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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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