Once you completely understand and have mastered the calculation of counts, then you will be well on your way to being able to win at Gin Rummy. In head to head play, you will find that there is only one phase of count to be considered. That is the “safe” or maximum number of points one can hold in their hand that will keep your opponent from winning a game in any given hand.
For example, if the winning score is 250 points, and you are playing a hand with single scoring value, and your opponent has 210 on the score, it should be understood that with gin the opponent automatically gets 25 points for gin. If you are then holding 15 points then the game would be over. Hence, if you are watching your count, then you will already know this and make sure you keep your hand under 15 points at all times so that you don’t inadvertently lose the game without realizing there could be a way to avoid this.
Your first consideration should be to bring your hand down to a safe count if the situation requires it to be, such as the one mentioned above. This means you should keep your hand below the count value that you could lose with; even if you have to throw away a card that you suspect will give your opponent gin. It is better to lose this one hand and still be in the game, then to have no chance at all because the game is over.
As described previously, the best ways to get under count is through melding and picking up low cards, and then discarding high ones. This could cause issues though if you are holding the wrong cards. This is where your memory is needed, to remember the cards that have already been played and discarded. This is especially important if you are keeping a card that could possibly give you a meld later, rather than just discarding it now. If the card has already been played and you don’t remember it, you may be holding onto a card that could give you a higher count even when you should have discarded it.
In partnership play, the safe count takes on even more significance. True, the individual hands are played exactly the same, but once you see your partner end his hand you need to keep in mind how many points he loses or wins by and then change your hand accordingly. For example if your partner loses his hand, making your opponents 34 points away from winning, you need to remember the 25 points for gin and keep your count under 9 so that you don’t lose the hand. At this point, you not only have to keep a watch on your count, but the count of your partner’s, in order to ensure that you will not lose a game when you could have avoided it.