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The Dynamic Dreidl

Classic Dreidl: A game of chance: The players are each given a stake of pennies, chocolates or other prizes, from which they ante up to create a community "pot." They take turns spinning the dreidl -- and luck takes its course. If the dreidl turns up nun, nothing happens; if it turns up gimel, the player wins the whole pot; if the dreidl turns up hey, the player takes half the pot; if shin, the player puts a coin in the pot. House rules vary as to when to ante up, what qualifies as an adequate spin, etc. (Very young children can roll the dreidl like a die.)

Prophetic Dreidl: A game of gossip and "fortune-telling": Players pose a "yes or no" question to the dreidl, then spin. Nun means "no," gimel means "yes," heh means "maybe," and shin means "I don't know, reword your question."

Dreidl Yahtzee: Create a scorecard, as shown, for each of up to four players. Game consists of four turns, four spins per turn, with object of getting the highest multiples of each dreidl letter (best score = four-of-a-kind). After each turn, the player initials the appropriate scorecard box. No other player can initial that box. On subsequent turns, the player can only achieve scores for remaining, unscored dreidl letters. After four turns, the highest total numerical score wins.

Example, two-player game:

  • Susan, first turn, spins hey, hey, shin, nun. Initials two-hey box. Larry spins giml, giml, shin, giml. Initials three-giml box. Susan, second turn, spins hey, shin, shin, hey. Since she has already her hey score, she initials the two-shin box.

  • Larry spins hey, hey, nun, giml. Since the two-hey box is initialed by Susan, and he has already scored for giml, he now initials the one-nun box. Susan, third turn, spins shin, giml, giml, giml. Three-giml is already initialed; she can, however, initial the two-giml box. Larry rolls shin, shin, giml, hey. Two-shin is already initialed; he initials the one-hey box.

  • Susan, fourth turn, rolls hey, hey, giml, giml. She has her giml score, needed a score for nun. No points for this round.

  • Larry rolls hey, shin, giml, shin. The two-shin box is already initialed. He drops down to initial one-shin box. Final score, 6-6, tie game.  

Dreidl Huff 'n' Puff: Draw a race track with four lanes, one for each dreidl letter. The course should be no more than six spaces from start to finish. Each player chooses a letter, sets up a marker at the starting line in that lane. Players spin the dreidl in turn, and the results advance racers in the matching lanes by one space.  

Chai Score: In this blackjack-based game, 18 (the number for Chai, Life) is the winning score. To each of the four dreidl letters, assign a different Jewish value of 1 (One God), 5 (Five Books of Moses), 8 (Eight Nights of Hanuka), or 10 (Ten Commandments). In the first round, players spin twice and add the scores together. Players can then take additional spins to try to get as close to 18 as they can without going over. In case of a tie, play to Double Chai (36). Pennies can be wagered to heighten the tension.

Stack the Latkes: The Jewish version of Musical Chairs. Players march (skip, hop, go backwards, twirl) in a circle around the chairs while the dreidl is spinning (a veteran spinner should do the spinning). When dreidl stops, everyone finds a chair or a lap! Unlike in the classical game, no one is "out," but one chair is removed with each round until, by game's end, the players are stacked up on the last remaining (sturdy!) chair.

Dreidl Baseball

American League version: Call a letter out loud, then take three "swings" (spins). If the letter appears once-out-of-three, Single! If it appears twice-out-of-three, Double! Thrice-out-of-three, Triple! Player then has the option of trying for a homerun by predicting the next spin. This can be played solo, in pairs, or in teams. Adding a "wild card" letter will inflate batting averages.

National League version: Draw a "field" of your own design on a piece of oak tag, with appropriately sized boxes or circles to represent singles, doubles, triples, homeruns. (Homers are best represented by the smallest circle at the very center of the oak tag.) Players spin the dreidl, and if it goes off the oak tag or falls in unmarked areas on the field, you're out!

Dreidl Olympics: Dreidl Marathon: Spin the dreidl on a chess board or cookie sheet or similar smooth, stiff surface. By rocking the board, slowly and rhythmically, you can keep the dreidl spinning for a long time. Competing players can time one another. Dreidl Gymnastic Team: Using the same equipment, propel the spinning dreidl from one surface to another without disrupting its spin. Dreidl Balance Beam: Place a foot-long wooden block on the kitchen table to create a three-dimensional "balance beam." The goal is to keep the dreidl spinning atop the beam, without falling off, for the longest time.

Other Dreidl Game Possibilities include:

  • Spin the Dreidl -- the kissing game . . . 

  • Miracle Spin -- only nun, the letter for neis, meaning "sign" or "miracle," scores points for the players . . . 

  • Dreidl Relay Race -- each team of four or more players spins its own dreidl, and advances the "baton" -- the dreidl -- only when their team letter shows up . . . 

  • Dreidl Bingo -- use 8 x 8 gridboards with randomly disbursed dreidl letters . . . 

  • Hot Latke -- for young ones who can't spin very well, pass the dreidl rhythmically in a circle to the tune of "The Dreidl Song" or another Hanukah favorite. At the end of the song, child holding the dreidl gets applause, excited attention, a portion of the pot, whatever. Variation: The "hot latke" gets passed while a well-spun dreidl spins in the center of the circle. When the dreidl drops, action stops.

Type: RT Article