Gin Rummy Rules

Gin Rummy is probably the best-known Rummy game. It is a two-player game that reached its peak of popularity during World War II, when it became a national fad, famous as the game for movie stars and Hollywood players. (See also: Gin Rummy Glossary.)

Number of Players: 2 (for more than 2 players, see Gin Rummy for Three Players and Partnership Gin Rummy)

Number of Cards: 52 (standard deck of cards, with no jokers)

Rank of Cards: K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A (king is high, ace is low)

Value of Cards: Face cards (K-Q-J) count 10 point each; ace counts 1 point; all other cards count their face value (e.g. a six of diamonds counts for 6 points).

Starting a Match: To determine who deals first, the deck is shuffled, and each player draws a card. The player drawing the highest card (for purposes of the draw, suits rank spades high, hearts, diamonds, and clubs) has the choice of seats, and decides who deals first.

Shuffling & Cutting the Deck: Either player may shuffle the deck, but the dealer has the right of last shuffle. The non-dealer must cut the pack.

Dealing: The dealer distributes the cards, one at a time, face down, first to his opponent and then to himself, until each player has ten cards. The next card, called the upcard, is placed face-up in the center of the table. The remainder of the deck if placed face-down next to the upcard, and forms the stock.

Object of the Game: The object of the game is to form melds (or matched sets), which are three or four cards of a single rank (5-5-5, for example), or a run of three or more cards of consecutive rank in the same suit (4-5-6 of clubs, for example).

Gameplay: On the first upcard, the non-dealer must decide whether or not to take the exposed card. If the non-dealer does not want the card, he must say as much, and the dealer then has the opportunity to take the upcard. If he passes on it as well, then the non-dealer draws the top card of the stock, and play proceeds.

Each player's turn begins by drawing a card, either the upcard (the top of the discard pile, or the top card of the stock.

Each player's turn ends by discarding one card (placed face-up on the discard pile). If a player draws the upcard, he may not discard it during the same turn.

Knocking: When a player will hold less than than 10 points of deadwood (cards not part of a meld) after discarding, he may knock (though he is not required to knock). Knocking signals the end of a hand. For example, a player holding the following hand may knock:

Ace of HeartsAce of DiamondsTwo of DiamondsFour of SpadesFive of Spades
Seven of ClubsSeven of DiamondsSeven of HeartsJack of SpadesQueen of SpadesKing of Spades

In this example,the player holds two melds (the 7-7-7, and the J-Q-K of spades), along with 13 points of un-melded cards. If he discards the 5 of spades, he'll have 8 points of deadwood, and may therefore knock.

When knocking, a player places his final card face-down on the discard pile, then spreads his hand, arranged into melds and deadwood.

His opponent then lays down his own hand, laying off any melds, as well as any cards that connect with the knocker's melds. For example, if the opponent holds the following cards:

Ace of SpadesTwo of SpadesFive of HeartsSix of HeartsEight of Hearts
Ten of HeartsTen of SpadesKing of HeartsKing of DiamondsKing of Clubs

The opponent would have one meld (the K-K-K), would be able to lay off the 10 of spades (which connect to the knocker's J-Q-K of spades, and have 32 points of deadwood (10+8+6+5+2+1).

Scoring: Scoring for each hand is based on the deadwood difference between the two hands. In the example above, the knocker has 8 points of deadwood, and his opponent has 32 points of deadwood. Therefore the knocker scores 24 points.

If, however, the opponent had more melds, and had been able to lay off more points, he may have ended up with fewer points of deadwood than the knocker. This is referred to as an undercut, and earns the undercutter a bonus. For example, if the opponent had ended up with 6 points of deadwood, he would have earned the difference in the two hands (2 points), plus an undercut bonus of 25 points, for a total of 27 points.

The knocker may also earn a bonus. If the knocker ends up with zero points of deadwood, he has gin, for which he earns a 25 point bonus.

A running score is kept for each player. In addition the winner of each hand is designated by drawing a lines beneath his score.

The winner of a hand deals the next hand.

Game: A game (consisting of a number of hands) is played to 100 points. The player who first reaches 100 or more points wins the game, and scores a 100 point game bonus for doing so. If his opponent has not won any hands during the game, he scores an additional 100 point shutout bonus. Each player is then given 25 points for each hand they won during the game (this is called the box bonus or line bonus).

Each player's total score is then calculated (games points plus game and shutout bonuses, plus line bonuses). The winner earns the difference between his total scoreand that of his opponent.

Match: Gin Rummy is often played as a match, consisting of a number of games. A match is typically played to 500 points, though the match total may be any mutually agreed-upon number.


  • The last two cards of the stock may not be drawn. If neither player is able to knock after the fiftieth card is drawn, the game ends in a draw (no score for either player), and the same dealer deals again.

  • Wrong Dealer - If the wrong player deals, the opponent may stop the deal if he catches it before the upcard is turned. If the upcard has been dealt, then the deal stands.

  • Faced Cards - If, before the upcard is turned, a face-up card is found in the deck, or if any card is exposed in dealing, there must be a new deal by the same dealer.

  • Irregular Hands - If either player ends up with an incorrect number of cards, and this is discovered before the player makes his first drawn, there must be a new deal. If the error is discovered after his first draw, and both players have incorrect hands, there must be a new deal. If one player's hand is correct and the other not,then the player holding the correct hand gets to decide whether ornot to demand a redeal. If he decides to continue playing, the player with the incorrect hand must correct his hand by drawing cards without discarding, or discarding without drawing. He may not knock during until his next turn.

    If an incorrect number of cards is not discovered until a hand is completed, a player with too few cards is penalized 10 points for each missing card, and is not eligable for a gin or undercut bonus. If a player has too many cards, there is no point penalty, but the offender may not claim an undercut bonus, and may not win the hand

  • Premature Play - If a player draws a card out of turn - before his opponent discards, or before the dealer has refused a passed upcard - the play stands. There is no penalty, but the offender must accept the card he has drawn out of turn.

  • Illegally Seeing a Card - If a player drawing in turn sees any card to which he is not entitled, every such card must be placed face up next to the discard pile. The offender may not knock until his next turn to play, unless be is gin. The non-offender has the right to take any of the exposed cards until he draws from the stock; then the offender has the same right to take any of the exposed cards until he draws from the stock. Once each player has drawn from the stock, the exposed cards are placed in the discard pile.

    If a player drawing out of turn sees a card to which he is not entitled, the rule given in the preceding paragraph applies, except that the offender may never take such cards, but may draw only his opponent’s discard or the top card of the stock in each turn.

  • Illegal Knock - If a player knocks with a count higher than the knock count (10 in standard Gin Rummy), but his opponent has not exposed any cards before the error is discovered, the offender must leave his band face up on the table until his opponent has completed his next play. However, If the knocker’s hand is illegal only with respect to the count of his unmatched cards, his opponent may accept the illegal knock as legal (and undercut it).

    If the knocker has more than 10 points, and the error is discovered after the opponent has exposed any of his own cards but before he has laid off any cards, the opponent may choose to either force the knocker to play the rest of the hand with all his cards exposed, or to permit the offender to pick up his hand, in which case the offender is not entitled to an undercut or gin bonus for that hand.

  • Looking at Discard - The general rule is that a player who looks back at a covered discard loses his right to his next draw. However, players may agree in advance that looking back at discards will be permitted.

  • Wrong Card Discarded - If a player discards the wrong card when knocking, he may not retrieve it. If the resulting knock is improper, see Illegal Knock.

Gin Rummy Variations

Gin Rummy Strategy

  • As a general rule, draw from the discard pile only to complete or add to a set, not to form a combination (two cards that may become a set).
  • Try to put together two matched sets plus four or fewer unmatched low cards (you usually don't have time to make three sets).
  • Knock as soon as you can! You won't make Gin, but you're more likely to pick up a ton of points from your opponent's unmatched cards.
  • Success in Gin Rummy depends largely on keeping track of the discards. From this you'll know which of your own combinations are still "alive" and you'll be able to guess which combinations your opponent is holding.
  • According to leading Gin Rummy scientists, the most useful card in this game is the 7, as it figures in more combinations than any other card. The least useful are the ace and king.
  • As in Poker, never try to "fill an inside straight" in Gin Rummy. If for example you have a 4 and a 5, you can add to this with either of two cards, a 3 or a 6. If you have a 4 and a 6, however, you're only half as likely to run across a 5.

Other Gin Rummy Rule Resources

See Also: Play Gin Rummy Online

Additional Information