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Strategy Against the Happy Medium Player

Although there is a lot of strategy you can employ against the defensive and offensive player, there is rarely any strategy against the player who has a style that is strictly middle of the road. This is often known as the expert player, and to play an expert player, you need to be an expert player.

As said before, after mastering the fundamentals of the game gin rummy, the good player begins to follow a pattern and develop a style of play. He can take two different directions; the offensive play or the defensive play. The player who goes to either extremes will become a poor player over time, especially if playing the same people. They will eventually catch on to his style of play and will use the strategy of offensive or defensive play to play against him.

However, the player who can find not only a happy medium, but who can adjust his style of play to the various circumstances in which he finds himself, will become the expert. These circumstances include:

• That status of his own hand – On the deal, during the hand, and above all, the changing status of his own hand after each sequence of plays.
• The condition of the score
• His opponent

In partnership play the sequence of importance changes that the expert will take into account are the following:

• The condition at the beginning and during the play of his own hand
• The condition of his partner’s hand
• The count won or lost by his partner
• The score
• His opponent

This goes to say that since the happy medium player will take almost everything into consideration; it will be very hard to come up with any type of strategy that he will not figure out eventually. That isn’t to say that you certainly can’t try to throw him off his game, but chances are slim that he will fall for any of your “tricks” more than 1 time.

There are certainly plays that you can make to win the hand, but it is rare that you can fool an expert player into changing up his style of play. The expert player is the one that will always be psychologically aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Using that knowledge and their calm nature, they will eventually turn the tables around on you, putting you at a psychological disadvantage. What is your best defense against this happening to you? Become an expert yourself. Learn the game, study the game, practice the game, and eventually you too will become an expert yourself. You’ll then have the advantage of being a happy medium player, and in the end, you’ll become a winning player.

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Using Psychological Strategy When Playing Against a Defensive Player

Just as there is strategy when playing against an offensive player, there is also specific strategy that you can employ when you are playing against a defensive player.

Against a defensive style player, unless it is very early in the hand, you should not knock. Instead you should play for gin. When you do not knock a hand, your opponent is unable to lay off cards and the major purpose of a defensive player is to hold the cards he knows he will be able to lay off. The holding of these cards seriously hampers the offensive construction of your opponent’s hand. Frequently you will find that you have thrown him off balance to the extent that he now starts releasing these lay-off cards immediately. When this occurs, you should start knocking against him and you will have your opponent in a total state of confusion.

Another method that is good against a defensive player is the frequent picking of stiffs or speculative cards. This will force him to destroy the offensive value of his hand by holding as many of the surrounding cards as he can. Against a good defensive player, however, you should make it a rule not to throw back any stiff that you have picked once three more cards have been played. From the play of these cards, your opponent will quickly become aware of the fact that your pick was a stiff and he will attempt to buy sufficient cards to completely tie up this card. He will thereafter hold combinations that your stiff could be used with, knowing that so long as you hold the card it will be useless to you, so eventually it will have to come back to him.

For example, suppose you had picked the J♥ from your opponent and he has the 7♥, 8♥, and 9♥ in his hand plus the Q♥, and J♣. He subsequently picks the J♠. He now knows that the J♥ which you picked was a stiff and is completely useless in your hand. If given time, he will establish his own hand into seven-melded and retain his own two Jacks and the Q♥, thereby killing your hand. If you should release the J♥ in order to make another combination you will automatically gin him.

When picking a discard, do not throw back any discard that will indicate how you are using the card that you picked. In other words, if you were to pick your opponent’s 10♣ discard, try to avoid discarding another 10 since you do not want to show him that the card you picked was for a club run. Force him to hold back the 10’s as well as the clubs.

Keep in mind that when you are playing against a strictly defensive layer, he will, once you have picked a card from him, take every step necessary in his own hand to tie up in a meld whatever card he is forced to hold against. Therefore do not throw any card which would help him accomplish this task.

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Using Psychological Strategy When Playing Against an Offensive Player

One of the greatest mistakes most good players make is to adopt a set style and continue to play in that pattern, regardless of the opponent’s manner of playing. This is definitely the wrong way to play. You should try to catch on to your opponent’s style as quickly as possible and adjust your game accordingly. In fact, the fundamental principle in playing against any player who has a particular pattern of play is to throw him off balance and force him to deviate his play. In order to accomplish this, you will have to look at the game you are playing as an overall crusade and any conflict battles are often lost for the purpose of winning the entire game.

If you are to be involved in a gin session you should start with the assumption that you will probably play 10 complete games which may consist of 100 hands. You can well afford to devote 5 or 6 of these individual hands or even one complete game in experimenting with game strategy. If you play your first several hands against a give opponent strategically, for the sole purpose of throwing him off his normal game, the resulting benefits over the entire session may be invaluable.

For example, in starting play against an overly aggressive of offensive player, it is often a good idea early in the hand, even at the cost of breaking your own possibilities, to throw a couple of dead cards tot try and get him to pick these on speculation. He will then be forced to hold these throughout the entire hand since he has no way of completing melds.

There will also be occasions when he will be forced to eventually throw one of these stiffs back, but by this time you will have build your hand around these particular cards, so he will doubly shocked when you pick his discard for a meld or for your own gin. This technique will generally discourage him quickly from picking cards on speculation in the later games which will give you an advantage.

If you devote the early hands of your play to playing solely for underknocks rather than to knock, you will soon have your opponent thinking twice about knocking his hand. If the aggressive player that you are playing against is the type who constantly knocks as quickly as possible, do not knock yourself but play your hand basically for gin. This will accomplish two purposes. First, in almost all cases where you have reached nine-melded and do not knock you will invariably underknock your opponent if he knocks. Second, if you play almost exclusively for gin, your knocking opponent will probably win three hands to your one, but will soon become rather discouraged over the fact that the scoring and point value of the three hands that he has won does not begin to compare to the value of the one hand in which you ginned.

It is human nature that he will subconsciously start to change his pattern of play, and not being familiar with it, he will be at a serious disadvantage during the game. Hence, you can go on to win with very little trouble.

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Gin Solitaire Example Hand

Take a look at this sample hand of gin rummy solitaire. It will give you a better idea of how you can play gin by yourself in order to perfect your defensive skills.

Deal yourself the following 11 cards: K♠, J♠, J♦, 9♥, 9♣, 5♠, 4♠, A♣, A♦, A♠, and A♥
Opponent’s Hand: 6♥, 5♥, 4♥, 3♥, 10♠, 9♠, 8♠, 7♠, 6♠, 10♦

The first thing you should look for are the cards in your hand that could gin your opponent. You are holding two of those cards – the 5♠, and the J♠. Keep in mind that once you hold five of your opponent’s needed cards you have lost the game. Therefore your major concern should be to develop melds around those two cards. The 5♠ can be used either with three 5’s, or the 3♠, and 4♠, while the J♠ can be used with either the K♠, or the Q♠, or three Jacks. The preference is with Jacks since they can develop to a four-card meld whereas the K♠, Q♠, and the J♠ never can since the 10♠, is in the opponent’s hand. In the same way, the 3♠, 4♠, and the 5♠, can be developed into a four-card meld whereas the 5’s cannot. You should also be concerned with retaining the 9♥, and the 9♠, not for the purpose of buying the third 9 but either of these 10’s could gin your opponent’s hand and you must play for the possibility of tying them up in runs. Since the only way you can win this hand is by tying up your opponent’s cards in your own runs you should consider runs that do not accomplish this purpose as useless. Your best discards are that four Aces you have in your hand.

On your first play you should discard the A♠, and then you pick up the J♥, which is a very helpful card since you know how the J♠ tied up. Then throw the A♥, and when you draw the J♣ from the deck, it will give you four-melded cards. Discard the A♦, and select the 2♦. Keep in mind that if you pick this card it is important to retain it because you are concerned with the possibility of picking and tying up the 2♥. Discard the A♣, and you will pick the 5♦. Then discard the K♠, and you draw the Q♥, which could be valuable if you pick the 10♥. Since you do not know as of yet whether you will draw the 10♥, or the 10♣ first, you cannot afford to throw the 9♣ at this point. You will then have a choice between the 5♦, 4♠, and the 2♦.

Since you are then set up in a possible gin position, you can take the chance that you will not be hit by the 2♥, and you can discard the 2♦. You then pick the 10♣, and throw the Q♥. You now have six-melded cards and are still in good gin position. You select the 8♣, and discard the 9♥, holding a seven-melded hand that affords you a two-way opportunity for gin, the 3♠, and the 5♣.

Of course you will be picking different cards throughout your game of gin rummy solitaire, but if you play it consistently you will find this particular game one of the easiest methods of learning proper defensive play.

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Playing Gin Solitaire to Better Your Defensive Skills

Since the fact has been established that no one can win gin consistently by playing predominately defensive at all times. Granted, there are times when a player can develop a winning hand while playing a hand to the wall, but these opportunities are rare and are usually managed by only the most skillful of players. However, there are occasions in every gin rummy game where proper defensive play is necessary and of major importance. A sound knowledge of how to play defensively is as important as the need to determine when to play defensive.

The best instruction in proper defensive play can be obtained by playing the game called Gin Solitaire. Essentially is it like playing the game of gin by yourself and learning the best way to play defensively when you are not involved in a real game.

Here is an example of how to play gin solitaire:

Lay out a hand such as the following – 6♥, 5♥, 4♥, 3♥, 10♠, 9♠, 8♠, 7♠, 6♠, 10♦

Consider this to be your opponent’s hand. The rest of the deck belongs to you. Shuffle the balance of the deck and deal yourself eleven cards. The object of the game is to gin your own hand without throwing gin to your opponent’s hand. If you throw him gin then you have lost. If you take the hand to the wall, and fail to gin on your own hand by the time there are only two cards remaining in the unused deck, then you have also lost the hand. Start to play by discarding one of your 11 cards, then pick up from the deck and discard. Continue to pick and discard until the hand is ended. In gin solitaire, your opponent never picks from the deck. The only way his hand can be ginned is if you throw him gin, which obviously you will try not to do.

The purpose of this game is to teach you not only how to defend a hand but also how to win your own hand through typing up your opponent’s cards. The idea way to win is to develop three melds, each of which ties up one of your opponent’s card. If, for example, you start to develop a run of three kings or three aces, or even a 2, 3, and 4 of one of the colors that your opponent is not holding, you would break these runs at the first opportunity since they in no way use any of your opponent’s needed cards. Obviously, if you are to develop a nine-melded hand with three runs of this type you could never win the hand once you have picked tow of your opponent’s cards unless you tied them up in melds.

You can play with different hands for the opponent and obviously you will have different cards to pick in the deck, and in time you will learn the best way to defensively as well as offensively be able to gin your hand.

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The Risk of Playing To the Wall

The risk in defensive play of playing to the wall is the extraordinary high point count that you will be carrying, should you lose the hand. In fact, when attempting to take a hand to the wall, your point count will usually be three to four times the amount that it would be normally, since the odds represented by this potential are three or four to one. Therefore, it would only make sense for you to play this hand to the wall if the odds favoring your completing a wall hand are greater than four to one.

In order to determine the odds for or against your being able to complete a wall hand you can look at this example. You have reached the point where there are only 10 cards left in the unused portion of the deck. From the play of the hand and the discards already made, you believe that your opponent is holding a combination consisting of J♣, J♠, and the Q♠, plus seven-melded cards. Your defending hand consists of the 10♠, K♠, J♦, and the J♥. In this case, you have his hand dead and it is a simple matter to take this hand to the wall. Unless, of course, you are playing a high knock and your opponent decides to break his combination and play for the pick of three small cards in order to knock his hand within the next four picks.

In this case you have no remedy unless your memory has served you well and you realize that in the remaining 10 cards of the deck there are not three cards left small enough to enable him to knock his hand. Also, since you are not able to read the back of cards, and arrive at your conclusion of his holding by deductive reasoning, there is always the chance that you could be wrong. If he is not holding this particular combination you should be aware of every card that has been played up to this point plus the cards that you are holding so that you have full knowledge of what cards that have not yet been used.

From this knowledge, you should be able to determine what the possibilities are of his holding any other combinations of cards that could result in a winning hand. If you start with the assumption that the three-card combination you considered to be in his hand actually remains in the stock there are only seven other unused cards that could possibly be used for a winning meld. It may be that there is no combination whatsoever of these seven cards that could result in a meld. In this case, you are equally safe in taking this hand to the wall. If there is one combination left in the stock and if you measure this one against all the possible combinations of the remaining 10 cards you may find that the odds are 20 to 1 against his winning the hand. The one winning card may be in the last two cards or may be one of your four picks from the deck. Your opponent may also pick one of the two missing jacks and be forced to break his own combination rather than throw it to you. As many as six of the remaining cards may be used to form winning melds for your opponent, which would very seriously effect the odds favoring your ability to take this hand to the wall.

There will be occasions where you will be playing a hand that you must gin while your opponent is playing to the wall. In this case he will try to throw you only dead cards, which means that your best chance of developing melds will come from your stock picks and not from the discard pile.

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Playing To the Wall in a Defensive Manner

One of the most important areas of defensive play is playing a hand to the wall or for a tie. There are three most important occasions when this procedure should be followed:

1. When the actual game or schneid is in jeopardy. For instance, if the score of the game is such that you have no safe count to get under
2. In a partnership game, after your partner has won, if you know there is not realistic chance of you also winning the hand
3. In a partnership game, when your partner has won a count that is impossible for you to get under or protect

The major factor in playing a hand to the wall is an accurate memory. Most decisions are made either in the middle or late stages of the play of a hand, and it is essential to discard from your hand nothing but 100% dead cards. In order to full determine what cards can in no way be used by your opponent in his hand, you must have memorized every card that has been discard up until this point.

When playing a hand to the wall, you need to remember that your own melds are meaningless because no one with receive any score at all if you end the hand in a tie. Therefore, under most circumstances, breaking up your own melds usually yields the safest discards. Of course, you must be extremely careful that the meld you break is the one that contains the greatest number of safe cards, as you want to minimize the number of melds that you are forced to break, rather than carry an excessive amount of points in the event that you should lose the hand.

For example, if you have a choice of breaking a three-Queen meld, or a three-7 card meld, and the jack under these queens have all been played or are in your hand, you are far better off breaking queens than if only one of the 7’s is protected for color. If you break the three Queens, you must also be careful to first throw a certain Queen in case a certain Jack has already been played. Then follow that with the next Queen of the Jack that has already been played, and so on. You should not throw the last Queen unless you know for sure that the last Jack has already been played, or you are putting yourself in jeopardy of possibly losing the hand.

You cannot control your opponent’s picks from the stock, but you can control what cards are available to him in the discard stack. Before deciding to try and bring your hand to the wall, you must determine whether or not your opponent has an opportunity to win his hand based on the play of the hand in general, previous discards, and the cards you hold. You also need to decide if you feel that you block his hand or hold his hand dead. Many players lose an extreme amount of points by breaking their own hands to play to the wall, when the cards that they were holding together with the cards that have already been discarded offer no true opportunity to defend the hand against an aggressive opponent. Have a definite understanding of how your cards can stop his winning, before you decide to play to the wall.

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Making Defensive Decisions

Making the right defensive decision in a game of gin rummy comes down to the basics of knowing how to do so. There are certainly right and wrong decisions to be make, and to become an expert player at this game, you need to learn when and how to do this.

An example of a wise defensive play is to utilize the full offensive value of lay-offs against an opponent. When playing against a player who is primarily a knocker or who is forced by a score situation to knock his hand quickly, you need to keep in mind that the lay-ff cards are of no value in your hand until such time when your opponent knocks. There are also occasions when an opponent who is doubtful or hesitant in knocking can be forced to knock by your discarding a fourth card from one of your runs. This action on your part gives the impression that you are in trouble with your hand. You are then in a position to underknock him by retaining the lay-offs you have in your hand.

Another important consideration in defensive play is the relative value a discard represents to your opponent. That is, can the discarded card give the opponent only a three-card meld, or a four card meld, or more importantly, does the card allow him to tie up in a meld any cards that he is holding against you? The latter is the one type of throw that is strictly avoided by all skillful players concentrating on defense.

In playing defensively it is extremely important to build melds around the cards that you are forced to hold against your opponent. For example, if you have given an opponent the 7♦, 8♦, and 9♦ sequence, and you now pick the 10♦, you are forced to hold the card. At this point you should try if possible to obtain the other 10’s or try to buy the J♦ and Q♦ so that the card you must retain for defensive purposes is also put to an offensive purpose. In fact, the building of your hand around the opponent’s need cards is the ideal manner in which to defend a hand. You need to remember that any gin player can hold up defensive cards accidentally, but only an expert player will hold up these cards purposely and at the same time build a winning hand around them. In order to accomplish this, you need to have patience since this is the determining factor as it requires ample time to set up such a hand. Therefore, you should only do this if you are in a must-gin situation, or when there is a low knock card.

In many cases, the best defense against an opponent is a knock, in spite of the status of the score or any other factor. In the late stages of a game you need to be aware that your opponent can go gin or knock at any given time, and you need to be proactive in avoiding that.

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The Basics of Defense in the Late Stages of a Hand

By now you should know that the odds in gin rummy usually favor the offensive player. As it is with almost all games, the person who plays with the prime purpose of not losing is definitely at a disadvantage compared to the person who plays primarily win. The same can be said with gin rummy. The extreme defensive player who plays with the one thought of never throwing a card to his opponent that they can use gives no consideration to his offensive values will lose in the long run. The same can be said about the offensive player who thinks only of winning his hand as fast as possible. Thus, making the proper decision at the right time is the true key to being an expert player.

It is relatively simple to judge whether or not you play your game in an offensive or defensive manner in general. If you often lose hands by big scores and for that reason lose too many games, then you are not paying enough thought to the defensive play. If you lose a number of hands by small scores and do not win enough to cover these loses, then you are concentrating on defensive play, often to the detriment of the offensive possibilities of your hand.

The prime art of defensive play is demonstrated by the fact that after the deal there are 31 cards left in the unused portion of the deck, with 29 actually in play. That means that each player should have 14 picks from the stock. The defensive player who limits his opponent to just these 14 picks does have a decided edge over a player who will give his opponent 16 or 17 picks (the 14 from the stock as well as 2 or 3 discards from your hand). The ideal defensive player gives his opponent no picks from discards, and does not sacrifice the offensive values of his hand by doing so. That is not to say it happens this way all the times, as no rule in gin rummy can be rigidly adhered to.

Many factors, such as the preceding hands, and the score must be constantly taken into consideration. Another important element in deciding what extremes can be used in play is the knock card itself. Generally, a knock of 8, 9, or 10 allows a hand to be terminated with as little as six melded cards. A knock of 5, 6, or 7 generally allows a hand to be ended with as little as seven melded cards. A knock of 2 or 3 requires nine melded cards. Obviously the lower the knock card, the greater the number of plays that will take place before the game can be ended and this gives the greater advantage to the defensive player.

The ideal defensive player is one who takes advantage of his defensive values without seriously hampering the winning characteristics of his own hand. He recognizes changing values of his hand as the play progresses. Defensive play can only succeed when the particular play has some added offensive value. The ideal defensive player will force his opponent into the one unique type of gin hand in which only he can win, and his opponent never can.

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Playing for Gin Offensively and Defensively

Under most circumstances, when you have at least one more way of ginning than your opponent, the hand should be played to its utmost offensively. However, if your opponent has one more option to gin than you do, the hand should be played to make the most of its defensive characteristics. There are times in the play of a hand when decisions must be made as to whether or not it is to your advantage to give up a certain number of gin opportunities in order to retain a card for defensive purposes or whether you should throw all caution to the wind and play a hand for its maximum offensive potential.

For example you are holding this hand: 5♠, 6♠, 7♠, 8♠, Q♦, J♦, 10♦, 10♣, 10♥, Q♥

At this moment in play the only thing you know for sure about your opponent’s hand is that he holds three Kings. You do not know whether he has nine melded or not, but low cards have been suspiciously missing from play. Picking from the deck you pick the K♠. It may make you wonder what you should do. If you discard the K♠, and retain your maximum gin opportunity, it may be at the possible cost of throwing your partner a card that could cause him to go gin. If you retain it and throw from the 10♣, 10♥, and Q♥ combination you might be giving up your possibility for gin.

This is a problem frequently faced late in the play of a hand and unfortunately there is no set rule that can be applied in such a situation. There are too many determining factors to try with many various probabilities.

In this situation an expert player would base his judgment on how many melded cards he feels his opponent holds. If his determination that the opponent held nine-melded cards he would not throw the K♠. If the nine-melded cards gave his opponent a dead hand he would throw whichever one of his three-card combinations was dead, therefore leaving himself at least one opportunity for gin. If the opponent’s hand was not dead then the player would still want to leave himself at least one opportunity for gin, so he would throw the most unimportant dead card in his hand. The only way he would throw the K♠ is if he was convinced that his opponent did not have nine-melded, and he was relatively sure it could be used as an add-on. If he had any doubt about how many melds his opponent had he would use the score as his final determination.

The only exception to this strategy of playing both offensively and defensively in this hand would be when the hand does not have to be played for gin and can be won with a knock. In playing for gin, offensive and defense are extremely important in the late play of the hand, and you have to realize that when you only have 12 cards left that you have to appraise your hand again and make the right decision as to which style you need to play in.