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.