Karen Aiello, seated in center, plays the final round of the 8th World Rummikub Championship on Mount Etna, an active volcano in Italy.
Though Karen Aiello only started playing Rummikub two years ago, she is already at the top of her game. The Social Circle resident recently won the Online World Championship in Rummikub, a game that is similar to the card game Rummy, and she estimated she competed against tens of thousands of players for the title.
"I was very surprised," said Aiello of her win, which qualified her to compete internationally. "Then they said OK, in three weeks you're going to Sicily. It's a good thing I had my passport."
The Rummikub company sent Karen and her husband Mike Aiello on an all-expenses paid trip to Italy, where Aiello represented both the U.S. and the Rummikub Online community to compete in the 8th World Rummikub Championship held in Sicily this month. She played a board game version of Rummikub alongside players from 32 countries.
Her performance didn't disappoint. She earned a spot in the final round of the tournament, which involved the top four players, and took place on the 2002 lava flow of Mount Etna. She came in third, with competitors from Holland and Belgium placing first and second respectively.
"I was in the top four and everyone was ecstatic. They couldn't believe that the online player was in the tournament," Aiello said.
Aiello said to prepare for her online victory and international achievement, she played Rummikub a couple of hours every day online. Husband Mike, who is the owner of The New Car Wash in Conyers, played also, and at first he was among the top five online players and Karen was sixth. Then, she earned the wild card spot.
"We had a two in six chance of winning the (online) tournament, and an opportunity to go to Italy. We always wanted to go to Italy and we never found the time and this forced us to go," Mike Aiello said, who added that they stayed in a Buddhist monastery overlooking the Mediterranean Sea while in Italy for the tournament.The board game of Rummikub consists of 104 Rummikub tiles, in four different colors and numbered 1 through 13, with two or more joker tiles. Players draw 14 tiles at random and attempt to make runs of three or four tiles to amass points. The first person to get rid of their tiles wins the round.
Rummikub combines elements of rummy, dominoes and chess, and Mike said it's the fourth most popular board game behind chess, checkers and Monopoly.
Karen Aiello said Rummikub is a game of strategy that is both relaxing and challenging.
"When you have a big play, it gets very exciting," she said. "It's very mentally stimulating."