Having played dreidel in many communities around the world, I've learned just about all there is to know of the ancient game of dreidel (spinning top). My favorite time of the year was always coming together with the family and playing dreidel around the table, as the children and grandchildren played for kvitlach (blessings) from Zeidy. Today, on the first day of Chanukah, I thought how perfect it would be to share all about the dreidel, played by Jews for generations over the eight day holiday of Hanukkah.
The dreidel is a spinning top that can land on one of four sides, with rules associated with each landing. Similar to throwing dice, the dreidel's spin comes with different probabilities.
- You can play with as many players as you'd like.
- Players sit in a circle.
- The oldest person begins (respect first).
- The rotation works clockwise, to the player's left.
- Players play for coins or Hanukkah Gelt.
- The POT is the center where players place their gelt.
- Each player gets a turn to spin the dreidel.
- When the dreidel lands the rules are as follows:
ג Gimel Gets the Gelt.
If the dreidel lands on the letter Gimel facing up, the player takes everything in the pot. (Some hold: everyone places one into the pot when the pot is empty)
נ Nun gets None.
If the dreidel lands on the letter Nun facing up, the player gets nothing.
(Some hold: the player has to put one in)
ש Shin puts In.
If the dreidel lands on the letter Shin facing up, the player has to put in one.
(Some hold: the player has to put 3 in)
ה Hei takes Half.
If the dreidel lands on the letter Hei, the player takes half the pot.
(Note: if the pot has an odd number of gelt, it can either be rounded down or up)
Players are eliminated when they run out of gelt to put into the pot.
Last player standing wins with all the gelt.