21 - Reading the Cards Example
An important part of play is gathering all the information that's presented to you. Take the layout below- where you're holding at 18. This isn't bad, exactly, but it's not the sort of number you want to bet your life on, and Hoffman's showing cards are low enough that it seems like he could be hiding anything. Before we start slapping down Two-Ups or Shields, how can be sure of our position?
Well, let's take a closer look at Hoffman's hand. He's showing 13, which means that an 8 would get him to 21, 7 or 6 would still be high enough to beat us, and 5 would be a tie (which would save fingers but waste trumps).
Looking over the board, however, we see that all those cards are already in play. Whatever he's got now, it can't beat us.
But could he beat us by drawing from the deck? The unaccounted for cards are 1,4,9,10,and 11. This means there's a good chance he's busted already (The highest possible starting value for Hoffman's hand is 16, which he'll often draw on, and he'll certainly draw on anything lower). Even if he isn't over yet, there's only a 1-in-4 chance of him drawing the card he needs, and even that is only enough to tie you.
So not only do you not need to draw (there's only one card that won't bust you), you can be pretty certain of victory.
Of course, the farther you progress, the more trumps will play a role. For instance, while this is a cinch for you on the lower levels, Hoffman might drygulch you with a Go For 17- a goal he's already attained with that missing 4. The easiest counter to that move would be a Destroy tile, but you could also turn the tables by Returning your 6 (bringing you to 12), then Exchanging your 3 for his 8, bringing you to 17 and him to 12 with no way to catch up to you. Happily, there is no way for an opponent to cancel their own trump card.
Deeper still,and he might have a Go For 24 hidden up his sleeve, or some trump you've never even seen. The board can't tell you everything about the state of play (that's what makes it gambling), but the more you can discover about what your opponent has or needs, the better you can use your own cards to stop him dead.