Gin Rummy
Gin Rummy
Gin rummy is a simple yet interesting card game usually played between two players, although variations allow multiple players to play as well. This page helps you understand the rules of playing Gin rummy between two players and gets you started on playing it.

The Cards
Gin rummy is played with a standard set of 52 cards known as the deck. There are four suits in each deck, namely - Spades (), Hearts  (), Diamonds (), and Clubs (). Each suit contains 13 cards each: A (Ace) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J (Jack) Q (Queen) K (King).

In Gin rummy, the values of the cards are:
Face cards (J, Q, K)
Number cards (2 through 10)
1 point
10 points each
Value on the card (e.g. two for 2, seven for 7)


Unlike in some other rummy games, there are no wild cards involved in Gin rummy.

The Deal
The deck is shuffled and the dealer deals 10 cards each, face down, to his opponent and himself, one card at a time. The 21st card is then placed face up in a central location, to start the discard pile. The rest of the cards are placed face down near the discard pile to form the stock pile.

The dealer deals 10 cards to himself and 11 cards to his opponent. The opponent then discards one card face up to start the discard pile.

The first round dealer is either chosen randomly or by cutting the card, with low card value dealing. Dealership then alternates between the two players in each round of play. Alternately, the winner of a hand may also deal the next hand.

Situation: Wrong number of cards
Due to dealer mistake, if both players have incorrect number of cards in their hands after the deal, there must be a new deal by the same dealer. Before the play begins, if a player is found with incorrect number of cards, a new deal by the same dealer happens. After the play has begun, if it is discovered that one of the players has the right number of cards, and the other doesn’t, the player with the right number of cards decides whether to have a new deal or to continue the game. If he decides to continue, the player with the incorrect number of cards corrects his hand by either drawing from the stock, in case of less cards, or discarding to the discard pile, in case of excess cards.

Once the cards are dealt, each player looks at their cards and sorts them in their hand.

The Objective
The broad objective of a player is to outscore his opponent in a series of hands and reach a predetermined score to win the game.

In an individual hand, a player tries to collect a hand with all 10 or most of the cards combined in to sets and runs, collectively known as melds. At the same time, a player tries to keep the values of the remaining unmatched cards, if any, low.

A run is a collection of consecutive cards of the same suit, like 5 6 7 8 or 10 J Q
A set is a collection of three or four cards of same rank, like 5 5 5 or 9 9 9

The unmatched cards in a hand that are not part of melds are called deadwood.

Valid Run Invalid Run Valid Set Invalid Set



9 9 9

6 9 9

2 3 4 5 6

2 3 4 5 6

6 6 6 6

6 8 6 5

The hand: 5 6 7 J Q K 3 3 3 9 4 is shown with runs, sets, and deadwood separated





5 6 7 J Q K

3 3 3

9 4

Ace is below 2 in rank and not above K as in some other card games. For example, A 2 3 is a valid run but Q K A is not a valid run.

A card can be used as part of any one run or set, but not both. For example, if a player has 5 6 7 5 5, he can either use the 5 as part of the run 5 6 7 (with unmatched 5 5) or as part of the set 5 5 5 (with unmatched 6 7).

The Play
During the play, the normal turn for each player consists of two compulsory moves:
Draw: The player must draw one card and add to his existing hand. He can either pick the upcard – the uppermost card of the discard pile (face up), or the top card – the uppermost card of the stock pile (face down). After the draw, a player has 11 cards in his hand.

After drawing one card, the player looks at the card and his hand, and decides which card in his hand is the least wanted. He then chooses that card and proceeds to discard that card.

Discard: The player must discard an unwanted card by placing the card face-up on the top of the discard pile (the new upcard). After discarding, the player has 10 cards in his hand. This completes the normal turn of gin rummy play.

The decision of drawing from the stock pile or the upcard, and which card to discard is based on a number of factors, including cards already discarded, own hand position, upcard(s) the opponent has picked, etc. This is discussed in details in the Strategy page.

Sample play 1:
  • Player 1 has 5 6 5 9 J Q 3 3 3 4
  • The upcard is 10
  • Player 1 has to decide whether he needs the 10. Since it doesn’t improve his hand, he draws from the stock pile. He gets K. This completes the draw.
  • He now has 11 cards: 5 6 5 9 J Q K 3 3 3 4
  • K can be used to extend the run of Diamonds. At this point, he needs to decide which card to discard.
  • He discards the 4, as it is not part of his existing or intended melds. This completes the discard.
  • After discard his hand consists of 10 cards again: 5 6 5 9 J Q K 3 3 3

How the first turn starts:
After the dealer deals the cards, the non dealer gets the first turn. If he doesn’t want the upcard, the dealer gets the chance to start the first turn only if he wants the upcard. However, it is important to note that the dealer can’t start the first turn by taking the topcard. If both players don’t want the upcard, the non dealer starts the first turn by drawing the topcard. Normal play then continues.

Some rules allow the player to draw the upcard and then discard the same card in the same turn, although it is not advantageous as a strategy as it simply means wasting a turn. Some rules prohibit this play. However, all rules allow players to draw an upcard in one turn and discard it in a later turn.

Ending the Play
The play or hand ends either when there are only two remaining cards in the stock, or when a player knocks.

Action on the 50th card:
When a player takes the third last card (50th card), and discards without knocking, leaving only two cards in the stock, the hand is declared a tie (draw) and the next round is started (with no score to either player) and the same dealer dealing.
Some rules have the provision of one last action after a player discards after taking the third last card. It lets the other player to pick up the upcard only for the purpose of knocking or going gin. If he doesn’t pick the card, or can’t knock after picking the card, the hand is declared a draw.

A player can knock and thus end the round, when he has less than 10 points of deadwood. He indicates this by discarding the card face down (instead of the normal face up) on the discard pile. He then lays his hand down to display the melds and the deadwood. Knocking with no deadwood is known as going gin.

Sample play 2:
  • Player 1 has 5 6 7 9 J Q 3 3 3 4
  • The upcard is 10
  • Player 1 doesn’t need the 10, so he draws from the stock pile. He gets K.
  • After the draw his hand consists of following melds and deadwood: 5 6 7 J Q K 3 3 3 9 4
  • He may discard the 9 face down on the discard pile and thus knock with 4 points (4) as deadwood count.

Knocking is not compulsory. The player may go ahead and continue to play and try to improve his hand. The decision of when to knock is a complex one based on many factors which are discussed in details in the Strategy page.

The term knocking is from the historical practice of indicating the end of play by knocking on the table. Though the practice is obsolete now, the term has stuck.

After a player knocks, he displays his meld(s) and deadwood(s), if any. The opponent (defending player or defender) then must lay down his hand and display his melds. The defending player also gets a chance to lay off. During lay off, the defender can use his deadwood cards to extend runs or sets of the knocking player. For example, if the knocker formed a run of 7 8 9, and the defending player has 6 as deadwood, he may lay-off the 6. Lay offs are not allowed if the knocker has gone gin. The defender doesn’t need a qualifying run or set to lay off. So, even if he doesn’t have any meld, he can go ahead and lay off his deadwood cards.

The knocker doesn’t get to lay-off after the defender has displayed his melds.

The deadwood of both players is counted and the difference between the two is registered as the Knock count. Bonuses, if earned, are awarded as well. There are two common bonuses:

  1. Undercut: When a defender has fewer or same deadwoods than the knocker, the defender gets an Undercut bonus.
  2. Gin: When a knocker knocks with zero deadwoods, that is, when he goes gin, he gets a Gin bonus.

For detailed information on bonuses, scoring and score sheets, please read the Scoring page.

Situation: Illegal knocks
If a player knocks with deadwood higher than 10 (or any other predetermined knock count), he must play with his hand open, that is with all his cards displayed. In this case, he must knock when his hand reaches below the predetermined knock count.
  • Player 1 knocks with hand: 4 5 6 7 8 9 9 9 3
  • This is illegal as valid melds are 4 5 6 and 9 9 9 with 7 8 and 3 as deadwood (18 deadwood count).
  • Player 2 has 17 deadwood counts.
  • Play continues with Player 1 playing with his cards displayed.
The opponent (defender) may also accept the illegal knock, if he himself has less than the knock count either with his own melds or after layoffs. This enables the defender to get the undercut bonus.
  • Player 1 knocks with hand: 4 5 6 7 8 9 9 9 3
  • This is illegal as the deadwood count is 18.
  • Player 2 has 8 deadwood counts.
  • Player 2 accepts the illegal knock and gets the undercut bonus.
The undercut bonus is explained in details in the Scoring page.

Ending the Game
The game ends when any player reaches 100 points or any other predetermined score. There are a few bonus points which are awarded to each player and the final scores are tallied. Two common bonuses awarded after the game are:

  1. Game bonus: The Game bonus is awarded to the winner of the game.
  2. Box bonus: Awarded to each player depending on the number of hands he has won.

Details of scores, bonuses, score sheets and how to award bonus points are discussed in the Scoring page.

Popular Variations of Gin Rummy
Straight Gin – In this variation, there is no knocking. Each player plays for gin. Instead of a points based scoring system, Straight gin is often played in a best of seven series format, with the first player to win four hands winning the series.

Oklahoma Gin – In this variation, the 21st card (upcard) determines the knock number. If a face card (J, Q, K) is an upcard, a player must have less than 10 to knock. If a number card (2 to 10) is the upcard, a player must have deadwood count of less than that number to knock. Usually, the target score for winning a game in Oklahoma Gin is 150.

Players often play Oklahoma gin with small variations in scoring. Some of them are:
  • If an A is the upcard, players must play for gin (no knocking).
  • If a player undercuts the knocker, he gets an extra Box bonus. This bonus is awarded after the game ends, and does not count towards winning the game.
  • The Box bonus for going gin is doubled.
  • If the upcard is a spade, knock points are doubled (and counted towards winning a game). A player who undercuts the knocker gets two extra Box bonuses. If the knocker goes gin, he gets four extra Box bonuses. These bonuses are added after the game ends.
Hollywood Gin – This is more a scoring variation than rules variation. The scores in Hollywood gin are kept in three games simultaneously. Details about Hollywood gin and it’s scoring methods can be found in the Scoring page.

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