How to Play the Card Game Gin Rummy

By Jon Simonds
Shuffle the deck
spielkarten image by Ewe Degiampietro from

In today's world of computers, digital video, and the ever popular social networks, it's sometimes hard to find a good reason for family gatherings around the old picnic table. Though picnic tables aren't necessarily found in every home, every home has a table and gin rummy is a great reason to gather 'round. This old card game is big winner for a fun filled couple of hours of competition. It's easy to learn and plays quickly. So gather up the family and start a gin rummy tournament. Give your kids a taste of life back in the days before computers cornered the market on individual attention, and smile triumphantly as gin rummy draws them back for more, even if they are beating the pants off you.

Playing Gin Rummy

Shuffle the cards and deal 10 cards to each player. Place the remaining cards face down on the table. The player seated to the right of the dealer is the first to play. Play begins by simply drawing the top card from the pile of the remaining cards on the table. All but the last two cards can be drawn from the pile of facedown cards on the table. This is one of the ways in which the game ends, but since we're just beginning, we'll save the ending for later.

The object of the game, for each player, is to put together a hand made up of "runs," or "sets." A "run," consists of three or more cards of the same suit, in sequential order. For example, 5, 6, and 7 of hearts is a run. A run has to be a minimum of three cards, and must be self-contained. This means if another player has a run, you may not add to it with one or two cards at the end of the game, which occurs when a player has no cards left to play. A "set" contains at least three, if not four, of the same cards. For example, three aces is a set.

A card picked from the draw pile is a card worth keeping if it fits into a run or a set. If it doesn't, then discard it face up on the table next to the pile of facedown cards. The next player to go can then draw the discarded card, or draw the top card from the pile of facedown cards. Play continues until someone lays down all his or her cards.

Some of the terms you should familiarize yourself with in gin rummy are "knocking" and "gin," as these are two terms ushering in the end of the game. "Gin" is used when you are holding a hand of complete sets or runs. If you have such a hand, when it is your turn simply cry out "Gin!" You collect a 25 point bonus as well as the points attributed to cards your opponents were unable to use.

"Knocking" is a term used when you want to bail on the game because you fear an opponent is closing in on "gin," or there are only two cards remaining in the draw pile. You can only knock if the cards in your hand that cannot be used in sets or runs does not exceed a total of ten points. Once you knock, lay down your sets and runs. Everyone else now has an opportunity to lay down their sets and runs, as well as add to your sets and runs any cards they hold that can be added. They keep the cards that play with your sets and runs for scoring purposes. Everyone subtracts the score value of the cards in their hands that cannot be played.

About the Author

Jon SImonds writes a regular column for the Newsun Newspaper called Basically Brooklyn, a humorous look at everyday living. He has appeared in New York Newsday, the Brooklyn Spectator, The Bangor Daily News and the Bradenton Herald, to name a few. He loves reading, music and that Irish Girl from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.