How often do you wish you could have a three-handed game of Gin, all three people playing at the same time? Here it is. A Jersey politician brought it into my life and yours; he told me that three-handed Gin was being played at several political clubs in Jersey City. I drifted over and investigated it, and found first of all that the tossing game in that form was full of mathematical bugs. I’ve undertaken to correct these defects, and the result is the following great game, which I’ve taken the discoverer’s liberty of naming Jersey Gin. It’s a combination of Old-Fashioned Gin and Six and Seven-card Knock Rummy.
A standard pack of 52 playing cards.
Selection of Dealer and Seating Positions
Any player shuffles the deck, which is then cut by any other player. Three cards are dealt face up, one for each player. The two players drawing in low cards sit opposite each other. The player drawing the high card chooses his seat; in other words, he decides who he prefers to have thrown to him or, in other words, which opponent’s discards he would rather play. A player drawing the high card becomes the first dealer.
Value of the Cards
Same as in all forms of Gin Rummy; ace, 1 point; jack, queen, and king, 10 points; all other cards, their face value.
1. Dealer shuffles the pack and offers it to the player on his right to be cut; if that player declines to cut, the third player may do so if he declines, the dealer must cut the cards himself before dealing.
2. On the completion of each hand, which is called a box, the deal passes to the layer on the previous dealer’s left and continues clockwise.
3. Dealer deals ten cards to each player one at a time clockwise, starting with the player on his left.
4. The rest of the cards are placed in the center of the table face down. They are the stock.
Play of the Hand
The rules of Old-Fashioned Gin Rummy govern this game, with the following exceptions:
When a player knocks, the score entered into his credit is the total reached by adding the difference between his score and one opponent’s to the difference between his score and the other opponent’s.
Let’s have an example. Only the winner of the box can get any credits in the scoring. Now, a knocks with a count of 5 points.
B has a count of 15 after melding and laying off 1 on A’s melds. C has a count of 13 after melding and laying off on A’s and B’s melds. Now, subtract A’s 5 from B’s 15. That leaves a difference of 10. Subtract A’s 5 from C’s 13. , The difference is 8. Add up the two differences. A, the knocker, is credited on the score 0 sheets for 18 points.
The counts of Band C have been canceled out in the calculation of the two differences; each gets zero for the box. Should a player underknock the knocker, that player gets the difference in points between his score and that of the knocker, plus the difference in points between his score and that of the third player, plus a 10-point bonus for the underknock.
Should two players score an underknock, only one can be legally declared the under-knocker. That one is the player with the lowest point total. Should two underknockers: have the same number of points, the player to the knocker’s left is declared the under-de knocker and winner.
A player going gin gets the total point difference of both opponents, as described above, plus a bonus of 20 points for gin from each opponent, a total bonus of 40 points.
The game does not end in a no-game, as in Old-Fashioned Gin Rummy, when the stock gets down to its last three cards. Instead: Should any player fail to knock or go gin before only three cards are left in the stock, the player whose turn it is to pick the top card of the stock becomes the breaker (the man who puts his meld down first). That player must pick that top card, unless the upcard (top card on the discard pile) can be used in a meld. After the break, after the stock is reduced to less than three cards, players cannot knock.
The breaker must lay down his melds separately and hold his own unmatched cards in his hand. The player to the breaker’s left must pick a card (top card or upcard) and do like- wise-and he may layoff cards on the breaker’s melds. The third player also picks a card and must lay down his melds, and may layoff on both other players. If, because of picking an upcard for use in a meld, there remain cards in the stock after that round, the play continues and players may continue laying off on any meld on the table.
Should a player go gin after the break, the rules of Gin Rummy apply: the hand is completed, and no layoffs are permitted; but the player does not get a bonus for going gin; he is credited only for the opponents ’ unmatched cards. When the last card of the stock has been picked and the last player has discarded, the player with the lowest count becomes winner of that box, and he is credited with points as set forth for the knocker.
If the breaker is one of two players to tie in total of unmatched cards, he is the winner. If two players other than the breaker tie for low, the player to the breaker’s left is the winner of that box. He gets credit for point difference only from the player with the higher total points. At the break and after the break, a player cannot pick an upcard unless it can be used in a meld.
Additional Rules for Gin Rummy
A misdeal is declared, and the dealer of the hand immediately starts a new deal, whenever any of the following improprieties are discovered (there are no penalties for the dealer or the responsible player):
- If a card is turned over during the deal.
- If either player or both players have been dealt an incorrect number of cards.
- If, during the play of the hand, either player or both players are found to be holding an incorrect number of cards.
- If a player deals out of turn and the error is discovered before a play has been completed.
- If a player looks at an opponent’s card or cards during the deal.
- If a card is found face up in the stock either during the deal or during the play.
False Knocks and Sundry Errors
The following are some irregularities that often come up in a game:
- A player who inadvertently knocks with a count of more than the required number of points in unmatched cards indicated on the first upcard must place his entire hand face up on the table and continue to play it thus exposed.
- If while holding a gin hand a player fails to knock and his opponent thereupon knocks with 10 points or less, the player does not get credit for a gin hand, but instead gets credit only for an underknock.
- Once a player has laid down his hand and announced his total and it is entered on the score sheet, he cannot call for rectification of some mistake he has made. An opponent is not required to inform a player that he has committed an error or failed to layoff a card or failed to meld his holding to his best advantage, nor is he required to notify a player that he is calling an incorrect count to his disadvantage.
- In melding, a player may rearrange his melds in any way he likes, but not (a) if the final count has been entered on the poker score sheet or (b) if an opponent has laid off one or more cards on the player’s melds as first arranged.
For Money Players
One more Rule. It is recommended that two packs of cards, with backs of different colors, be used in the play. While the dealer is shuffling for the deal, the nondealer is giving the other pack a preliminary shuffle, after which it is set to one side. It is shuffled again by the loser of this hand before he deals the next hand. Reasoning:
- Many players shuffle so badly that one or more of the melds of the previous hand are undisturbed in the shuffle. Their recurrence in due order in the stock pile makes the game a mere memory test, and a dull one.
- This rule insures two shuffles for the pack and doubles the troubles of the cheater.
- Even if neither player shuffles skillfully, it is harder to remember the melds of two hands ago.
The following covers irregularities in discarding:
- A card is not discarded until it has been placed on top of the discard pile. Once it touches the discard pile it completes a play and cannot be recaptured by the player.
- When a knock or gin is announced the discarded card must be placed face down on the top of the discard pile. But if the player accidentally discards the wrong card when knocking or going gin, that card may be retrieved and the error corrected without penalty.
- A player cannot touch or pick a card either from the stock or from the discard pile until his opponent has discarded and completed his play.
- A player cannot discard a card before taking his pick.
- A player cannot discard the upcard he just picked until his next turn of play.
- Once a player touches an upcard in his turn of play, he is compelled to take that card.
- If at the start of play a player should refuse the first discard (the upcard) by stating his decision verbally, he cannot then decide to take it. His refusal to accept it is his final decision on that card.
- If at the start of the play, the nondealer should take the top card of the stock without granting the dealer a chance to .take or refuse the upcard, then that play stands; but in his own turn of play the dealer may now take either one of the two discards or take the top card of the stock.
- No online poker player is permitted to spread the discards to see what cards have been played.
Picking from the Stock Pile
Here are the rules for covering picking from the pile:
- Once a player has taken the top card of the stock in his correct turn of play, he cannot replace it and decide to take the upcard instead. And this ruling holds even though the player may not have looked at the card.
- If a player inadvertently picks off the stock two cards instead of one, or inadvertently sees the face of the card below the one he has just taken, or his opponent has reason to believe that he has seen it, then his opponent may, if he likes, ask to see the face of the card the player has just drawn. If this demand is made the player must comply.
- If a player plays out of turn, taking the top card of the stock for the second time in a row, then he must discard the last card picked and his opponent may now pick either of the two top discards or the top card of the stock.
Coaching in Partnership or Multiple-Hand Gin
Gin, as I have said, is essentially a two-handed game, and therefore coaching or advising a partner is not permitted. Not only is it against the rules for one partner to advise or consult with another partner as to the wisdom of a play, or the wisdom of going down, but no guiding remarks are permitted, not even a reference to the score, except that it is permissible for a partner who has finished his hand to bring to the attention of a still playing partner the result of his game.
Otherwise, a partner is not permitted to volunteer information as to the current state of the score. He must not say, “Partner, I lost 47 and that gives our opponents 130 total, so play to save the game.” However, if the playing partner says, “How do we stand? What is the total score at the present moment?” the information may be given to him.
Looking at Partner’s Hand
When the layout of the game is such that partners sit next to each other, it is perfectly legitimate to look at your partner’s hand. In fact, it is wise to do so, and act in accordance with the information thus gained. Whether your partner has a bad hand and is likely to lose or a good hand likely to win should be taken into consideration, especially in relation to the current score.
You are permitted in the play of your own hand to benefit all you can from your observation of your partner’s hand. But you must not give him any advantage as a result of your watching the play of his hand. This is especially important in the case of errors.
A basic rule in cards is that the cards stand for themselves. So if you see an opponent making a miscount-calling a six, seven, or four as 15, for instance – you are privileged to point out the error. You are obligated to do so if your partner makes that error or if the opponent has made a miscount in your favor. Of course, you are also privileged to point out the error when your partner has made a miscount against you. But if you are watching your partner’s hand and see that he is about to make a mistake-going down with more than 1O through miscounting, or calling gin when he doesn’t have gin- you must not prevent the error. You must not give him any benefit as a result of your watching the hand.
Gin Rummy Strategy and Mathematics
I’m not going to try to calculate the exact percentage of influence exerted by chance and skill in any specific Gin Rummy situation, because (a) there are 15,820,024 possible ten-card hands in Gin Rummy, (b) no two players will play the same kind of game consistently, and (c) the variations in the way a gin player uses the cards he catches are the crucial factors.
But, I can assure you that skill is a more powerful factor in Gin Rummy than in the Rummy games involving more than two players, and if you will take time out to study the Gin Rummy strategy tips that follow, you’ll win many more Gin games than before.
In the game of Gin Rummy there are 52 three-card melds of three of a kind, i.e., cards of the same rank: Three aces, three deuces, and so on. There are 44 melds of three cards of the same suit in sequence, i.e., three-four-five of hearts, nine-ten-jack of spades, and the like. After you have formed a three-card meld it is twice as hard to extend three of a kind into four of a kind as it is to extend a sequence.
A sequence meld can be extended at either end (except ace-two-three and jack-queen-king), whereas three of a kind can be bettered only one way. Besides, a sequence meld of four cards can be extended into five, and one of five into one of six; but four cards of equal rank have no further possibilities. They’re dead.
Early in the game-and whenever possible it is advisable to discard a card ranking one or two, away (preferably one away) and in a different suit to the one previously discarded by your opponent. Example: Your opponent’s first discard is the nine of clubs, which is probably a bait card. Hence, bait or no bait, your safest discard is either the eight or ten of diamonds, eight or ten of hearts, or eight or ten of spades, or the seven or jack in spades, hearts, or diamonds.
If you do not hold such a card, your next best. bet is to discard a card of rank equal to one which your opponent has previously discarded. There are only four possible ways in which an equal rank card can be used against you. Any card can be used six ways in a meld. That is, unless you’re holding stoppers -cards which will prevent a discard from being used in a meld by your opponent.
The Gin Rummy player, however, prior to his first play, must be able to visualize and memorize all the possible melds in a hand the instant he picks it up. He must be able to calculate at sight the probabilities for his two-of-a-kind sequences and he must not over- look any melds he may hold.
There is a way of cultivating this knack of forming mental pictures and avoiding fatal plays in the early stages of the game. It lies in a way of picking up cards which have just been dealt. Never pick up all your ten cards at once. It is impossible to impress them on your mind when they are seen in their natural confusion. Pick them up one at a time, sorting them as you go, impressing them on your mind, and marshaling them for your first play.
Moving thus deliberately, you can appraise the odds on every possible combination of your cards, and at the very least, you have them in an orderly array when the time comes to make your first draw. This is the secret. More players make their bad plays at the start of the hand than at any other time. Never forget to pick up your hand slowly and arrange it carefully. Think first about your own resources and strategy, then about your opponent’s.
Gin Rummy is a game of deductions and counter-deduction. You must try to figure out what is in your opponent’s hand so that (1) you won’t give him any useful cards, and (2) you won’t be holding cards for an impossible or unlikely meld.
In Gin Rummy, the seven is the most valuable card in the deck as far as forming melds is concerned, just as the seven is the crucial number at dice because, it occurs most often. The seven can be used to extend melds more than any other card. The seven can be used in seven different seven-card sequence melds, whereas the most valuable of the 12 other cards can be used only to form six-card sequences.
In conclusion, I submit the following five rules of play every winning Gin Rummy player must know:
- Try to get on the score as quickly as possible.
- Expect your opponent’s first two discards to be bait.
- When tempted to speculate, do so with so a poor hand; don’t with a good hand.
- It’s usually smart to knock as soon as possible.
- Toward the end of the game, play the score or try to keep under and prevent your opponent from winning the game that hand.
Protection Against Gin Rummy Cheats
The best Gin player in the country doesn’t stand a winning chance against even the average Gin cheat. So if you want to play winning Gin you must first learn to protect yourself from the sharks. Here’s what to watch out s for:
After a hand has been played and it is the cheater’s turn to deal, he scoops up the cards and leaves an entire r meld, usually four of a kind, on the bottom of the pack. Then he gives the pack a riffle -shuffle that does not disturb the bottom four 1 cards. He cuts about one-third of the pack off the top, puts it on the bottom, and offers the) pack to be cut. Most players cut at about the center. This puts the wanted meld near the top, and each player in the deal receives two t of these four of a kinds.
The cheat knows two of the cards in your -hand, and you don’t know that he has two of the same value. Later in the play you will usually discard one of those cards, giving him I his meld. Or he will throw you one, proceeding to underknock your knock by laying off I that fourth card on your meld. This is one of I the most common of all cheating devices in Gin, and one of the most effective, because it is impossible to accuse anyone of resorting to t it. An honest player might even shuffle and cut the cards the same way without intending anything crooked. You can protect yourself against the bottom stack by shuffling the cards before the dealer shuffles.
This may seem amateurish, but it is one of the most common and least hazardous cheating devices. When detected it can be made to look like an honest error. When he removes the new deck from the case, the cheat leaves one card behind. He knows what card that is.
The advantage appears trivial. But is it? Let’s see. Suppose the card left unnoticed in the box is the eight of diamonds. What can it do for him? First, he will rarely try to make a 1 meld of eights, because he knows that the chances are only 25 percent of normal. Second, he knows-and you don’t-that the chance of getting a meld in a sequence involving the eight of diamonds is zero. There are three such melds: the six-seven-eight, the seven-eight-nine, and the eight-nine-ten. With the three melds of eights in which the diamond would figure, this makes six dead melds out of a total of 96 melds in the game. This is a terrific advantage.
There is also a psychological throw-off. If, during the play, you find the missing card in the box, the cheat promptly blames you. “Why,” he asks, if he knows his business, “didn’t you take them all out when we started?”
The chances are that, having forgotten by this time who did remove the deck, you will mumble your apologies. You can protect yourself against this ruse by counting the cards before you start to play. Better yet, look in the box.
Some cheats will keep a certain group of cards at the top of the pack, shuffle some cards over them and then deal without offering the deck for the cut. The effect on the game is the same as in the bottom stack. If you ask for a cut, they blandly murmur “Sorry.” If you don’t you’re a dead duck.
When the cards have been cut into two blocks, but the cut has not yet been completed, some sharper will lean back, light a cigarette, then simply pick up the cards and put them back as they were before. The lapse of time and the intervening stage of business may make you forget which block should go on which. If caught at it, they apologize for the error. Don’t take your eye off your poker game.
Dealing from Half the Deck
When the cheat knows what the top cards are, he shuffles, you cut, and instead of completing the cut he picks up the lower portion of the deck and deals from it. Then he completes the cut by putting the remaining cards of the lower pile on the top.
It is a casual little informality, but the cheat now knows precisely what cards are going to appear. Don’t allow anyone to deal from half the pack. Insist on the completion of the cut before the deal begins.
He may look like an authentic kibitzer. But when you’re playing for money, watch him. Satisfy yourself that no onlooker with access to your hand is signaling. Signaling is often done, both amateurishly and expertly. It is easy and deadly effective in Gin Rummy because all that your opponent needs to find out is whether you have a high or low count in unmatched cards. A well-conceived signal system is hard to detect. If you entertain the slightest suspicion that signals are being passed, play your next few hands too close to your vest for the kibitzer to see.
Peeking at Two Cards
This is one of the most flagrant violations in the game. Reaching for his draw from the stack, the cheat affects to fumble and lifts two cards instead of one. At a critical stage of the play, that glance at your next card is all he needs to know.
To protect players against this violation, whether by design or by accident, I suggest that you spread the stack fanwise. This may not completely eradicate the danger, but it will minimize it. And if the violation does occur, the rules of Gin Rummy provide that the player who has committed it must show to his opponent the card he just picked. By thus canceling his advantage, this will temporarily make an honest man of the cheat.
Some amateur cheats will bend the corner of certain cards so as to be able to spot them in play. This is not a marked card in the professional sense of the term; it is a cheating device of, by, and for the cheat and against the decent player. Don’t play with an old or defaced pack of playing cards.
Cheating on the Count
The practitioners of this crude larceny will keep a fair score sheet until the count gets too close for comfort. Then, knowing that one point is often the difference between winning and losing a game with its big-money bonuses, they will miscall their points in unmatched cards and, holding them in their hands, fan them casually before you.
They will then toss them back onto the deck. To prevent this, insist on the rule that unmatched cards be placed face up on the table, separate from the melds-and count them yourself. Also, check the addition of points, not only at the ‘end of the game but also when each hand’s score is entered: 87 plus 26 might be entered as 103 instead of 113. And it’s easy to be even 100 points out of the way when adding up a long score. Added wrong? Oops, sorry!
Do you examine your opponent’s meld closely? If not, you tempt him to slip in the queen of clubs between the king, jack, and ten of spades. He’ll put them down close together, with a little hocus-pocus about his other cards and “How many did I get you for?”
His purpose is to distract your attention and get away with it. How many times have you made a similar error yourself when first glancing at your cards? Watch it.
Protection Against a Crooked Gin Deal
Whenever you play gin Rummy make it a habit to reshuffle the deck when it is offered to you for a cut. However, it must be understood, of course, that the dealer is entitled to the last shuffle if he so desires. Such extra precautionary measures on your part may be construed as a mistrusting gesture by some players, but it pays off in the long run by preventing a great deal of manipulative skullduggery.
How to Beat a Gin Rummy Hustler
Now let’s look at the Gin hustler, the character who only plays with opponents who know less about the poker game than he does. He wins because he possesses a superior knowledge of Gin and knows it. A hustler who gambles with friends who know little or nothing about the finer points of the game cannot really be not resort to cheating. He gets the same end result as the cheat: his opponent always loses. There are two ways to beat a Gin Hustler: stop playing with him or improve your skill to equal or surpass him.