How to Play German Rummy

By Jillian Downer
Play German Rummy

German Rummy is simply a nickname for what most consider Gin Rummy, a variation on the old west card game Rummy. That original Rummy became famous in the 1930s when old Hollywood players made it trendy. Gin, Gin Rummy and German Rummy still maintain there “Old West” roots, but it has remained a national phenomenon since its fashionable 1930s. There is no actual difference between Gin Rummy and German Rummy, though modern online players often call it “Kaluki” or “Romme." The main object of German or Gin Rummy is to meld your cards as quickly as possible with the winner being the first to reach 100 points. Here’s how to play “German Rummy."

Choose a dealer. Draw cards off the deck to determine the dealer. The person who draws the highest card is the dealer.

Shuffle and deal. Each player gets 10 cards each. Deal the cards face down, 1 and 1, until each player has their starter cards. Place the remaining cards in the deck in the center of the table, and have the dealer turn the top card face up next to the deck. This face up card is the up card.

Organize your hand. Put your cards in order by complete and partial melds. A meld is a set of three or four cards of the same value or three or more cards of the same suit.

Start playing. The dealer's opponent has first play, and he can refuse or take the up card. If refused, the dealer has the chance to take the up card. If neither player wants the up card, the opponent can draw from the stock deck. After drawing a card, each player must then discard to the up deck.

Alternate turns. You may either take the top discard or the top card from stock. Continue to sort your cards by melds in order to keep track of what you need and what you need to get rid of.

Getting Gin. If it is your turn, and you have taken a card, and all your cards except one card can be arranged into melds you can say "Gin." Discard the last card, and lay your hand on the table face up.

Score. A winning hand receives 25 points. The game is over when one player reaches 100 points total.

Knocking. You can also end play of a hand before an opponent reaches gin. This is called "knocking." If you want to knock, on your next turn you will need to discard by laying a card face down and say “knock”. Both players must then lay out all of their melds and count up the unmatched cards. These cards are called deadwood.

Laying off. If you knock, your opponent may lay off as many cards as possible onto the melds you've tabled. For example, if you lay down a 3, 4, 5, you’re opponent can lay off a 6 and so on. This reduces their deadwood.

Tally the deadwood cards. Aces count one point, kings, queens and jacks count 10 points and all other cards are scored at their face value. If you gin, you get the 25 points for the win, plus the total of your opponent’s deadwood points. If you knock and your deadwood is less than your opponent's deadwood score, you receive the difference between the two deadwood scores. If you knock and your opponent's deadwood count is equal to or lower than your deadwood count, your opponent receives a 20-point bonus. If your opponent manages to lay off all not melded cards, he receives a 25-point bonus and the difference in the deadwood scores.

Handle a stalemate. In a game where two cards are remaining in the stock and no player knocks or can make gin, the hands are thrown in and no points are scored. Deal and play again.

About the Author

Based in New York, Jillian Downer has been writing travel, fashion, and active lifestyle articles since 2004. Her work has appeared in "Travel + Leisure," "Outside Magazine," "Women's Health," "Footwear News," and "US News & World Report." Downer holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from New York University.