How To Play Gin Rummy

by Mike Jones

Probably one of the most popular card games in America is the game of rummy, but in some parts of the U.S. the game of gin rummy is actually overtaking it in popularity. If you've never played this game, then you're in for a treat. Like the regular game of rummy, gin rummy can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

While it can be played by two to six players, the game is ideal for just two players who want a quick and fun card game. All you need to play is a deck of cards and something to keep score with. The goal of the game is to be the first player to meld/play all your cards.

Basic Game Play Setup

To setup the game, shuffle the deck and then select a dealer. The cards are dealt as follows:

  • 10 cards each

The draw pile is formed by the cards not dealt. These cards may be placed face down to form a draw pile. The top card in the draw pile will be selected and placed face up in order to be the start of the discard pile.

Your objective is to create runs and sets of groups of three or more cards that go together. In order to go together, the cards need to either be of the same rank (like being all eights) or be in the same suit and in sequential order (like 2,3,4 of spades). When you make these matching collections of cards, they are called melds.

Starting Game Play

Starting Game Play
Starting Game Play

At the start of the game, the player who is not the dealer is given the opportunity to pick up the card that is flipped face up on the table. If the non-dealer passes on this card, then the dealer gets the opportunity to pick it up for his or her hand.

Or, the dealer can pass on picking up the card. If this happens, then game play starts with non-dealer drawing a card from the top of the deck.

Once a card is picked up, the player has to choose a card from their hand to discard. Play then moves on to the next player to select the top discard or top card from the deck.

Game play continues between the two players as they try to form sets and runs in their hands.

When it's your turn this is what you should do:
  • Draw one card from the top of the discard pile or the top card in the draw pile.
  • You have the option of playing a meld of cards or adding to another player's meld.
  • You must discard one card. This card must be added to the discard pile. A player that melded all his/her cards does not have to discard one card.

NOTE: A card that is drawn from the discard pile cannot be discarded on the same time.

Laying Off: Refers to playing a card or cards that fit a meld on the table. Laid off cards are placed in front of the player playing them.

A player may choose cards or a card from his hand that fit a meld already on the table. This is referred to as "laying off." Cards that are laid off are placed in front of the player who plays them.

Exhausting the Draw Pile

When the draw pile is exhausted meaning the players have picked all the cards, you should shuffle the cards in the discard pile leaving only the top card.

Going Out and Scoring

For most players, the ideal way to go out in gin rummy is to put all of the cards into melds. This technique is called 'going gin' and results in the most points. However, you should know that this is the most challenging way to go out.

To go gin, you literally just announce 'Gin' at the table.

When you 'go gin', you earn 25 points plus the sum of whatever your opponent fails to make into complete combinations (i.e. the unconnected cards, or deadwood).

The other way you can go out in gin rummy is knocking (just once on the table, literally). Knocking is something that you don't see in regular rummy, but is a staple of gin rummy. What is knocking in gin rummy? Once a player's unmatched cards have a value of 10 or less, that player can "knock" by placing the discard facedown.

Once you knock, all players have to tally scores. Your score is the sum of the deadwood (the cards you put facedown that aren't part of any melds). If your opponent's deadwood exceeds yours, you get the points that are the difference between your total and his. But, if your opponent's deadwood doesn't exceed yours, then your opponent get the undercut.

An undercut is when the opposing player's unmatched cards have a value less than or equal to the knocking player's unmatched card value, that means that the opposing player scores the difference in values plus 10 points.

One important thing you need to know about knocking is that the other player can best you because he or she can get rid of his or her deadwood. Your opponent can put down his/her melds, which means that those cards won't count toward his/her score. Your opponent can also add his/her loose cards to your combinations. After your opponent adds any loose cards, only his/her remaining cards count.

And remember, if you choose to knock, then you don't get 25 points for going out like you do if you go gin.

When scoring your cards, remember that Aces are worth one point and face cards are worth 10 points each. Numbered cards are worth their face value.

Typically people play until one player reaches 100 points, but you can set your own top score goal if you like.

How To Play Gin Rummy With 3 Players (or 4 Players)

Though it's not ideal, you can play gin rummy with three, or even four, players instead of the normal two players.

Gin rummy for three players will involve the dealer not being a part of the play whilst dealing with the other two players for the first hand. The next hand will be dealt with by the loser of each hand. The next hand is played between the previous hand's dealer and the winner. And so on.

If you want to play gin rummy with four players, then you play it as teams of two each.

In the four player scenario, each player in a team plays a separate game with one of the opposing pair. Players alternate opponents, but stay in the same teams. At the end of each hand, if both players on a team won, the team scores the total of their points. If one player from each team won, the team with the higher score scores the difference. The first team whose cumulative score reaches 125 points or more wins.

Gin vs Gin Rummy

You might have heard of a card game called just 'Gin' and be wondering if there is a difference between gin and gin rummy. There's not! They are the exact same game, just two different names for it.

However, there are some distinct differences between gin rummy and regular rummy.

Gin Rummy vs Rummy

Players and Deal

Basic or straight rummy involves two to six players with a predetermined number of hands or target score. The players randomly select a dealer. A dealer changes after each hand.

Gin rummy differs in that, it is played by two to four players. The dealer is not selected arbitrarily but through the selection of the lowest card in a shuffled deck. The player who selects this card becomes the dealer first. This is repeated for each hand with the player with the lowest score becoming the dealer.


Basic rummy involves players picking a card from either the top of the discard pile or the draw pile. This card is added to their hand. Three, or more consecutive cards can make a meld if they are from one suit. A meld can be laid off onto another player's meld. The player's turn ends by discarding one of their cards to the discard pile.

In gin rummy, however, the first player to play at the first turn will decide whether or not to select the top card in the discard pile. If they choose not to, then the dealer picks it up. If they both decide not to pick it, the player must pick a card from the top of the draw pile.


In basic rummy, melding will yield ten points for kings, queens, face cards or jacks each. Aces will be worth 1 point with the numeric value of number cards being their value. The total of the remaining cards in an eliminated player's hand will be added to the winner's total score.

Gin rummy is different in that at the end all the players will add up the total score of their unmatched cards. Gong gin will yield a point bonus of 20 plus the values of the opponent's unmatched cards. Having a count greater than an opponent without going gin yields a 10 point bonus.


Basic Rummy is not over until the predetermined hands are played, or predetermined points are scored. To win, players can make melds and lay off.

Gin rummy varies in that a player aims to attain a knock. This means, they try to lay down or knock the cards in their hand after discarding as a meld. For a knock to work, the value of the remaining cards needs to be 10 points or less for cards that do not match or deadwood. The first player to hit the 100 point mark is the winner.

About Mike Jones

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family."

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