There are two basic ways to play the game of 200. You can play for fun, or you can play to win. Using the right tactics will definitely elevate your chance of winning.
This article assumes you already have common knowledge of the games rules. If not, be sure to give these pages a read first:
Rules of Two Hundred Card Games
More Ways to Play Canadian 200 Part 1 (Common Rule Variations)
More Ways to Play Canadian 200 Part 2 (Cutthroat and 2, 5, 6 Player Rules)
Strategies for Two Hundred
Being an experienced player will help you to develop a natural ability for the game. But until then, here is a list of Two Hundred tips for bidding, playing, and making the most of the kitty (if applicable).
200 Bidding Strategies
First and foremost, you need to be able to read a good hand. One worth bidding on should contain Aces and other high cards, such as face cards. Sequential high cards is better (i.e. A-K-Q).
The distribution of cards is best when unbalanced. If a 9 card hand has three of one suit, and two of every other, it’s balanced. It’s better to have one or two long suits (4+), and at least one hole (none of 1 suit). Any 5s or 10s (point cards) that you don’t have higher cards of are a liability.
When your team is within the 100-point-to-win threshold, it’s required to place a bid in order to score, even if the other team wins the bid. For this reason, as opening bidder, it’s important to bid, with or without a strong hand. If your hand is weak, bid 50. If it’s strong, bid 55 or more. This lets your partner know whether your hand is strong, or your just bidding to be eligible for score.
Conversely, if the dealer’s team is within the point threshold, it’s important for the non-dealing team to open with a high bid. This way, the opponent cannot take make a small bid just to score points. If they want to score, they’ll have to work for it.
Not All Kitties are Nice
Be careful not to put too much stock in the kitty. If it contains Aces, high cards and/or suits to match your long suit, great. But they can also ruin a hand, especially if they contain non-Ace points, or fill your hole(s).
When discarding to the kitty, make sure to create holes where possible. A hand with only two suits eliminates the otherwise powerful Aces of your opponents, and can help catch a lot of points.
Game Play Strategies
Pay very close attention to important cards that are played. Keep up with trumps, high cards, and especially point cards. Knowing what’s out, and what’s not, is a supreme advantage. Also pay close attention to holes in your opponents’ and partner’s hand. If you have a stray club to get rid of, and your partner has no clubs, you can slip it by if your partner still has trump. If you know two players have no trumps left, you can figure out exactly how many trumps the third player has, and of what value. Suffice to say, a good memory is crucial to a good 200 strategy!
If the contractor has the only trumps left, it’s not always a good idea to keep leading them. Play other Aces and high leads to gather information, such as your partner’s strong suit. Letting him win the lead can help capture more tricks, and you’ll still have trumps left to reclaim the lead when needed.
When your partner is clearly winning a trick, throw him points. If your partner is the contractor and has a hole, lead he high card of that suit so he can get rid of his points and junk cards.
As the defending team, take the first opportunity to lead Aces. Saving Aces to catch points can be risky. Wait too long, and your opponents will be more likely to have holes, allowing them to cut (trump) the trick. Or, if your partner is the contractor, he may no longer have that suit, therefore cannot lead it, resulting in a wasted Ace.
The defending team should also focus on leading suits that haven’t been played yet. These are the most likely to be spread out. If no one else has led the suit, and your partner hasn’t led any tricks, there’s a good chance your partner has the Ace. This is a good time to lead a point card of that suit.
The reverse is true for the bidding team. Try to avoid leading suits that haven’t been played yet, unless you have the Ace. Chances are, your opponents have it. If forced to lead such a suit, try to play one that you have the 10 of, but do not lead the 10. This is to protect the points for a later trick your team can catch.
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