Win or lose, few card games offer as much casual fun as Gin Rummy. But if you want to take your play from friendly to competitive, you need to know proper Gin Rummy strategy to win consistently.
This brief guide will walk you through the most common gin rummy tips and tricks to help you become a better player.
But first, make sure you know how to play the standard version of Gin Rummy by reviewing the basic rules of the game.
Know When to Knock
Few hands end with a player completing all his melds. Knocking to end a hand is much more likely.
That is why it is usually a good idea to be the first one to knock, especially if less than 15 cards are remaining in the draw pile.
Remember, most people play with house rules which award 25 bonus points for making a gin, but only 10 or 20 bonus points for an undercut.
In the long run, you can often outscore your opponent by knocking early and often, even if you get caught out from time to time.
Keep an Eye on the Discard Pile
You can learn a lot by watching how your opponent interacts with the discard pile. His discards, and more importantly, what he takes, are reliable indicators of not just which melds he is going for, but how close he is to going out.
Strong players will never draw from the discard pile unless it completes a meld, but weaker players will.
If you are playing a weak player, avoid discarding cards that are equal to the ranks, or are suited consecutively to the cards he picks up.
Good players will tend to discard high cards early in the game. Therefore, if you notice a late discard of a high card, the player has probably switched strategies and is close to gin or knocking.
Never Draw to an Inside Straight
Just like poker, it is not usually a good idea to try to draw the one card that will complete an inside straight.
It is a far better option to hang on to two consecutive suited cards. By doing this, you will double your chances to complete your meld.
The only time when it may be worth hanging on to suited one-off cards is early in the game.
Keep High Pairs Early in the Hand
Many players who know just the most basic Gin Rummy strategy will discard their high cards during the first few turns of each hand.
If you are playing against such a person, and you dealt high pairs, you may want to try your luck by keeping them for the first four or five turns before discarding them.
By the same token, if your opponent is good at Gin Rummy, don’t be tempted to get rid of high unpaired cards too early in the game, or you may be falling into a trap.
Middle Cards Give You More Options
If you are forced to try and build a meld off a single card, choose a middle-ranked one like a 5, 6, or 7 as your foundation.
These middle cards not only give you the most options to form three or four card melds, but they are also low enough in value that if you are caught out with them in your hand, it won’t be as costly as if you are holding on to higher-value cards.
Try to Build Melds Using Card Triangles
Card triangles are any two consecutive suited cards with an additional card of the same rank as one of them.
For example, holding a 7 and 8 of hearts, and having a 7 of diamonds is a card triangle. Card triangles give you four ways to make a meld.
You can complete a meld using the example hand by picking up the 6 or 9 of hearts for a run or drawing the 7 of clubs or spades to complete a set of three 7s.
Get the Card You Want From Your Opponent
There are several methods you can use to get your opponent to discard the exact card you need.
One of the best tricks is discarding a card with the same rank but a different suit to the card you want.
For example, when you want a 9 of hearts, throw away a 9 of spades, and if your opponent has the 9 of hearts, there is a good chance you will see it discarded on the next turn.
If you are playing someone who you expect knows this trick, use it against him by never laying a card of matching the rank of your opponent’s previous discard.
Change Up Your Playing Style
Remember that Gin Rummy is a long game. Don’t get pegged as someone who plays in one way only. Try to keep your opponent guessing.
It can take a lifetime to master Gin Rummy strategy but practice these eight tips, and your game will improve immediately!