Skarney Gin

Game invented by John Scarne ©

Written by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: Skarney Gin is a fun two-hander distantly related to Gin Rummy. It introduces several new concepts that enhance standard Gin with pleasing results. We highly recommend it to those who'd like to try a new rummy game in which the objective is to "gin," or go out first.

Players and Equipment: For two players with a standard 52-card deck. Aces can be played either high or low, so card rank is A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A.

Objective: To rummy -- to end the hand by going out first.

Deal: Deal each player 10 cards each. Remaining cards become the drawing stock.

(Unlike most rummy games, there is no "discard pile" in Skarney Gin. So do not turn up a card to start a discard pile.)

Play: In his turn, each player:

  1. Draws a card from the drawing stock.
  2. Offers a discard to his opponent by showing the opponent a card from his hand.
  3. If the opponent elects not to take the discard, the player merely puts it back into his hand.

Offering a Discard: Play differs from most rummy games in that there is no “discard pile.” Instead of discarding, a player holds up one card from his hand and offers it to his opponent. The opponent may say “I’ll take it,” and put it into his hand. If the opponent rejects the card, the player must put it back into his hand.

A player can not offer to his opponent the same card he just accepted from his opponent in the prior turn. If the pro-offered discard is an Ace, and the player accepts it, that player loses his draw from the draw pile on his next turn.

Whether the second player accepts the discard or not, he still always starts his turn by drawing the top card from the stock pile. The single exception is if he accepted the offered discard from his opponent and that card was an Ace.

When a player has only 1 card left in his hand, he does not offer a potential discard to his opponent. Instead, he just says “last card” and keeps that card in his hand.

Melds: There are 3 kinds of melds in Skarney Gin:

Set(3 or 4 of a kind)
Sequence(3 or more cards in same suit in sequence)
Poker Meld(3 or more cards in sequence, regardless of suits)

Aces can be either high or low in melds. So you can play A-2-3 or Q-K-A. You can not make “round the corner” melds with Aces, such as K-A-2.

The Contract Meld: The first meld a player makes in each hand must be his contract meld.

The contract meld consists of exactly three 3-card melds. The melds may be any combination of 3-card Sets, 3-card Sequences, or 3-card Poker Melds.

After a player lays down his contract meld, in subsequent turns he may lay off either one or two cards on each of his melds on the table. He can not lay off cards on his opponent’s melds. Of course, the player can also lay down any new melds he likes (each consisting of three or more cards).

Ending the Hand: Since Skarney Gin does not have a discard pile, you must go out by melding all cards in your hand without a discard.

There is no knocking in Skarney Gin. The hand ends when one player goes out or "rummies."

If players draw all the way through the deck (with the exception of the last two cards, which are never drawn), the hand ends without the last player offering a potential discard. The player holding the lower total value for unmelded cards in his hand scores the difference in the unmelded point totals.

Scoring: A player who goes gin receives the total value of all cards in his opponent’s hand (regardless of whether they are meldable or not). The player who goes out does not receive any points for cards his opponent has already melded to the table.

Penalty points are:

Aces15 points
K, Q, J, 1010 points
9 down to 2face value of the card

Going gin also scores a gin bonus of 20 points. This doubles to 40 points if the opponent has not yet put his required contract meld to the table.

Winning Game: A Game is 200 points or more across hands.

Tips for Play:

Although reminiscent of Gin Rummy, this game is way different.

The number of cards in a player’s hand varies during a hand. There is no knocking, only going out (or else the hand ends when the draw pile is exhausted). And there is a third kind of meld, the Poker Meld, in which cards are in sequence but not in suit.

Poker straights are often easier to extend than sets or sequences in one suit.

You’ll have to think very carefully about when to lay down your contract meld. Too early and you could end up stuck with a single card in hand and little flexibility. Too late, and your opponent may gin and catch you with all cards in hand. Remember that all cards in hand count against you if your opponent gins (whether matched or not). And, only cards in hand count in the scoring (cards melded to the table are not part of the score).


Simplified Rules: We’ve simplified by leaving out Scarne’s system for scoring Games for the purpose of settling monetarily.


See John Scarne’s Encyclopedia of Card Games, one of the classic card game compendiums. The book has a chapter on Skarney Gin and its rummy relative, Skarney. Scarne on Dice also covers this game.

Also Try: If you like Skarney Gin, you might also try Scarne’s partnership scoring rummy, Skarney.

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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