Last updated: May 11, 2010

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Gin Rummy Strategy

Rules of scoring gin rummy vary from group to group, so always agree about all details before play begins.

In some variations, the first card in the discard pile determines the number of points, unmatched, a player must have to knock.

When the card is an ace, no knocks are allowed. At card clubs, team rummy is often played, with players on the same team sometimes allowed to look at one another's hands, more often than not.

Many people play gin rummy with no strategy at all, taking the cards as they come and regarding the whole thing as a game of pure chance. There is, in fact, a great deal of skill possible in gin, which is why poker players turn to it for a change, with no sense of having stepped down.

Most important tip: Play for the knocks, and knock as soon as you can. Most gin rummy games are won not by gin hands, but by surprise knocks that come before your opponent has had a chance to reduce the initial chaos of unmatched cards in his or her hand.

To this end, you should collect, as early as possible, a set of knock cards that add up to less than the knock total. Keep these cards in reserve while you draw and discard, trying to fill your melds.

Remember - as soon as you get near enough to knock, do it. Especially if you haven't counted every card as it went by, you don't know what your chances are to make gin, and you do know that, with every draw, your opponent is improving his or her hand.

Go for gin if the hand is old. An old hand is one that has been going on for a long time. A few hands, and you will be able to judge for yourself what constitutes an old hand.

At the beginning of play, a knock is almost sure to catch the other player with cards he or she would like to have discarded. A late knock runs a serious risk of being undercut, giving a 25-point edge to your opponent.

Don't draw from the discard pile, unless you need the card for a previously started meld. Don't forget that your opponent can see what you pick up, and they are forewarned about what you may be collecting.

You are unlikely to see any more cards for your meld from them - therefore, only use the discard pile if it presents you with an irresistible opportunity, especially if the card completes a meld.

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