Gin Rummy History

Gin Rummy History

Gin Rummy is a fun and popular game which is very easy to learn. The fast spread of the game’s popularity is due to its quick pace, simplicity and adaptability. Gin Rummy is played by two players with a standard 52-card deck and the aim of the game is to improve one’s hand by forming melds and eliminating the deadwood.

Gin Rummy first appeared on the scene in the early 1900’s and emerged from a combination of gin poker and basic rummy. Gin Rummy quickly became as popular as other two-person card games and today it has a heavy following of players and fans.

Since the boom on the online casino industry, all games that were adaptable to the screen were included in online casinos’ games line up. Gin Rummy was one of these games due to its simple rules and one-on-one play moves.

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Early History

Unlike some games that have their history dating back thousands of years to archeological digs and ancient tombs, Gin Rummy is only about 100 years old. The game first make its appearance in the early 1900’s and many credit the game’s development to Elwood Baker who was a whist teacher. Baker was also a bridge tutor who later died under questionable circumstances, but during his life time he is said to have consolidated the game’s rules.

The Game’s Roots - Rummy

Gin Rummy is clearly a branch off from the game group of Rummy. Rummy is actually a large group of games with a very specific way that cards are played. In a game of rummy, the player uses a ‘draw and discard’ method during which each turn a player draws cards from a pile and discards the cards he does not require. The aim is to form a hand into sets of melds (matching cards). Melds are generally cards of the same suit and sequence or of the same rank.

In the early forms of Rummy, which strongly resemble Gin Rummy, the aim of the game was to get rid of all one’s cards by laying them face up in matching sets. A player’s score would be calculated based on what the opponent had left in his hand – also known as the ‘deadwood’. Later versions of the game developed which rewarded points not only on the opponent’s deadwood but also on the quality of one’s own sets or melds.

The first reference to true Rummy was mentioned in the “The Standard Hoyle” in New York in 1887. This game was referred to as Coon Can and later as Conquian. It is reported to have originated from Mexico and spread into the United States through the bordering states such as Texas. Proof of the game’s Hispanic origins is the fact that it is played with a Spanish 40-card pack. In 1896, Conquian was again referenced to by Stewart Culin who records that it was played by Apache Indians.

Some believe that Rummy developed from places further a field such as the Far East. The game’s concept of drawing and discarding with the aim of forming melds is a major principle in the popular Chinese game of Mahjong. In 1891, an enthusiastic British Mahjong player led the development of a card game called Khanhoo. Another Chinese card game of a similar nature was reported to be played, called Kon Khin. This name is very similar to Conquian and Coon Can, which leads to the theory that they are all related.

1930’s - Gin Rummy’s Heyday

Gin Rummy became a game in its own right during the heyday period of the 1930’s. Up until the late 1920’s, the game was still being classified in the “Official Rules of Card Games” as Poker Gin or Gin Poker. Several factors helped spur on the spread of popularity of Gin Rummy and the development into the game it is today.

One factor was the Great Depression which resulted in a high percentage of the adult population being left unemployed. Coupled with the fact that minimal money left most households with no ‘entertainment budget’, people had to rediscover ways of amusing themselves in their own homes. Gin Rummy was easy to learn and quickly became more of a household game than bridge or poker.

Another factor which contributed to Gin Rummy’s boost in popularity was the wonderful world of Hollywood. Gin Rummy first became very popular with actors, directors and celebrity wannabes. The game began appearing in almost every movie produced in this period and spectators saw Gin Rummy as the pastime of the rich and famous. Gin Rummy soon received massive publicity and was the craze of the decade.

Two of Gin Rummy’s unique features enabled it to become so popular with the Hollywood gang. The game was played while waiting for auditions or while waiting for one’s scene to come up during rehearsals and backstage in the theatre. One of the essential elements was that Gin Rummy could be started and ended in one quick movement and could easily be carried on where left off at a later stage. Another feature which developed during this period was the ‘Hollywood Scoring” system whereby players could ultimately play three games simultaneously.


In the 1970’s to 1990’s Gin Rummy had a solid and dedicated following, and the rules did not change very much during this period. The game did not know massive support around the world, but this changed in the late 1990’s with the launch of the online casino industry. As with many other previously not so popular games, Gin Rummy was pushed into the limelight when it was transformed into an online game.

The Gin Rummy Association is one of the organizations that developed since the birth of the online version of the game to provide information for players – new and old – regarding tournaments and rules. There are several Gin Rummy tournaments available online, as well as the usual offering of free games for those who wish to familiarize themselves with the great game of online Gin Rummy.

Posted by CCJ Team