It’s difficult tracing the history of Rummy with any certainty. It’s possible that it originated in Mexico or Asia–while some even content it began in Romania. There are some historians who have tried to connect it with the Spanish communities who moved to the West hundreds of years ago. One thing is certain: a centuries-old Spanish game named Conquian bears a strong resemblance to Gin Rummy. For that reason, it’s often said to be the first of all Rummy games.
Another theory is that Rummy evolved from Poker, which itself began with the French when they settled out West. There are certainly similarities between the two, with the way the cards can be combined, and both sharing the concepts of groups and sequences.
Other variations of Rummy also later appeared in other parts of the world. For instance, a Japanese version called Hnafuda is thought to have developed after the Portuguese journeyed to Japan. Years later, it turned into a popular Japanese gambling game.
Regardless of the obscurity of Rummy’s origins in other nations, one thing is clear: Gin Rummy originated in the United States. Its earliest version was a game called Robbers Rummy. This version follows’ Rummy’s typical matching card rules, however, it does away with discarding and scoring. Evolving from Robbers Rummy was Gin Rummy, which was invented in New York. The game was a modification of Knock Rummy, which appeared in the early 1900s.
Gin Rummy became prominent in the Americas during a time when it became America’s favorite card game; during those early years, people played Gin Rummy more than they played any other form of cards. The name “Gin Rummy” itself came from the alcoholic drink, gin. This is probably because the game was so connected with saloons at that time.
In the 1930s and 40s, the Hollywood elite adopted the game as their own, and it really gained a reputation of class and prestige. However, it remained popular with the masses, as well.
Today, Rummy has been enjoying something of resurgence. Some say this is an effect of the popularity of Poker games on cable television. Although Rummy is not one of those games, still, people have a renewed interest in card games of all sorts. This popularity can also be seen in online games. Along with Poker and Blackjack, various versions of Rummy, including Gin Rummy, can now be played on the Internet. There are games that a person can play just for fun, and even more interestingly, games that can be played for cash prizes.
One other hallmark that shows online rummy current popularity: The game has now joined poker as one of those that has tournaments all across the country and even Rummy clubs. In fact, one of the most popular is the Gin Rummy Association, which helps people find fellow players, tournaments, and just keeps them informed about the game.