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Subject: For Sale strategy article rss

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Martin Villemaire
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Played well over 50 games of this little gem. If you think that there isn't much to this game -- read on

I have noticed that several players - even some experienced ones - don't realize that this game is firstly about relative value. What does this mean? Well, if cards that are displayed have a very close value, be prepared to pay more in phase 1 and less less in phase 2. More on this later.

Phase 1

The strategy to use will differ slightly with the number of players in the game. The hardest game to play well is with 6 players, as there are only 5 turns to grab the cards you need.

You'll probably want 1-2 low cards, where you fold early and spend 0$ or 1$. Fold on the hands where you think the bidding will go high -- these include the first 3-4 hands and hands with two high cards in it (ex: 2 - 8 - 20 - 25). However , be careful - you don't want the high cards to go for too little. Only fold early if there is at least another low-ish card in the mix. Otherwise (ex: 2-15-20-24) you risk giving away good cards for too little -- for this example, I would bid 1 $to stay in the game.
The number of low cards (I consider a low card a card numbered 1-8) you'll want depend on the number of players:
3 players: 2-3 low card
4 players: 1-2 low card
5 players: 1 low card
6 players: 0-1 low card

Getting a 0 cheque in phase 2 can be a real killer - and having too many low cards can be a disaster in that regard. In fact having even one low card in a 6 player game is quite a risk -- if no even hands show up (and there are only 5 hands to go around with 6 players), you'll be getting a very bad card in exchange. Obviously no low cards at all is ideal with any number of players, but unless the bidding is way out of wack, you only have limited money to go around and you'll have to pick your battles. Usually cards go for more in the early rounds than they do in the later ones; these are the rounds where you want to pick the low cards, and then hopefully pick the better cards later for cheaper.

High cards
You'll want as much high cards as possible without overpaying for them. I would consider a high card anything above 20. The best way to get a high card is to win a hand -- on your next turn, pony up 1$ or 2$. Odds are good that at least some players will fold before the hand gets back to you. This will either give you a medium card for a low cost, or the opportunity to stay in for the higher ones. However be careful about overpaying -- if you spent more than half your money in the first two hands, you probably spent too much.

Winning the 29 and 30
Contrary to popular beleif, the 29 and 30 cards are not necessary to win the game - in fact if you pay too much for these cards, you're pretty much guaranteeing a loss. I've won numerous games with a high card of 26 or 27. When bidding, keep in mind that it's better to have several medium-high/high cards than just one really high card (29,30) and a bunch of low ones.

"Even" hands

I would call a hand "even" if most of the house cards on display have very similar values. When those hands show up, be willing to spend a little more (1-2$) than normal to get the highest cards on display. This may sound a little counterintuitive, but will give you a big advantage in Phase 2. Consider the lowest possible hand (1-2-3-4-5-6). If you spend 1$ or 2$ to get the 6 card (no other player would pay more for a 6), you can pretty much guarantee a cheque 2-4 points higher than the cheque house #1 would get. The other advantage from winning an "even" hand is that you get to be the first bidder for the next hand. This is a huge advantage, unless you have 0$ left. In fact, having 0$ left in your hand is a real killer -- always try to have money available all the way through the last bidding round.

Betting first

When betting first in a hand, it's almost always best to open with a 1$ or 2$ bid. This will most probably prune other players from the bidding, giving you a higher card for a good price. And if nobody drops from the bidding, this will give you a good idea of where the bidding will go and give you a good idea of whether you should drop out or not. Sure, that option cost you 1$ if you do drop out, but then everybody else will end up paying more than you anyway.

Betting last

Well, you're definitely getting the short end of the stick. You're basically faced with two options -- pay a lot of money and hope to get the highest card possible, or fold (for free) and get the lowest one available. Neither options are usually very appealing. A good rule of thumb is to fold in the first 2 rounds when bidding last -- auctions tend to run higher in those rounds as players feel flush with cash. This is especially true when there are beginners, but tends to happen even when playing with experienced players. In other rounds, the situation will depend on how much money you have left and the exact cards on display, but you are usually better off by spending your money and trying to regain control -- try to become the first player to bid and stick the player to your right with the problem of being last.

Phase 2

What is most important in phase 2 is the relative value of the cheque cards on display. I have seen players play very high cards for a 10-11-11-12-14 display. However the player who wins the highest card for this display only gets a 2-point advantage on the player who played the 2-nd highest card and a 4-point advantage on the player who played the lowest card. Compare this to the point advantage you would get if you played a strong house card on a hand of 0-2-8-10-14.

By the way I have never seen a player who 'won' a 0 cheque win a game. Whenever a '0' hand shows up, play a stronger than you normally would considering the worth of the other cheque cards.

Playing the 30

Deciding when to play your 30 card is a very difficult decision. It can guarantee a 15 cheque, but to use it to its maximum you want to foil the hand of however is playing the 29 card. To do this, you have to guess when the 29 card will get played and play your 30 at the same time. I find that with experienced players, it is best to randomly decide whether to play it when the first 15 cheque comes out or when the second one comes out. With inexperienced players, it is probably better to wait for the 2nd 15 cheque to come out. You can inflict a lot of anguisgh to the 29 player when you hold the 30 card -- you're in control. I love having the 30 card in my hand.

Playing the 29

Well, playing the 29 is the opposite of playing the 30 - you want to play it when you think the 30 will not get played. With experienced players, you are almost better off either waiting for the 2nd 15 cheque (and hope that the 30 gets played on the first 15 cheque), or playing it on the 2nd 14 cheque. Of course, your strategy will depend on what order the cheques come out in. Another good strategy with the 29 is to forget about getting a 15 and try to disrupt #28's plans with getting a 14. This is a good strategy if you have another strong house card (25-27), because you can then use that other card to bid on the 15 when it comes (assuming you defeat the 28 as planned). There is a lot of second-guessing involved when you hold the 29. I hate having it.

Playing the 28

With experienced players, it can be very difficult to play the 28 successfully. I would consider a cheque of 14 a success and a cheque of 15 an insane achievement for the 28 card. Always keep track of the 29 and 30 cards. Playing on the first 14 cheque, especially if the 29 and 30 haven't come out yet, is usually a good bet. However will good players, they will be aware of this and may try to foil your plans - especially if there is a big drop-off in point value after the 14 cheque (ex: a hand of 7-8-9-10-14). However if you wait too long to play the 28, you may only be able to grab a 13 -- not good. There is a lot of strategy in holding the 28 and I find this card a lot more interesting than the 29.

Playing the 2

Playing the 2 is a lot like playing the 30 -- you want to screw whoever is holding the 1. However it is a lot harder to play than the 30 -- it's a lot less obvious which hand the '1' player will feel is weak enough to warrant getting rid of his 1. Usually the 1 will come out when there are 2-3 medium cheques (6-10 value) and high cards fill out the rest of the hand. Even if it doesn't come out then, that is a good time to play a low card.
Of course, such hands will not show very often (especially with 6 players, when there are only 5 hands total). In that case playing the 2 is very difficult and I hate having it in my hand. With 3-4 players, it's much more valuable than first appears.

Why do I want low cards in my hand?
(Refer back to my phase 1 tips)

In almost every game there will be at least one hand where most of the cheques on display will have a very similar value. This is when playing a small card is optimal -- even is everyone else plays a stronger card than you, you will only loose a few points relative to them. Sometimes a good strategy is to play a low-medium card (10-14) for even hands, just to try and get the highest card on display and get a slight point edge against your opponents. However this is a risky strategy -- if someone else gets the same idea as you, you may end up wasting a decent card for a cheque that will only give you an incremental victory point edge.

Playing other low cards

If you have more than one low card in your hand, try to get rid of one of them as soon as possible on a hand without the blank cheque in it. It may not appear like much, but getting even the '2' cheque and then sticking another player with the blank cheque (on another turn) can be both very satisfying and affect your victory point total very positively. Having more than one low house card in a 6-player game pretty much guarantees a low victory point total -- you only have 5 cheque hands to go around.

For all other phase 2 cards, there is a lot of second-guessing going around. Knowing the players against which you are playing helps; it also helps when there are less players as you have a couple more hands to develop a good "feel" for their playstyles. Basically if you think that several players will play high on a given hand, try to play medium-low. The opposite is also true.
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Stephen Waits
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Thanks Martin - this is great!

--Steve
 
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Manchuwok
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mnv_iii wrote:
By the way I have never seen a player who 'won' a 0 cheque win a game. Whenever a '0' hand shows up, play a stronger than you normally would considering the worth of the other cheque cards.


Great article. Although I have certainly seen games won by a player who ended up with the 0 cheque.
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G W M
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Thanks Martin - this is an excellent strategy summary for the game, and gives you all you need to be relatively successful without being too mathematical or complicated, for this you have my thanks! GM
 
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Pas L
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Great article.

However once you have some of these basics down you need to remember the golden rule to win:

Play the other players.

There is so much bluffing in this game, and so much depends on what other players hold, that you can't really quite a guide with very hard and fast rules. And that's just the second part of the game.

Bidding in the first is also very deep, and gauging just how high a player will go with their bid can be the difference between winning and losing. If you're trying to get better one area you can focus on is when there is a high-low split on the table. Playing those properly depends on the number of players, their money in hand, the bid order, and a number of other factors, and can lose you the game when yo do it wrong.

Say you have 7,000 in a 5 player game. You're bidding first. There's a 2, 7, 13, 29 and 30 on the table. The next players have 5, 5, 7, and 9 thousand each. You have 7000.

Playing such a hand is impossible to judge without knowing what cards people have already taken, and how they are likely to bid. But it can also be the difference in winning or losing.

Often when playing I can safely predict who the winner will come from out of only a couple of players after the first round. But it is rare that you can pick the winner for sure.

Because while you can lose the game in bidding, you only win by out selling.
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