How to Play Gin Rummy

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 Author:Adrian Sterne

Gin rummy (also just called gin) is a two-player variant of rummy with the goal of collecting more points than your opponent.

If you’ve already played the classic version of rummy or some of its popular card game variations, you’ll learn to play gin in a jiffy.

The games share some basic rules and principles, so there’s no steep learning curve to worry about.

Let’s make a quick rundown of things you’re going to learn in this article:

But even if you’re unfamiliar with these games, don’t worry, as we’ll make sure that you understand everything about gin rummy by the time you finish reading this article.

The Basics

Gin rummy uses a standard 52-card deck (no jokers) and can only be played between two players.

The goal of the game is to win more points than the opponent by making melds, divided into runs and sets:

  • Run — Three or more cards of the same suit matched in consecutive order (9 , 10 , J ). Kings are high, and aces low, meaning the run cannot continue from king to ace.
  • Set — Three or four cards of the same value (K , K ,K , K ).

Gin Rummy Basics: Run & Set
Picture cards are worth ten points, the ace is worth one point, and all other cards carry their face value.

The Deal

At the start of the first round, each of the two players draw one card each. The player with the lower-value card starts as the dealer, and whoever loses the round must take on the dealer’s role in the next session.

The dealer’s task is to shuffle and deal ten cards each to themselves and the opponent, dealing one card at a time to each side. Once the cards are dealt, the dealer discards the top card from the remaining deck and places it face-up at the center of the table, thus starting the discard pile. The remaining pile (the stock) is put face-down next to the discard card.

The Game

The first player to make a move is the non-dealer. They can either draw the card from the stock or the discard pile. In this first turn, and only then, the dealer can draw the discard card and take a turn. The players draw one card and then discard one card per turn, placing it face-up in the discard pile.

The play continues until one player knocks or declares gin by putting the card face-down on the discard pile.

Getting a gin means that all ten cards in the player’s hands are a part of a set or a run. Example: (9 , 9 , 9 , 9 ) (J , Q , K ) (A , 2 , 3 )

Gin Rummy Basics: Getting A 'Gin'

Mind that a single card can’t be a part of a set and a run simultaneously. The player must decide in which meld they want to include that card.

A player can also knock when not having all ten of their cards be part of a set or a run, in which case they place their cards face-up on the table. However, their deadwood (unmatched cards) must have a value of ten or lower. The opposing player then lays off their cards to complete sets and runs in the knocking player’s hand.

Example: The knocking player has 9 , 10 , J , in which case the opposing player can lay their 8 at the beginning of that run. The opposing player is not allowed to lay off cards to the knocking player’s unmatched cards or uncompleted melds.

End of the Round

Once the round is over, the players receive points based on the system explained below.


The player who goes gin receives points equal to the value of the opponent’s unmatched cards, called deadwood.

If the unmatched cards are, for instance, J , 8 , A , that would equal 19 points. The winner will also receive a gin bonus of 20 points, getting to a total of 39 in this case.


Once one player knocks and their opponent lays off all cards they can possibly lay off to the knocking player’s hand, the value of the remaining unmatched cards in each of the players’ hands is compared:

  • Scenario A: If the knocking player’s value of unmatched cards is lower than the opponent’s, they receive points equal to the difference.
  • Scenario B: If the opponent’s value of unmatched cards is lower or equal to the knocking player’s, the knocker is undercut, and the opponent receives points equal to the difference, in addition to ten bonus points.

The Spice-Up

As mentioned, Gin Rummy generally plays without Jokers. However, you can include these cards into the deck/s as wild cards to add excitement to the gameplay.

In Gin Rummy, wild cards stand in for any other cards in the deck to help you create winning card combos. Say a joker appears on the table — any player can pick it up to substitute one of the cards in their hand in an attempt to make a run or a set.

If the jokers play a role in the final run you’ve created, you must announce them to the table. For instance, imagine your run features a 5, a 6, and a Joker. You must declare the Joker sits in for a 7 to explain the run to your fellow players.

A Piece of Advice

Don’t rush to put your card combos down when playing Rummy with Jokers, as your opponents can gain easy access to those wild cards. The power of these cards lies in their versatility. Once picked up, they can complete your opponent’s hand, giving them a significant advantage. Put your wild-card-enhanced combinations down only if the card your Joker replaces has already appeared in another run or set and cannot be reused in the same way.

The Score

You should keep track of how many hands each player has won when playing. The game ends once one player receives 100 points or more in total. When the game ends, the winning player receives an extra 100 points and can score an additional bonus of 100 points if their opponent didn’t score any points at all.

Each player then gets 20 points for every hand they’ve won. If the game is played for money, the loser must pay the winner according to the difference in their point value.

Final Thoughts

Gin rummy is a fun two-player card game that requires plenty of skill, including memory and various tactics. Of course, luck is also a factor, as you never know which cards you might receive.

If you master the game well enough, you can up the excitement by playing it for real money, although gin can be exciting enough when played only for fun. While at, you can read our other guides and learn to play poker, and other card games.

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