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Underknocking in the Late Play of a Hand

When you are knocked against, it is vitally important that you are able to read and alter your hand for the purpose of laying off to your best advantage. Underknocks do not occur as frequently as gin so you need to be aware of how to handle yourself when you do have an underknock situation. In most cases underknocks are played for deliberately by players who are primarily defensive, and those who play against known knockers. In the latter case, the knockers are deliberately playing for underknocks in the hope of disrupting their opponent’s normal patterns of play. It is all very confusing at times, but it can be the most beneficial part of your game if you know when and how to do it.

The player using this strategy will accomplish his purpose by not knocking his own hand when possible, but by keeping his count to an absolute minimum to always be in a position to underknock his opponent. He also may be deliberately discarding cards which, if used by his opponent for melds, will always leave him with lay-offs. Then, if his opponent should knock, the cards being held for lay-offs will in most cases cause him to underknock his opponent.

The inadvertent underknocks generally come through lay-offs which are not definitely known to the underknocker, but are merely cards being held by him because they were considered unsafe, or for their offensive possibilities. Gin-offs, when you can lay off all of your cards to go gin after your opponent has knocked, usually occur when a player has been holding nine melded cards and his tenth card is a card that he knows his opponent needs.

Both underknocks and gin-offs will also occur to a great extent in cases where a player knows his opponent is on a schneid and must make every effort to win a small number of points for the purpose of getting off the schneid. It can also happen when a game is in jeopardy and must be protected from a gin by knocking at the first available opportunity.

When the score situation is such that it is known that an opponent will try to knock, it is advisable to always play your hand for the best underknock possibilities. In the reverse situation, if you are the player in the must-knock position, you must be aware of the fat that your opponent knows this and he will be playing for the underknock. Take every opportunity to defeat his purpose. When knocking, you should consider discarding, if possible, the fourth card off a known run to stop your opponent from laying-off. Knock in a way that affords the least possible lay-off, even at the expense of waiting a play or two. There will be many opportunities for using this strategy to counteract the strategy of an opponent playing for an underknock.

You should only try to underknock someone purposely multiple times if they are a known underknocker because it throws them off their game, or if you are way behind in the score. Otherwise, they will figure out your strategy soon, and you simply won’t be able to underknock without being “caught”.

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Playing For Gin – What Is Considered To be A Gin Hand

When playing for gin, you need to remember that basically a hand does not become what is generally considered a gin hand until there are either nine melded cards, or seven melded cards with matching cards. With a nine melded hand, the hand has a minimum of two gin possibilities and a maximum of nine. The minimum of two and the maximum of nine are considered to be freak hands, and rarely happen, so usually it is somewhere in the middle. Generally a poor hand with nine melded has only three or four ways to go gin, while a good one may have six or seven possibilities.

Example of a three-way gin: 2♣, 2♥, 2♠, 5♦, 5♥, Q♠, Q♦, Q♣, 8♥
There are only 3 cards that can gin this hand – 2♦, 5♠, Q♥

Example of a four-way gin: 6♠, 6♥, 6♣, 7♦, 7♥, 7♠, 10♠, J♠, Q♠, A♣
There are four cards that will gin this hand – 6♦, 7♣, 9♠, K♠

Example of a five-way gin: 7♦, 7♣, 7♥, 4♠, 3♠, 2♠, J♥, 10♥, 9♥, A♣
This hand consists of one matched set, and two open-end runs so the cards that would gin this hand are 7♠, Q♥, 8♥, 5♠, A♠

When you reach six-way gins they usually consist of three open-end sequences that could possible consist of a nine-melded hand if it has a hanger.

A seven-way gin hand usually consists of two four-card sequence melds with a hanger on just one end. Seven-melded hands have no gin value as far as your already melded cards are concerned. The value of such hands is determined solely by the three unmelded cards, and by some extent to which they are combined. The combinations may be as low as two-ways, as when only two of the cards are of the same numerical value or part of a run, and third card is not combined in any way.

While there are other gin combinations such as an eight-melded holding with a hanger at either end, plus various freak gin combinations, these extreme hands are few and far between. A tip known by pros when playing a hand for gin, if the circumstances require the breaking of your hand, it is usually best to completely break and throw away a three-card run rather than throw a card off your four-card meld, but you won’t run into that very often either.

It must be understood at this point that the number of gin opportunities previously given are based on the total number of cards that would be available for gin. The number of gin opportunities for your specific hand however should be based on the maximum number of cards available for gin, less those cards already discarded, cards that you know your opponent is holding in runs, and those cards you are reasonable sure are being held by your opponent. This means that it is conceivable that what may look like a five or six-way hand may only be no more than a one-way hand. It is possible that a three or four-way hand may have no actual way of making gin as well. Remember this when you think you go gin.

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When to Knock in the Middle to Late Stages of the Hand

In gin rummy, there is an old adage that many people still play by. It is “When in doubt – knock!” In the early play of any hand except if you can go gin, you should knock the first chance you get, when it is the safest to do so. As the hand progresses to the middle and late stages, there are also times that are important for you to knock.

One of those reasons is if all of your matched sets are dead or practically dead. That means that if all or most of the cards you need have already been discarded or are being used in sets that your opponent holds. You should knock, even if you are sure you are going to lose the hand. If you don’t knock, your opponent is sure to go gin and the resultant loss will be greater than if you make a sacrifice knock. The only reason you wouldn’t do this if the resulting knock will cost you the game by the score.

In knocking for any reason, you should always meld your hand in a manner that will afford your opponent the least number of lay-offs, even at a cost in points to you. If you are playing a hand strictly for a knock, at this point in the late game, sets of the same value are more advantageous than sequences, since they allow less lay-off possibilities. When you have a choice of how to lay a meld, you should keep in mind the lay-off possibilities and those cards that your opponent already has in runs and cannot be layed-off on your hand.

Similarly, it may sometimes be wise to discard from a run when you are knocking. This can prevent lay-offs that could cost you dearly. There may be times when your opponent has nine melded cards and is holding up the one card that can be layed-off with your hand. In that case, breaking up the run will cause him to have to hold onto that card, eliminating the underknock.

When playing for a knock, you should always remember that a three-card combination has four possible ways of being filled. If possible, you should try to add a fourth card to such a combination, thus giving you eight options. It is wise to do this even at the expense of throwing a fourth card off a four-card meld.

Another tip to remember is that a combination of four cards that total no more than the allowable knock value is as important a factor in your hand as a meld. It should not be broken up to increase one’s meld opportunities or defensive plays any more than a meld would. Even if two of these cards can be combined by taking an opponent’s discard, allowing you to knock with a lower number of points, it will not change the number of melds that you will have to pick.

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When to Knock, Play for Gin, or Underknock

The decision of when to knock, play for gin, or play for the underknock often depends on the condition of the score and on your hand.

If you are on a schneid, then you should knock as quickly as possible. Though you may have a very good hand, you need to remember that your opponent may hold an equally good one. This is especially true if you are behind in points, and you are in the later stages of the game. At this point, he can afford to play for the gin bonuses, but you can’t. Do not take the chance of going for gin now. You need to score first, and then resume the normal risks of playing for gin in the next hand. When the situation is reversed and you have your opponent on a schneid, you have the luxury of playing for a quick knock or going for gin, depending on the condition of your hand.

While getting off a schneid or keeping an opponent on a schneid are the most dominant situations in any game, most hands should be played to win the maximum number of points. Sometimes you can win more points with a weak knock then you can with a good gin. In such a case, you should play to knock as quickly as you can, instead of waiting for gin.

There are other hands which should be played for the sole purpose of underknocking your opponent. In addition to the bonus boxes, the underknock has another benefit. If accomplished two or three times in the same set, your opponent will be so badly upset psychologically that he will be afraid to knock again. This will prevent him from winning hands that he ordinarily would have won.

Knock, under most conditions, is the most valuable word in the game of gin rummy. It should be utilized at the first opportunity, with a few exceptions. They are:

• When the knock is an Ace and the hand becomes a must-gin situation.
• When the odds are in favor of your going out in a game, or obtaining enough score to catch up to your opponent.
• When it is a reasonable assumption on your part that you stand to be underknocked by laying off his cards.
• When you know that your opponent is not in a position to knock his hand
• When you have your opponent’s hand dead.
• When your hand has the characteristics of a gin hand.

Knowing when to knock, play for gin, or underknock is an essential part of any hand, but no more so than the later stages of the game. That is when you get to a point that you are either going to win big or lose bigger, and you have to know when to keep going and possibly end up losing, or get it over with. Each player will handle each hand differently but if you want to become an expert you have to learn the basics of each in the later stages of the game.

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Appraising Your Hand in Later Stages of the Hand

While appraising your hand is important at any given moment in the game, it is especially important as you get down to the end of the hand. There are three general considerations to appraising your hand, especially during the middle and late stages of play. They are:

1. The actual condition of your own hand
2. The condition of the score and the relative value to you when playing your hand for its maximum offensive or defensive possibilities
3. The knowledge that you have been able to obtain as to exactly the condition of your opponent’s hand and what cards he holds.

Both the condition of your own hand and the condition of the score will be factors that are readily visible to you. Therefore, your important determination becomes the condition of your opponent’s hand. The factors that you must take into consideration are primarily:

1. The discards that have already been made
2. The melds that are available to your opponent from these melds
3. The discards that your opponent has picked compared to the number of cards that have already been discarded
4. The add-ons

By getting all the information you can out of your hand and your opponents hand you can then decide if you need to play offensively or defensively at this stage of the hand. It may or may not be different then how you have played at this point in the game. You may have been playing defensively because you feel that you had a losing hand. However, since more cards have been picked that may have changed and now as you look at your hand, you may think you can win it. This is the time to go all out, but before you do that, decide how close your opponent is from knocking. If it is a relatively low card and you are fairly certain that your opponent can not knock then play to the hilt. However, if you are fairly certain that your opponent can go out at any time, then continue on defensively just to reduce your hand as quickly as possible.

Make sure you appraise your hand in every turn. It could change very quickly, and you wouldn’t want to make the wrong move and see your opponent call gin just because of a simple mistake.

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When to Throw an Add-on

An add-on or a throw-in is any card discarded to your opponent with the full knowledge that it is a card that can be used by him to be added on to an existing meld. That is, if you know your opponent is holding a meld of three 10’s and you discard the fourth 10, this discard is considered to be an add-on.

Add-ons frequently have an offensive value in the fact that they permit you to play the full value of your hand rather than destroying some of your offensive strength in order to hold those cards that are wanted by your opponent. There are many occasions when an add-on to your opponent will, if picked, reduce his hand only by the value of the one additional card that he is free to discard. Whereas the discarding of a total wild card may reduce his hand by as much as 20 points, depending on what he needs. Your opponent may be able to meld two other cards to that one wild card that you discard to him.

Most of the questions related to when or when not to add-on occur in the later stages of play. Frequently it comes up under the following circumstances: You are holding nine melded cards, plus what appears to be a completely wild card. You have no indication as to whether your opponent specifically needs the card or not. However, it does represent a card that has been missing from play. If you draw from the deck a card that definitely fits your opponent’s run as an add-on, the question then becomes whether you should throw the add-on or not.

There are specific occasions when you will not have any logical determining factor as to whether or not it is best to add-on to your opponent, and at this point it must be realized that the throwing of an add-on will be a calculated risk. The calculation of this risk must then be based entirely on the mathematical probabilities and odds of the advantage that can be given to you by the throwing of this card and getting away with it. This needs to be compared to the disadvantage and potential loss to you in throwing the card and not getting away with it. In other words, the answer to the question of whether or not to throw an add-on or not depends on two basic factors:

1. Knowledge of your opponent’s cards that he is holding
2. Luck

If you know that an add-on will gin your opponent then you should throw the wild card and hope for the best. Under most circumstances, an add-on will be considered a wise throw. Add-ons can be extremely beneficial if used in the write way. It also can be very costly if the luck doesn’t exactly work out for you, but you should try anyhow.

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Your Discards

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.

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Reading Your Opponent’s Hand

Reading your opponent’s hand, especially in middle to late stages of play, is a matter of skill which you need to build up over time. The beginner has virtually no conception at any time of his opponent’s holdings. The good player has a reasonable idea, but cannot eliminate certain cards. By the eighth card played, the expert player has a pretty fair knowledge of what the opponent is holding in his hand. By the sixteenth card, the expert player can practically read the hand card for card and has almost always determined his opponent’s exact hand. This is the point in which you want to get to.

There are various clues and bits of information that help you to read your opponent’s hand, such as his discards, his picks from your discards, your own hand, and his playing rhythm. His discards generally tell you what he does not want as far as the cards are concerned. You will know that when playing against a high knock that if your opponent throws an Ace or two, he does not need low cards for a knock, but he is trying to complete a meld. The reverse is also true if he picks a low discard, and throws a high one, you know he most likely already has six cards melded and is after cards that are low enough to enable him to meld.

By considering your opponent’s discard, together with what you are holding in your hand, you can obtain considerable information. For example, if your opponent discards a 9♣ he is not holding a meld of 9’s. Therefore if you are holding the 8♥ and 10♥, it would be to your benefit to hold onto them as long as possible. You also can figure if he picks the 9♣, and discards the 9♠ he already has a club sequence and could easily have the 10♣ tied up. If you are holding a pair of 10’s then you will realize that your chances of obtaining a third 10 will be reduced by at least half.

When you are making a discard you should always try to have some control over the card by knowing what it can be used for in case your opponent picks up the card. If you do not know what it can be used for then you are at a terrible disadvantage in the various cards you will be forced to hold. You will of course know certain cards that your opponent is not holding, because they are in your hand. The knowledge of these cards plus the cards that are already been discarded will help to eliminate certain melding possibilities which will help you to determine the melds or possible melds that remain available to your opponent.

This is especially helpful when you are trying to spot a salesman. The first step in determining if they are throwing a salesman is to figure out what kind of player you are playing. You need to know if they are extremely aggressive, mildly aggressive, middle of the road, mildly defensive, or extremely defensive. If you can figure this out, and you know the cards that have been discarded, and the cards that have been picked up, then you will know immediately if they are throwing a salesman.

It is incredibly important to build your skill to the point where you can do this, and not make any mistakes.

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Picking an Opponent’s Discard

When you are down to approximately the last 12 cards, it is considered to be late play in the hand of the game. You should at this point make it a practice to count the number of cards remaining, every single time it is your turn. If it is an odd number it means that you have the extra pick coming. This represents a tremendous advantage to you and should not be relinquished under normal circumstances.

However, when playing a hand to win, you should pick up any discards by your opponent that will get you a meld instead of picking from the stock. In playing to the wall though, it is not wise to pick up an opponent’s discard instead of picking from the deck because that will extend the life of the game, when your most important concern would be getting to the last two cards.

Under certain circumstances, you might pick up a discard that gives you a blocking combination. That means that if you have a safe card to throw and are reasonably sure that the card or cards need to complete the meld are still in play, taking an opponent’s discard can be an important defensive maneuver in the late play of the hand.

For example, if you know that your opponent is holding three Kings and you have the fourth one in your hand and he suddenly discards a king, you need to be aware of the fact that he is attempting to change his hand to another combination in hopes of winning. To do this, he needs two picks and discards to get rid of his other two kings. In this situation if you pick up the first king discard, you will automatically achieve a wall hand or even a possible win. If your opponent is foolish enough to throw a second king, you could win the hand. Even if he doesn’t throw the second King, your opponent could no longer win his hand.

Only in the rarest of occasions do you want to pick up a card that is not needed in the middle or late stages of the hand. It should only be done to confuse an opponent, but even then you are taking a major chance of screwing up your own hand and possibly causing him to win anyhow, leaving you with more points. Here is an instance in which you would take an unneeded card. If you are holding nine melded cards with a completely dead card and you are playing a hand for gin. Your opponent knows two of the melds, but he does not know the third one. If he is a good player, he is holding any cards that he feels you need to call gin. He will then discard a card that is completely useless, but that doesn’t mean it is a dead card. By picking it up, and discarding your other dead card, you have now given him an indication of what our other meld or combination is, but of course only you know that it is not the truthful meld. He will then discard one of the cards he has been holding thinking you had a different meld, and you can then pick it up and call gin.

Picking an opponent’s discard in the late stages of the game and relinquishing an extra pick should always be done when the discard puts you under a count. It should never been done for the purpose of reducing your hand to come close to getting under the count. If you can remember this then you are well on your way to winning a game, even in the late stages.

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Middle and Late Play of a Gin Rummy Hand

By now, it should be obvious that many gin hands are played on a purely mechanical basis. There are the so called “no-brainers”, in which play ends before any cards are drawn from the stock. Then there are the occasions when hands are completed within the first three to five picks. Such hands obviously require little or no skill at all. Then there are the hands that go past the either pick, and this is where the expert certainly has the advantage. It is called the middle or late play of the hand. This is when specific knowledge and skill are required to win a hand that ordinarily would be lost. These are the hands that are often the difference between winning and losing any given gin rummy session.

The opening plays of the hand require important decisions for sure, but a hand that goes beyond the either pick requires more crucial decision making. The beginner will depend on pure luck as far as his play at this point is concerned. The good player will utilize card memory and base his decisions on the probabilities and odds of any given play. The expert player will utilize pure deductive reasoning. In every crucial problem in the middle and late play there is always a deductive answer that you need to figure out in order to win the hand and eventually the game.

It should be further emphasized that even though there is only one true correct answer reached by deductive reasoning, it is not always the answer that will lead to the winning play since we are aware that there is an element of luck in this game. However, over any given number of hands, deductive reasoning will provide by far the largest percentage of winning plays.

It is up to you though to figure out how to deduce which are the right and the wrong card to discard, and pick. The middle and late play of gin rummy is just as important as the opening plays, but it is the one that takes the most knowledge as well as experience. You need to be able to pick an opponent’s card without letting him have too much information, and you need to be able to read your opponent’s hand at the same time. Your discards are equally as important because you certainly don’t want to lose the game by discarding a card that your opponent is waiting for, but you also need to know when to throw an add-on that can be used by your opponent. Lastly you need to know how to appraise your hand at any given time. Know when to go for the win, change from offensive to defensive play, and when to admit defeat and try to protect your hand. You also have to know when and if to try to play to the wall. All of this requires expert play, and that is what you will learn.