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Dan Barlow - Tip #4

Reading your opponent's cards

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Watching your opponent's cards during the play is a good strategy. Often you can base a key decision on an educated guess about his/her holding. For instance, opponent plays two Ks and a 4, and you must lead either a 7 or an an A. You obviously choose the 7. Opponent is more likely to be holding an A than a 7 or 8. Don't get carried away with this strategy. Your decision is seldom so clear cut. In fact, in most cases, when trying to determine your opponent's remaining card or cards, there will be several strong possibilities and even more not-so-strong possibilities. If opponent has shown up with a 5, 6 and 7, his/her fourth card could easily be any card in the deck, with the exception of an A.

In short, figuring out what your opponent has is strictly guesswork. But there is a closely related strategy that involves very little guesswork: figuring out what your opponent doesn't have. Say you hold 5-9-10-J. You lead the 10 and your opponent plays a 7. You should now play your 9, making the count 26. Why? Because if your opponent had the 5 needed for 31, he/she presumably would have used it earlier to score a 15-2.

Here's another example. Holding a 3-8-10-10, you lead the 8. Your opponent plays a K; you play a 10 for 28; and he/she plays a 2 for 30 and a go. You note that opponent has played a K and a 2. It looks like he/she might have a 3 to go along with those two cards, so you start to lead your 10. But wait. If opponent had a 3, surely he/she would have played it back when the count was 28. So the 3 is your safest lead.

Whenever your opponent fails to peg, make a mental note of the card he/she obviously does not have and use this info to your advantage.

- Text copyright © 2002 by Dan Barlow. All rights reserved.

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