shanghai card game rules

OBJECTIVE OF SHANGHAI: Play all cards in hand by melding them.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 3-5 players

NUMBER OF CARDS: Two 52 card decks

RANK OF CARDS: K (high), Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A

TYPE OF GAME: Manipulation Rummy



Shanghai which will be discussed in this article is a variation of manipulation rummy. More commonly, there is a version of Shanghai that is a contract rummy game.

These are not to be confused with and are different games entirely. For more information about rummy card games, click here. 

This game is suited for anywhere between 3 and 5 players, although 4 is optimal. Players may add more decks if they wish to play with more than 5 people, however, this tends to make the game less interesting.


The first dealer is chosen at random by whichever mechanism players prefer. After the dealer deals each player a total of 10 cards. They will be dealt in batches of three sets of 3 cards each, one set of 3 at a time, and then 1 additional card.

The cards that remain are placed face-down in the center of the table, these cards will form the stockpile. In the hands that follow, the deal passes to the left.


Shanghai begins with the player to the left of the dealer and passes clockwise. On each turn, players play cards from their hands to the table. Players must meld their cards in the following ways:

  • Set Meld. A set of 3 or 4 cards with the same rank but different suits.
  • Run Meld. A set of at least 3 cards of the same suit AND in sequence.

Players can use some or all cards in hand to meld or add cards to pre-existing melds already on the table. This particular feature is what makes Shanghai a manipulation rummy game.

If you have the ability to meld more than 1 card you are required to. However, this is not to say you must meld EVERY card that can be melded, but at least more than one. After melding, the turn passes to the next player.

Players that are unable to meld any cards must draw 1 card from the top of the stockpile. If they can play that card, they must, if not they are to continue drawing until they draw a playable card. Once they meld a card their turn is over.

Once a player melds their last card the game ends. 


The game’s namesake, Shanghai, refers to a particular move in the game.

A Shanghai occurs if a player can rearrange some or all of the melds on the table to allow them to play cards in their hand. This is a valid move, permitting all the melds are legal.


The game ends when one player has played all the cards in their hand. That player scores 0 points.

Players that remain in the game score 1 point per card left in hand. The game has no official end, hands are continually played until someone reaches the target score and LOSES, or players call off the game.


How do you play Shanghai Rummy the card game?

Shanghai Rummy is a type of contract rummy where there are ten rounds of play and in each round players are dealt eleven cards each.

There a special rules with shanghai rummy which include changes to the number of buys allowed per round (buying is when a player takes the upcard out of turn), and the number of jokers in the game.

A turn in Shanghai rummy is 3 parts. First, a player will draw a card(s), either from the stock or discard pile. Then a player will meld cards from their hands to fulfill the rounds contract. Then a player will discard a card if they have any remaining in hand.

For more of the Shanghai Rummy rules, you can check out our contract rummy rules, click here. Offical rules for Shanghai rummy coming soon!

What does a player do when they cannot play the cards in their hand?

If a player cannot meld any cards on their turn they will draw a card from the stockpile till they can play a card. Then Their turn ends.

When does the game Shanghai end?

There is no official end to the game Shanghai. It is played typically till a target score is reached or until players tire of it.

How do you will at Shanghai?

There is usually not a winner in Shanghai, but a loser. if you wanted to play for a winner, the player with the lowest score total at the end of the game could be considered the winner.

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9 thoughts on “SHANGHAI RULES”

  1. The hands we play are:

    1 set 1 run -7 cards
    2 runs -8 cards
    3 sets -9 cards
    2 sets 1 run -10 cards
    1 set 2 runs -11 cards
    3 runs -12 cards

    but we deal 11 cards, not 10. I have seen several combinations that start with as few as 6 cards to as many as 15 cards …which requires 11 cards be dealt and two “out-of-turn purchases;” not discussed here. I digress.

    • Thank you SO much!!!! I grew up playing this game with my grandmother but have forgotten the details. Now that I see your comment…we also dealt 11 (but not in sets of three at a time as the article says). We also did 2 out-of-turn ‘purchases’, We scored by counting aces through 9s at face value/ face cards at 10 each/ jokers at 15 points each. We could play on each others’ cards on the table, but we did not rearrange anything. We played the same hands you listed, except we started with a hand of 2 sets (6 cards). Once done the 7 hands, lowest score wins. My grandmother loved stats (knew all the Red Sox stats, but I digress) and kept a record of all out weekly games for years, all on index cards.

      • Hello Dawn, thank you for sharing! Wow, I love the commitment your grandmother had. Thank you again for allowing us to help reconnect with this game and its meaning to you!

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