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.