Written by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: Colonel is a variation of standard Gin Rummy in which the two players lay melds on the table. This adds interest to the game as the melds progressively yield more information as the game evolves. This is a fun, simple card game for two.

Equipment: Two players use one 52-card deck. Cards rank from Ace (high) to 2 (low). The Ace is always played as high card in sequences (A-K-Q-J...), never as the low card (A-2-3...).

Objective: The goal is to win the hand by going out first and scoring points for cards still left in the opponent's hand. Like Gin Rummy, the only scoring is done at the end of the hand.

Deal: Dealer starts the hand by dealing each player 10 cards face-down, one at a time. He turns one card face-up to start the Discard Pile, and the remaining cards remain face-down and become the drawing Stock.

Play: In his turn each player:

  1. Either draws the top card from the Stock or takes the face up card from the top of the Discard Pile
  2. Optionally melds as many sets and sequences as he or she can. The player may also optionally add one or more cards to any set or sequence already on the table, regardless of who originally placed that meld on the table. Thus one can play cards on the opponent’s melds.
  3. Discards one card to the top of the Discard Pile. This should cover up all previous cards in the pile.

Melds: The allowable melds are:

  1. Sets of 3 or 4 cards of the same rank (eg, 4-4-4 or 4-4-4-4)
  2. Sequences of 3 or more cards in the same suit (eg, 4-5-6 in Hearts or J-Q-K-A in Spades)

Winning: The first player to play all cards from his hand wins the hand. You can either go out on a discard or solely through melding.


The player who rummies (goes out) scores 10 points for each Ace, King, Queen and Jack remaining in his opponent’s hand. All other cards score their face value.

Cards melded to the table do not figure in the scoring.

If the game ends by the exhaustion of the Stock, players each total the points in their hands. The player with the lower total wins the hand. He scores points by subtracting his remaining point total from his opponent’s.

Optional Rule:

At any time a player may challenge his opponent. The opponent may either accept or reject the Challenge. If he accepts the Challenge, both players total the points in their hands, and the player with the lower point total wins the hand. He scores the total points in his opponent’s hand -- without deducting his own remaining point total.

If the player rejects the Challenge, play of the hand continues as per usual.

Tips for Play:

Tension in this game centers on when to play your melds to the table. Doing so early reduces your chance of being stuck with lots of cards in hand, should your opponent rummy. However, this also exposes your sets and sequences so that your opponent can play his cards on them to reduce his hand. It also gives your opponent more information about the cards in play.

A player who is having trouble melding might stock up his hand with low point total cards, then challenge his opponent. The large hand with a deceptively low point total will often succeed in a Challenge.


  • Each player scores the difference between the positive points they've melded to the table, minus the negative points still in their hand(s). Obviously, if a player rummies, he only scores positive points for those cards he has melded to the table. This variant shifts emphasis to quality scoring for table melds rather than just rummying.
  • Instead of just taking the top card of the discard pile, the player picks up the entire discard pile. So in his turn, a player either draws a single card from the top of the drawing stock --or-- he picks up the entire discard pile. This rule forces more complicated decision-making and results in more scoring than just picking up the single up-card from the top of the discard pile.


The rules above are as described in George F. Hervey’s compendium of card games, published in the UK several times by Hamlyn since 1973. Another source is the George Routledge's article "Colonel (Coon-Can for Two Players)" from 1923, in Hoyles Card Games rev. by Lawrence H. Dawson (1950). Rules for Colonel appear rarely, either online or in published form, which is why I've included the game here. The variants come from internet sources so they may possibly be inaccurate.

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License: Feel free to print, copy, and distribute these rules, so long as you retain this paragraph. Written by Howard Fosdick © 2023, distributed under Creative Commons License BY-ND.      HOME