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First Play of the Hand – The Basics of the Discard

If you have been dealt to, then you will be the person who is making the first play. The first play consists of discarding one card from the 11 in your hand, because remember the first person gets dealt 11 cards rather than 10. In the game of gin rummy, many of the hands are won or lost in the first few plays, meaning, the card you discard can make or break you.

If you believe that the higher strategy in gin begins in the middle of the game, after each player has started to develop his or her hand, you are already at a disadvantage. The first play of the hand is when you can get an advantage over your player, and can essentially last for the duration of the entire hand. Therefore, to advance towards the expert class you must master the opening play discarding strategy.

Discards serve several purposes throughout the game, but especially in the first play of the game. They reduce the count of your hand by the face value of the discard. Except for rare cases, an expert player does not allow a discard to reduce the chances of winning a hand by giving up combinations, and an expert player rarely lets the first discard give any information about his hand. There are many times however that you can use a discard to give your opponent the wrong information, or information that you actually want him to have.

For example, if you are holding three 8’s, and your opponent throws the 8 ♥ you may want to consider taking the card even if you don’t need it because you either already have a four-card run or you are playing for a knock where the four-card meld is not necessary. By taking the 8 ♥ and discarding the 8 ♣, your opponent will be convinced that you either have a heart run or are trying to get a heart run. From then on, he will hold up the hearts that you of course don’t need. This would be a detriment to his hand possibly and you will go on to win the game. You do not want to do this too often against an expert player because they will surely catch on, and then the only thing you will have accomplished is to lose a pick from the deck for yourself.

There are many cards that you can discard that can win or lose the game for you, but what you need to do is to appraise your hand and figure out the best one for you. If you cannot knock the first hand then chances are you want to play in a way that your opponent can’t knock either. This takes experience and recognizing what you have in your hand. To be an expert discarder takes a great deal of thinking and strategizing on what your opponent will do, and not just what you need.

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Offensive and Defensive Value of the Cards

The offensive and defensive value of the cards is in direct relation to how you are appraising your hand. You can immediately tell when you appraise your hand whether or not you need to take the offensive or defensive play against your opponent.

With exception of actual melds, the offensive characteristics of a hand are developed by the number of opportunities that are afforded to you with any combination of two or more cards. A combination such as a King and Queen, or an Ace and Two offers only one way to complete a meld. A combination of two Kings or two 7’s offers two offensive possibilities, as does a 7 ♦ 8 ♦ combination. However if you have a 3 ♣ 5 ♣, it again only offers one possibility.

The run combination is considered slightly more valuable than two pair because once a third card is added for the meld, the run combination will now offer two ways to obtain the fourth card whereas a meld of three Kings for example will offer only one fourth-card possibility.

You want to keep cards that give you offensive value for the most part. That would include cards such as 7 ♦, 8 ♦, and the 7 ♥. That yields a four-way melding opportunity, but it also gives you the possibility of more if you can add the 8 ♥ to this mix. That automatically doubles your melding possibilities. Two-way melding combinations should be played for the sole purpose of increasing them to at least four-way combinations at every opportunity. A further advantage to the offensive values of these cards is that it effectively ties up your opponents hand to the largest possible extent if he is playing a defensive game.

While the odds of developing the fourth card in a meld are twice as good when you have a run rather than a three of a kind meld, it works to the reverse if you are playing defensively. A meld such as three 10’s allows a defensive player to lay off only one card on that run. A meld such as 7 ♦, 8 ♦, and 9 ♦ permits a defensive player to lay off as many as four cards. An example of this is if you were holding that hand and he was holding a 5 ♦, 6 ♦, 10 ♦, and a J ♦. He could lay off all the cards and either underknock or call a gin off. Thus, when playing that type of hand you definitely want to knock, and when playing against a defensive type of player, it is best to hold three of a kind melds rather than suit sequences.

The strategy of play depends largely on the type of player your opponent is, but it is equally as important to know what offensive and defensive value a particular meld or run has so that you can use it to your advantage.

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How to Appraise Your Hand – Part II

We have looked at the basics of appraising your hand in order to recognize what type of player you need to be, and whether or not you will have a winning or losing hand, but there is so much more to it. This is where your average play can become expert play.

Here is your following hand with a knock card of 6:

10 ♦, 10 ♣, 10 ♥, 8 ♠, 7 ♠, 6 ♠, K ♣, 5 ♦, 3 ♠, 2 ♥

This is another example of a winning knock hand in which you have two melds to start but the other mismatched cards do no total within the knock count. In this case, it is just a question of picking low cards or add-ons to knock.

The vast majority of gin players will discard their highest cards first, so that will tell you that you will not be picking up low cards right in the beginning, unless you pick them up from the stock. It will give you an idea that you may have to go more than the ideal of 5 or 6 picks before you can knock. When the knock card is in the 5 to 7 range, you have an above average chance of ending up with a four-card meld rather quickly.

As a rule, when the knock is low or when playing for gin if all or most of the cards are matched, not necessarily in melds, is a winning type of hand. The determinate of a losing hand is also primarily based on the knock card. A hand containing one three-card meld and seven mismatched cards would appear to be a losing hand if the knock were high, but it would be a fair or average hand if the knock were low.

During your appraisal of your hand you also have to look at how quickly a hand can change. A winning hand with only one pick needed for a knock can quickly be changed into a losing hand within just one or two plays. The same can be said for a losing hand. You have to be able to look at your hand and see it differently throughout the play. You can’t just say that it’s a winning hand, and leave it at that. That is why makes an expert player so much more advanced than an average player. They have to know when to reevaluate the hand for what it is now, not at the beginning of the play.

If you have a poor hand at the start of the play, it is important that you do not give your opponent the opportunity to pick up cards that you discard. You need to put him in the position of giving you that opportunity, so that you can develop your hand. Maintain a defensive play until your hand has resolved itself into a pattern that will enable you to win. Hence, you are reappraising your hand and therefore your style of play.

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How to Appraise Your Hand – Part I

One of the most important factors in playing better Gin Rummy is being able to evaluate your own hand, both at the time you received the deal, and also after the first four or five cards are played. You need to recognize if your hand is one that tends to lend itself towards a more offensive type of lay or if you stand a better chance of winning your hand without being aggressive. Perhaps, your hand lends itself primarily to a more defensive type of play and this will result in the best chance of winning the hand. Only you can know this, and you should recognize it relatively quickly in the hand.

You also have to know if you have an obvious losing hand. You then need to figure out how to minimize your losses. As the play progresses and as the pattern of your hand begins to change you need to be aware of these changes and how you should alter your style of play to suit the condition at any given point during the play.

When you examine your hand as the cards are being dealt, if the knock is high, you should take notice if you are holding four small unmatched cards that do not exceed the knock value. This is just as important to your hand’s success as a meld itself. Also, when playing for a high knock value, matched pairs such as two kings, or two 2’s are as valuable in your hand as sequences such as 7 and 8 of the same suit.

Here is an example of this. The knock is a 10 and you are holding the following hand:

Q ♠, Q ♥, Q ♣, 10 ♦, 9 ♠, 8 ♠, 7 ♠, 4 ♥, 3 ♣, 2 ♦, A ♠

You could knock immediately by discarding the 10 ♦. This does not require skill, only the ability to recognize the knock situation. Hence, this is called in gin circles a “no brainer”.

A good or winning hand for a knock is one which can be knocked within the first five plays. Ideally this would consist of the deal of one three-card meld, four cards totaling within the knock value, and at least two of the other three cards matched. In such a case, all you need is one card to complete that second meld and be able to knock.

When it comes to a losing hand, it is essentially the same principal. If you are dealt 10 unmatched cards and the knock is high, if within 5 or 6 picks you still cannot knock, you have to assume that it is a losing hand and try just to minimize your losses. If the knock is low then you may have a chance of developing your hand but it may take considerably longer. This is why it is so important to appraise your hand, before you play and during play, because you have to know when to give up trying to win, and rather try to reduce your hand as much as possible.

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Planning Your Strategy – Playing To Gin

Planning your strategy after knowing what your knock card is extremely important. Before you even pick up a card, you should know generally if you need to play offensively or defensively. You should also know exactly what you should hold in your hand before you go any further. This could not be more important then when the knock card is an Ace and you need to play to gin.

Melding all 10 cards can be difficult but not impossible, especially if you know where you need to begin. You already know that you can do this by making 3 three-card melds, and 1 four-card melds. This is the most usual way in which people will reach gin. It is wise when considering this that you also take into account that it is easier to reach gin by melding runs that have the ability to be added onto. For example, it is easier to go gin if you have a 9, 10, J, instead of 3 Jacks.

Since it takes much longer to develop 10 melded cards than developing 6 melded cards, you must play the hand with considerably more care then if you were playing with a high knock card. Your concern should be to throw your opponent relatively safe discards during the play of the hand so that you have the time to develop your hand. An even more important strategy is to get your opponent to take certain cards which you want him to pick because they will give him dead runs.

For example, if you are holding the K ♦, Q ♦, and J ♦, and the Q ♠, and J ♠ have already been played then the best card to see him pick would be a K ♠ because it is a dead run. He would never be able to use it because you already have the potential fourth K and there is no sequence he could use the K ♠ with. The more dead runs you can get your opponent to take or hold, the more you are reducing his opportunities to win while at the same time increasing your own by giving you more time and more cards you actually need. Just make sure that when you are giving your opponent dead runs, that you are using the odd card to form a meld of your own, and aren’t just holding it for no reason. For the same reason he can’t win, you don’t want to hold onto two of your opponents cards unless they are in melds, because then you can’t win.

In any game of gin, people want to be in the position of giving your partner dead cards, but it may not always be possible if you are playing another expert player. It is also not likely to do it on a continual basis, but if the opportunity does arise, make sure you are aware of how to take advantage of it.

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Planning Your Strategy – The Knock Card

Now that you have your hand arranged to your satisfaction, a look at your cards should indicate to you whether you have what appears to be a winning or losing hand. In this determination, you need to look closely at the knock card value.

If the knock card is high, such as an 8, 9, or 10, then the hand could be ended very quickly. This must be kept in mind when determining what kind of hand you have. If the knock card is an in-between card such as a 6 or a 7, the play of the hand will change slightly. If the knock card is a low card under 5, the strategy will chance drastically because in all likelihood you will need 9 melded cards before a knock can be declared. When the knock card is an Ace, and the game must be played to a gin, the strategy is dramatically different.

Frequently, a hand that appears to be a winning type of hand for a high knock may be a very bad hand for gin or a low knock. Keep in mind that in approximately half of gin hands the knock card will be 8 or higher, so it is best to really know your strategy when you have a higher knock card.

When the knock card is anything from a king to a nine, you can knock by melding five cards into one long sequence, but the melding of 2 three-card sets or six matched cards is more common. There are several combinations of four low cards that total 10. There are almost as many that total 9, and quite a few that total 8. While there are not as many combinations of low cards that equal 8 as there are 10, it is still wise to play for two melds and leave 4 unmatched low cards.

When the knock card is a 6 or 7, your strategy will have to change slightly since 2 three-card melds will not usually be sufficient to knock. With only 2 three-card melds your unmatched cards would have to be 3, 2, Ace, Ace if the knock card is a 7, or 2, 2, Ace, Ace, if it is a 6. Therefore unless you already have 3 of these key cards, it is best to play for seven matched cards – a four-card sequence, and a three-card run, or 3 three-card melds.

With a low card knock, it is best to plan your hand toward nine melded cards – 3 three-card sets. If you have a 4 or 5 for a knock card then it is possible to go to seven melded cards, but this is considered a freak hand, so it is best to plan for 3 three-card melds.

When the knock card is an ace, you must go gin melding all 10 cards. Since you have no choice to go gin, it is necessary to have a four-card run. This does not include freak hands when you have a five or six-card run. During regular hands, you need to play in a manner in which you will wind up with at least 2 three-card melds, and 1 four-card meld.

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Planning Your Strategy – Placement of Cards for the Score

Even before a card is dealt, two of the most important considerations of gin rummy strategy come into play. They are the score, and the knock card value. The score situation is the most important factor in the way the hand is played. It will help to determine whether you should play regular non-freak hands with offense or defense. Before that, your strategy starts with simply picking up your cards and getting to know what you have in your hand.

After you are dealt the cards, and before you play your first card, you should arrange the cards in some sort of order. It is the first step in the planning of strategy for the upcoming play. Most experts pick up the cards they are dealt one at a time, sorting them as they go. This way you can memorize them and figure out which way you want them to match so you can get the most out of your score. Take this time to appraise the hand and really study them to avoid making costly mistakes.

When arranging the cards in your hand you should follow this structure:

1. Your melds
2. Your possible combinations (2 or 3 cards of the same suit in sequence)
3. Your unmatched cards according to suits

You should group your two-way combinations in a way which is clear and logical to you so that they can be recognized easily. For example, if you have the 9 ♥, 9 ♣, and the 10 ♣, they should be held in exactly that way so that if an 8 ♣ or a J ♣ turns up it can be quickly recognized as a card that can provide a meld for you. You should never sort your cards in the same manner such as high to low, left to right because if you constantly do that it will provide information to your opponent. You should mix it up occasionally placing high cards in the middle, or at the opposite end.

Most gin players pick up a card from the deck and throw it away just as quickly because they do not want it, they never actually place the unwanted cards in their hand. However, many expert gin players make it a point to place every card drawn into their hand. They also shift around their cards after each pick. The purpose of this is to avoid indicating whether or not the card that was drawn was of importance to them. This is as important as how you arrange your cards because again, you want to avoid giving out any information at all that can help your opponent.

Planning your strategy starts with how you arrange your cards, and what type of hand you have, rather than picking up the first card. The sooner you realize this, the quicker you are on your way to becoming an expert player.

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Strategy of “Freak” Hands in the Opening Play

Gin Rummy is undoubtedly a game of skill. It has three phases of play; the beginning or opening play, middle play, and late play. Although each has its own individual important aspects, the opening plays are some of the most meaningful to the game, and also the most skillful.

In gin your moves are directed primarily toward making your opponent do what you want him to do in order to provide you with the necessary opportunities to win the game. In advanced gin play this is even truer. It is quite possible, and most probable that an expert player is directing his play in a manner to cause an opponent to do exactly what he wants him to do.

Gin hands are often divided into two categories; freaks and regular hands. The vast majority are the regular or average hands in which you see time and time again. Outside of the average hands are the “freak” hands. These are the hands that call for out and out aggressive or offensive play, or out and out defensive play. This is where the skill and strategy really come into play. If you do end up with a freak hand, you need to know exactly what to do in order to get the most out of these highly unusual hands.

Extremes of the offensive type of hands are those that are dealt either with nine melded cards or those that can be knocked without picking up even one card. Other unusual offensive hands may have one meld or no melds at all with every other card in the hand matched to each other. These are just hands that you simply do not see very often, but when you do it is cause to act very offensively. A determination should be quickly made whether you should play it for a knock, or whether it should be played for gin.

On the defensive side, a freak hand may be one in which there are no matched or related cards. Although this doesn’t happen much, it can, and it will at some point in time. The most important consideration in this type of hand is to achieve the time necessary to develop your hand into a winning situation, which can be difficult when dealt these types of hands. Somehow you have to be able to get down almost to the bottom of the deck, while also preventing your opponent from developing their hand at the same time.

It is interesting to note, and one that is fairly obvious if you think about it, if you have a freak hand then chances are your opponent does as well. It only makes sense considering your hand. The same can be said if you have a regular or even a great hand. Chances are your opponent will have the same type of hand, and that should be considered thoroughly when making your opening play.