Jo is a matching card game also referred to as Joker Rummy or Contract Rummy. It has many variants across the globe, although this article refers to the standard version.
Jo is played in exactly 7 rounds or hands, with each round having a specific requirement or contract and a certain number of cards.
Number of Decks:
Jo uses standard decks of 52 cards plus the jokers. The number of jokers in play is equal to the number of players minus one. So, for 5 players, use four jokers, for 3 players, use 2 jokers, and so on. The number of decks you use will also depend on the number of players you have.
3-4 players 2 decks
5-6 players 3 decks
7-8 players 4 decks
You can play Jo with more than 8 players, although this can make for a longer game (still 7 rounds but each round takes longer). For every 1-2 players beyond 8, add one more deck of cards.
Valuing Aces and Jokers:
In Jo, Aces can count as either low or high for purposes of creating runs of cards but not as both (wrap arounds). For example runs of A-2-3 or Q-K-A are legal but not K-A-2.
Jokers are wild in Jo and can stand in for any other card. There are additional rules for joker play that are covered in the play of the game section.
Contract Requirements and Number of Cards Dealt in Each Round:
Round # Number of cards dealt Contract Requirements
1 10 Two groups of three of a kind
2 10 One group and one sequence in the same suit
3 10 Two sequences (same suit)
4 10 Three groups
5 12 Two groups and one sequence
6 12 One group and two sequences
7 12 Three sequences and no discard (see below)
Once you have the decks set up with the appropriate number of jokers, the dealer shuffles the decks together and deals out 10 or 12 cards to each player by dealing one at a time clockwise (to the left) until the appropriate number of cards are dealt. The remaining deck is placed in the center.
Players should sort their cards in groups of the same rank or sequences in the same suit depending on the contract requirements for that round. All play proceeds in a clockwise direction. The first player to act is the player to the left of the dealer.
The Play of the Game:
Each round or hand consists of players taking turns in a clockwise direction. A hand ends when a player has fulfilled the conditions of the contract (referred to as melding) and has discarded her or his final card.
Each player’s turn proceeds in this manner:
The Draw: The first player draws from the facedown deck (the stockpile) and during the discard portion of the turn, will turn the discarded card face up next to the stockpile (the discard pile). Each subsequent player may, on their turn, draw one card from either the stockpile or the discard pile, but they must announce it first to allow other players to introduce the “May I?” phase if they are not drawing from the discard pile.
May I?: Once a discard pile has been established, any player may, out of turn, request to take the top card from the discard pile if and only if the player whose turn it is has announced he or she will draw from the stockpile. If more than one player wishes to invoke the “May I?” phase, then the player closest to the immediate left of the player whose turn it is, has the first option of doing so. Any player successfully invoking the “May I?” phase must draw an extra penalty card from the stockpile as well. Play reverts back to the player whose turn it was initially, although that player may not draw from the discard pile and must draw from the stockpile.
Melding: On your turn, after you have drawn a card from either the stockpile or the discard pile, you may lay the cards that fulfill the contract for that round face up in front of you. This is called melding. However, you must have the contract fulfilled completely. For example, on the first round where you must make two groups of three of a kind, you may meld a hand that holds three jacks and three tens (including a joker to sub for one of these), but you cannot meld the three jacks by themselves.
Lay off: After you have completed the required contract for the round and laid those cards face up in front of you on the table, you may now lay off. This means you may play a card that fits any of the groups of cards that are also melded in front of you or another player. For example, if you have melded in round 2 your group (three tens) and your sequence (Q-K-A of hearts) you may add an additional ten to your group or the jack of hearts to your sequence, or the appropriate cards to anyone else’s sequence. If someone used a joker to fit their melding requirements, and you have the appropriate card to replace that joker, you may trade these cards, but you must also lay off the joker elsewhere before your turn ends.
Discard: At the end of each turn, you must discard one card face up on the discard pile. The lone exception to this is on the 7th round, you do not have to discard once you have gone out.
Going Out: The round ends once a player has discarded her or his final card and has no cards left. This is called going out.
An important note regarding sequences:
When you get to the point where two sequences are required, these may not be of the same suit unless they are not a continuous run. A continuous run would be considered part of the same sequence. They may overlap however.
For example, runs of 4-5-6 of hearts and 8-9-10 of hearts would be treated as separate sequences for melding purposes. A run of 4-5-6 of hearts and 5-6-7 of hearts would also be treated as separate sequences. However a run of 4-5-6 of hearts and 7-8-9 of hearts would not be considered two separate sequences for the purpose of melding.
Once the cards are melded, a player laying off a card that connects the sequences does NOT combine the two sequences, but may add the card to either sequence. Once sequences have been melded they cannot be altered to form one single sequence but maintain their separate character.
At the end of each round, once a player goes out, she or he gets points according to what cards the other players still hold in their hands (the ones they have not melded or laid off). Scoring occurs as follows:
Aces and Jokers = 15 points
Face cards (K, Q, J) = 10 points
Numbered cards = their numerical value (9 of hearts is worth 9 points for example)
After the 7th round, the person with the highest score wins.
Alternatively, you can also play where each player counts their own points against themselves instead of giving them to the player that went out in that round. In this case, the player with the least amount of points after round 7 wins.