My idea for this post is to just give some quick tips that will be helpful for various games. I’m writing these assuming you’ve played the game in question, so if you haven’t they probably won’t make much sense, but then again a lot of games are similar, so they might be useful after all. These are meant more for beginning or average players, so if you’re really good at a given game these tips probably won’t be all that helpful.
- Keep track of how many 10s have been played so you can figure out the best strategy for getting Big Cassino. Keeping track of the Aces and Little Cassino is helpful too.
- Don’t be greedy. If you can take a point card, just take it. For example, if there is an Ace and Four on the board and you have a Two, a Five, and a Seven don’t use the Two to build Seven; just take the Ace and Four with the Five. The odds that the one card you’re not taking will make a difference in winning Cards doesn’t make up for the odds of losing your build.
- On the flip side, sometimes you have to build in order to have a chance at keeping a point card. Think about when it’s a good time to take a risk and when it isn’t (based on the score primarily).
- Try to maintain “sweep defense”. Don’t leave the board with only one card (or two cards that can be taken together) unless you have to.
Pinochle (3 player)
- Count the trump. That’s by far the most important thing you can do.
- If you have 3 “holes” in your hand (i.e. you need one card to make a meld) your odds of hitting one in the cat are 50/50. Pretend you’ve got one of them (the lowest scoring one) and bid accordingly. Even if you don’t hit one you can get lucky and still make a hand.
- Count the trump!!!
- If you’re the declarer your usual goal is to establish a side suit, so play it every chance you get. Never play trump unless you can take them all and still maintain control.
- If you’re playing against the declarer your goal is to rid him of trumps. Once you find his void suit play it every chance you get. Sometimes playing trumps themselves works too.
- Playing a Queen (especially of trump) into the declarer is always a good move. He’ll either have to burn an Ace or give up a King or Ten.
- Avoid throwing any “power cards” into the opponent’s crib, like a 5, 6, 9, or especially 7 or 8. 6 through 9 are bad because they can make 15 and a run at the same time, thus opening up the possibility of some really big hands.
- Watch during the play that you don’t set your opponent up for a big score. Never put an 8 on 15 for example (making 23) because your opponent can match it for 4 points (31 and a pair). Same with putting a 4 on a 7, and many others.
- When you have to break up a good hand try to keep any runs. They usually have the possibility of becoming big hands.
- If the game is hopeless change your goal to not getting skunked!
- Try to always be thinking at least one shot ahead. The key to being a great pool player isn’t the ability to make tough shots; it’s the ability to consistently set up easy ones.
- When you’re practicing make efficient use of your time. No one wants to do drills, but there are techniques you can use that make practice much more productive while still being fun. (I’ll detail them in a later post)
- Make sure your stick has a good tip and is always chalked.
- Don’t worry about fancy shots like jumping, massés, combos, bank shots, etc., too much. Worry about the basic shots and cue ball positioning and the fancy stuff can come later.
- The key to backgammon is balance: you always need to balance risk/reward, offense/defense, passive/aggressive, and the position of the pieces themselves.
- A strong home board is always a good, extremely helpful thing and something you should always strive for. The 5 point is especially important and getting it is one of the biggest goals in the early game.
- Beginners usually just try to play safe and stack everything together, but to be a good player you have to take some risks in order to improve your position. The key is knowing how much risk to take and when.
- Knowing who is ahead in the race affects the strategy. If you’re playing on a computer the pip count will often be shown for you, take advantage of it.
This was fun, I’ll probably do some more for other games in a later post. Any suggestions for games you’d like to see?