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Gin-Rummy: Oklahoma strategy guide
Learn how to play Oklahoma Gin better
IntroductionIn our Gin-Rummy Tutorial we have referred mostly to the Standard Gin-Rummy game with the 10-point knock and thus described its strategy and tactics according to the playing for 10 point deadwood.
There is another variation of the Gin-Rummy game called Oklahoma Gin, that is very popular and probably is played even more frequently than a Standard game. Let's check the big Gin-Rummy Tournaments List at Rubl.com - about a half of all tournaments are market 'OKI', that means Oklahoma Gin. The variations in the Oklahoma Gin rules look minor from the Regular Gin: you are regulated to knocking by the value of the upcard. There are other special Oklahoma variation of scoring in some communities, but here in Rubl.com we use only this knocking rule.
So though the game looks similar, it forces to apply more versatile strategies and tactics, because the upcard value dictates to change them from the Standard Gin ones. Probably this variety of tactics in Oklahoma Gin was the main reason of its popularity.
Oklahoma RulesAs it was mentioned, Oklahoma Gin uses the same Gin-Rummy Rules with the only exception - the dealt upcard determines the most points you may knock for. If it is a face card or Ten you may knock to 10 as in the standard game. If upcard is Five you can't knock for more than 5 points, if it is Deuce the deadwood on knocking can be 2 or less (or Gin of course). If upcard is Ace, you must go for Gin, knocking for 1 point is not permitted in this case.
When to use the different tacticsSince there are twenty cards with a value of 10, in 38,5% of dealings Oklahoma Gin accepts exactly the same Regular Gin Strategy. The upcard of Nines, Eights and probably Sevens can also be attributed to this class. So that in a good half of deals, Oklahoma Gin tactic hardly differs from the Regular Gin. As it was already described before, the main general tactics in Standard Gin-Rummy is an early knock. The game plan for 10 points knock in Oklahoma is the same. Have two three-card melds and four small cards or a four- and three-card melds with three low cards.
With Nine or Eight as the upcard, the approach should vary very little. Although it begins to get a little bit more difficult to get three or four small cards to add to under 9 or 8 it is still quite acceptably.
Example: The upcard was D8 and taken by your opponent, who discarded H2. The early discard of such a low card on a 8-knock game can give you a tip, that they are going to try for Gin or have a hand that allows to knock fast with three melds. Meanwhile your hand includes already two Aces and a Four - the good start for the low card's spread. Take up this Deuce, now the four-card deadwood sum is exactly 8 points and it allows you to look for the quick second meld on Nines, with the safe discarding of DK. If no Nines came soon there can be possible run on Clubs with 4,5, or even one extra Ace, that forces us to change a tactics from the "third spread" on low cards to the real three melds.
From the other side, if the upcard was Trey, say D3, the discarded H2 doesn't play the same role as above. It doesn't allow to form even three-low card spread below 3 points and thus you will need to use another tactics in this hand, try for the real three melds: run on big Hearts, set on Nines, run on Clubs 4,5 and maybe set on Aces. For this tactics you will need to draw a closed card and probably discard the King
So we see, that tactics needs changing depending on the upcard value, starting from Sevens it moves more and more to the side of real melds from the "third spread" on low cards. Let's assume the card combinations, that can still be used for the "third spread" in the case of such upcards. If 7 is the upcard, a "third spread" can be A,A,2,3 or A,A,2,2 to knock with only two three-card melds. If 6 is upcard the only combination A,A,2,2 fits the requirements - in general is is a very good chance to go down quickly with such a hand. There is no any 4-card combination of low cards for 5 as the upcard. You have to aim for a 3-low card combination and a four-card meld with a three-card meld. They are A,2,2 or A,A,3 or A,A,2 With 4 as the 4, the only spread that fits is A,A,2 Of course with upcards 7 or 6 there are many 3-low cards combinations to complete hand with three- and four-card melds.
From above we can state the simple and obvious rule - the lower upcard is the more cards you need in melds and thus the more melds you need in general. From the initial tactics of two three-card melds it shifts to four-card meld plus three-card meld, then to two four-card melds and to three melds. With 7 or 6 as the upcard, statistically you will play for three melds slightly less than in about half the time, with 5 and 4 as the upcard it will more than half the time already, including playing for Gin. With 3,2 or Ace as the upcard three melds are almost required. Occasionally you can gin with two runs, but it will be rather an exception from the rules. Ginning also is a natural tactics on the very low upcards, such as 2 or 3, if you build three melds, - statistically more than half the time.
Low cards in Oklahoma GinWith the low upcard both players must accumulate three melds in general, and on most hands it takes some time. So you needn't worry too much about reducing your deadwood points quickly, you can keep potential spreads even on high-value cards. Unfortunately the necessity of three melds limits your safe discard choices. At the same time the safety of low card discarding increased. As you remember, it is not recommended in the Regular Gin to discard low cards, because your opponents can use them as reducers for an early knock. But for Ace, 2 or 3 as the upcard in Oklahoma Gin, the low-card discards gain safety and can be estimated for discarding safety exactly like the high-value symmetric cards (Ace as King, Deuce as Queen etc.) - your opponents mostly play for three melds and do not need to reduce that "third spread" on deadwood cards, because simply do not have it.
Low cards not only are safer discards, but also they leave your high-card combinations intact. Remember, that in Oklahoma Gin points in your hand are not as important as they are in Standard Gin game, especially if the upcard became lower - you have more time to accumulate melds.
Oklahoma Strategy tips
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