If you have been dealt to, then you will be the person who is making the first play. The first play consists of discarding one card from the 11 in your hand, because remember the first person gets dealt 11 cards rather than 10. In the game of gin rummy, many of the hands are won or lost in the first few plays, meaning, the card you discard can make or break you.
If you believe that the higher strategy in gin begins in the middle of the game, after each player has started to develop his or her hand, you are already at a disadvantage. The first play of the hand is when you can get an advantage over your player, and can essentially last for the duration of the entire hand. Therefore, to advance towards the expert class you must master the opening play discarding strategy.
Discards serve several purposes throughout the game, but especially in the first play of the game. They reduce the count of your hand by the face value of the discard. Except for rare cases, an expert player does not allow a discard to reduce the chances of winning a hand by giving up combinations, and an expert player rarely lets the first discard give any information about his hand. There are many times however that you can use a discard to give your opponent the wrong information, or information that you actually want him to have.
For example, if you are holding three 8’s, and your opponent throws the 8 ♥ you may want to consider taking the card even if you don’t need it because you either already have a four-card run or you are playing for a knock where the four-card meld is not necessary. By taking the 8 ♥ and discarding the 8 ♣, your opponent will be convinced that you either have a heart run or are trying to get a heart run. From then on, he will hold up the hearts that you of course don’t need. This would be a detriment to his hand possibly and you will go on to win the game. You do not want to do this too often against an expert player because they will surely catch on, and then the only thing you will have accomplished is to lose a pick from the deck for yourself.
There are many cards that you can discard that can win or lose the game for you, but what you need to do is to appraise your hand and figure out the best one for you. If you cannot knock the first hand then chances are you want to play in a way that your opponent can’t knock either. This takes experience and recognizing what you have in your hand. To be an expert discarder takes a great deal of thinking and strategizing on what your opponent will do, and not just what you need.