Jersey Gin

Jersey Gin is an adaptation of Gin Rummy for three players. A three-player Gin game similar to this one first surfaced in Jersey City, New Jersey, where it was discovered by noted card game expert John Scarne. Scarne analyzed the rules of the game and found them to be “full of mathematical bugs”; he took the liberty of correcting the rules to make them fairer. He then published his corrected rules under the name “Jersey Gin”.

Object of Jersey Gin

The object of Jersey Gin is to arrange your hand into melds and be the first to knock, hopefully ensuring that the total of your unmatched cards is lower than that of your opponent.

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To play Jersey Gin, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We’d be pretty pleased to know that you’re using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You should also have something to keep score with, like a pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal ten cards, face down, to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up; this card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Everything in Jersey Gin revolves around melds. Three or four of a kind is one type of meld. Another is a run or sequence of three or more cards of the same suit, in sequence, such as 5-6-7♣. Cards rank in their usual order. Aces are always considered low, and cannot be used consecutively with the king. That is, neither Q-K-A nor K-A-2 are considered valid melds.

Each card also has a point value in Jersey Gin. Aces have a value of one point, face cards have a value of ten. All other cards are worth their face value. These values are used to calculate a player’s deadwood, the value of the cards in their hand that cannot be formed into melds.

Play of the hand

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They start their turn by drawing one card. This may be either the top card of the discard pile or the top card of the stock. They then end their turn by discarding a card, face up, from their hand. Play then passes to the next player to the left, who does the same thing, and so on and so forth.

The discard pile should be kept squared up at all times: fishing through the discards is prohibited. If a player wants to use the information of what the discard pile contains, it is their responsibility to remember what has been discarded throughout the game.

Ending the hand

When a player’s deadwood score reaches ten or less, they may knock by discarding their card face-down and knocking on the table. Each player then lays their hand face up on the table, with each meld identifiably broken out. The two players that didn’t knock may reduce their deadwood counts by adding cards to their opponents’ melds, which is known as laying off. The difference between the knocker’s score and that of each of their opponents is added together to arrive at the knocker’s total score for the hand. For instance, a player knocks with a deadwood count of 9, while their opponents have 11 and 14. The knocker scores (11–9) + (14–9) = 7 points for the hand.

If the player with the lowest underwood score is not the player who knocked, the lowest player is said to have underknocked. They score for the hand as if they had knocked, plus a ten-point underknock bonus.

Rather than knocking, a player may elect to continue playing until their deadwood score reaches zero. When this happens, they declare gin and reveal their hand, scoring the opponent’s deadwood total plus a 40-point bonus. The opponents may not lay off deadwood on a gin hand.

After the end of the hand, the deal rotates for the next hand. Game play continues until a player reaches 100 points. This player then scores an additional 100 bonus points. Each player scores a box bonus of 25 points for each hand that they won.

The break (when the stock runs out)

Unlike in standard Gin Rummy, the game doesn’t just end when the stock runs out. Instead, when the stock is reduced to three cards, the break occurs. The next player to draw is called the breaker. Special rules apply after the break. Players cannot knock, and a card can only be drawn from the discard pile if it can immediately be used in a meld.

After the breaker completes their turn, they lay their melds face up, keeping their deadwood concealed in their hand. The next person to play draws, then lays their melds out in the same way, and may lay off any cards that they can on the breaker’s melds. The third player completes their turn similarly, with the opportunity to lay off on either of their opponents’ melds. If there are still cards left in the stock, then it is the breaker’s turn again, who may now lay off on any meld.

If a player goes gin, it is handled in the usual way, as described above. Otherwise, the hand continues until the stock is completely out of cards and the final player has discarded. At that point, the hand is scored, treating the player with the lowest deadwood as though they had knocked. If there is a tie involving the breaker, the breaker wins it; if the other two players tie, the player to the left of the breaker wins it.

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