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The Object of the Game

The object of the game of Gin Rummy is quite simple when you break it down. It is to reduce your hand to a minimum number of points before your opponent is able to reduce his hand to a lesser number than yours. For reference the points are as follows: Ace is one point, 2 is two points, 3 is three points, and so on. Any card from a 10 through a King is valued at 10 points each. Essentially to win the game with the least amount of points, you want to “meld” the highest cards first so that you are left with the least amount of points in case your opponent knocks.

A meld is when you form a matched set within your hand. For example, if you have 3 Kings, then you have a meld. All cards that are contained in the melds have no point count value so if you are trying to figure out how many points you have, you simply don’t count the cards that have already been melded. A meld consists of 3 or more cards all of the same face value as described above, or 3 or more cards in a sequence or run of the same suit. This could be a 2, 3, 4, and 5 all of one suit such as hearts. The ideal reduction of a hand is to have zero points in your hand, which is called Gin. This is accomplished by making sure all 10 cards meld together, with the most common melds being two melds of 3 cards each, and one meld of 4 cards. It is conceivable that you could have two 5 card melds, or a 4 and 6 card meld. Whichever way it is done, as long as you have more than 3 cards in any meld and all 10 cards are being used in a meld then you can legally call Gin.

There are three ways to win the game:

  • By getting Gin – Melding all 10 cards before your opponent
  • By knocking your hand – This means that you have reduced the point count in your hand to the point where you are legally able to knock
  • By underknocking or undercutting your opponent – This is when your opponent knocks his hand but you actually have less points in your hand at the time. For example, if your opponent knocks with 6 points, but you only have 5 points left in your hand then you win the hand by underknocking him.

This is the basic object of the game. There is more skill involved in playing the actual hand but this will give you an idea of what you need to win the hand and possibly the game. The game can be played to a certain number so winning a hand will only get you closer to winning the entire game, but losing a hand can set you back by many points. The more often you call Gin, the better chances are that you will reach the full point total first.

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The Background of Gin Rummy

Gin Rummy has become one of the most widely played card games in the country just in the past 30 years. As many as 50 million people play Gin, whether it is professionally in tournaments or at card games at home with friends and family.

Gin Rummy actually got its start in the early 1900’s, but it wasn’t until the early 1930’s that the game became popular in kitchens with families playing long into the night. It was during the years of the Depression that people were forced to look for inexpensive means of entertainment and distraction. Playing cards at home seemed to offer these opportunities for free, which is what people were looking for at that time. They didn’t even have gas to drive their car anywhere, so more and more people chose to stay home and invite over their neighbors for a rousing game of cards.

Most people only knew how to play poker, Pinochle, or bridge so there was a need for a card game that could be easily learned by anyone, including the children. It had to be a game that could also be played with different amounts of people, as well as a game that could be played any time of the day or night. Gin Rummy seemed like an obvious choice, because as an offshoot of the old-fashioned Knock Rummy people already knew of it, and had a general knowledge of how to play it. Gin Rummy which up to this point was relatively obscure became the card game of choice almost overnight.

The fact that the game could include from two to eight people was a definite benefit, as well as the easy rules of the game, and method of scoring. The fact that you could also add variations to the game boded well for families looking to enhance the original game. Additional rules were added which placed a premium on skill rather than luck, which worked well for the men who were gathering to play the game on a more competitive level. So for all intents and purposes, this was a game that truly everyone could enjoy.

In the recent years the rules have been combined into what is known as the standard form of Gin Rummy. The game of Gin has opened up many avenues for both families and competitive card players. Not only have people enjoyed the game at home, but there were actual Gin centers in some of the major cities in the 1970’s. People traveled from far away to play in a setting that was more conducive to serious play.

At that point, people started to write books to officiate the rules because although it was considered to be a spirited game, it was not yet a sport and there were no official governing bodies that ran the game as many thought it should be run. So, a set of standard rules were written in ink that to this day have been strictly followed.

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Requirements for Gin Rummy Play

The standard rules of Gin Rummy are rather strict when it comes to tournament or competitive play. Included below are the very basic rules and what is required to play the game of Gin Rummy. Before starting a game you should have everything ready so you can get right into the game.

Gin is strictly a two handed game when played by the standard rules. Three players may play in the same game, but usually one sits out while the other two play, and they play the winner. If you have four or more players in an even number then you play what is called a partnership game. The most players you should have would be 8, but at that point, it might make more sense to have two games going at the same time.

You use a standard pack of 52 playing cards. The cards rank downward from King to Ace. Ace is never high, only low. For example, if you have a run it can start at 10 and end at the King, it should not go 10, J, Q, K, A. The ace only works for an A, 2, 3 etc. There is no difference in the rank of the four suits, and no suit is scored higher or lower than another. A second standard pack of 52 playing cards are used for what is known as the knock deck. These cards should be a different color or design then the pack of cards you actually play with so that there is no confusion. The second pack of cards is not used during the actual play of a hand.

The other requirements are very basic. You need a pencil or pen as well as a pad of paper to keep score. Many people choose to use a two-sectional box of either wood or plastic to hold the part of the deck that remains unused, as well as the cards you discard. Most people when playing for fun merely put the stack that you pick from in the middle, and place the cards you are discarding on the side of the stack. It is up to your individual preference as which to use.

After you deal the cards, you turn the first card over and place it in the discard pile or rack so that everyone can see it. All subsequent cards, whether picked from the remainder of the deck or from the opponent’s discards are taken from this rack. It should be placed in a way that when the discard card is placed face up in the box it should be the only card that is showing. In other words, no one should have any opportunity to see even a sliver of the cards underneath it.

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Glossary of Gin Rummy Terms

Add-on – A card knowingly and deliberately discarded to an opponent who needs it to add to an existing meld. The term Add-on is also used in poker which means to buy more chips before you have busted.

Boxes –
 Extra awards of 25 points each, given for a knock, gin, gin-off, or roodles

Bonus Box –
 The added score for winning a hand (box), usually worth 25 points.

Captain – One player playing against two who alternate in their play against him, or two players playing against three, or three playing against four.

Combination – Two cards of the same rank or consecutive in the same suit.

Count – The point value in any given hand after deducting the total melded cards.

Cut – After the shuffle, to separate the deck into packets and change their order.

Deal – To distribute cards to the players.

Discard – After picking, to reduce the hand to ten cards by placing one card face up on the top of the discard pile.

Discard Pile –The pile in the playing box next to the stock into which each player in turn places his discards

Face Card – Any King, Queen, or Jack. Same as the picture card.

Foreign Card – A card not belonging to the deck in use.

Game – The succession of hands ending when one of the players or sides has scored the required number of points in any or all of the three columns.

Gin – 10 melded cards.

Gin-Off – When a knocker’s opponent lays off all of his unmelded cards on the knocker’s hand.

Going To The Wall To play a hand to a tie. Same as stand-off or no game.

Hand The cards dealt to a player; the cards he holds at any stage; a dealing ending with a knock or gin.

Illegal Hand Any hand which, after discarding, contains more or less than 10 cards.

Knock To announce that play of the hand is terminated immediately before going down.

Knocking count – The maximum unmelded count with which a player may knock. Same as knocking point or knocking card.

Lay-Off – After a knock, to match cards from the non-knocker’s hand against any of the knocker’s sets. There is no laying off when a player has gone gin.

Meld – Three or more cards either of the same rank or in a sequence of the same suit. Same as lay, matched set, and run.

No Brainer – A hand that can be knocked or gin on the deal or after one or two plays.

Partnership Safe Count – The point value that can be retained in a hand to guarantee a winning score for the partnership.

Redeal – Another deal by the same player after one which was nullified; to prefer the task of redealing.

Reducer – Any low card picked to reduce the count value in a hand.

Safe Card – A card which, because of your holding and the cards used in previous plays, is on that your opponent is most unlikely to use when discarded.

Safe Count – The point value that can be retained in a hand to prevent any possibility of an opponent winning a game.

Salesman – A card discarded tactfully to lure a wanted card from an opponent.

Schneid – To win a game in which the loser scores no points, resulting in a double score value.

Sequence – Three or more cards of the same suit in consecutive order.

Shuffle – To randomize the cards before cutting and dealing.

Speculate – To pick an opponent’s discard which produces a combination rather than a meld. Same as a stiff.

Stock – The unused portion of the deck remaining in the playing box.

Underknock – Trying or having a lower total than the count of the opponent who has knocked.

Unrelated Card – Any card not a specific part of a meld. Same as unmatched.

Wild Card – A card which is not protected from an opponent’s use by any other cards in one’s hand or by any previously played cards. Wild Cards are used in various card games; in Five-Card Draw Poker the Wild Card is traditionally a joker but there are no Wild Cards used in Texas Hold em Poker.