The strategy of early discards is very important. It should be based primarily on whether your play is to be offensive or defensive at that particular moment. It also is pure strategy to decide to what extent you should play, either offensively or defensively.
On the few occasions that you are dealt an extremely good hand and you need only one or two favorable picks to enable you to knock, you should play much more aggressively when you are discarding. Caution shouldn’t even be part of your play at that point. You expect to win the hand, and you should discard so you can leave yourself the maximum number of chances to win as quickly as possible. Selection of the safest card should be secondary.
However, if your hand is considered to be poor, or if the conditions call for defensive play, then your discard should be the safest card in your hand. If your hand basically has given you no hope of winning whatsoever, you have to try to play to the wall or lower your hand to the best possible score to minimize your risk of giving your opponent a large amount of points. This is the time to throw only 100% dead cards. A dead card is one in which under no circumstances can your opponent use it for the improvement of his hand. It is relatively easy to figure out these types of cards if you have good card memory.
For instance if you know two 8’s have already been played and you have one in your hand then you should throw that, especially if you have one or more cards that are in sequence to that. For example if you have the 9♠, 8♠, 8♦, and the 7♠ instead of throwing out the 8♦, you would throw the 8♠, even though you have a run. At this point, it just about outlasting your opponent or going to the wall, rather than trying to win the hand. This is only if you have already decided there is no way you can win the hand.
From both the standpoint of offense and defense, it is important to avoid completely wild discards, and at the same time, you need to try to retain as many chances as possible for yourself. You can give up some of your combinations for the sake of greater safety, but by all means, do not give them all up. There are certain mathematics of safe and dead discards that you need to know before making your decision, but for now you must realize which way you should be playing your early discards.
Your first discard especially is difficult and requires a great deal of consideration. You have no idea at that point what your opponent is holding and the primary idea is to discard the card that will be the least likely to form a meld. Easier said than done in most cases, but you are guided by what you hold in your hand, so study it and make the most informed decision you can.