Because we couldn’t seem to find a source online that sets out the rules the way we play it. 2500 is a fun card game, and fairly easy to play once you’ve gone through a hand or two. I recommend at least three players, but there’s no reason two wouldn’t work.
Preparation: You need two standard 52-card decks. Ideally the backs will match, but if they don’t it’s no big deal. Remove all the twos and any jokers floating around in there, then shuffle the rest together. You’ll also want a means of keeping score, and possibly a calculator.
Dealing: The dealer begins by dealing a single face-up card to the person to his left. The value of this card determines how many total cards that person will get. Jacks are worth 11, Queens 12, Kings 13, Aces 14. All other cards are worth face value. The dealer then deals facedown cards until the total is reached. Repeat with all other players until reaching the dealer. The face-up card that the dealer is dealt determines what cards will be wild. E.g., if the dealer gets a King, then Kings are wild. This wild card is left on the table, face up, in front of the dealer for everyone’s reference. The deal ends by putting a single card face-up in the discard pile.
Play: Play starts to the dealer’s left and goes around clockwise. Players try to form three-of-a-kind or better, using at most one wild card to do so. The hand ends when one player runs out of cards, unless this happens during the first round, in which case everyone afterwards gets a chance to play.
- At the start of a turn, a player must either draw a card from the top of the deck, or draw from the discard pile. To draw from the discard pile, the top discard must allow the player to form a natural three-of-a-kind set (“natural” = “no wilds involved”) with the cards in her hand. To put another way, the player’s hand must already contain at least two of the value on the top of the discard pile. When drawing from the discard pile, the player may take any number of cards less than or equal to the value of the top discard. The player must announce the number of cards she wants before she starts drawing. The three-of-a-kind thus formed must immediately be put down.
- During her own turn, the player may put down any three-of-a-kinds or better that she holds. A player’s first three-of-a-kind set must be natural, and cannot be wilds. Once she has at least one of those down, she may also put down more sets, add to those she already has down, put down single wilds to be built upon later, or play on others’ down cards (if someone already has three 5s down, for example, she can put any 5s she has down in front of herself). She may also keep any such cards in her hand if she chooses.
- At the end of her turn, if she has any cards still in her hand, the player discards a card from her hand. The dealer is not allowed to discard the wild initially dealt to himself.
Scoring: At the end of the hand, each player’s score increases for each down card and decreases for each card still in his or her hand. Wilds count for 100 points, aces count for 100, other face cards count for 10, other numbered cards count for 5. Wild aces still count for 100. It is indeed possible to have a negative score. If the dealer never made a three-of-a-kind, the wild card down in front of him counts against him.
Winning: First to make 2500 points wins. In case several make it in the same hand, the highest score wins.
Starting strategy: Generally, you will prefer to get a large hand, as you stand a good chance of putting down some cards on your first hand or two, and thereby scoring any wilds you might have. Dealing yourself a 3 or 4 tends to lead to an ugly round. Pay attention to what others are discarding, and play accordingly, discarding what the next person doesn’t seem to want, while knowing exactly how many cards you want to pick up, should you get the chance. Hanging on to aces or wilds while you wait for your first three-of-a-kind is a high-risk, high-reward tactic, and should be treated as such: if the risk gets too great compared to the reward, consider getting rid of those huge cards.
As you get more experienced, you might want to bluff occasionally, discarding from a three-of-a-kind in your hand so that the player on your right will discard that value, allowing you to pick up a lot of useful cards from the discard. You may also want to avoid adding the same value to the discard pile that everyone else is dumping, in case someone picks up an ace and snags the lot.