Gin rummy, or Gin for short, is traditionally a two player game, but it can be adapted for 3 or 4 players. It’s game play is turned based, and uses a point system. A game is won by a series of rounds, usually to the total value of 100, but this figure can be negotiated to suit the players.
Gin rummy is a derivative of strains of poker and traditional rummy, and uses similar grouping structures called ‘melds’. One pack of 52 cards is used, and does not include the use of jokers or wildcards. Aces only count as low cards (Ace, two three…) and not as an afterthought of the King, as with many card games like Blackjack and Poker.
Dealing and Playing Gin Rummy
As with most card games a dealer is selected, and either alternates between rounds or on a winner deals/loser deals basis. Each player is dealt ten cards, starting from the non-dealing player and alternating between the two.
After each player has their ten cards, the dealer places the top card of the remaining deck, or stockpile, face up on a separate pile called the discard pile. That constitutes the dealers turn, and the focus now shifts to the alternate player, or in a clockwise direction in multiplayer games.
The player in the spotlight must either choose to pick up the face up card for use in a possible meld, or take a chance on the unknown card at the top of the stockpile. Once the player has picked up a card, he or she needs to discard one card face up on the discard pile. This signifies the end that the turn. This system is very similar to traditional rummy and several forms of poker.
Melds, Knocking and Deadwood
A meld is a group of cards that you assemble in either sets or runs.
Sets are comprised of a minimum of three to a maximum of four cards with the same value and different suits. For instance three Sevens or four Kings.
Runs are a group of three or more cards of any suit that are in sequential order. A good example of a run would be a three of hearts, four of diamonds and a five of clubs.
Once a player has formed melds with the majority of his or her cards they perform the ‘knock’. This signifies the end of the current round, although it needs to be strategically implemented.
Whatever non-meld cards remain in both players hands are given a value and added up to reach a final score. These remaining cards are called ‘deadwood’.
Scoring at the End of a Round, and Tallying at the End of a Game
The object of gin rummy is to score as many points after each round to win the eventual game. Scoring comes into play during after a player has knocked, or once there are only two cards left in the stockpile. Face cards, or picture cards, are counted as ten points each. In home games it’s best to keep a pen and a piece of paper handy for scoring purposes.
Once a player has knocked, they receive a score based on the difference between their deadwood and the opponent’s deadwood. For example, if the knocking player has a six and the defending opponent has a king, the difference of four points will be awarded to the knocking player. These are called Knock Points, and are only awarded if the defending player has a higher deadwood.
An Undercut Score is awarded to the defending player has a lower deadwood than the knocking player. Usually the difference would go to the ‘knocker’, but no it is awarded to the ‘underknocker’, plus a bonus of 25 points.
If a player is able to knock without having any deadwood in his or her hand (every card is used in melds), the player is awarded a gin bonus of 25 points, plus the total of the opponent’s deadwood.
At the end of a game of gin rummy, a line bonus of 25 points for every round won is added to the scores of the players. This is an important element of the game, and needs to be considered from start to end.
The Final Curtain
The game ends when enough rounds have been played for one player to reach the 100 point mark (or other prearranged total), and could go into a series of games, depending on the game style, similar to a tennis match.
Strategies Under Fire
Keep you hand organized, but not enough to let your opponent see the capacity of your melds. Try to keep your hand grouped without putting them in obvious divisions. It’s also handy to not reveal where in your hand the card that you discard came from.
It’s better to discard the higher cards, which are not used in melds, rather than the lower cards. Remember that your opponent could knock at any time, and it is better to have the smallest deadwood total possible.
Keep your options open. Although the game has a large luck element, with a bit of skill you can create possibilities. For example, if you have two fives and a six, try to discard one of your other cards as either a four, five, or seven will create a future meld of either a run or a set. If you discard the six and pursue a set with the two fives, Murphy may just grant you that four you could have used.
Remember that it isn’t pleasant being undercut, but sometimes it can be the best defense against being “ginned”. Be aware of the remaining stockpile. Keep in mind that the games enters a forced ending once the third last card is removed from the top of the stockpile, and your opponent will be more likely to knock during the time leading up to the remnants of the stockpile.
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