or the discard pile. If drawing from the discard pile, a player may draw multiple cards. The player will then either meld (lay down three or more cards in a run or a book) or lay off (add cards to a sequence already played).

Players discard to end their turn. A player goes out when they have played all their cards, and the round ends. Some require a player to discard to go out. If a player cannot discard, sometimes they are allowed to “float,” meaning play continues even though they have no cards. On their next turn, presumably they will draw a card and discard it to officially go out.

The round is over when a player goes out. Players score their cards on the table. Face cards score 10 points, jokers score 15 points, and numerals score their face value. Aces count as one point if counted as low and 11 points if counted as high cards. Many times, play continues until a player reaches a certain point value.

What is Rummikub Similar To?

The Rummikub game is of the card game Rummy, as well as the Chinese tile-game Mahjong. Many card games feature similar mechanics of forming sets and using wilds. The major difference is that Rummikub uses tiles. If you enjoy those types of games, you’ll enjoy Rummikub.

What’s the Difference Between Rummy and Rummikub?

Tiles vs Cards

One of the most obvious differences between the two games is that Rummy uses playing cards, while Rummikub is played with tiles. Rummikub uses 106 tiles with four different colors and two jokers. Rummy uses a standard 52-card deck with two jokers.

Rummikub is designed for two to four players, although it’s possible to add extra players using the Rummikub XP version. The first person to use all of their tiles on the board is the winner of the round and then you can either keep score or simply make the round winner the game-winner and start all over again. 


In Rummy, players discard after each turn, forming a discard pile next to the stock (undrawn cards). In a Rummikub game, you don’t discard tiles. There is no discard pile in Rummikub, which makes sense. After all, no one wants to try to stack 106 tiles into a discard pile!


When you play Rummikub, you only draw tiles if you can’t play anything from your player’s rack. Drawing a tile signals the end of your turn. In Rummy, however, you draw one card at the beginning of each turn. This card can come from the discard pile or the stock, which corresponds to the pool in Rummikub.

You can draw multiple cards in Rummy when drawing from the discard pile, although sometimes you’re required to play the bottom card.

When you play Rummikub, the only times you’ll draw more tiles is at the beginning, when everyone draws 14 tiles, and as a penalty if you unsuccessfully attempt to rearrange tiles in a set.


In the rules of both Rummy and Rummikub, scoring occurs at the end of a round. The round is over when a player plays all their tiles or cards. But there are some differences in how each game’s scoring rules.

For Rummikub, the losing players count up all the tiles left in their tile racks, which becomes a negative score. The played tiles are not counted. The cumulative total of all the negative scores are awarded to the winner as a positive score. Each round has high stakes in Rummikub.

In Rummy, scoring varies according to the variation. In the standard version, the winning player totals up their hand to get a positive score. Some play that instead of the winner scoring points, each of the losers score penalty points according to the cards left in their hand. Others play that everyone adds up the value of their played cards, subtracting the penalty value of the cards still in their hands.

Regardless of which scoring system you use, the point values are generally the same. 10 points for face cards, 15 for jokers, and the face value of numeral cards. Aces count as one if counted as the low card and 11 points if counted as the high card.

How Many Rummy Games Are There?

People all over the world play Rummy. This card game is so popular that many regions have their own ways of playing the game. There are different rules and regulations all set around the fundamental concept of drawing, discarding, and building sets with cards.

Many of these variations are played in addition to the card game Rummy. Read more about some of the more common versions.

Contract Rummy

In Contract Rummy, the players each have different objectives (either known or hidden to other players), or each player decides their own objective and announces it before play begins.

In some cases, the player who achieves the objectives first wins the game. Sometimes, players are awarded or penalized extra points depending on whether they successfully meet their objectives.

Robber’s Rummy

In Robber’s Rummy, players play until they have a minimal number of points or cards in their hand. Players are allowed to “rob” cards from already-made melds to make new ones. This variation is exciting but difficult.

Knock Rummy (Gin Rummy)

In Knock Rummy, plays must reveal their entire hand at the end of the game. Players give a knocking signal to show that they have a valid hand. The most well-known version in the Western world is Gin Rummy, a two-player variant. Gin Rummy enjoys widespread popularity, especially among couples.

Canasta-Style Games

Canasta-style card games usually involve partners and use two decks or more, with many wild cards. The rule set is more complicated regarding the initial meld, final meld, and taking the deck.

What’s the Difference Between Rummy and Rummy-O?

Rummy-O is another name for Rummikub. Instead of using cards, like Rummy, Rummy-O is played with tiles. See the section above for more in-depth discussion of the differences.

Can You Play Rummikub with Playing Cards?

Yes, although it’s not the exact same as the card game Rummy.

What is the 30 Rule in Rummikub/Rummy-O?

A player cannot lay down (meld) tiles until they can play tiles with a total point value of at least 30 points. Once they make their initial meld of at least 30 points, they are free to manipulate sets and add one tile (or more) to any existing group or run.

How Do You Pronounce Rummikub?

Rummikub is pronounced, “Rummy Cube.” It’s also referred to as Rummy-O or tile Rummy. The rules are essentially the same.

Rummy vs. Rummikub: Last Word

Now you know Rummy and Rummikub rules and the most obvious differences, you’ll be ready to play either (or both) of these games with your family or close friends. They’re both classic games that have stood up to the test of time.

If you’re interested in learning more about Rummikub, see my in depth guide to Rummikub.

Check out my guide to other classic games like Chess and Draughts.