How to Play Gin Card Game

Gin Card Game Overview

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The Gin card game is a strategic card game for two to four players (usually two). The object of the game is to score as many points as possible to reach a preset limit first (usually 100). A player scores points by developing MELDS (groups of three or more corresponding cards). A meld is a group of three or more corresponding cards. Cards can correspond in one of two ways:

  • Runs: Cards of the same suit in ranking order. For instance, the 5, 6, and 7 of Diamonds
  • Books: Cards of all of the same rank. For instance, three Jacks.

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Cards in your hand that are not in melds are considered DEADWOOD. Your score at the end of the hand will consist of the points for each card you have used in a valid meld. Your deadwood card values are added to your opponent’s score. The player to reach the designated score limit wins!

Gin Rules and Strategy

The Agreement

Players must agree on an appropriate end-game score before the game starts. Gin games with two players are typically played to 100 points.

The Deal

Each player gets 10 cards. All remaining cards in the deck are placed face-down to form the “stock” pile. The next card is turned and laid face-up beside the deck (the start of the “discard” pile).

The Draw

Play begins with the person to the dealer’s left and continues clockwise. In the first round, the person to the dealer’s left chooses whether to draw the face-up card from the discard pile or pass. If that player passes, the dealer may choose to take it. If neither player wants the face-up card, the non-dealer must then draw from the stock.

Once normal play begins, players alternate turns. At any time other than the first round, a player has two choices: Either draw one top card from the face-down stock pile, or draw one top, face-up card from the discard pile. Try to make melds out of the cards in your hand.

The Discard

After you pick up a card, you must select one card from your hand to discard. Choose your discard wisely, because your opponent can then pick it up! Place the discard face-up on the discard pile. This discard marks the end of your turn, and play continues clockwise.

Note: If you picked up the face-up card from the discard pile, you cannot discard that same card on that turn. You can discard a card just drawn from the stock pile.

The “Knock”

The hand ends when one player “knocks,” indicating that they have melded all the cards in their hand, and the total value of all deadwood cards is less than 10 points. Knocking occurs at the end of a player’s turn and must be accompanied by a discard. If the player does not have any deadwood cards outside of their melds, that’s called “going Gin,” and the player will receive a 20-point bonus on their score.

Example: Suppose your cards are all set up in runs and books, except for the 7 and 8 of Diamonds. Even if you pick up the 6 of Diamonds, which would form a valid run, you cannot knock because you do not have a valid discard. No matter which one of those Diamonds you discard, the remaining cards will total more than 10 points, so you won’t be allowed to knock. But let’s say instead of picking up the 6, you picked up a 2. Then you could knock, using the 8 as your discard, because the remaining 7 and 2 which do not make a meld total less than 10 points.

The Scoring

Cards are ranked in the usual order, from Ace to King, with Aces as the lowest cards. Each card is assigned a certain amount of points:

  • Aces = 1 point each
  • Cards 2 through 10 = Face value (for instance, a 4 is worth 4 points)
  • Face Cards (J, Q, K) = 10 points each

After a player has knocked, everyone spreads their cards on the table, arranged into valid books and runs. Each card can only be in one meld – i.e., cards can’t be shared between melds. Whoever has the lowest deadwood score (meaning the non-melded cards in their hand have the least amount of points associated with them) is the winner of the hand.

Scoring works differently depending on the number of players:

  • In a standard 2-player game, the difference between the deadwood of the winner and the deadwood of the loser is added to the winner’s score. The deck is then shuffled, dealing responsibilities pass to the other player, and the game continues until one person’s score reaches 100 points.
  • In a 3 or 4 player game, the difference in deadwood is calculated for each individual person. That difference is then added to each person’s score. In these games, the object is to have the least points and to be the “last man standing” – as players reach 100 points, they lose and are dropped from the game.

Gin also includes some important bonus scores:

Usually the person who knocked is the one with the lowest deadwood score, but sometimes they’re not. If a player who didn’t knock has the lowest deadwood score, they receive an undercut bonus of 20 points. If you knock without having any deadwood at all, that’s called “going Gin.” Going Gin also rewards the player with a 20 point bonus.

How to Play Gin Card Game Videos

Learn how to play the Gin card game by watching these three short videos:
Video 1 of 3:

Video 2 of 3:

Video 3 of 3:

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Related Gin Card Game Articles

Over the years we have posted quite a few articles about Gin. Read on to learn additional tips and strategy for the Gin card game.