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What’s the Difference Between Gin Rummy and Rummy?

Rummy and its close cousin, gin rummy, are two of the most popular card games for the whole family to enjoy – though there are ways to play for cash too. It’s so popular that it even has a board game variant called Rummikub, which is more or less the same game but played with tiles sporting large colorful numbers (1 to 13 in 4 different colors) rather than with traditional playing cards. 

Rummy’s popularity is hardly a surprise as it is easy to play, fun and requires nothing more than a deck of cards or a box of Rummikub. 

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Gin rummy is about as popular as rummy and if you can play one, you won’t have any issues playing the other, but what exactly is the difference between them?

To get a better understanding of the specific differences between the two games, see the table below that lays it all out according to six separate categories. The short answer, though, is that while both gin rummy and rummy require the creation of sets (eg. 4 sixes) and sequences (eg. 1, 2, 3, 4 of the same suit) to win, the way they are played is quite different. There are big differences in the way they are scored but the most fundamental difference is that rummy involves playing each set as you make them, whereas in gin rummy, you hold onto your sets until the end, whereupon you call “gin” if you’ve got no deadwood cards (cards that aren’t part of the sets and sequences) left in your hand or “knock” when your deadwood cards total 10 or less.


Game Rule Rummy  Gin Rummy
Number of players 2 to 6 2 to 4
How to win Arrange your cards in sets and sequences until you reach zero points or the lowest score. Assemble your cards into sets and sequences until you have put down your entire hand. Cards are not revealed until you call.
Who deals Take turns by going around the table. Players pick a card. Whoever has the lowest, deals.
How you score Ace to 9 = face value; picture cards = 10. After the winner declares “rummy”, each player adds to their score the the sum of the unmatched cards (deadwoods) in their hand. Say “gin” when you’ve played all your sets; get 25 points. Alternatively, when your non-set cards (deadwoods) equal less than 10, “knock on the floor” and your point total is the difference between your and opponents’ deadwood values
Aces Can play it after a king in the set or as 1 Can only play it as a 1 in a set; can’t play after a king.
Jokers Can be used to make sets and sequences Are not used

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