Have you ever heard of the card game Gin Rummy? You may know it by one of its many other names, including knock poker or gin poker. It is a game that has been around for more than a century. Gin Rummy isn’t as popular as it once was, but it’s still fun to play and takes skill to win. It isn’t too dissimilar to Three-Card Poker.
Elwood T. Baker and his son C. Graham Baker are credited with creating Gin Rummy in 1909. The game’s popularity soared in the mid-twentieth century and was one of the most widely-played two-player card games.
There is luck involved, like any form of gambling, in Gin Rummy, but skill comes into it. You have an advantage over your opponents if you have a good memory, for example.
The late Stu Ungar was a feared Gin Rummy player. Ungar turned to playing poker when nobody would play him at Gin Rummy. He was that good. Ungar had a photographic memory which gave him a huge advantage in his games. You don’t need a memory of that ilk to succeed, but it helps if you have a good memory.
Gin Rummy Basics and Objectives
Gin Rummy is played with a standard 52-card pack of cards. Kings are the highest-value cards down to aces which are always low.
The objective of Gin Rummy is to score points and reach an agreed number of points before your opponents do. This number tends to be more than 100, sometimes as high as 250.
You try to improve your hand by forming what the game calls melds and eliminating deadwood. The game has two types of melds. Sets of three or four cards sharing the same rank, such as 9d-9c-9s, and runs or three or more cards in sequence, like 6s-7s-8s.
Deadwood are cards not in any melds. The deadwood count is the point values of the deadwood cards. Face cards are 10 points, two-to-ten have their pip value, and aces are one point.
Cards can only be used in one meld even if they fit in two. For example, if you held 8c-8d-8h-9h-Th, the eight of hearts can only be used in the set (8c-8d-8h) or the run (8h-9h-Th) and not both.
How Does a Typical Gin Rummy Round Progress?
Gin Rummy is self-dealt and players take it in turns to deal. Each player receives 10 cards one at a time, before placing the next card in the deck face up. This face-up card is the start of the discard pile. The face-down pile is called the stock pile.
Now it is time to start the action. The non-dealing player has the option to take the face-up card from the discard pile. Taking this card means they have to discard one a different card into the discard pile. The player acting second can take a card from the pile of their choice.
A game of Gin Rummy progresses with each player alternating drawing a card from either pile. This continues until a player ends the round by “knocking” or “going Gin” or until only two cards remain in the stock pile. The round ends in a draw if the latter occurs and neither player receives points.
The game ends when one player reaches the predetermined points total.
What is Knocking and Going Gin?
Knocking is only possible if you have 10 or fewer deadwood points. Knocking ends the round and the knocking player lays out their melds. The other player lays out their melds but doesn’t score any points. They can add their deadwood to the knocking players melds to reduce their deadwood count.
Going Gin is the term used when a player has zero deadwood points. You receive 25 bonus points when this happens in Gin Rummy. It’s possible to have an 11 card Gin, this gifts you 31 Big Gin bonus points. This happens when the first player takes the face-up discard pile card and it fits perfectly into their holding.
Let’s see a Gin Rummy hand so you can see the scoring.
Our hand: 8s-8h-8d-8c / 6c-5c-4c / Kh-Qh-Jh
Opponent’s hand: Ac-2c-3c / Qd-Jd-Td / 4s-5s-5d-4h
We have hit gin with our hand because all 10 cards fit into melds. We receive 25 bonus points for going Gin. Our hand receives an additional 18 points from our opponent’s deadwood cards. Two four and two fives equal 18, add them to the Gin bonus for 43 points.
This next example shows how to score when we knock.
Our hand: 9s-9h-9d-9c / 7c-6c-5c-4c / 3h-2h
Opponent’s hand: 2s-3s-4s / Kh-Kd-Kc / 8d-7h-7d-6c
We knocked because we only had five deadwood points from our 3h and 2h. Our opponent had 28 deadwood points here, the 8-7-7-6 not in melds. This totals 28. Subtract our five from our opponent’s 28 for a score of 23 points. Online casinos offering Gin Rummy automatically calculate all the points.