OBJECTIVE OF GIN RUMMY: The objective of gin rummy is to score points and reach an agreed number of points or more.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 players (variations can allow for more players)

MATERIALS OF GIN RUMMY: Standard 52 card deck

TYPE OF GAME: Card game

AUDIENCE: All ages


How to play GIn Rummy

When you hear the name Gin Rummy, do you picture two old people sitting in a park playing cards? Perhaps it just reminds you of your favorite tonic-filled cocktail. Believe it or not, Gin rummy is not a drinking game. A variation to the ever-popular card game Rummy, this game dates back to the 20th century and has become a game night staple. 

Perhaps you’re a card game connoisseur or a maybe a complete beginner. Whatever the case, we will guide you through all the intricacies of the Gin Rummy rules and have you “knocking” and “undercutting” in no time!


Before you get the party started, you first need a standard deck of 52 cards with the jokers removed. It’s best to play with only 2 players. However, if your game nights are so popular that you have more players, you can form teams. If you have 3 people, you can have the third person be the dealer. This would then rotate to the next player after each hand.

A good thing to note is that in this game, Aces are low and have a value of 1. All face cards (jacks, queens, and kings) have a value of 10.


Gin Rummy Rules

Choose a dealer before you can start the game. How do you choose a dealer? Easy, each player will draw a card from the deck, and the one with the lowest card becomes the dealer. In the following rounds, the loser of the previous round deals the next hand.

The dealer should deal ten cards to each player, face down. Take the remaining cards and place them face-down between the two of you to serve as the stock deck. Take the top card of the stock deck and flip it over (face-up) next to the stock deck. This is the discard pile.


Now that everything has been properly set up and you have been dealt your cards, you are ready to begin!

Similar to other Rummy games, the goal of Gin Rummy is to get the highest number of points by creating ”melds,” which are made up of either “runs” or “sets.” These will then determine your points for the end of that round, and the first player to reach 100 points is the winner.

A run is three or more cards in sequential order of the same suit (i.e. five, six, seven – of diamonds). While a set is three or more of the same rank of cards (A, A, A).

Let’s pretend you become the dealer of the first round. The non-dealer (your opponent) will start the game by picking up the face-up card in the discard pile. They will then decide if that card will help them create a meld or if they’d rather leave it and pass. If they pass, then you (the dealer) have the option to pick up that same card. If you decide to pass as well, then the non-dealer can begin the game by picking up the first card on the stock deck.

Once a player picks up a stock card, they must decide if they want to keep it to help their melds. If so, they keep the new card and discard another from their hand. Players must discard one card at the end of every turn. However, a player can not pick up a card and discard it immediately. They must discard one of their own and keep this card for at least one turn. Playing like this means you will always have 10 cards in your hand at the end of each turn.

Once opening play has been made, players take turns either drawing a mystery card from the stock deck or taking the face-up card from the discard pile. They then discard one of their cards and the play continues. Remember, the goal is to create sets and runs to score the most points.


Scoring in Gin Rummy happens at the end of each round and is determined by the difference in deadwood from the players (more on deadwood below). The value of the cards is as follows:

Kings/Queens/Jacks – 10 points

2 – 10 = Face Value

Ace = 1 point

In Gin Rummy points are scored after each hand or round. The following are the different ways to score points.

Going Gin = 25 points + opponent’s deadwood.

Knocking = Difference in deadwood between you and the opponent.

Undercutting = 25 points plus the difference in deadwood (when non- knocker’s deadwood is lower).

Play continues until one player reaches 100 points. Once a player reaches 100 points, they are awarded an additional 100 bonus points. You can then go back and tally how many rounds you won and add 25 points for each round won. If one player doesn’t win any rounds then it is called a shutout and the winner earns an additional 100 points.

The player with the most points after counting everything up is the winner.


An interesting fact about Gin Rummy is that players have more than one way of going out. Players can either go out via the traditional method known as going Gin or by knocking. 


Going Gin is when all the cards in your hand are melded, meaning they are part of a set or run. It is also important that you have no extra cards that are not part of a meld. These un-melded cards are called deadwood. You must pick up a card from the discard pile or stock deck before going Gin. If you meet all the requirements, then congratulations, you have just gone Gin! You automatically receive 25 points, plus you receive the total number of points of uncompleted melds (deadwood) from your opponent’s hand.

What is deadwood in GIn Rummy

For example, if you went Gin and your opponent’s hand is as such (8,8,8 – 5,6,7 diamonds – 4,4,2, ace), then they have 11 points in deadwood (4+4+2+1= 11 *ace=1). Those are points that you get to add to your score of 25 points, giving you a total of 36 points for winning that hand, then the round ends, and the next hand is dealt.


Knocking is the other way to go out in Gin Rummy. As with going Gin, you must pick up a card and discard one before knocking. A player can knock only if the deadwood cards in their hand equals 10 or fewer points. If your hand meets these requirements, then you can execute a knock by literally knocking on the table (this is the fun part). Alternatively, you can place your next discarded card face-down on the discard pile, this is not as fun as knocking, but it means the same thing. After knocking, you must then reveal your hand by laying your cards face up on the table.

Once your cards have been placed on the table, your opponent reveals their cards and they have the option of “laying off” some of their deadwood into your melds.


Let’s go over “laying off.” If you knock and lay down a run of 2,3,4 of diamonds and your opponent has the 5 of diamonds in their hand, they can lay off their card onto your run. Once they do this, that card no longer counts as part of their deadwood. Only the opponent gets to lay off their cards, you as the knocker do not get to lay off your cards onto their melds.

An important note is that they can not lay off cards onto deadwood cards. For example, if you as the knocker have two 3s as deadwood and your opponent has a 3 as well, they can not form a new meld with those cards. Also when someone goes Gin, there is no laying off allowed.

Once they have finished laying off their cards, it’s time to tally the score. Ignore all the melded cards now and both players should total the number of deadwood in their hands. You must then subtract the total of your deadwood from the total of your opponent’s. The difference in deadwood points is what you receive from winning that hand! For example, if your deadwood equals 4 points and your opponent’s deadwood equals 30 points, you will receive 26 points for that round (30-4=26).


As the knocker, you have to make sure your deadwood is not too high. If it turns out that your opponent’s or the non-knocker’s deadwood is valued less than yours, it is called an undercut. They are then awarded the difference in deadwood points along with an additional 25 point bonus.

For example, let’s say you have 9 points in deadwood, and you decide it’s time to knock. We already know you can’t knock if your deadwood equals more than 10 points. Once you knock and lay out your cards, you see that your opponent has only 3 points in deadwood. They have just undercut you. They receive the 6 points from the deadwood (9-3=6) plus 25 bonus points. Ending that round with a total of 31 points!

Two card rule

This is a rule that doesn’t happen too often, especially with more experienced players. However, for beginners, this may occur. This rule goes into effect when one player draws the third to last card and discards it without knocking or going Gin. If this happens and there are only 2 cards left, then cancel the current hand and re-deal the cards. Nobody gets points, the same dealer deals again, and the play continues. 

There are some variations where after the third-to-last card is drawn and discarded, the opponent has the chance to take it and go Gin or knock. You can decide this at the beginning before the game starts.


The game ends once one of the players reaches 100 points. You can then tally all the points and the player with the highest score is the winner. You can also play to an agreed-upon score that is determined before the game begins.


As with any card game that’s not based entirely on luck, there are some strategies you can use to get better at playing Gin Rummy.


people playing gin rummy

The fun part about Gin Rummy is that half the cards you see are face up on the discard pile. If you monitor those cards closely it can help you later in the game. 

Keep track of the cards that get discarded. This can help you decide which cards to avoid collecting. 

For example, if you see 2 Aces get discarded, then it’s a good idea to get rid of any Aces you have in your hand, as it will be impossible to get a meld with them.

On the other hand, you can also keep track of what you see your opponent picking up. When you notice that they are picking up certain suits or values, you can get an idea of what sets and runs they are going for. If you see them picking up several 8’s, don’t discard any 8’s you may have in your hand, as this will help them complete their melds.


As we mentioned before, runs are 3 or more cards of the same suit in sequential order. Sets are 3 or more cards of the same value. That means that it is much easier to complete a run since you can complete the sequence in either direction. For example, let’s say you have a 5 and 6 of diamonds. It is much easier to be looking for 2 different cards (4 or 7 of diamonds) rather than one card of the same value for a set.


As you know, you can’t knock if your deadwood value is more than 10. While you may think it’s better to hold out until you go Gin, sometimes knocking earlier is a better idea. If you try to hold out until you go Gin, this also gives your opponent time to reach it before you!


Gin rummy, as we explained, is a variation of the beloved Rummy. While Rummy has been around for hundreds of years, it has inevitably evolved over the years to include many different variations, some of which include Indian Rummy, Rummikub, and, of course, Gin Rummy. 

But what are the differences between Rummy and Gin Rummy? Let’s explore the differences between these two game night classics.


group playing cards

The first difference we see in the two games is in the number of players. In classic Rummy, the number of players can vary from 2 to 6. In Gin Rummy, you can play with only 2 or 4 players. As we mentioned before, 3 can play; however, one player will only be a dealer during each hand. 


There are several differences between the gameplay of Rummy and Gin Rummy. The object of the game is similar. You need to reach a certain number of points to end the game. However, the main difference is that in Rummy, you lay down your melds face up as soon as you have them. In Gin Rummy, you keep your melds hidden from your opponent until you or they knock or go gin. 

In classic Rummy, you can also “lay off” your cards onto other players’ melds when it is your turn. Alternatively, in Gin Rummy, only one player can do this, and only if their opponent knocks. 

There are differences in scoring as well. In Rummy, once you get rid of all the cards in your hand, you then count up the total of the remaining cards in the other players’ hands and earn that amount. In Gin Rummy, the player with the lowest amount of deadwood scores points based on the amount of their opponent’s deadwood after each hand.


How Many Cards Are Dealt in Gin Rummy?

You should play Gin Rummy with a standard 52-pack of cards. Each player gets 10 cards from the dealer before starting the stock deck and the discard pile.

Can You Play Gin Rummy with 2 Players?

It is best to play Gin Rummy with two players, one of whom is the dealer. After each hand, the dealer alternates with the other player. If there are 3 people, they can alternate dealers between each player, and if there are 4, you can form teams.

Is Gin Rummy an Easy Game?

Gin rummy is a relatively easy game to pick up. Once you get the hang of the game, you can start learning strategies to help you score more points!

Alan Lemus