How to Play Gin Rummy

The Spruce / Catherine Song 

Gin rummy is an old card game, invented during the early 1900s; it's not only fun but also can help challenge your mind and develop your memory and strategic thinking skills. Gin rummy and rummy are related card games, but gin rummy is meant for only two players and it goes much quicker than the multiplayer rummy card game. Review the goals, scoring options, and concepts of the game before playing, then grab a score pad and start "knocking."

The Goal of Gin Rummy

The object of a gin rummy game is to strategically work with your hand of cards to create sets and runs while at the same time eliminating as many "deadwood" cards (cards that are not in a set or run) as possible. The key to the game is understanding what a set, run, and deadwood cards are in gin rummy.

Set: A set is three to four cards that are the same number ranking. One example of a set is a 5 of hearts, 5 of diamonds, and 5 of spades. Another example of a set is 10 of clubs, 10 of spades, 10 of diamonds, and 10 of hearts.

Run: A run is three or more cards of the same suit and in consecutive rankings. One example would be a 2, 3, 4, and 5 of diamonds. Another example of a run is a jack, queen, and king because the face cards are the same suit with consecutive rankings.

Deadwood: Deadwood cards are individual cards that are not part of a set or run. If you have sets and runs, and your deadwood cards total 10 points or less, you can end the round. An example of deadwood that totals 10 points or less is if you have a 2 of diamonds and 6 of hearts which equals 8 points. If you have zero deadwood cards, you have a gin hand and knock on the table to receive your points for the round.

A game spans several rounds but ends when one player reaches 100 points based on the scoring options of the game.

Scoring Options in Gin Rummy

You can keep a simple scoring system in your gin rummy games, or you can create variations in scoring as a way to make the game more interesting. Here are a few options:

Going gin: If you knock, but you have no unmatched cards, you have "gin" and will score 25 bonus points. Your opponent who did not knock cannot score any points, even if your opponent also has no unmatched cards.

Knock points: If you knock, you'll receive points that are equal to the difference between your deadwood hand and your opponent's deadwood hand. For example, if you knock and you have deadwood cards that total five and your opponent has 10 deadwood points, then you will receive five points (the difference between five and 10).

Winner's points: Some gin rummy players add 25 bonus points to a round to hasten the game.

Undercut points: An undercut is when you and your opponent have the equal value of deadwood cards (sometimes called "unmelded" cards). If you knock, but you and your opponent have equal deadwood, you have undercut your opponent. In this case, your opponent wins 10 extra points for being undercut.

When and Why to Knock in Gin Rummy

A round of gin rummy instantly comes to an end when a player "knocks." There are two points in a round where a player can knock:

  1. If your deadwood cards add up to 10 or less, you can knock, which is known as "going down."
  2. If you have zero deadwood cards and all your cards are parts of sets and runs, you can knock, and that's known as "going gin."

How to Start Playing Gin Rummy

  • Number of players: Two (but there is a variation on the game for three players)
  • Card deck: Standard 52-card deck (put aside any jokers, you won't need them for the game)
  • Card values: Face cards, such as jacks, queens, and kings are 10 points each, aces are only one point each, and numbered cards are face value (a 6 of spades is six points, for example)
  • Card setup: The dealer shuffles the deck and deals cards to each player one by one until both have 10 cards; the remaining cards are put between players to form the stockpile face down on the table and the top card is placed face up next to the stockpile, which is called the discard pile.

Watch Now: How to Play Gin Rummy

Pointers for Gin Rummy Rounds

Each normal turn in a round consists of two parts:

  1. First, you must take a card—either the top card from the draw pile or the top card from the discard pile.
  2. Second, you must discard a card (face up) onto the top of the discard pile.

On the very first turn of each new strategic round, the non-dealer decides whether or not to take the first face-up card. If that player declines, the dealer may take the card. If one of the players takes the card, that player completes their turn by discarding, and then the other player takes a turn. If both players decline to take the card, the non-dealer starts the game by drawing the top card from the draw pile.

Play continues like this until someone announces "gin" or knocks on the table. If only two cards remain in the draw pile after a player discards and neither player has knocked, the round ends in a draw and the same player deals again.


If you love gin rummy, try other popular variations, such as Oklahoma gin, and Hollywood gin. Each type of gin rummy game will have slightly different scoring rules.