The Playing Card Game

Gin is a modern classic that has superseded all other rummy games in popularity. The game suddenly hit its stride in the 1930s when Hollywood celebrities took it up. They realized that Gin Rummy was not only simple and fast, but made an excellent wagering game, too. Although much luck is involved, the skill required far outweighs the chance factor, and Gin ranks as one of the most demanding of all card games.

Number of Players. Two people can play, though three may participate, usually with one sitting out while the other two play. Four or more, in pairs up to almost any number, may play a partnership game (see p. 129), but this is done by playing separate two-hand games and combining scores.

The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used. Two packs should be used, so that while one player deals, the other shuffles for the next deal.

Rank of Cards. K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A. (Aces are always low.

Rank of Cards. K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A. (Aces are always low.)
Value of Cards. Face cards, 10 points each; ace, 1; other cards, their
pip values.

The Shuffle and Cut. One pack is shuffled and spread, and each player draws a card; if he draws one of the four cards at either end, the player must draw again. If the cards drawn are of the same rank, the suits decide the higher rank in this order: spades (high), hearts, diamonds, and clubs. The player drawing the high card has the choice of cards and seats. The other player, having picked the low card, deals first. Either player may shuffle, with the dealer having the right to shuffle last, and the opponent then cuts the pack.

The Deal. The dealer completes the cut, and then deals 10 cards, face down, one at a time, alternately, to each person, beginning with the opponent. The next card, called the "upcard," is placed face up in the center of the table to form the beginning of the "discard" pile; the "stock" (the remaining cards) are placed face down beside it. Many players spread the stock slightly so that cards can be more easily drawn from it.

Once the cards are dealt, each player takes up his hand, fans it, and if desired, arranges the cards into groups of "melds" (either sets of cards of the same denomination or sequences of cards of the same suit), so that it will be easier and faster to plan the strategy and play.

Object of the Game. Each player tries to form "matched sets," which consist of three or four cards of the same rank, or "sequences," which are three or more cards of consecutive rank in the same suit (such as the 6, 5, 4 of spades). A second objective is to reduce the count of the unmatched cards in a player's hand to less than the count of his opponent.

group (set or book) sequenceThe Play. The non-dealer plays first, and the turn to play alternates thereafter. At each turn, a player must take either the upcard (top card of the discard pile) or draw the top card of the stock and then discard one card face up on the discard pile. When a player has elected to take the upcard, he may not discard it at the same turn.

On the first play of the hand, if the non-dealer does not wish to take the upcard, he must announce this, and the dealer may have the first turn by taking the upcard. If the dealer does not want the upcard, the opponent draws the top card from the stock, and play proceeds.

Players must decide at the start of the game whether anyone may look through the discard pile while playing. Most experts allow this practice. If the players agree that no one may look at previous discards, then the discard pile should be kept squared up so that only the top card shows.

Scoring or "Ginning". There are three ways to score points toward victory in Gin Rummy: ginning, knocking, and undercutting. A player who "gins" is able to meld out his entire hand, without any "deadwood" (unmatched cards). Usually, the hand will consist of one meld of four cards, and two melds of three cards each. A rarer gin hand is two sequences of five cards each.

When a player gets gin, he discards one card face down (instead of face up, as usual), says "Gin!" and then spreads the hand of 10 cards, assorted into melds, on the table. The score for gin is 25 points plus the deadwood in the opponent's hand. After the gin is announced and spread, the opponent turns his hand face up into melds, and the unmelded cards remaining count against him. For example: If the deadwood left is K, 8, 3, A (of whatever suits), the count would be 22 points, which would be added to the winner's 25 points for gin, making a total of 47 points for the ginning player.

Typical Gin Hand
Knocking. A player may choose to "knock" instead of going for gin, but the value of the unmatched cards in his hand (after he discards) cannot exceed 10 points. Naturally, the player does not have to knock when able to do so; instead, he may play on for gin and the 25 point bonus. Having knocked, he discards one card down and spreads the hand of 10 cards, arranged into melds and unmatched cards.

The opponent then spreads his hand, removing from it any unmatched cards, and then is permitted to "lay off" whatever cards he has that match the knocker's matched sets. This helps to reduce the deadwood count in the opponent's hand, and is a reward for holding on to cards that the opponent is quite sure the knocker needs. An example of laying off: The knocker goes down with [Heart Symbol]10, 9, 8, 7, four deuces, a 5, and a 4. The opponent is able to spread two melds and the deadwood is comprised of [Heart Symbol]J, 6, and two threes. In this case, the opponent can lay off the jack and six of hearts onto the knocker's heart meld, to reduce his count from 22 points to only 6 points! Note that a player is not permitted to lay off any cards on the unmatched cards in the opponent's hand.

After a player knocks and the opponent attempts to lay off, the point values of the two players' unmatched cards are compared, and if the player who knocked has a lower point-count, he scores the difference in the counts. Thus, if the knocker has 6 points, and the opponent 17, the knocker would score 11 for the hand.

Note that when a player gins, the opponent may not lay off cards on the gin hand. That is one advantage in going for a gin.

Typical knock Hand
Undercutting. When a player knocks, and the opponent's deadwood total is the same or less than the knocker's, the opponent "undercuts" and scores a bonus of 20 points, plus the difference in the counts for the two players' unmatched cards. For example: If the opponent is able to reduce his count to only 6, compared with the knocker's count of 9, the difference is 3, plus the undercut bonus of 20, for a total of 23. If the players' counts are exactly even, it is still an undercut, but the undercutting player would score only 20 points! (In some games, the undercut bonus is 25, the same as for a gin.)

End of a Hand. Play continues until a player gins or knocks, or until there are only two cards left in the stock. If the latter event occurs, the hand is over, and ends in a tie. (No points are scored.) The same dealer deals a new hand.

A running total of each player's score is kept, with a line drawn under his score every time he wins a hand. For example: A player wins the first hand by 11 points; he scores 11 and draws a line under it. The same player wins the next hand by 14 points; he writes down 25 and draws another line.

The loser of each hand deals next.

Game. The player who first scores 100 points or more wins the game. (Some players may prefer to play to 150, 200, or 300 points.) The winner adds to his score a 100-point game bonus. (If the opponent has not won a hand during the game, then he doubles his entire score, including the game bonus. This is called a shutout or "schneider.") Each player then adds to his score 25 points for every hand he has won, a bonus called a line or a box. (In some games, an extra box or two is credited when a player scores a gin or an undercut.) The two players' total scores are then determined, and the player with the higher score wins the difference between his score and the opponent's. The winner has the choice of cards and seats for the next game, and the losing player deals the first hand.

Hollywood Scoring. The Gin Rummy score sheet is divided into six columns, and the names of the two players alternate at the top of each column. In this version, almost every hand is scored as though the players were playing three different games. The result of the first hand each player wins is scored once, and credited toward Game 1. The result of the second hand won by a player who has already scored in Game 1 is scored twice, and credited to him as a second score in Game 1 and as his first score in Game 2. The winning score of the third hand, if it is won by a player who has already scored in Games 1 and 2 is scored to his credit in all three games. Each subsequent hand won by that player is scored to his credit in all three games.

When a player reaches 100 points in any game, he wins that game, but play continues until all three games have been decided, and subsequent scores are entered only in the remaining game or games.

Each game is scored independently, and each player receives all bonuses to which he is entitled for that game. A player who was shut out (schneidered) in one game enters his first score in the game or games still uncompleted.

Straight Gin

This version for two players is simply Gin Rummy without knocking. Both players must go for gin, and the winner is the player who gins first. Some players agree to play a series, in which case the first player to go gin four times is the winner; the maximum number of games for the series would be seven, which would be played in the event that each player has won three games and needs a fourth win to claim victory.

In Straight Gin, an alternative to turning the twenty-first card as the upcard is for the dealer to give his opponent an eleventh card. The opponent then discards to start the game.

Celebes Rhum

In this Straight Gin version played in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, 54 cards are needed: the standard pack plus two jokers, which are wild. Two people play, each is dealt 13 cards, and the next card is turned upas the upcard. The procedure is the same as for Gin Rummy, with the following exceptions:

1) Only the dealer's opponent, whose turn comes first, may take the first upcard.

2) There is no knocking. To win, the player must meld his hand. The most common set of groupings is a sequence of four cards and three other melds of either matched sets or sequences. A joker can be played as any card but only in one of the three-card melds; it may not be used in the four-card meld, which must be a natural sequence of the same suit. Instead of melding in a 4-3-3-3 pattern, two other arrangements are possible: 5-5-3 and 5-4-4. If either of the latter two is chosen, a natural sequence meld of four or five cards is needed; the remaining two melds are comprised of either kind of meld, and one or both may contain a joker.

3) The joker may be used for a matched set of five-of-a-kind, since
a suit need not be specified when a matched set is made.

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