Gin Rummy
Gin Rummy
While having a game plan in Gin Rummy may not be essential, the strategy element ranks high. One can incorporate statistics, percentage play, discarding, forcing a draw, baiting, taking cards on spec and other smart ways to out manoeuvre your opponent. Here are just a few  tips and tactics that might just help you win the game.

The mathematics of Gin Rummy shows that there are 15,820,024,220 (that’s almost 16 billion variations) possible combination of hands that can be formed from the ten cards in a single hand. Once the draw and discard starts, this number can rise into the trillions!

Strategy at a Glance
It’s one thing to master the rules; it’s another to practice strategy to your advantage. Winning is your priority so mastering the strategies takes precedence over just knowing the rules.

Do not get caught sleeping on the job. As soon as the cards are dealt, try to have two antennas working simultaneously. One for your own game and the other on what your opponent is doing. Make a mental tally of what he’s putting on the discard pile. Watch his facial expressions and read his body language. If you are employing this strategy for the first time, you may have a bit of difficulty initially, but practice makes it perfect.

Is your opponent throwing more spades and hearts? Then it’s safe to conclude that he’s waiting for diamonds or clubs.  Did he throw low numbered diamonds awhile back? Then chances are he’s holding matching cards in the high numbers – possibly waiting for a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10.

If the risk of undercut appears to be low, knock and do it quickly. As soon as your deadwood is low enough, knock. If you’re faced with the decision of knocking but you’re afraid of being undercut, knock anyway. If you discard a card and think it will lead your opponent to going gin, again knock anyway. Your opponent will most likely go gin rather than get exposed to an undercut.

Knocking early without trying for gin may not get you the extra Gin bonus, but it will get you a whole lot of deadwood count. Plus it also helps in getting you the Box bonus.

A typical game terminates when the deck is down to half or about two thirds of the deck and some use this as a signal that knocking should happen soon. If the stock pile is diminished to about one third, it’s a good idea to discard high value deadwoods and acquire or retain low value deadwoods.

Figuring Out Your Opponent’s Cards
As soon as the game begins, keep an eye out for what your opponent is putting on the discard pile. If in the next two or three rounds he throws out cards of a particular shape, let us assume hearts and spades, that could mean that he is batting for diamonds and clubs. Is he throwing high or low numbers? If he’s in the habit of throwing high numbers, do not throw out any low numbers.

Some Gin Rummy experts advise picking up cards from the stock rather than from the discard pile. If you take a lot of cards from the discard pile, your opponent will have an idea of what cards you’re holding. You’re also picking up cards that are totally useless to your opponent. If you draw from the deck (the stock pile) you keep him in the dark and you could prevent him from going gin.

Taking a card from the discard pile is recommended if you need the card to turn two cards that match into a meld of three or more. This way you are removing about 3 deadwood cards, and it might also enable you to knock early.

Get Those Melds Early and Quickly
Form those melds as quickly and as early in the game as you can. If your opponent throws out cards that you need to help complete a meld, pick them up right away. The closer you come to knocking or going to gin, the better. Having a meld puts you at an advantage. And, if early in the game, you only need one card for a meld, you increase your chances of knocking early too. When it comes to high value cards, be wary that these are equally high value deadwood. Meld face cards or discard them quickly.

Middle cards are important
This is because they are considered the most valuable cards by players. A middle card like seven has the potential to extend melds right at mid-point and in either direction. A player can extend a meld at the lower end of the number series, or from the high end number series. Its extension capabilities are superior compared to other numbers. If you hold a middle card, try not to discard it too early in the game. Due to the same concept, the K is the least valuable not only as it’s extension capabilities are inferior but also since it’s deadwood value is high. A is another low value card in Gin rummy.

Value of combinations
Unmelded cards can be classified as good or bad depending on chances of combining them with other cards to form melds.

The combination

How does it rate?



The worst kind

Only one card: J can meld it. 20 deadwood points

9 J

Still one of the worst

Hole in the middle of the intended meld. Again only one card: 10 can meld it. High (19) deadwood points.

5 7

Only slightly better

Same as above, however, the deadwood count is lower (12).

4 5

Not bad

Two cards can form runs with this combination.

6 6

Not bad

Two cards can form sets with this combination.

6 8 10


Two cards can form runs with this combination.

2 4 4


Despite the hole, three cards can complete a meld with these three cards.

3 4 4


Four cards can complete a meld with these three cards.

3 5 3 5

Very good

Six cards can complete a meld with these four cards.

7 8 7 8


Eight cards can complete a meld with these cards.

If you’re aiming for a sequence meld, you know that they can be extended at the low and high ends. This means that if you’re holding 5 6 7, you can extend your possibilities by considering a 2 3 and 4 (low end) or 8 9 10 (high end).  This point to increased probabilities of extended existing melds as well as making a much longer sequence with all or part of another unfinished sequence. However, If you’re aiming for the same suit, your three of a kind can only be extended one more way. So bear in mind that a sequence has more chance of extension.

Keep these statistics in mind as you devise your strategy:

(1) How many ten-card hands are possible in Gin Rummy? Answer: 15,820,024,220 (almost 16 million)

(2) Each player cannot play the same game on a consistent and regular basis

(3) Each player will have different uses for those cards that they pick up from the stock and discard piles. There is no universal use for any one card.

© 2009,