Monday, December 28, 2009

Royal Lessons Learned, from a game of "Le Rummy"

I can't recall the first time that I played Gin or Rummy with my Mother. But, on every plane ride and by every poolside thereafter, she and my little sister and I we were never without our deck of 52.

So, when Ben's mother suggested a round of 'Le Rummy' after dinner the other evening, I was thrilled! A break for them! No teaching involved on their part! I knew the rules! And, because of our Belote of the other evening, I had been refreshed on the French vocabulary for the suits: le trefle, le pique, la coeur and le carrot, and the Royal Family, la Dame, le Roi, le Valet, as well as, of course, the most powerful, L'As! I was so ready to rock 'n roll, in fact, that I smiled at the their choice to stack the cards next to the Take Pile, a la Gin, meaning players can only take the top card to play, versus spreading them out, allowing for that oh-so-fun, grand sweep!

However, the first time that I went to lay down my cards, one finger and three heads were shaken at me. What, I thought, staring once at my hand, then at their faces? Since when wasn't a Royal Threesome of Jack-Queen-King an acceptable Rummy laydown?

Since the rules in France require the following! First, one must go through three rounds of taking a card until one is allowed to lay down anything. I had presented my Royals in Round 2. Second, one must have 51 points in one's hand. This first laydown must consist of a combination of the following: a run or runs of the same suit or run or runs of cards of the same number, with a minimum of 3 cards per group. I had had a mere 30 points. Each Royal is worth 10 points in Rummy. Still with me? As play continued, I also learned the following. Because in France, one plays le Rummy with not one, but two decks of 54 cards, one must be conscious of not laying two numbers of the same suit in any run combination! Cool?

Finally, in the game my Mother had taught me, I could add points to what I had already laid down. Well, in France, you add points to what your competitors have already laid down! Because, once a player goes out (the same way as in the U.S, by placing down one last card or three or foursome, then placing one's final card on top of the deck next to the big pile) one counts the number of points remaining in each player's hand, not what each player has laid down!

The moral of the story, which applies to both card sharks and non-card sharks alike? Never ever assume, when in a country where you are still learning the language, and thus, ever learning the culture, that you can sit back, count your cards, and quietly sip your schnapps! Happy playing!!!

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