Each player chooses a random card to start and the player with the highest value card becomes the dealer for the first round. From the first hand forward, the player who wins the previous round is the dealer for the following round.
10 cards are dealt face down to each player and the remaining cards are placed into the center of the play area with the top card turned upwards.
The player to the left of the dealer goes first. The first round, each player can decide whether to pick up the upturned card and discard one of the 10 in their hand or keep the 10 cards they have.
If they choose to pick up the card and discard one, the next player has the choice of picking up the previously discarded card or keeping the 10 they have.
Once each player has had their first turn, the players then have to pick one card up and discard one card each turn. If they don’t want the face-up card, they can pick the top card from the remaining pack in the middle of the play area. They then have to discard one card to ensure they always have 10 cards in their hand.
Play continues in this way until one player wins.
Above is an example of a layout for a game of Gin Rummy. Each player has 10 cards, you can only view yours and not your opponents, there are 2 piles of cards in the middle of the play area and you can take the upturned card if you wish – which your opponent will have discarded – or choose one from the face-down pile.
Aim of the Game
Players need to use at least 9 of their 10 cards to make runs – cards in numerical order and of the same suit – or 3 or more cards of the same rank – value. Remember, Aces only count as low and therefore a player can have a hand of Ace, 2 and 3 but not Queen, King and Ace.
The game ends when one player has 9 or 10 matched cards. After they discard for the final time, if they use all 10 cards they would call Gin and turn their cards over, if they use 9 of the 10 they would Knock and turn their cards over to show what cards they have. Points are then worked out.
If a player uses all 10 cards, so a run of 4, a run of 3 and a set of 3 for example, then they have no points and win the hand.
If they use 9 of the 10 cards, then they have the value of the remaining card in their hand. All picture cards are worth 10 points, other cards are worth points equal to their face value.
The losing player shows their cards and any runs or sets of 3 or more cards are put to one side. The value of the remaining cards is added together to work out their total points value.
The winner of the hand is the player with the fewest points, they win the difference in the value of their cards compared to their opponents. If the winner of the hand uses all 10 cards, they have a points value of 0.
If a player uses all 10 cards – they would call Gin – then they get a 20 point bonus from the hand as well as the difference in points. If a player uses 9 cards – they would Knock – they get a 10 point bonus if the value of their remaining card is less than the value of their opponents remaining card/s, if it is higher then their opponent gets the 10 point bonus as well as the difference in points.
After each hand, the points for each player are added together. The winner of an overall game of Gin Rummy is the player who reaches 100 points in total first.
Gin Rummy Strategy
As Gin Rummy is a quick and easy game to play, there isn’t much of a strategy to follow. However, there are a few ways you can increase your chances of winning.
Keep an eye on what cards your opponent discards. This can give you an idea of what they are trying to get, for example, if they pick up a 7 of diamonds then you know they are either after 7’s or a run that includes a 7 of diamonds. If you have any cards that could assist either of these, try and keep hold of them for as long as possible.
Another advantage of knowing what has been discarded is that it gives you a better idea for what cards are left. If you see your opponent discard two Jacks, there is no point in keeping a pair of Jacks yourself in the hope of getting a set.
If you have a choice of cards to discard, keep the lower ones instead of the higher ones. The more points you have at the end of the game for cards that aren’t involved in a set or run, the better for your opponent. If you do lose a hand, it is better to do so with lower value cards.
Knock early to try and catch your opponent with as many unmatched cards as possible. Although some players prefer waiting until they have Gin – using all 10 cards – it is worth Knocking when you have used 9 cards if there are a lot of cards left as your opponent may not have many matched cards and therefore you will be looking at more points than if you wait for a few more hands for Gin.
Gin Rummy Tips
Wherever possible, avoid taking a card from the discard pile. This gives your opponent information about the kind of hand/s you are looking to get and could lead to them withholding a card or cards that you need. Unless the card from the discard pile completes a run or set, avoid.
We mentioned in the Strategy section about Knocking early, this goes the other way in that if you Knock late with a weak hand your opponent may well have gotten rid of the high value ‘deadwood’ and have a low hand so even if you Knock later on there is no guarantee you will win. If the cards you hold are the later, the more you should consider trying to get Gin instead of Knocking.