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Scoring in Gin Rummy

The purpose of Gin is of course to win each individual hand, but the ultimate goal is to win the entire game. You do this through the individual hand scores which will lead you to the final game score.

The point total for a head to head or two-handed game is 250 points. That can vary depending on whether you are just playing for fun with family or friends, but for competitive gin rummy, the game will always be to 250 points. The way you get to your total is by getting the maximum amount of points you can in each individual hand to give you the final, and hopefully winning score. You score points by knocking before your opponent does, but there are also bonus points that can be added during each individual hand. This includes going gin, or underknocking an opponent. The scoring for the winner of the individual hand is simple but it does take some knowledge of how to do it.

When a player knocks, he puts down his melded cards which have no value in figuring the total point count of his hand. The player totals only the unmelded or unmatched cards to get a total count. For example, if a player melds with three Kings and three 10’s and is left with a four, a three, and two aces, they are left with 9 points. If the knock card is a nine or higher then they could knock with 9 points to possibly win the hand. If the opponent has only one meld of queens in his hand and is unable to lay off any unmelded cards, leaving him with total of 7 unmelded cards adding up to 32 points, then the person who knocked will get the difference between his 9 points and the opponents 32 points. That would mean that the knocker would receive 23 points. Another example would be if the knocker was left with 3 points, and his opponent has 16 points then the difference of 13 points would be awarded to the person who knocked. Each hand is done exactly this way, unless there is gin or an underknock.

If the winning player has gotten gin he would receive the point count of the unmelded cards in his opponent’s hand plus the established bonus for gin. In an underknock, which is when the opponent ended up with less points then the person who actually knocked, the person who claims the underknock will receive the difference in points plus the appropriate bonus as well. If his count was exactly the same, meaning they tied in point count leading him to get an underknock, he would only receive the bonus amount. The only variation of the scoring occurs in more modern games when the score is doubled based on the suit of the knock card. In this case, if the knock card is a spade or heart the entire score will be doubled.

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Variations on How Gin Rummy Is Scored

When Gin Rummy became popular in the 1930’s, the scoring of the game was extremely simple. A game consisted of only one column, and was only scored to 100 points. A bonus of 10 points was given for gin or underknocking. There were no doubled hands and when the game was over, if they were playing for money, the winner of the game usually received a very specific amount of money for winning, and a specific amount of money for boxes over that of his opponent. Over the years, in order to add interest to the game, and increase the stakes without actually changing the game stakes as far as the money was concerned, variations were added to the scoring system.

The first and probably most important variation, which to this day has remained a prime function of the game, is what is known as Hollywood Gin, which is not a variation of the game, just a variation of the scoring. In Hollywood Gin, you are playing with three columns. That means that three games are being played at the same time instead of one. The first hand you win or your opponent wins is scored only in the first column. The second hand is scored in the first and second columns, and the third hand and all subsequent hands are scored in all three columns until any or all of these games have ended. If the first column is over before the second, then the subsequent scores are only scored in the unfinished games. The same applies when the two columns are over.

The next important variation that has remained over the years is the bonus boxes. Originally, the bonuses were established as one bonus box for an underknock, two for gin, and three if you have a gin off. Under today’s standardized scoring system, a winning knock receives the difference between the knocker’s count and the count of his opponent’s hand after the opponent receives credit for all the melds and layoffs he has in his hand. On an underknock the score received by the underknocker is the difference between his net count and the knocker’s count plus 25 bonus points. In case you tied, the winner only receives the 25 bonus points. For gin, the winner gets the unmelded count of the losers hand plus 25 points. For both a gin and a gin off, a bonus of two boxes is given to the winner of the hand, while an underknock receives one bonus box.

Another important difference between the old style of play and the more modern one is the fact that anytime that a spade or heart is the suit of the underknock card, the scores are then doubled. That includes the bonus points and boxes. In addition, when either players or teams have each scored in each of the three columns, from that point on all the hands are played with doubled value. That does not mean that if the underknock card was a heart or spade that the score would be quadrupled, because no hand can be more than double value. This is primarily why the final score of the game has been raised, because without it, there would be games that end in just one or two hands.

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The Scorekeeper

In every game of Gin Rummy there must be a scorekeeper. This person is usually mutually decided upon by both players if there is a singles game and by all 4 people if it is a partnership game. In the case of 6 players, only 4 of those players need to decide who the scorekeeper is going to be, although it is always best to have everyone agree.

There are very distinct advantages and disadvantages to being a scorekeeper. The primary advantage is that the scorekeeper has the complete counts and scores in front of him at all times. This means that you can keep a look on how far ahead or behind you are at any given time and you will always be fully aware of what you or your opponent needs to win the game. The main disadvantage is that if you are playing in a partnership game, you have to stop as soon as any hand is over to write your own score, or the score of your opponent. Add to this the fact that while in the middle of your own play, you can be asked by any other player at the table for the counts on the score sheet. This can be a major interruption when you are in the middle of play, and therefore very distracting, especially when you are in the middle of an important play.

There is a very established and firm rule that the scorekeeper, while performing the function, is supposed to be completely neutral and not in any way working for his own side. That means that there is of course to be no cheating. The scorekeeper is also not responsible for any counts or any other information pertaining to the score, including that of his partner. The scorekeeper is also not responsible for any errors in the score made by other players in regard to their counts. When writing down the score, he or she should get a firm answer as to what their count is. The scorekeeper is not allowed to tell the person whether they miscounted, nor is he allowed to help count up melds or layoffs. It is up to the responsibility of each individual player when he is concerned about a count to verify the correct posting of the score himself. That means that other players can look at what you wrote down at any point in time to make sure you put the correct score on the score sheet.

The scorekeeper holds a very important position in this game, and it is one that should be given in trust. If at any time the scorekeeper fails to do his job, he or she can be replaced by another person, but only if the scorekeeper continues to make mistakes on the scoring. If the scorekeeper does not make any mistakes then they should hold that position for the entire game, not just through the individual hands. It is best to change up the scorekeeper when each game is finished to give everyone a chance in fairness.

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The Score Sheet

If you are planning on playing Gin Rummy competitively with people that regularly play then it is advisable to come prepared with a standard score sheet. This score sheet consists of six vertical columns; three for each player or team. If you are playing at home with family or friends and are just playing for fun, then any plain piece of paper which is lined in this manner will work just as well. There should also be horizontal lines across the sheet to identify each score or line.

If you are playing singles, you should place the initial of one player at the top of the first three columns and the initial of the second player at the top of the last three columns. If you are playing a partners game the initial W is placed at the top of the first three columns, representing the word “we” which means the scorekeepers side. A T is placed at the head of the second three columns, representing “they”, which are the opponents of the scorekeeper. In some sections of the country the scores are headed with the initials of the players, or teams, but for the most part “we” and “they” are definitely more acceptable and easier to read and understand with a quick glance.

To prevent arguments at the end of the game, it is best to mark the stakes that are being played for at the top of the score sheet. Specifically this means how much money you are gambling for. This should include any bonus money that may have to be paid out. Virtually all games are now being played Hollywood style and though it may be understood that when playing Hollywood style the points of the last game are doubled, there is sometimes confusing regarding the stakes of each game. For example, if a game is being played for a penny a point, this means that the stakes are a penny a point for the first and second games, and a penny a point for the third game also. Since the actual points for the third game will be doubled, the stakes can be considered to be 2 cents per actual point. Many scorekeepers find that the easiest way to show the stakes of the game is to mark 1 cent above the first two game columns, and 2 cents above the last game column on the score sheet. If the score of the first game amounts to 800 points then this will amount to $8.00 which is a penny a point. If the second game is 700 points then it will mean you are playing for $7.00 for the second game. If the third game score is 600 points and the score is double, the total points then amount to 1200 which is $12.00.

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Scoring Individual Hands of a Two-Handed Game

For this article the two players are identified as Player A, who is the scorekeeper and Player B who is considered the opponent. On the score sheet the first three columns are headed by the letter A and the last three columns are headed by the letter B.

This is an example of how a game of Gin Rummy might go, and how you use the score sheet to keep score:

1st hand – Player A knocks with 8 points, Player B has 20 points in unmatched cards. Therefore, Player A scores 12 points in the first column.

2nd hand – Player A goes gin and Player B has 14 points. In the second column headed A, insert the number 2 with a circle completely around it, as well write down the number 2 with a circle around it in the first column. This represents the bonus boxes a player receives for going gin. These boxes are worth 25 points each in the final scoring. In the box directly under the encircled 2 in the second column insert the number 39 which represents the 25 points for gin plus the 14 points in the loser’s hand. In the first column headed A, add 39 to the original 12 that was in the column, and insert the total of 51 directly under the encircled 2 in that column.

3rd hand – Player A knocks with 8 points, but after Player B lays off one of his unmatched cards on Player A’s hand, Player B is only left with 7 points, which means he has underknocked Player A by 1 point. Since an underknock wins one bonus box, place a 1 in a circle in the first box of the first B column. Directly under this circled 1, you insert 26. This score represents the 25 point bonus for underknocking plus the one point difference in the hand.

4th hand – The next knock card that shows is the Ace of spades which means the score is doubled. Player A gins the hand and Player B has 30 points. You insert the number 4 with a circle around it in the first box of the third A column, and in the second and first A columns directly under the previous scores. Under the encircled 4 in the third column, insert the score 110. This represents the 25 points for gin plus the 30 points in the opponent’s hand. The 55 is doubled because of the spade. The 110 points are also added to the previous scores in the second and first A columns for 149 and 161 totals respectively.

You continue on until either Player A or B has surpassed 250 points in the first column. After this happens you place a vertical line in the column of the player that lost to indicate that this game is over and there will be no further scoring in the columns. You do this with each column until scores are only put into the third column.

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Calculating the Total Score of the Game

In calculating the total score of the game, you start with column one. This is taking into account that Player A won the game, but would simply be reversed if Player B won the game. You write down Payer A’s total score, which for example would be 251. You then add 250 which is the bonus for winning the game. You add to these two previous totals the difference between Player B’s score and the required game winning total of 250. If Player B only had 224, you subtract the number of Player B’s boxes in the first column which is two from the number of boxes in Player A’s first column which is 10. Player A has therefore won eight additional boxes which are valued at 25 points each. That score of 200 is added to the total of all these figures for the sum of 925, which is the number of points that Player A has won in the first column. Again this is only an example, and could be any number of boxes depending on how the game went.

The second game column is calculated in the same manner. Starting with Player A’s winning score of 279 for example, you add 250 for the game winning bonus. The difference between Player A’s score of 279 and Player B’s score is 164, so you would also add that to it as well. The boxes are counted and for this example Player A has 7 additional boxes so the score of 175 would also be added. These figures would add up to 868 total points which is the amount that Player A has won in the second column.

You go on to add up the third column which is done in the same way that column 1 and column 2 are added. The only difference is when you complete the tabulation of column 3; you need to remember that the scores are always double the point value. That means that you will have significantly higher points for column 3 as opposed to 1 and 2.

When completing the final score of each column you want to keep the number closes to 500 for simplification. For example if the score was 6252 you would score it as 6500, but if it was scored as 6100 then it would be scored as 6000. This makes it easier to figure out what amount of money is owed. When transferring the game score to a money card, the last 2 figures are dropped and the game is called a 60 game or 6000 points. If it is a 65 game that would mean it would be 6500 points. A 70 game would be worth 7000 points and so on. If you are playing for 1 cent per game, then this would represent $60.00, $65.00, or $70.00 (or whatever score you reached) that the loser would owe the winner.

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The Score and Counts

The total score and count of each hand is extremely important obviously, but the score and count is equally as important in an incomplete game as well. This means that you are looking at the status or potential score or count.

Gin Rummy, like any other game that you use for gambling, is based on the mathematical laws that govern the probability and odds in each game. Simply put, there are going to be hands in which the odds are in favor of you, as well as hands in which the odds are against you. Only you can figure out which one it is however, and that comes with both experience and learning the intricate details of Gin Rummy. Each hand can be affected the odds as well as the condition of the score.

The simplest example of this is when you have already scored on two games and your opponent hasn’t scored on any games. Thus, when the third hand is being played, you will have scored in all three columns. Obviously the odds are in your favor, because your opponent will only be able to score in only one column. If the situation was reversed then of course the odds would be heavily against you which would mean you would change your style of play. This is where expert play comes into play.

You play your hand according to the odds. If the game progresses and either of the two players are fairly close to winning the game, the condition of the score becomes even more important. The score in itself at any given point is the primary determining factor in deciding whether or not to play a hand in either an offensive or defensive manor. Once you learn how to do this, the odds are more in your favor that even when behind you can come back to win the hand and even the game.

For example, if you are in a situation where you know that a hand must be played for gin and your opponent is sitting with a five-way gin hand and you only have two ways, the odds would appear to be stacked against you. As a 2 ½ to 1 favorite against you, it would look to be that you have no hope. However, there are certain situations in which you could have an 8 to 1 advantage over your opponent in which you could obtain by going gin if you have your opponent on a schneid. This is an extreme example since it doesn’t happen in the game of Gin Rummy but every once in a while, but it can happen. It simply means that all factors must be considered in determining the true percentages that are required to make the proper decision at any given moment.

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Watching the Score

When you are playing even the friendliest game of Gin Rummy, you must always take into consideration the state of the score with every play of a hand. This fact must seem obvious to you, especially if you have experience with this game, but many players overlook the importance of the score. It is true even when you are in the first hand of the game, and there is no physical score yet, since the person who scores first has a very decided psychological advantage over his opponent.

If you win the first hand of a set, your opponent must play the next hand with the sole purpose of scoring, whereas you can play more freely with the thought that can lose the hand, and you are no worse off then when you started. You can have a more relaxed feeling of the game, which in turn often makes you play better, because you are not under the pressure to win the next hand. If you win the second hand, you will even have a greater advantage because of the scoring system employed in gin games.

For example, if you have already scored for the first game and you win 25 points on the second hand, you are not only winning 25 points, but 50 because the score is added to both the first and second game columns. If you have already scored the first and second hand, and you win the third you are already up 100 points because you score 25 points both in the first and second hand and then 50 for the third column, because all of the third games are doubled. You can surely see how winning each successive hand after the first hand will give you tremendous odds.

In aggressive play such as playing to gin, the odds will almost always be in your favor, so you should not even consider playing defensively if you know you need to get to gin. This is where examining the score is of the utmost importance, because it really does dictate your play in each hand. If you are on a schneid, which is when you win a game in which the loser scores no points resulting in a double score, and your opponent has the opportunity to end the hand and win the game, you must play with defense as your primary concern. If the condition is reversed and your opponent is on a schneid then offense is your goal and you should play as aggressively as possible.

As described above, there are many reasons to watch the score throughout the game, but especially at the later stages of the game. You need to make sure you keep yourself under the count if your opponent is playing for gin because if you are ahead in the game, you don’t want to have too many points in your hand so that you lose the game if he goes gin. The opposite can be said if need to go gin to win the hand rather than just a knock. You will only know this if you watch the score carefully.

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Watching the “Safe” Count

Once you completely understand and have mastered the calculation of counts, then you will be well on your way to being able to win at Gin Rummy. In head to head play, you will find that there is only one phase of count to be considered. That is the “safe” or maximum number of points one can hold in their hand that will keep your opponent from winning a game in any given hand.

For example, if the winning score is 250 points, and you are playing a hand with single scoring value, and your opponent has 210 on the score, it should be understood that with gin the opponent automatically gets 25 points for gin. If you are then holding 15 points then the game would be over. Hence, if you are watching your count, then you will already know this and make sure you keep your hand under 15 points at all times so that you don’t inadvertently lose the game without realizing there could be a way to avoid this.

Your first consideration should be to bring your hand down to a safe count if the situation requires it to be, such as the one mentioned above. This means you should keep your hand below the count value that you could lose with; even if you have to throw away a card that you suspect will give your opponent gin. It is better to lose this one hand and still be in the game, then to have no chance at all because the game is over.

As described previously, the best ways to get under count is through melding and picking up low cards, and then discarding high ones. This could cause issues though if you are holding the wrong cards. This is where your memory is needed, to remember the cards that have already been played and discarded. This is especially important if you are keeping a card that could possibly give you a meld later, rather than just discarding it now. If the card has already been played and you don’t remember it, you may be holding onto a card that could give you a higher count even when you should have discarded it.

In partnership play, the safe count takes on even more significance. True, the individual hands are played exactly the same, but once you see your partner end his hand you need to keep in mind how many points he loses or wins by and then change your hand accordingly. For example if your partner loses his hand, making your opponents 34 points away from winning, you need to remember the 25 points for gin and keep your count under 9 so that you don’t lose the hand. At this point, you not only have to keep a watch on your count, but the count of your partner’s, in order to ensure that you will not lose a game when you could have avoided it.

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Luck and Skill

Like all other card games, Gin Rummy consists of various elements of luck, as well as skill. However, this is a far greater element of skill in Gin than in any other popular card game played today. What used to be thought of as just a game to play on a Friday night with family and friends has turned into a very competitive and skilled game that takes possibly years to master.

Decisions are required on the play of almost every card, and these decisions may be altered by every play as well as the condition of the score at any given time. This means that you have to be on the top of your game with every hand you play. When playing a friendly game of gin, the game is based mostly on luck, but when playing for money, it is essentially a whole new game. It is then played in a very scientific manner so that the element of luck is essentially eliminated and the skill is the determining factor.

Every card player will of course run into a streak of what could be considered exceptionally good or bad luck. Some of these streaks may only last for one game session, while others have been seen to last for months. The difference between an ordinary player and an expert is that in the course of a good run of luck, the expert will get the maximum out of their cards and his losses will be kept to a minimum during an extraordinary run of bad luck. The expert card player will always take full advantage of these streaks as it becomes obvious in a short period of time which runs of luck he is on.

In gin when you are running on an exceptionally good streak you can throw the wildest cards and the ones that are most obviously needed by your opponent and he will never pick them. You may also find that when you have a 6, 8, and 9 and you know your opponent has melded 3 seven’s, you will not surprisingly pick the 4th seven out of the deck. The same can be said if you are on a bad streak, you can throw out the safest possible card and you will see your opponent pick it up to go gin. It does work both ways, but if you are an expert player you will know how to manage both your luck and skill during even the best or worst part of luck.

Luck will overcome skill sometimes during the game but in the long run, the elements of luck are equalized according to the laws of probability, meaning skill will most often win out. Therefore, you should not rely on luck alone. Studying the game of gin rummy, and becoming the best player you can, will surely lead you to a longer profession in this game rather than just being the person who gets lucky.