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History of Gin Rummy History of Gin Rummy

History of Gin Rummy - Card Game

All you need to know about how your favorite gin rummy card game began. 

You must be pretty special. They don’t let just anyone in here, you know. Me? Just call me, Bogey. So you want to know where Gin Rummy came from? Where it’s been, where it’s going? Alright. I’ve got time before my next scene.

First of all, you need to know what makes a game “Rummy”. It’s basically any game where you draw and discard cards to form groups of cards called “melds”. Gin Rummy is the most similar to the original Rummy game where you try to be the first to get rid of all your cards by laying them on the table face-up in melds, and your score comes from how much Deadwood you and your opponent have left.

Then, you’ve got a handful of other Rummies out there. In Michigan Rummy, you add your Deadwood and your melds together to get your score. There’s Contract Rummy, that developed from Contract Bridge. Then you’ve got Canasta. That’s Rummy with 4 players, where you work with a partner. There’s also more elaborate forms of Canasta, like Samba and Bolivia. And don’t forget Carousel, Vatikan, and Czech Rummy where you play your melds face-up during the game, and you can add or rearrange your cards as you go.

So, where did Rummy come from? Well, different people have got different ideas about that. But Gin Rummy as we know it today, had its start in 1909. Gin Rummy seems to be a cross between a game called Conquian and another game called Rum or Knock Rummy, which goes back to at least 1905. Elwood T. Baker, a teacher of another card game called Whist, is said to have adapted the game in Brooklyn, New York 1909. It had some popularity in that time, but it was during the 1920s that it really got big. It was the Roaring 20s, New York nightlife was swinging, and every lounge, saloon, and Hotel parlor had a Gin Rummy game playing. That was Gin Rummy’s first hay-day. The game went quiet after 1930. It wasn’t always called Gin Rummy though. From 1909 until the mid-1930s it was called Gin Poker.

Why Gin Poker? That’s a good question; it has nothing to do with Poker. What I do know is that when the Great Depression hit, people didn’t have money to spend like they used to. So, they had to have fun on their own. That’s when Gin Rummy really took off. It was easy to learn and fun for the whole family. It became popular with stars and celebrities backstage in Hollywood and on Broadway too. Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex even played it. Not the real ones, I mean Flora Robson and Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940), though I’m sure the Queen and the Earl would have enjoyed it too. Ingrid Bergman and I used to play it between takes back when we were filming Casablanca (1942). It’s a quick game, and you can leave it and pick up where you left off later.

What about now? Well, you can play Gin Rummy just about anywhere in the world now using this thing called the “Internet”. My personal favorite is Grand Gin Rummy. I have it here on my smart phone. You can find Grand Gin Rummy on Google Play and the App Store. Add me as a friend and we’ll play sometime.

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