Lesson in Gin Rummy...Card Playing: Page Two

The Encyclopedia of Bridge says I am “reputed to be the best American player of gin rummy.” This compliment stemmed from a method of play that I discovered, by chance, many years ago.

I had finished playing bridge at the old Cavendish Club and sat down to watch George Rapee, a good friend, playing a hand of gin rummy. George’s only prospect was in “filling” the five-three of diamonds. His opponent discarded the diamond four and I said to myself, “The lucky stiff, he got hit in the middle.” Being “hit in the middle” at the time was thought of as the luckiest thing that could happen. I thought, “Only one card in the deck, and George got it.” Somehow that started a train of thoughts and I realized that getting hit in the middle was no more difficult than drawing the jack of hearts to the king, queen—again only one card would do. One thought led to another. I will skip detail. But it was apparent that a king can be used with four separate combinations: three combinations of kings—the king of spades can be used with the king of hearts, the king of diamonds, and the king of clubs—and in a run with the queen-jack. A jack down through a three can be used in six combinations. In addition to three of a kind, a jack can be used in a run with the king-queen, queen-ten, and ten-nine. This was helpful because it made things exact, but most gin players have an idea of these probabilities.

One day the thought popped into my head that, at the beginning of a hand, a player rarely splits pairs. If, for example, my opponent discarded the nine of hearts, I could hypothetically eliminate the nine of spades from his hand. With the nine of spades eliminated, the eight of spades could be used only one way in a run, with the seven and six. Also, since players don’t split nine-eight combinations at the beginning of a hand, the play of the nine of hearts eliminates the eight of hearts. With the eight of hearts eliminated, the eight of spades could be used in only one combination of three of a kind, eight of diamonds and eight of clubs. Therefore, when an opponent plays a card at the start of a hand, a touching card in a different suit becomes, hypothetically, a two-way player, twice as safe as a king, and three times as safe as a jack.


You’ve drawn and hold the following:



Your opponent’s first discard was the seven of diamonds, and it’s your play. The six of spades and the eight of clubs are by far the safest discards.

I won’t go further. If you think about this, it will be a great help in making safe discards at the beginning of a hand, the most important part of the game.

Be lucky.

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