The Continental card game is a meld-making game that is related to Rummy, Canasta, and other offshoots. In fact, Continental is sometimes also referred to as Continental Rummy.
The name of the game refers to its once international appeal, being played almost all around the world. The game is a favorite of mainland Europe, particularly the Southern Slavic countries.
How to Play Continental
Like other meld-making games, the instructions on how to play Continental follow the same general game rules of other Rummy variations. There are however some unique aspects to this card game that differentiate it from other versions of Rummy.
Continental is played in rounds, with each round having particular rules and requirements.
There are two types of melds in this meld-making game: Trios, and Straights.
- A Trio is 3 or more cards of the same rank. For example, three Kings or three 8s or four Jacks.
- A Straight, like in Poker, denotes a meld of cards incremental in rank. For example, a 9, then a 10, then a Jack. Straights may go from 2-Ace.
Any Player may add cards to another meld that is already on the board during their own turn.
The game is played with the Joker variant of the standard Anglo-American deck. Two of these Joker-included decks are combined into one deck, 108 cards in total.
The first round starts with shuffling the decks, and then each Player draws a card. If a Player draws a Joker, they draw again. The Player which draws the highest card during this stage is the first round’s dealer.
The cards are then reshuffled, and the deck will be split in a roughly 3:1 ratio. The larger portion will be face-down, and becomes the stock. The smaller portion will be flipped up, and becomes the discard pile.
At the end of each round, the Dealer position will transfer to the next Player counter-clockwise of the previous Dealer.
At the start of each round, each Player will be dealt 6 cards. The Player counterclockwise from the Dealer takes the first turn.
In Continental, there are specific rules in order to end the round and start the next. These rules are provided in the chart below:
- Round 1: Two Trios, 6 cards needed to end.
- Round 2: One Trio, One Straight.
- Round 3: Two Straights
- Round 4: Three Trios
- Round 5: Two Trios, One Straight
- Round 6: Two Straights, One Trio
- Round 7: Three Straights
A certain number of cards must be played on the table by the Player that wishes to end the round, and this number increases by one for each round.
In Round 1, in order to end the round, the Player that is ending must have played Two Trios. By playing these two 3 card melds, a Player is already guaranteed to have played the required 6 cards and can end the round.
In Round 2, however, a Player must play one Trio, and One Straight, as well as contributing at least 7 cards to the board. This means their Trio or Straight must have 4 cards in it, or they must have contributed a single card to another meld already on the board.
Once a Player manages to meet the requirement for ending a round, the round automatically ends. No Player, even the one that ended the round, is allowed to play any more melds or place or discard or draw more cards.
At the end of the round, the cards are shuffled, the new Dealer takes their position, and the next round begins.
Rules of Continental Rummy
- Once the round ends, no more melds can be played. Try to play all the highest penalty cards in your meld if it’s the last one of the round.
- You may play off of other melds that are already lain out on the table.
- You must draw a card at the start of your turn. The card may be drawn from the stock or from the discard pile. At the end of your turn, a card must also be discarded from your hand.
- Unlike in other rule variations of Rummy, using up all the cards in the stock does not automatically end the round. Instead, the discard pile may be flipped upside-down, without shuffling, and used as the new stock pile. If the stock runs out again after this, then the round ends and scores are tallied.
Score Sheet & Points
Scoring in Continental is actually very simple, as the game is based upon penalties rather than points (the lowest score wins). Cards that are in your hand when at a round’s end are counted towards the penalty, which is why melds are so important; They remove the cards from your hand and prevent penalties.
Here is a simple scoring sheet that denotes each card’s penalty value:
|K, Q, J, 10||10 Points|
The following is a possible board on round 3:
J♥, Q♦, K♠ 9♦,9♣,9♥
As Round 3 ends when two straights are played, a round-winning hand might look like this:
7♦, 5♣, Joker, 9♣, Q♣, 2♥
Using the Joker card, a straight could be made out of the 5♣ and the 7♦
Frequently Asked Questions
How many decks do you need to play Continental?
This is determined by the number of Players up to 8, though usually a minimum of 4 is required. Continental can be played with two decks of 108 cards, or two Joker variant Anglo-American standard decks when with four players, 3 decks for 5 and 6 Players with 162 cards, and 4 decks for 7 and 8 Players with a deck of 216 cards.
What are rounds in Contintental Rummy?
Each round in Continental is demarcated by a new round of dealing cards from the Dealer. In Continental, the round number determines the melds that are required to end the round and bring about a new deal, as well as tally points for the round.
The game does not end until all the rounds have been exhausted, and once a Player has met the requirements for ending the round, the round ends automatically and no more melds may be formed.
What is the difference between Continental and Classic Rummy?
The round system differentiates Rummy and Continental. In Rummy, the goal of the game is to bring the penalties as close to 0 as possible. That is also the goal of Continental, however there are no limitations to the melds made in Rummy. So long as they are legal melds for the game, they may be played.
In Continental, however, once a particular round’s requirement is met, scores and penalties are automatically scored for that round. No other Player, even the Player that completes the round themselves, are allowed to meld further after the required hands are made.