African gin is an obscure version of gin rummy. It is played with two decks of cards, jokers included. It involves seven consecutive hands, during each of which the players seek to come out with a minimum requirement for matched card sets. It is not frequently played, but can be fun for people interested in trying something different.
Just like regular gin rummy, the object of African gin is to get rid of all of the cards in your hand first. The game consists of seven hands, each one more difficult than the one that came before. In each hand, the players must have a minimum number of matches in order to play anything.
To start out, you need two decks of cards. Select a dealer. Leaving all four jokers in the deck, shuffle both decks. Ten cards are dealt to each player, starting with the player to the dealer's left. The rest of the cards are placed in a pile in the center of the playing table, while one is drawn and placed next to it face-up.
The First Hand
The first hand requires a minimum of two sets of three of a kind to be present in a player's hand before she is allowed to play anything. On their first turn, the players are not allowed to play more than this two sets of three of a kind.
One of the most distinctive aspects of African gin is the ability on a player's part to lay down a natural card in a place where either he or another player have played one of the game's wild cards—that is, a deuce or a joker. For instance, if the player has an eight, and he or she sees that another player has played another eight with a joker, he can take the joker and place the eight in its place, therefore gaining a wild card.
Playing Off Opponents' Cards
Players are also allowed to play cards that meld with their opponents' card without picking anything up.
Taking a Turn
The player takes her turn by deciding whether she wants the face-up card. If she decides not to take the card, she draws an additional card from the face-down pile and passes them both to the next player, while taking a card from the face-down pile. If she can play this card, she does so and discards; if not, she simply discards.
Minimums for Each Hand and Points
Each game of African gin lasts for seven hands, and each hand has a minimum amount of matches required before any player can start laying cards out. As mentioned, the first hand's minimum is two sets of three of a kind. For the second hand, the minimum is one set of three of a kind and one four-card run of the same suit. The third hand requires three sets of three-of-a-kind. The fourth hand, two four-card runs. Hand number five, two sets of three-of-a-kind and one run of four cards. Hand number six, two runs of four cards and one set of three. The seventh and final hands requires one run of seven cards in the same suit and one set of three.
The scoring for cards is as follows: wilds (twos and jokers) are worth 45 points each, aces are worth 45 points each, kings, queens and jokers are all 10 points and nines to threes are 5 points each.
Justin Mitchell has been a writer since 2009. In 2002, he received a B.A. in theater and writing from the University of Northern Colorado. Mitchell worked as an ESL teacher in Europe and Asia before earning a master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York. He has written for the "New York Daily News" and WNYC.org, among other outlets.