When there are about 12 cards remaining in the unused stock and you are approaching the late stages of a hand, you may have to make some choices about which discards you throw. This can essentially change whether or not you win the game or play it to the wall.
If you have to make a choice between a single wild card and breaking a pair, the odds predict that the throw of a single card will be less harmful to you than discarding from the pair. The odds favor your opponent because as the stock decreases, there is a good chance that your opponent is holding the same pair that you have. The single card however could then be an add-on for your opponent and may even force him to break his pair to you. If you break your pair before your opponent does he could either go gin, or you would then be left holding two unmeldable cards which is not good for you. This situation would deprive you of any opportunity of winning the hand, except for the unlikely possibility of an underknock.
In playing any cards for their defensive value you must utilize the information obtained from your opponent’s discards as to what he could not be holding instead of using just the information obtained from his picks of your discards as to what he is holding. You need to be able to deduce what he has before discarding what you have. Simply put, you don’t want to throw the wrong card at this stage of play.
Frequently in late stages of play you can induce your opponent to throw a needed card simply by discarding a “safe” card. This is considered a sort of late play salesman. For example, if you are on a must-gin hand, and you have nine melded cards and have just picked from the deck you may find yourself in the following situation: You know your opponent’s hand at this point pretty well, and you believe you know the nine melded cards that he is holding and you feel that you have his hand tied up. For example, if your opponent is holding three 4’s and you are holding the last four. You also know he is holding three Kings, and you are holding the fourth one of that also. Although we have nine melded cards, you have neither the King nor the four tied up with any other cards. If you are to keep the nine melded cards you will have to throw one of these cards, and the chances are more than likely that your opponent will go gin. If you decide to keep those two cards then you will have to break up your own hand. This is when playing a “safe” card comes into play, because you would rather break up your own hand then give your opponent to gin. At this point, you have often induced your opponent into throwing a card that you need for another meld you have that he may be tying up.
Here is an important part of discarding. If you throw a card in which your opponent picks it up, and you throw a second card in which he picks up to make a meld, continue throwing cards that will add onto his meld instead of throwing a wild card that would give him a different meld. It will take more time before he realizes this and start throwing away his other potential meld, therefore giving you more time to develop your hand, or play to the wall.