The pick is the next phase of the opening play. This confronts the dealer who now has the opportunity to pick either his opponents discard or a card from the deck. There are two questions the dealer must ask upon seeing his opponent’s discard:
• Do you need the card or should it be left alone?
• Why did the opponent make this particular discard?
The discard from your opponent tells you something about the hand. Depending on the type of player you are up against, it tells you what he considers to be a safe card, or what he is not accumulating. If your opponent is primarily in an aggressive player, you need to consider that he is throwing a card that is not only completely useless to him, but he could be throwing a salesman card. You must be on guard for both of these discards.
The dealer, who has 10 cards to his opponent’s 11 cards, has certain advantages and disadvantages on his first turn of play. If the discard is picked, the dealer has the disadvantage of having his opponent know one specific card in his hand. The player dealt to however retains all needed cards without having his opponent aware of any individual card that he is holding. The advantage to the dealer is the fact that he knows of one specific card that is not needed by his opponent. The dealer can certainly use this particular piece of knowledge in the upcoming play of the hand.
If you need your opponent’s discard to create or extend a meld then you should take the card. For example, if you have two Jacks, and your opponent throws one Jack then take it and make a meld. The same with if you have three Jacks, then take the fourth one. There are only a few exceptions to this in advanced play but for the most part, this should be the rule of thumb.
If you do not need the card for a meld, but it improves the opportunity to win your hand, then you should take it on speculation. For example, If you are holding the J♥, and the 10♠, which are not matched to any other cards, and your opponent throws the J♠, you should consider taking the card because you will then have the opportunity for a four-way spread from the two cards that up until this point have been completely useless. It is not wise to pick up cards on speculation too often though because you could be losing a pick from a draw that can give you a definite meld. You are also giving your opponent valuable information about the cards in your hand and this will help his defensive play.
If you decide against picking up your opponent’s discard, then you must pick from the unused portion of the stock, and your problem then becomes what to discard and why. The basic reasoning behind the first discard of the dealer is identical in every way to the reasoning behind the play of the non-dealer, with one major exception. The dealer has the advantage of seeing the first discard. From this he obtains valuable information on how to play his hand and what discard he should make.