Gin Rummy strategy

On Wednesday, we posted the rules of Gin Rummy. As simple as the game is, its strategy is complex. While we can’t cover every one of the ins and outs of Gin Rummy strategy, this post will hopefully give you a few things to think about during your next Gin game. There has been a great deal more written about Gin Rummy strategy over the years, including in the classic Scarne on Cards by John Scarne (1965), which contains an excellent analysis of Gin Rummy (as well as many other games such as Hearts, Red Dog, and Pinochle).

Watch the discards

The chief skill that will help with Gin Rummy is a good memory. It is very important to remember what has been discarded, and by whom. First of all, it keeps you from chasing after unlikely melds. If you are going after a meld of fours, and a four is in the discard pile, your chances of getting your meld are diminished by 75%. Likewise, if you have the 5♣ and 6♣, your chances of making a meld of them are halved if the 7♣ is in the discard pile.

It is also vital to keep track of what your opponent is discarding, what they are not discarding, what they are taking from the discards, and what they are passing up. Keeping track of draws and discards helps you form a picture of what your opponent is shooting for. For instance, it is dangerous to discard a six if you have not seen any sixes in the discards—it’s possible that your opponent is hoarding sixes. If you see them pick up the 8♠, there are two possibilities—either they are trying for three or four eights, or for a run of spades. If you know that they discarded the 9♠ earlier in the hand, you know it’s likely that they are going for 8s.

Watch the score

When the scores are approaching 100, it is important to keep an eye on exactly how far away your opponent is from ending the game. If possible, keep your unmatched card count low enough that if your opponent knocks, the game goes on.

Keeping a reserve

It’s generally a good idea to keep a few low cards in your hand, preferably three or four with a total value under ten. These cards will become your deadwood when you are ready to knock. Otherwise, you may be ready to knock, but get stuck with a succession of high unmatched cards to deal with before you can get your deadwood down to where you can knock.

High or low?

There are advantages and disadvantages to going after melds with high cards like 9s, 10s, and face cards. Because of their high point totals, they are more dangerous to keep around; you might get stuck with them should your opponent knock before you can form them into a meld. On the other hand, because of this danger, your opponent will likely be discarding them more frequently, making it easier to form melds out of them.

In general, don’t have a strict policy one way or another about playing high cards. It’s in your best interest to not play too predictably, since a savvy opponent will take advantage of that fact.

Choosing discards

Of course, the best card to discard is one that helps neither you nor your opponent. Watching the discards helps you determine which cards those are.

Kings and queens in particular are often good discards. Since they are the highest cards in the game, their usefulness is comparable to other cards only in melds of kings and queens. When it comes to runs, each king can only be used in one three-card run, that being J-Q-K. Queens fare a little better, since they can be part of 10-J-Q and J-Q-K. But all other cards can form three different three-card runs: a jack can be part of J-Q-K, 10-J-Q, and 9-10-J. Queens and kings are also worth ten points each, making them undesirable to keep around. Aces and twos have the same disadvantages as kings and queens respectively, but represent a far lesser liability against your hand due to their low point values.

As far as melding is concerned, the most valuable cards are 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s. These cards can be used in six possible three-card melds and five possible four- and five-card melds. The 7 in particular is valuable, because it is present in all seven of the possible seven-card melds (not that you will have seven-card melds that frequently).

It’s usually safe to discard a card of the same rank as an opponent’s prior discard. But be careful—a good player may discard a card of the same rank that they need in some other suit to complete a run, in an attempt to trick you into throwing it their way.

Choosing melds

Sometimes you will have a card which will go well with two different completed melds, such as 6-7-8-9♦ and 9♠-9♣-9♥-9♦. Which should you put the 9♦ with when you lay down your hand? The answer is always with the 9s—your opponent cannot lay off cards to a four-of-a-kind meld, and the absence of the 9♦ stops them from laying off the 10♦ onto the run.

Likewise, you can choose your last discard prior to knocking carefully to prevent your opponent from laying off a card on your meld. For example, suppose you have 4-5-6-7♠. You haven’t seen the 8♠, so you suspect your opponent might be hanging onto it, knowing of your meld and hoping he can lay off on it. You might consider discarding the 7♠ as your final discard before knocking, so your opponent is left hanging onto the 8♠ and the eight extra points in deadwood.

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Gin Rummy

Gin Rummy, also known simply as Gin, is a classic game of skill for two players. Gin Rummy is probably the most well-known and most often-played of the Rummy family of card games. Its heyday was in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was associated with Hollywood and Broadway stars.

Object of Gin Rummy

The object of Gin Rummy is to arrange your hand into melds and be the first to knock, hopefully ensuring that the total of your unmatched cards is lower than that of your opponent.

Setup

You will need one deck of 52 playing cards. Using anything other than Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards comes as a great disappointment to all involved.

You will also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper work fine, or you can use something fancy like a smartphone app designed for the purpose, of which there are many.

Deal ten cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the middle of the table, forming the stock, and turn one card face up next to it, which is designated the upcard, or top card of the discard pile.

Game play

Gin Rummy revolves around melds, which are combinations of three or more cards. Valid melds include three or four of a kind, or a run or sequence, such as 5-6-7, of the same suit. Aces are low, and kings are high, and a sequence cannot progress from one to the other (K-A-2 is not a valid meld).

Cards also have a point value, used in calculating the amount of deadwood, or unmelded cards, each player has. Aces are worth one point, face cards worth ten, and all other cards their face value.

Game play begins with the non-dealer. They may take either the top card of the discard pile, or the top card of the stock. They then end their turn by discarding a card from their hand. Play then passes to the dealer, who follows the same procedure, and so on and so forth. The discard pile is to be kept squared up at all times, and fishing through the discards is not permitted; if a player wants to use the information of what the discard pile contains, it is their responsibility to remember what has been discarded throughout the game.

When a player’s deadwood total reaches ten or less, they may knock, which is discarding face-down and knocking on the table. Both players then reveal their hands, sorting them into melds on the table. The player that did not knock may reduce their deadwood total by adding cards from it to the knocker’s melds. Thereafter, the players both total up their deadwood; if the player that knocked has the lower deadwood total, as is usual, they score the difference between the two deadwood totals. However, if the non-knocker has the lower total, they score the difference, along with a ten-point bonus for undercutting the knocker.

As an alternative to knocking, a player may elect to play on until their deadwood score reaches zero. Rather than knocking, they declare gin and reveal their hand, scoring the opponent’s deadwood total plus a 25-point bonus. The opponent may not lay off deadwood on a gin hand.

In the rare event that the hand continues until only two cards are left in the stock, play stops, and the hand is considered a draw. No points are scored.

After the end of the hand, the deal rotates, and the cards are shuffled and a new hand is dealt. Game play continues until a player reaches 100 points. This player then scores an additional 100 bonus points, and each player scores box bonuses of 25 points for each hand that they won.

Variants

Gin Rummy is a fairly old game, and over the years many variants have been concocted to spice up the game. We won’t get into all of them here, but many of them can be combined as the players choose to make a truly customized Gin experience.

Gin Rummy as a betting game

Gin Rummy can be played as a betting game. Prior to the game, both players agree to the monetary value of a point and write it down on the score sheet. Play commences as above. After all bonuses have been taken into account, the difference in points is calculated, and the loser pays the winner the difference multiplied by the amount agreed to before the game.

Oklahoma Gin

Oklahoma Gin is exactly the same as normal Gin for the most part. However, rather than a knock being possible at 10 or fewer points, the value of the first upcard of each hand is used to determine this threshold for that hand. If an ace is the first upcard, knocking is not allowed; the winner must go gin.

A further variant described by David Parlett in the 2008 edition of The Penguin Book of Card Games sets the knock threshold equal to whatever the current upcard being displayed happens to be. This allows a player to stall their opponent by discarding low cards in an attempt to prevent them from knocking.

Around-the-Corner Gin

In Around-the-Corner Gin, king and ace are considered consecutive for the purposes of sequences, meaning K-A-2 is a perfectly valid meld.

See also

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Canfield

Canfield is a popular solitaire game similar to Klondike, which is the familiar solitaire game most people know from Microsoft Windows. Canfield takes up much less space than Klondike, which is a good thing because software adaptations of Canfield are less common than those of Klondike.

Object of Canfield

The object of Canfield is to move all of the cards up to the foundations.

Setup

You will need one standard 52-card deck. Are you using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? If no, why not?

Shuffle and deal as follows:

  1. Deal 13 cards face down. Square up the pile, and turn it face up, so you can only see the top card. This forms the reserve.
  2. Deal one card above and to the right of the reserve. This forms the first of the four foundations.
  3. Deal four cards in a line to the right of the reserve. This forms the tableau.
  4. The remainder of the deck is the stock.

Refer to the image at the top of this post for an example layout (click to enlarge).

Game play

In Canfield, the king, ace, and 2 are considered consecutive, i.e., the ace is below the 2 and above the king, and both ascending and descending sequences can wrap around from low to high.

The foundation piles are built up by suit, in ascending rank order. The card dealt to the first foundation sets the card that each foundation pile begins with. In this case, since a 3 was dealt, each foundation pile will begin with 3, and will be completed when the 2 of that suit is played upon it.

The tableau is built down by alternating colors (red cards are played on black cards and vice versa), in descending rank order. When a card is moved, all cards on top of it are moved as well. In other words, the tableau in Canfield works pretty much exactly like that of Klondike.

The top card of the reserve is available to be moved to any legal location at any time. Cards beneath the top card are not accessible and should not be known to the player. When an empty spot appears on the tableau, the top card of the reserve is moved to fill the vacancy. If the reserve is depleted, empty spots in the tableau can be filled by any card.

Cards may be drawn from the stock and placed in a discard pile, from which they may be moved to any location. For a more challenging game, draw three cards at once (with only the third card available for play, freeing up the second card when the third is played, etc.) After the stock is depleted, the discard pile is flipped over to replenish it.

Game play continues until no legal moves are possible or all four foundation piles have been completed.

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3-5-7

3-5-7 is a poker game with an unusual betting structure. Rather than confronting one another directly by raising and calling each other’s bets, players simply decide whether or not to fold. The risk comes when you don’t fold and you lose—which is really much like regular poker, come to think of it.

Object of 3-5-7

The object of 3-5-7 is to win lots of money by correctly deciding whether or not to play, i.e. by deducing whether your hand is likely to win or not.

Setup

You need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you go with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, we think you’re just amazing.

In addition to whatever kind of chips you normally use for poker, you will need some sort of marker for keeping track of strikes. If you have some chips from a different set (like those cheap interlocking chips) or chips of a color you don’t normally use for poker games (like those weird blue chips which come with most of the dice chip sets for some reason, which have no standard value) sitting around, this is a great time to use them. If nothing else, you can use whatever’s handy. Pennies are a good option. We actually use some wooden discs from Hobby Lobby that are painted to resemble the strikes from the 3 Strikes game from The Price Is Right. Yes, we’re a little weird.

Everyone antes. Deal three cards to each player. Keep the deck stub around, you will be dealing more cards in a little bit.

Game play

At any point in time, one card is a wild card; this card is the same number as however many cards everyone has. Initially, everyone has three cards, so all threes are wild. Players examine their hands to determine whether they want to play or fold.

Players will now need to declare their intentions, simultaneously. The most reliable method of doing this is for players to take a chip in hand, shuffle it from hand to hand out of sight from the other players, then, make a fist above the table. When all players are ready, all reveal—chip in the presented hand means the player is in, no chip means the player is out.

Now, all players who are in share their hands with one another, without letting the players who folded see. The winner is determined using regular poker hands, minus all the straights and flushes (so a three-of-a-kind is the strongest possible hand). All players who played and do not win pay the winner an amount equal to the pot.

Now, two cards are dealt to all players, giving them five cards, and fives are now wild. Game play is as before, but with the usual poker hands (straights and flushes count again). Then, two more cards are dealt, and hands are formed with five of the seven cards available to them. Hands are shuffled and play begins again with new three-card hands.

If, at any time, only one player elects to play a hand, all other players having folded, the player who stayed in gets a strike marker. When one player collects three strike markers, the game ends, and the pot goes to the player to get the three strike markers.

House rules

If you’d like to liven up the betting, require all other players to make a contribution to the pot whenever a player receives a strike. This will increase the size of the reward for the player that finishes off the game. It also makes staying in the game increasingly intimidating as it goes on, making the game go quicker, since the higher stakes will induce people to play tighter, creating more strikes.

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Hearts strategy

In our last post, we discussed the game of Hearts. Now that you know the rules of the game, here’s some tips that might help your game.

Choosing what to pass

In may card games, what you’re dealt is what you’re stuck with. Not so in Hearts—you have the opportunity to shape your hand somewhat by choosing to pass cards to the next player.

The gut reaction of most players is to pass the Q♠ when she has been dealt to them. This is not always the best play; sometimes, it’s easier to avoid capturing the Q♠ when you can control when she comes out. A good time to hold the queen is when you only have a few cards in some other suit—when you run out of that suit, you can play the Q♠, and you will be immune to capturing her because you did not follow suit. If you are considering holding the Q♠, make sure you have some other spades to play when some other player leads with spades—otherwise you may be trapped with only the Q♠ as a valid play.

The two spades higher than the Q♠, the K♠ and A♠, should be treated with nearly as much care as the Q♠. You do not want to be forced into playing one of these cards early in a trick and have the Q♠ come out after you. If you are short on spades, pass them.

High hearts are almost always a good option to pass, unless the spades situation is more pressing.

If you have a lot of cards of a particular suit, you might consider passing some of them on—if you’re running long, at least one of the other players is guaranteed to be running short, so they will be using tricks of that suit to unload their undesirable cards. You don’t want to be forced to lead that suit over and over again because of a lack of anything else to lead with.

Remember what you passed, and to whom. Since most of the time, you will be passing on higher, undesirable cards, knowing who holds them can be useful. In particular, if the player holding the Q♠ has already played to a trick, you know there is no way she can be played to the trick.

If you are playing the Jack of Diamonds variant, consider passing the J♦ if there is nothing more pressing to pass. The J♦ is seldom won by the player holding him, since three other cards can be played to collect him.

Play of the hand

A good portion of a winning Hearts strategy involves discovering the most opportune times to ditch cards you don’t want to get stuck with. The easiest method to ditch a card is to run out of a suit—if that suit is lead, you can burn off an undesirable card with no risk that you will end up capturing it. This is an excellent way to get rid of the Q♠ and her accomplices, the K♠ and A♠, as well as high hearts.

Being the last to play to a trick gives you the advantage of knowing what the trick contains. If you see that the trick has no point-scoring cards, you can play a high card and capture it, allowing you to both burn off a high card and choose what the next suit to play is (which might be helpful to get rid of the last few cards of your short suit). If it’s a spade trick, and the Q♠ isn’t in it, you can play the K♠ or A♠. Likewise, if someone has played a high card, you can play a slightly lower card which might cause problems on down the road (e.g. if someone plays the A♥, it’s an excellent time to get rid of the K♥).

If you don’t have the Q♠, it can be a good option to lead spades repeatedly in an attempt to force the Q♠ to show herself, hopefully sending her back to where she came from.

Naturally, keep track of whether the Q♠ has been played. If she’s out of the picture, the K♠ and A♠ are considerably less harmless, and you can ditch them with much less risk.

Keep the lower cards, like twos and threes, around unless you have a specific reason to play them. These cards can be used as exit cards, meaning you can use them in uncertain situations, like leading a trick or being the first after the lead to play, to avoid taking the trick. The 2♥ and 3♥ are particularly useful, since they let you dodge tricks that are often worth up to 4 points.

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Hearts

The thirteen hearts and the queen of spadesHearts is a classic game for four players. Unlike most card games, Hearts works on golf rules—the player with the lowest amount of points is the winner. Winning is generally done by avoidance of certain cards that score points—namely, the hearts, after which the game is named, and also the ultimate old maid, the Queen of Spades.

Hearts received a boost in popularity in the 1990s because Microsoft included a computerized version of it in its Windows operating system.

Object of Hearts

The object of the game is to have the lowest score at the end of the game by avoiding the thirteen Hearts and the Q♠. Or, collect absolutely everything and watch your opponents suffer.

Setup

You will need scorekeeping equipment (pencil and paper, or one of several smartphone/tablet apps that do all the math for you) and a standard 52-card deck of cards. Use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for the full effect of the Q♠’s wrath—her role in Hearts is why her artwork on the Denexa deck depicts her with a uniquely…unpleasant expression.

Shuffle and deal out the entire deck. Each player should end up with thirteen cards.

Scoring

Cards are scored as follows:

  • The thirteen hearts: one point each.
  • The Q♠: thirteen points.

The two is the lowest card of any suit, and the ace is the highest card.

Game play

At the beginning of the first hand, all players select three cards and pass them to the left, receiving three cards from the right. On the second hand, cards will be passed to the right; on the third, straight across. On the fourth hand, no passing occurs. The fifth hand restarts the cycle, passing to the left, and so on.

After passing has occurred, the player holding the 2♣ leads it. The next player to their left responds by playing a club, if they are able; otherwise, they may play any card except for a point card. The other two players follow in turn. After all players have played a card, the player who played the highest club collects the four cards played, called a trick, and places them into a score pile separate from their hand. This player then leads any card, except for a heart; again, all players must follow the suit led, if able. After all four cards have been played, the player who played the highest card of the suit led collects the cards and gets to play the next trick. When a player who is unable to follow suit plays a heart, hearts are said to have been broken, meaning that hearts can now be led by the winner of the previous trick.

After all players have exhausted their hand, each player looks through their score pile and adds up their score, as above. In the uncommon event that one player has managed to score all thirteen hearts and the Q♠—an act known as shooting the moon—rather than scoring 26 points, they score zero for the hand, and all three of their opponents score 26. The cards are shuffled, and a new hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player exceeds 100 points; the player with the lowest score is the winner.

House rules

The Jack of Diamonds variant of Hearts, also known as Omnibus Hearts, adds a fifteenth point card to the game, the J♦. Unlike the other scoring cards, however, the J♦ is not a penalty; it is a bonus, worth −10 points. Like all other scoring cards, however, it cannot be played on the first trick of a hand, and it must be collected in order to successfully shoot the moon.

Some groups allow a player to opt to score −26, rather than forcing their opponents to score 26, when shooting the moon. This avoids some unfortunate scenarios where a player shoots the moon, forcing an opponent over 100 and ending the game, but causing the shooter to lose to a player that still has a lower score after the 26 points are accounted for.

See also

 

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In-Between (a.k.a. Between the Sheets)

If you like Red Dog, you’ll probably like In-Between (also called Between the Sheets and Acey-Deucey, and confusingly, sometimes called Red Dog). Like Red Dog, it requires players to bet against the pot rather than each other, and makes for a nice break from poker in dealer’s choice games.

Object of In-Between

The object of the game is to win lots of money by betting high when the third card dealt to you is in between your first two cards in rank.

Setup

You need one standard fifty-two card deck of playing cards. If you’re using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you have excellent taste. Like in Red Dog, you also need to determine a minimum bet. A tame group of players will set it to be equal to whatever the lowest chip value is. A more wild set of players will make it higher.

All players ante.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer is first to act. The dealer deals two cards face up on the table (leaving some space between the two). The player places a wager of any amount of money, between the minimum bet and the amount in the pot, based on the perceived strength of their hand. Any aces in the hand are designated as being either high (above a king) or low (below a two) by the player. After the wager is placed, a third card is dealt between the other two. If this card’s rank falls between the ranks of the other two, the bet wins, and the dealer pays them at even money from the pot. If it does not, the bet loses, and is added to the pot. Note that matching one of the end cards, called hitting the post, is merely a painful loss, not a win.

If two consecutive cards are turned up, the player forfeits the minimum bet to the pot, with no third card turned up (because a loss is assured). If a pair is turned up, the player is immediately paid two times the minimum bet and no third card turned up.

After a player’s turn of play, the three cards are discarded and play passes to the next player to the left. Shuffle after the dealer’s turn of play. Game play continues until a player takes the whole pot. Alternately, since In-Between has the tendency to suck money into the pot at an alarmingly high rate, even more so than Red Dog, play until everyone’s had enough, then equally split the pot.

House rules

One can make the game more interesting by allowing betting on a third card when a pair is dealt. In this case, the win condition is getting a third card of the same rank, which has a 1 in 25 chance of happening for the first player to act, but which can vary dramatically throughout the hand. A winning bet would be paid out at 25 to 1, or the entire pot if the former payout would exceed the size of the pot. Whether the player is compelled to bet in such a situation, or if they can just opt to take the standard two-times-minimum-bet payout, is up to the house.

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Red Dog

Much like Seven Twenty-Seven, Red Dog is a fun game you can put into your dealer’s choice poker nights as a break from actual poker. Red Dog makes a nice respite from the competitive betting found in other games, because all of the betting in Red Dog is done against the pot, not other players.

Object of Red Dog

The object of the game is to win lots of money when your hand is favorable and to not lose lots of money when it isn’t. But then, that’s every poker game…so….

Setup

You need one standard fifty-two card deck of playing cards. If you’re using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you’re awesome and we love you. You also need to determine a minimum bet—if you’re a friendly bunch, it will be equal to whatever your lowest chip value is. Masochistic groups of players can set it higher.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal four cards to all players.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They make a wager of any amount of money, between the minimum bet and the amount in the pot, based on the perceived strength of their hand. Then, a fifth card is dealt face up. If they have a higher card of the same suit as the fifth card, they expose it. The bet wins, and the dealer pays the player an equal amount from the pot. If the player doesn’t, they expose their hand and the dealer adds their bet to the pot. The next player to the left plays in the same manner. Exposed cards remain on the table as each player plays their hand, giving the players later to act more information about the composition of the deck.

After the dealer’s turn of play, any money left in the pot remains, the cards are collected and shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. Game play continues until someone takes the entire pot by making a bet equal to the whole pot (colloquially potting it) and winning. Occasionally, the size of the pot will climb to ridiculous proportions due to several attempts to take the pot failing catastrophically. If, out of fear or boredom, all players agree to end the game early, the pot is simply split as evenly as possible between all players, with whatever remainder exists staying in the pot as a splash-pot bet for the next game.

House rules

If you want to allow players to have some more information, and thus allow them to make more informed judgments about their hands, deal the hands face up—this also makes the order of play slightly less important, and adds a more lively atmosphere as people suddenly begin to have strong opinions about each others’ play (“C’mon, Bill, pot it! You can’t lose! Well, you probably won’t, anyw—ouch, bad luck, man…”). If you want to give them even more information, deal the whole deck out, rather than shuffling between hands. This allows players to take advantage of knowledge they remember from prior hands.

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Seven Twenty-Seven strategy

On Wednesday, we posted the rules of Seven Twenty-Seven. Today, we’re going to take a deeper look into the game and share some Seven Twenty-Seven strategy tips that will hopefully improve your skill at the game.

Probability

Seven Twenty-Seven is a game where it’s important to keep track of the probability of particular favorable or unfavorable outcomes. For example, you know that twelve of the fifty-two cards in the deck—about 23%—are face cards, and thus worth half a point. This can come in handy to keep in mind when attempting to determine what other players have, and whether drawing is or isn’t a good idea. For example, if a player is showing a 6 and is acting as though they are going low, it is far more likely that their count is actually 6½ rather than 7.

However, each draw is not an independent event; the probabilities change as the hand progresses. Keep an eye on other players’ hands—if you see lots of 10s and 9s already out, you’re less likely to bust. Likewise, watch out if a good chunk of the face cards have already come out! It means that the deck is composed of a greater percentage of higher cards.

The importance of being low

The winner of the low half of the pot is known fairly early on in most cases. Some players will be dealt hands with a count higher than 7 to begin with, and still others will find themselves overshooting 7 in an attempt to get closer to it. Usually, after one or two drawing rounds, there is only one player left standing under 7. This player knows they can’t lose, so they will be the one driving the betting by raising to the limit at every opportunity, and those going for high will have no choice but to call if they want the other half of the pot.

Therefore, you want to be that low player as often as possible. Obviously, if you are dealt a hand lower than seven, go for low. Even if you have a count of 8 or 9 (or 10½!), you may still be able to bluff low if the card that is showing is lower than 7. Wait a round or two before taking any cards, since standing, followed by betting, will be interpreted by your opponents as consistent with with going for low, and you should see some of your opponents fold naturally as they try to get nearer to 7 and overshooting or find that they have mid-range totals that aren’t good for either half of the pot. With aggressive betting, you may even be able to force any competitors for low, with low totals like one or two, to believe you have 7 or 6½, which will cause them to hit to get closer to 7 or simply fold. (This can be painful when they do end up with a total of 7.)

The most problematic thing that occurs when going low is when someone else is doing the same thing. Here, you will have to take into account their play history and probability to deduce what their count is. Obviously, if you are bluffing low, you should consider getting out of there, since attempting to force them out with aggressive betting can be expensive if it’s not successful. If you have a count less than 5 or so, consider taking a card to try to get closer to 7. If you overshoot, fold immediately—going for high with a starting total of 7½ puts you considerably behind the other players, and you will be milked for chips by your former low competitor the whole time.

If you find yourself as the only low player, take care in betting. Betting too high too early does nothing but scare players with marginal hands away. Keep the betting sane at first. Don’t break out the maximum bets until everyone is likely over 20 or so—at this point, players become attached to their hands since they are potentially one card away from 27.

Remember, the game ends when everyone declines to take a card. Also, you don’t have to have a count below 7 if you’re the only one going low. Therefore, if you’re the only low player, and the game shows signs of winding up, you can extend it a little, and get more chips in the pot, by taking a card. Players will virtually never fold at this point, because they are happy with their hands, so it’s essentially free money toward your half of the pot.

Folding vs. going high

If you’re showing a 7 through 10, you have no choice but to go high. But just because you have a count greater than 7 doesn’t mean you should go high. Folding early is an attractive option with a count of 8 through 14 or so. With counts this low, you will have to take several cards to get near 27 (think of all the face cards you might draw), and the low player will be betting the entire time, as well as any other players who get close to 27 before you.

15 through 17 is an excellent count for high, since a single 10 could put you at 27. Above 17 should obviously go for high, although the risk of busting is now present.

How close is close enough?

Unlike in Blackjack, where getting 17 (four away from 21) is considered good, you have to get considerably closer to 27 to win. Counts below 25 will seldom win without all other players busting. 25 is about the minimum you should stand on. If the hand is competitive, you may want to try to draw to 26 or greater. 26½ will rarely lose the hand.

Likewise, for low, if you have another player going low in the same hand, a count below about 5 or so may need to be hit. 6, 6½, and 7 are all very good totals to end on.

When you reach a total that is worth standing on, you should probably follow the low player’s lead and start trying to milk the players going for high that have not yet reached a total they’re satisfied with. They may fold, or even better, bust, and then you and the low player can split the proceeds.

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Seven Twenty-Seven

Seven Twenty-Seven is an exciting card game, similar to Blackjack, for four to ten players. It’s a great addition to dealer’s choice poker nights, despite not being a poker game, because its two-winner outcome and suspenseful game play ensures high-stakes, high-tension betting.

Object of Seven Twenty-Seven

The object of the game is to, through selectively drawing more cards, obtain the score closest to either seven or twenty-seven.

Setup

You will need a typical deck of 52 playing cards, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Prior to beginning play, all players should agree on betting limits—no-limit Seven Twenty-Seven would be an unmitigated disaster.We like to use a three-raise maximum, with the max bet set at 25¢.

Shuffle, and deal one card face down to each player, then deal one card face up to each player.

Game play

Each player looks at their face-down card to determine their score. Much like Blackjack, the hand’s score is obtained by adding the values of each individual card together. Aces are valued as 1 and/or 11, at the player’s discretion, and number cards are worth their face value. Critically, however, face cards are worth only half a point.

The game begins with a betting round, where players can check, raise, call, or fold, as in poker. After the betting round, the player to the dealer’s left is given the option to hit (take one card) or stand. Opting to stand does not preclude the player from hitting on future rounds. If the player exceeds a count of 27 at any point, they must reveal their face down card and are out of the hand immediately. Otherwise, the option to hit or stand passes to the next player to the left, and so on until it reaches the dealer. Then, another round of betting ensues.

The game continues in this fashion, alternating betting rounds and hit-or-stand rounds, until all players stand. Then, all players reveal their face-down card. Whichever player is closest to 27 without going over wins half of the pot. The other half of the pot goes to whoever is closest to 7 without going over. If all players are above 7, whoever has the lowest score wins the low half of the pot.

In the rare event that a player has the hand 5-A-A, they win the entire pot, because the aces can simultaneously represent 1 or 11, giving the hand a score of 5+1+1=7 and 5+11+11=27 at the same time.

See also

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