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Home > Traditional Games (Parlor Games) > Card Games > Gin Rummy Rules & Gin Rummy Strategy

Gin Rummy
Rules and Strategy

Gin rummy (or simply ‘Gin’) is a popular card game for 2 players that uses a standard 52-card deck. It can be enjoyed by casual and dedicated players, young and old alike.

It belongs to the Rummy family of card games; among Rummy-type games, Gin Rummy has simpler rules and is known for faster play as each game typically lasts around 15 minutes.

Gin Rummy is easy to learn. Players are scored in each game in order to determine the winner – usually, the first player to accumulate 100 points.

Playing Cards Laid Out

Like others in the family of Rummy games, Gin Rummy requires skill and strategy to play masterfully and veterans hold a distinct advantage over beginners.


What's Needed to Play a Game of Gin Rummy or Gin:

* a standard deck of playing cards
* a flat surface big enough to accommodate the play area
* (optional) pen and paper to record the score

Objective of the Game Gin Rummy or Gin:

To earn points in each round by having the lower deadwood count.
Then, to win the game by being the first player to reach 100 points.
Note: Points are awarded each round to the winner.

Card Values in Gin Rummy or Gin:

For purposes of scoring, all “number cards” (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) are valued according to their number. Jacks, Queens and Kings have a value of 10. Aces are valued 1.

Gin Rummy is all about ‘Melds’:

Games in the Rummy family make use of ‘melds’. Essentially, players are tasked to form melds during the game in order to improve their chances of winning. Toward this end, a player’s cards are considered as either:
* part of a Meld; or,
* deadwood (i.e., unformed or unsuccessful 'Melds')

About Melds and Rummy Games:

True beginners to the game need to be introduced to the concept of ‘Melds’, which is: A set of 3 or 4 cards with traits to ‘meld’ them together. These traits can be either of:
* a SET of cards with identical rank, such as 2s (e.g., 2-Hearts, 2-Diamonds, 2-Spades).
Note: Fans of Poker will recognize this combination as a Three-of-a-Kind or a Four-of-a-Kind.
Alternatively, a ‘Meld’ can be:
* a RUN of cards in sequential order and of the same suit (e.g., 2-Clubs, 3-Clubs, 4-Clubs, 5-Clubs).
Note: In Poker parlance, this corresponds to a Straight-Flush.

Card Heirarchy in Gin Rummy / Gin:

For purposes of forming melds, the standard card hierarchy in Gin Rummy / Gin is, in ascending order: A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A.
Note: the Ace is allowed to either precede 2 or follow K but not both (i.e., K-A-2 is not a valid sequence; this is not a valid ‘run’)


Counting Deadwood Cards in Gin Rummy / Gin:

Deadwood cards have values which count against the player. When a game ends, the total value of deadwood cards held by both players are counted and compared. The player with the lower deadwood count wins. The winner is then awarded points equivalent to the difference between the loser’s deadwood count and the winner’s deadwood count.
For example, at the end of the game, Player W holds deadwood cards with a value of 4 and Player L holds deadwood cards with a value of 6. The winner is Player W since his deadwood count of 4 is lower than Player L’s deadwood count of 6. Player W is awarded 2 points, which is the difference between Player L’s 6 and Player W’s 4.

Playing Cards: Held by Opposing Player

How to Set Up a Game of Gin Rummy

* the dealer thoroughly shuffles a deck of 52 playing cards (Jokers should be excluded)
* exactly 10 cards are dealt face-down to each player
* one card is dealt face-up and placed into the discard pile
* the remaining cards in the deck form the Stock pile and are placed face-down
* the game is now set up and ready to play
Note: Players take turns in assuming the role of dealer. A coin can be tossed to determine who assumes the role of dealer first.


Order of Play for Gin Rummy or Gin:

The First Move in Gin Rummy or Gin:

Recall that each player is dealt 10 cards. Subsequently, the dealer puts a fina1 card in the discard pile face-up.
The dealer then asks the other player if he wants to get the card from discard pile. If the player refuses, the dealer has the option to get said card.
If neither the player nor the dealer want to play the discarded card, the turn passes to the player.

The Standard Move in Gin Rummy or Gin:

During his turn, a player moves in 1 of 2 ways:
* by claiming the topmost face-up card from the discard pile, or
* by drawing the topmost face-down card from the stock pile
The player always ends his turn by discarding 1 card from his hand and placing said card face-up in the discard pile.
Note: a player will always have 10 cards in hand at the start and end of his turn. During his turn, he will hold 11 cards while he is in the process of deciding which card to discard from his hand.

Winning a Game of Gin Rummy or Gin:

There are a number of ways to win the game. Read on for a detailed account of each method.

Winning by Forming a 'Big Gin' in Gin Rummy:

This is by far the best way to win a game of Gin Rummy / Gin. It involves forming an 11-card hand with no deadwood cards. Take note that the only time a player holds 11 cards is during his turn, when he draws from the stockpile or claims the latest discard. Evidently, this manner of winning requires a brilliant stroke of luck.
The winner is awarded points equivalent to the loser’s total deadwood count. Moreover, bonus points are granted to the winner for claiming victory in such manner. Typically, 25 bonus are awarded.


Winning by Forming a Gin Hand in Gin Rummy / Gin:

If it should happen that a player ends his turn with a 10-card hand that contains no deadwood cards, said player achieves a Gin Hand and instantly wins the game. He is awarded points equivalent to the loser’s deadwood count. Additionally, he is awarded 10 bonus points for achieving a Gin Hand.

Winning by 'Knocking' Successfully in Gin Rummy / Gin:

At the end of his turn, a player can force a showdown by ‘Knocking’. To do this, the challenging player announces his intention to Knock and lays his discard facedown. Next, he lays out his hand with the melds presented in good order and the deadwood card(s) separated. The challenger then awaits the other player (the ‘defender’) to present his hand.
In presenting his hand, the ‘defending’ player is allowed to ‘lay off’ his deadwood cards. Laying Off permits the defender to minimize his deadwood count. It involves attaching the defender’s deadwood cards to any 3-card meld that is presented by the challenger. For example: the challenger presented a 3-card run of the 5-6-7 of Diamonds. As it happens, the defender’s hand includes the 4-of-Diamonds as a deadwood card. The defender should then ‘lay-off’ the 4-of-Diamonds by attaching it to the challenger’s 5-6-7 meld, and in so doing, the defender reduces his deadwood count by 4 points.
Once the defender is done laying-off his deadwood cards, each player’s deadwood count is tallied and compared, a winner is decided, and points are awarded


Winning by Defending against an unsuccessful Knock in Gin Rummy:

If it should happen that the challenging player has the same or higher deadwood count compared to the defender, the defending player wins the game and is awarded the difference between the deadwood counts. Additionally, the defender is granted an ‘undercut’ or ‘underknock’ bonus of 10 points.

Winning Tips and Strategies for Gin Rummy or Gin:

Gin Rummy Tips for Beginners:
* Make it a point to keep you deadwood count as low as possible at all times. This way, even if you lose a knock / challenge, the points awarded to the winner will not be so huge that you are unable to catch up. And if you should be able to defend against the knock attempt, you get a leg up in terms of the bonus points for ‘undercutting’ or ‘underknocking’.
* When forming a Set, avoid waiting for cards that have already been discarded. For all you know, your opponent could be holding the card you want as a part of a Run (sequence).
* When forming a Run, avoid waiting for just 1 specific card that would complete your run. For example, if you hold the A-2 of Hearts, you only have one chance to form a meld: by obtaining the 3-of-Hearts. On the other hand, if you hold the 2-3 of Hearts, you have 2 chances to form a meld: with the Ace-of-Hearts, or with the 4-of-Hearts.

Winning Tips and Strategies for Gin Rummy or Gin: (continued)

Gin Rummy Tips for Advanced Players:
* Keep your opponent guessing. This is a sly tactic that you can implement in a few rounds to keep you opponent off-balance. You can make deliberate moves that set you back and, in so doing, invite your opponent to underestimate you in later rounds. Recall that the winner is the first player to reach 100 points, so that you can use the early rounds to wreak havoc on your opponent’s assessment of you and/or his self-confidence.
* Study your opponent’s methodology. This can be an effective tactic to boost your chance of winning since Gin Rummy is a game for only 2 persons, and so winning requires only that you play better than your opponent; not that you need to play a perfect game. Just be careful because your opponent could be misleading you, if he should use the ‘sly tactic’ mentioned above.


Playing Cards Laid Down (Cartoons)


How to Play Gin Rummy or Gin as a Drinking Game:

It is up to your level of tolerance if you want to play Gin Rummy as a drinking game using hard liquor or beer / wine / champagne. In any case, FFPG recommends using a shotglass to administer your poison; just that you should vary the timing of when the loser takes a drink, and the quantity in each instance.
*Lots of drinks, and more often: After each round, the loser takes 1 shot. Additionally, the loser can take 1 extra shot for ‘undercutting’ or in case of a Gin Hand. Furthermore, the loser takes 2 extra shots in case of a Big Gin. Lastly, when a player reaches 100 points, the loser takes 1 shot for every 10 points that he lags behind the winner.
*Less drinks, less often: Since Gin Rummy can be played fast (especially when both players are very familiar with the game), the loser can just take his drink(s) at the end of the game. Recall that the winner is the first player to reach 100 points. At the end of the game, the loser can take 1 shot for every 10 points that he lags behind the winner.

How to Play Gin Rummy or Gin as an Adult Game:

By its nature, Adult / Strip games are made more fun by the anticipation of what is to come. Since Gin Rummy can be played fast, FFPG recommends taking things slow:
* The loser should take off article(s) of clothing only at the end of the game. Recall that the winner is the first player to reach 100 points. At the end of the game, the loser can take off 1 article of clothing for every 10 points that he/she lags behind the winner.

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