An Introduction to Defensive Strategies - How to Discard “Safely”
Discarding “safely” is a defensive playing strategy. It means discarding cards that you know your opponent cannot use or likely cannot use. However, safety is relative since it is not possible to know every card your opponent may have or need. Also, keep in mind that your opponent always has the choice to pick a card from the stock pile rather than the card that you discarded.
Most cards in Gin Rummy can be used within several possible combinations. The beginning, middle, or end of a series1 or in a set2 with two or three cards of the same value.
Example: 567 678 789 777 7777
Depending on the cards that you have in your possession and the ones that are already on the discard pile, you can rule out a certain number of these possible combinations.
If you stay focused, you can actually determine which discards will be 100% safe. For example, say that you have the King-of-Spades and Queen-of-Spades in your hand. Your opponent discards a King. You can safely discard your King and be absolutely sure that your opponent cannot use it in any way. Your opponent would be unable to complete a set of Kings and could not use it to complete a run of Spades since you possess the Queen-of-Spades.
Always assess the risks when discarding. For example, it is usually better to discard a card that has three possible combinations left before one that has four possible combinations. Yet, it is also necessary to consider offensive factors, which are explained here.
Success in Grand Gin Rummy lies in striking a balance between offensive and defensive play. Let’s take a look at another example to better understand the decision-making process for “safe” discarding.
The up-card at the beginning of the game was the 4-of-Spades. Neither you, nor your opponent chose to pick it up. You have the following hand:
Since you do not know where the 10-of-Clubs, Queen-of-Clubs, or other Jacks are, your Jack-of-Clubs can be used in one of six possible combinations, which is why you should keep it for the moment. You have both the 10-of-Diamonds and 8-of-Diamonds, so each of these could be used in one of five possible combinations. Your 7-of-Spades can be used in one of four possible combinations, since you have the 9-of-Spades and your opponent passed on the 4-of-Spades. Your opponent would likely have picked it up if they had had the 5-of-Spades or 6-of-Spades. So in this situation, discarding the 7-of-Spades seems to be your smartest choice.
We hope this article helps you to improve your skills in Grand Gin Rummy.
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1 Series: Three or more consecutive cards of the same color.
2 Set: Three or four cards of the same value.