Keeping Under Count

Posted in Mathematics of Gin Rummy

It cannot be stressed enough the importance of keeping under count. That means you need to reduce the point total in your hand so that even if your opponent should go gin, your total point count will be low enough so that he will not win the game. Just being aware of the necessity of keeping under the count will improve your chances of winning by 25% to 33%. Except for expert play, observations show that every third or fourth final hand of the game is lost because of the avoidable failure to keep under count.

Let us suppose that we have gotten to the point where we have seven melded cards are sitting with a three picture-card combination, which is of course, a count of 30 points. Our problem is not to win the hand, but to get under a count. The count that we have to get under may be any number, under 10, 13, 14, 23, or 24. What are the possibilities then of our getting under these various counts without ginning our opponent?

First of all we have to decide if in the combination there is any one card that is 100% safe. If, for example, in a J, J, Q combination one of the Queens has already been played, the Queen is a fairly safe card. If Jacks had been played we certainly would not hold our tow Jacks but would have two relatively safe cards to throw. If our problem is to get under a 30 count there would then be no problem whatsoever. However, if you suppose we have to get under a count in the teens then we will obviously have to get rid of at least two cards while picking tow little cards in order to get under the teen count. Is this feasible based on the play up to this point? This is something that must be looked into.

If the count is one that is under 10 and actually very low, then obviously the only way we will get under this count realistically is by getting nine melded. This is a case where, rather than breaking up a three-card combination and trying to pick little cards or add-ons to the two other runs, we are better off retaining the combination together with one low card that will keep us under the count in the event we pick the third meld. If we pick a fourth card to any of our first two melds and the low card we have been retaining is not safe, we are better off in this circumstance throwing a fourth card from a four-card meld, providing it is safe, rather than the unsafe low card. Generally speaking, you must weigh very carefully the advantages in breaking up such a combination against the risks in staying over the count and holding on to the combination.

As you can see, there are many variances that go into staying under count. The more you know, the more you are able to do so. There is no guarantee that you will win, but it will give you a better chance in the long run.

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