Gin Rummy Strategy Basics
Gin Rummy is easy to learn but difficult to master, in part because there are so many complex strategies. This will be a great start, with links to more in-depth articles on Gin Rummy strategy.
Odds and Outs
When building melds, look for combinations that have the most “outs”. A combination is any two cards that have the potential to form a meld.
– A pair of 8s has two outs – there are two other 8s in the deck that can make a set.
– 4♥-5♥ has two outs – the 3♥ or 6♥ will make a run.
– 3♥-5♥ has only ONE out – you need the 4♥ to make a run.
– Similarly a K♦-Q♦ has only ONE out – the J♦.
Triangles are even better. A triangle is made up of three cards: a pair plus a sequenced card, such as 4♥ – 5♥ – 5♦. This triangle has FOUR outs to make a meld. There are two 5s in the deck which will make a set of 5s OR a 3♥ or 6♥ will form a run.
Statistically, middle cards are more desirable than high or low cards. For example, a 7 will fit into more possible melds and make longer runs than a face card. Here’s a great illustrated article on Outs:
Discard your higher cards first. If you have multiple cards that do not fit into melds or combinations, throw away the high cards first to decrease your deadwood count fast. This hand of Gin Rummy has a deadwood count of 66 points. You will remove half of those deadwood points if you simply replace the K Q J and 10 with low cards. This has great strategic advantage even if the replacement cards have no relation to the other cards in your hand. Fortunately, when you make a habit of keeping low cards, you’ll start building combinations simply by chance.
Your opponent is also likely to discard high deadwood cards, especially at the beginning of a hand. If you have a high-card combination, like two Ks, you may want to keep it for a few turns in case your opponent was dealt the third K and is anxious to discard it. Do not, however, hold onto high cards for too long. It is not uncommon for an opponent to knock in the first two turns and leave you holding the bag. Read more here on reducing your deadwood count:
Knock early. If you can knock in the first few turns, do it before your opponent has the chance to get rid of his high cards.
Generally it is best to knock as soon as you can rather than trying to lower your deadwood count. However, the longer the game goes, the greater your chance of being underknocked. While it is ideal to knock with 9 points on the 2nd turn, it may not be a good idea on the 10th.
Consider your outs for gin when debating a knock. If you have several outs, it may be better to play for gin.
Consider your opponent. Some opponents will knock whenever they get down to 1 or 2 points of deadwood, others will tend to continue to play in hopes of underknocking you. For more on when to knock in Gin Rummy:
Defensive and Offensive Play
Keeping track of discards is important for several reasons. It helps you evaluate your hand and calculate your outs. For example, you wouldn’t want to start collecting 5s if two 5s have already been discarded. Remembering what has been discarded will also help you deduce what is in your opponent’s hand.
Pay attention to the cards your opponent picks up from the discard pile. If he draws a 9♠, he may be collecting 9s or he may have a run in Spades. If you draw a 9♣, you may want to hold onto it rather than risk giving him Gin. But if you remember the 9♥ has already been discarded, you can assume he is not collecting 9s but rather has the Spade run.
Similarly, you should avoid drawing a card from the discard pile unless it will complete a meld. That way your opponent is less likely to know what you have and what you need.