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Gin Rummy

Learn the rules and strategies for winning at the card game called Gin Rummy.

Gin Rummy

Gin Rummy is credited to a member of the Knickerbocker Whist Club of New York. He apparently called the game “Gin” after the alcoholic drink, as a kind of analogy to the original game of Rum—although there is no indication that “Rummy” is named after any alcoholic beverage at all. The game is usually played by just two people, but there are variations of the game that allow for more players. A standard 52-card deck is used, and Aces are low.

High Score

Remember for all games of Rummy: A group is three or more cards of equal rank (same card of different suits, like three 4s or four 6s) and a sequence is a series of three or more cards of the same suit in order.

Gin Rummy is actually just like “Knock Rummy,” but it is played by only two people. There are other versions of Gin that can be played with more than two, but the basic game is two-handed. Like all versions of Rummy, it is a draw-and-discard game.

Luck of the Draw

Cards are drawn from the deck to determine who deals first. The person who drew the highest card can choose to deal or not to deal. After the initial drawing of cards, the winner of each hand gets to deal in subsequent games. The dealer has the option of shuffling the cards last before the next deal, and the nondealer usually cuts the cards before the deal.

After these fine-tuned preliminaries, the cards are dealt one at a time—10 cards to each player. The remaining cards are placed face-down on the table to form the stock pile, and the first card of the stock pile is turned face-up to form the discard pile.

How to Play

Like in other Rummy games, the object is to form your cards into sets, or melds. Sets are comprised of a sequence of cards according to suit or rank. You must have a minimum of three cards in rank or suit to start a meld. Cards that do not form part of a meld are called “unmatched cards.”

Play begins with the nondealer. The nondealer has the option to draw a card from the stock pile or from the discard pile. The nondealer can also opt to pass his or her turn to the dealer. If the nondealer passes the first turn to the dealer, the dealer has the same option to pass, and, as a result, the nondealer has to draw the first card anyway.

If the nondealer chooses to draw the first card, the play continues with the players alternating drawing and discarding. When you draw a card from either pile, you must discard another card to the discard pile. You cannot discard the card you draw on the same turn.

Who's There?

A player can choose to “knock” at any point during the game as long as his or her unmatched cards (after discarding) total less than 10 points. Knocking means you lay down all 10 of your cards in sets, with any unmatched cards separated into another pile. If you can make all 10 cards into sets, it means you “go gin” and your total count is zero. When you “go gin,” you score the total value of your opponent's unmatched cards plus an extra bonus of 25 points (in some versions of the game, you score a 20-point bonus).

The goal is to score 100 points, which you accumulate over a series of games.

The cards are valued as follows:

  • Face cards = 10 points
  • Ace = 1 point
  • All other cards = face value

If the knocker's unmatched cards have the lesser value, he or she wins the difference of the counts. So if the knocker has 5 points in unmatched cards and the opponent has 10 points in unmatched cards, the knocker scores 5 points. If the opponent has a lesser (or equal) value in unmatched card points, he or she “undercuts” the knocker and scores the difference plus a bonus (10, 20, or 25 points—depending on whom you are playing with). If the knocker and opponent have an equal value of unmatched card points, then the opponent gets the bonus. A knocker cannot be undercut by the opponent if he or she has “gone gin.”

Three Strikes

Try to keep very low cards in your hand (like Aces, 2s, and 3s), even if these cards have low prospects of forming any matched sets. Otherwise, if your opponent wins, you could get stuck with a large number of points at the end of the round!

If no one has knocked by the time the fiftieth card is drawn, the game is over and no one scores any points.

If one player knocks, the opponent may lay off any unmatched cards to the knocker's matched sets. That way, as the opponent, you can reduce the point value of your unmatched cards.

Winning the Game

You keep playing rounds of Gin until one of you scores a total of 100 points. The first person to score 100 is the winner.

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