Gin Rummy Variations: All You Need to Know

Gin Rummy (or simply Gin) is undoubtedly one of the most fun two-player card games. It blends the simplicity of rummy with legitimate strategic depth. It enjoys a massive following among people worldwide, majorly as a social game, and is currently one of the most popular variants of rummy.

Elwood Thomas Baker invented gin rummy alongside his son, Charles Graham Baker, in 1909. It didn’t have the expected longevity in the initial stages of its creation. But Graham was surprised to find people playing the game in the 1930s at New York clubs. Two decades later, the game had seen a resurgence. Gin soon became trendy in the early 1940s, primarily due to film stars picking it as their favorite card game in their social circles. The game is faster than standard rummy but not as much as knock rummy games.

We play gin rummy using a standard 52-card deck. The goal is to emerge the first player to reach a mutually agreed-upon score, typically a hundred points. The basic game strategy involves improving your hand by forming melds and getting rid of deadwood. The dealer deals ten cards one at a time to you and the opponent, subsequently placing the next card in the deck face-up. This commences the discard pile. The stock pile is the other facedown pile. The deadwood count comprises the sum of the point values of all deadwood cards.

Would you be surprised to know there are many variations to Gin rummy? Currently, so many variations of rummy exist, such as Points Rummy, Kalooki Rummy, Deals Rummy, Pool Rummy (similar to Points Rummy game), Contract Rummy, Persian Rummy, Canasta, and more besides Gin Rummy. Read on to know more about the different Gin rummy variations!

#1 Straight Gin

Straight Gin is one version of Gin Rummy that features no knocking. Both players must attempt to get gin, and the player who manages to gin first is the winner. Very often, players indulge in a best-of-seven format instead of points.

John Scarne, in his book Scarne on Cards, expounds on an entirely different version of it. He believes the game is played as much as or even more than Gin Rummy due to its straightforward scoring system. Certain things make it unique:

  • Players agree on the stakes for the game in advance, usually a lump sum and not a specific amount per point.
  • The first player to reach a hundred (100) total points or higher wins the stake.
  • No box and game bonuses apply.
  • The difference in points between the loser and winner is insignificant, but in the case of a shutout, the loser has to pay double the stake.

#2 Oklahoma Gin

In this variant, the goal in a hand is to become the first first to meld all cards into sets and sequences and go gin. If not, meld enough cards so that the value of the cards left is less than or equivalent to the turn-up card’s value but also less than the value of the opponent’s unmelded cards.

The game is a close relative of gin rummy where the first upcard’s value is used to ascertain the maximum count where players can knock. If the upcard happens to be a spade, the hand will count as double. Hence, if the first upcard is a 4, you can knock with just 4 or lesser points in your hand. And if the card is 4♠, you’d get double points for that hand. You can knock any cards from the discard pile as long as you place a pair in this variation.

Valid melds include three or four cards of the same rank (i.e., a set) or three or more cards in the same suit (i.e., a sequence).

#3 Mahjong Gin

Knocking is not permitted, as is the case with Straight gin. However, you can take more than one card from atop the discard pile. If you take more than one card, the lowest position card you take has to be used in a hand. Cards are revealed to the table, and opponents can add on to straights of a similar suit or finish three of a kind with the fourth card for more points. After a player goes gin, points get added, with cards on the table added up and cards in hand deducted. The player who gins gets twenty-five extra points, two through 9 = 5 points, ten through K = 10 points, A = 15 points.

#4 Skarney Gin

John Scarne was a magician who befriended politicians, gangsters, and even Presidents. In his life journey, he also invented a few classic card games. Scarne grabbed standard Gin and made it better with even more varied melds, a contract meld demand, and direct interaction between the opponents through fresh discard rules.

The first meld that a player forms in each hand should be their contract meld. It consists of precisely three 3-card melds. The melds can be any combination of three-of-a-kind sets, three card same-suit sequences, or three-card poker melds. After you lay down your contract meld, you can lay off either a single or a couple of cards on each meld on the table in your following turns. You cannot lay off cards on the opponent’s melds. But of course, you can also put down any new meld you like (each having three or more cards).

Another thing to note is that you cannot offer your opponent the same card you just accepted from them in the previous turn. If the discard is an Ace, and you accept, you lose your draw from the stock pile on the following turn.

Skarney Gin also adds an additional meld to Oklahoma Gin – the poker meld is a set of sequential cards (not necessarily in the same suit). There is no discard pile as opposed to regular Gin, that being a primary difference.

#5 Hollywood Gin

This is actually a scoring style – not a change of rules to the game of gin or an entirely different variant. In Hollywood gin, scoring is earmarked for three different games that simultaneously take place. While your first win is recorded in the column for Game One, your second and subsequent win is recorded in the columns for both Game One and Two. Your third gets recorded in the column for all three games. Players play their hands until all three games conclude.

#6 Tedesco Gin

The game follows a style similar to Oklahoma gin, except that aces can be used low or high, and runs can be created around the corner (for instance – K♠ A♠ 2♠). If you happen to get caught with an unmelded ace, it counts as fifteen points against you. Three-member teams play to three hundred and additional twenty-five points if all the three team members win – similarly, fifty points for a four-member team, and so on. This is a relatively sophisticated gin game for players at all levels.

#7 Sequence Gin

Howard Fosdick’s variation of Gin Rummy offers an intriguing take – players can only meld sequence (not three or four of a kind). You score a point for each card (per card bonus) in a long sequence of six or more cards. In sequences, you also score a point for each face card – K, Q, J (per card bonus). These bonus points do not apply to whether you can knock or whether an under-knock happens. They only apply at the time of calculation of the find hand scores.

Every other rule is as per Oklahoma Gin, given above.

#8 Colonel

Colonel is yet another variation of standard Gin Rummy where the two players lay melds on the table. This makes the game more exciting as the melds start offering more information while the game is in progress. This is a quick, fun, and straightforward card game for two.

The game, similar to standard gin rummy, uses a single fifty-two card deck. The ranking of the cards goes from Ace (high) to 2 (low). The Ace is mainly played as the high card in sequences, never as the low card. The player’s objective is to win the hand by becoming the first to exhaust all cards. Like Gin Rummy, the scoring is done at the conclusion of the hand.

The Bottomline

Enjoyed learning about the different variants of gin rummy? It’s time to test your skills in the game’s online version, which you can play instantly on the MPL Pro App. Good luck and cheers!

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