A Guide To Playing Dreidel


Playing dreidel is a classic Hanukkah tradition, and despite the game’s simple nature, the rules are easily forgotten. So here are the rules, for people who have never played before, and to those who play every year.

There is no player limit for dreidel, but you will need 5-15 tokens per player. These pieces can be whatever you want, most often gelt (chocolate coins) are used, but you can use anything you want. Other options are nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, candy, or if you want higher stakes, money. Other than a dreidel, that is all you need. If you do not have a dreidel, you can just Google “spin a dreidel” to get a virtual one.

When you start each round, each player puts one token in a designated spot between all of the players, called the “pot.” You also put a token in the pot if it is ever empty. After this, everyone takes turns spinning the dreidel and following the directions on the side that faces up after the spin. 

Image courtesy of Familytime.com

Following these instructions may be difficult (assuming you do not speak hebrew.) Use the image below to connect the symbols with their meanings. On the far left there is Shin, when Shin is rolled, the player must place a token into the pot. Next to that is Hey, when a player gets Hey they can take half of the pot, rounding up if it is an odd number. Third on the list is Gimel, Gimel is the best roll, where you can take the entire pot. Finally we have Nun, none means nothing in Hebrew, which is exactly what happens, nothing. The player does not take or give any pieces when Nun is rolled. 

This game is not about winning as much as it is about not losing. The goal is to be the last one standing, with each player being eliminated once they run out of pieces. 

Journalism students play dreidel (Noelle Cabrera, Ben Naftali, Elizabeth Leka) Image courtesy of Lara Willbanks

Sophomore, Kiera Jules, says that, “playing dreidel is fun and great for young kids, it also helps with remembering letters of the alphabet. And with this knowledge, I hope you can also have a great time celebrating Hanukkah with the great game of Dreidel.