A dreidle is a four sided, spinning top with a handle, a square middle with four Hebrew letters, and a pointy bottom. The Hebrew letters on the dreidle, nun, gimmel, hey, and shin, stand for the phrase “Nace Gadol Haya Sham” or “a great miracle happened there.” One way to play dreidle is to just spin it. See how long each person can spin the dreidle. Try to spin the dreidle on the handle. However, there is an official, traditional way to play with a dreidle.
Any number of people can play. Find some objects such as pennies, candy, raisins, matchsticks, or the like to use for the game. Given each person an equal number of items. A dozen or so items should do the trick. Before each round, every preson should ante one item into the pot. Take turns spinning the dreidle. What happens depends upon which letter is up when the dreidle lands.
The Hebrew letters on the dreidle are nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. In Hebrew, the nun makes an “n” sound, the gimmel makes a “g” sound, the hey makes an “h” sound, and the shin makes an “s” or “sh” sound. If the dreidle lands on nun, which looks sort of like a backwards c, nothing happens. Nun stands for the word “nisht” or “nothing” in Yiddish, which is a combination of Hebrew and German. If the dreidle lands on hey, which looks like a pi symbol with a gap between the top and the left side leg, the player gets half of the pot (if there is an odd number in the pot, the player takes half plus one). Hey stands for the word “halb” or “half” in Yiddish. If the dreidle lands on gimmel, which looks like a backwards “C” wearing a high heeled shoe, the player gets everything in the pot. Gimmel stands for the word “gants” which means “everything” in Yiddish. If the dreidle lands on Shin, the player must put a piece into the pot. Shin stands for “shtel” or “put in” in Yiddish. In Israel, the letter shin is changed to a peh which makes a P sound because the word for “there,” sham, is changed to the word for “here,” poe, since the miracle happened in Israel. In Israel, if the dreidle lands on p, the players still put one item in the pot, but the letter is said to stand for the word “pay.”
If there is only one piece or no pieces in the pot, players should ante. If a player runs out of pieces, he or she may obtain a loan. There is no strategy in playing dreidle. It is all a matter of luck and fun.