How Do You Play The Dreidel Game?
How to Play Dreidel
Dreidel is a traditional game of chance, and one of the most well-known symbols of Hanukkah. The dreidel is a four-sided top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. The game dates back at least to the time when the Greek King Antiochus IV (175 BCE) had outlawed Jewish worship. Jews who gathered to study the Torah would play dreidel to fool soldiers into thinking they were just gambling. Now, it's usually played to see who can win the mostgelt(chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil). With a dreidel and some tokens, you can take part in this holiday tradition, too. We'll show you how!
Get a dreidel.The dreidel you will get will depend on where you live. Outside of Israel, the four letters on the sides of the dreidel areNun, Gimmel, Hay,andShin,which stand for "A Great Miracle Happened There," referring to the miracle of the oil. In Israel, where the miracle happened, the dreidel has the lettersNun, Gimmel, Hay,andPey, which means "A Great Miracle Happened Here."
Gather friends.You can play with as few as two, but the more the merrier!
- Distribute tokens evenly among all of the players. The tokens can be any little thing: pennies, nuts, raisins, matchsticks, etc. A lot of people use gelt.
Ante up.Before each spin, players put one token in the middle of the circle to create "the pot."
- Every time the pot is emptied, or there's only one token left, every player should put a token in the pot.
Take turns spinning the dreidel.When it's your turn, spin the dreidel once. The letter which comes up once it stops spinning determines whether you win, lose, or draw. According to the letter appearing, the player should perform the following action:
- Shin("shtel" or "put in" in Yiddish) - Put one more token in the pot.
- Nun("nisht"or "nothing" (in Yiddish) - Do nothing.
- Gimmel("gantz"or "everything" in Yiddish) - Take all tokens from the pot.
- Hay("halb"or "half" in Yiddish) - Take half of all tokens lying in the pot. In case of an odd number of tokens, round up.
- If you run out of tokens, you are either "out," or you may ask another player for a loan.
Pass the dreidel on to the next player.
Keep playing until someone wins by collecting all the tokens.
QuestionIf I get gimmel and take all the coins from the pot, do I have to put a token back in because the pot is empty?Community AnswerNo, once all of the tokens in the pot are collected, the next person to play will then put in another token. In some versions of this game, all players will put in one of their tokens.Thanks!
QuestionCan I put in more than one token when the pot is empty?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you can.Thanks!
QuestionHow many tokens do I need to start with?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSplit the amount of tokens you have evenly among the players. Deal it like you would deal out a deck of cards.Thanks!
QuestionHow many players are needed to play dreidel?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAt least two because it's not fun to play by yourself. Even numbers are best.Thanks!
QuestionDoes the dreidel have to be a certain kind of dreidel?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt only has to have all four sides, which are the nun, gimmel, hay and shin. If the dreidel has all of the sides, then you should be good to go.Thanks!
QuestionWhere can I buy a dreidel?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can buy a dreidel at Party City, eBay, or Amazon.Thanks!
QuestionDo players start with tokens?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, each player starts with tokens.Thanks!
QuestionWhat happens when the pit is empty?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWhen the pit or pot is empty, everyone puts one of their tokens (or what you're using) in the pit or pot.Thanks!
QuestionWhen I get a gimbal and the pot is empty, who puts the back in to refill the pieces?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou take a "loan" form the token bank. So basically just use someone else's token. This can happen once and then you're out.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the least amount of tokens you can have? What's the most?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou need at least 3 for each player, so if you had 5 players, you'd need 15 in all. There is no limit for the largest number of tokens, as long as you have plenty of time. You just need the number of tokens to be divisible by the number of players.Thanks!
- A fun variation is to use chocolate instead of coins, so you can eat your winnings when the game ends.
- If there are no tokens in the pot, everyone puts one in.
- Don't have a dreidel? Download the pattern and make one for yourself! Many websites offer free patterns you can print out and use to make your own dreidel.
- If a player runs out of tokens, he either leaves the game or takes a loan of tokens from another player.
- In Israel, the lettershinis usually replaced with the letterpehfor the word "poh" to create the phrase "a great miracle happened here."
- In Yiddish, the dreidel is also called "fargle" and "varfl." In Israel, the Hebrew term "sevivon" (from the root meaning "turn around or spin") is used.
- In a popular variation of the game, any player whose dreidel lands on Nun loses and is out of the game.
- In one variation of the game, you may match the pot when Shin appears, and put one token in when Nun appears.
Things You'll Need
A few dozen tokens: buttons, coins, or small candies
You can also use a bunch of gelt (chocolate coins)
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to Play Dreidel
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