How To Play Dreidel

Playing the dreidel game is a Jewish tradition that the entire family can enjoy together during Hanukkah. If you don't already have a dreidel, visit our article about making a dreidel. Here's how to play the dreidel game.

  1. Players divide the "gelt" (money) into even portions. You can use really any countable substance for the gelt. Common choices include candy, pennies and chocolates.
  2. Each player takes a turn. The first thing a player does during a turn is add a specified amount of gelt into the "kupah" (equivalent to "the pot" in poker) in the center of the players.
  3. Then that player spins the dreidel. What happens next depends upon which of the dreidel's four Hebrew letters lands face-up.
    • If Nun is face-up, then nothing else happens on the turn and that player simply passes the dreidel to the next player.
    • If the letter is Gimel, then the player gets to collect all of the gelt that has accumulated in the kupah.
    • When the dreidel shows Hay facing up, the player gets to take half of what is in the kupah.
    • Shin means that the player has to put another piece of gelt into the kupah.
  4. Regardless of the outcome of spinning the dreidel, the turn ends after that spin. The player does what is dictated by the letter on the dreidel and then passes the dreidel to the next player.
  5. The amount each player must add at the beginning of each turn depends on what you decide prior to the game. But it's best to make this amount at least two pieces of gelt for each turn. That way, if the previous player just won all of the gelt from the kupah, and afterward you add two or more gelt and then spin a Hay, you will have enough gelt in the kupah to take half of it out, in keeping with the rule. If you had added only one piece on your turn, there would not be enough in the kupah for you to divide in half.

And those are the rules of the dreidel game. The four Hebrew letters are as follows.
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They stand for the statement, "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham," which means, "A great miracle occurred here." Dreidel is more than a game of winning and losing candy. To all who play, it should be a reminder of that miracle by which the Temple oil - only enough to last a day - was able to light the menorah for eight days following the Jewish revolt against their oppressors, keeping the light ablaze until more oil could be made. Enjoy the dreidel game this holiday season!


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