Mille is not your typical rummy game. It’s more akin to a 2-player version of Canasta. And like Canasta, it’s often played for stakes. So if you’re going to play, it’s a good idea to know what you’re doing, and employ a solid strategy to increase your odds of winning.
Before we continue, unless you’re entirely familiar with the rules and variations, and the payout schedule for cash games, I recommend taking a look at someof our previous Mille card game pages.
How to Play Canadian Mille (Standard Rules)
How to Play Mille for Money (Payout Schedule)
Rule Variations for Mille (Optional Rules & Payouts)
Advice and Tips for Winning Mille
A good Mille strategy relies first and foremost on a player’s experience with the game. Unless you’re playing against someone else who is entirely new to Mille, I would never recommend reading over the rules, then immediately staking money on your first game.
Due to the potentially expensive nature of playing for money, even with the lowest $1-$3 stakes, I would also suggest playing for something less valuable early on. Dig into a change jar, or buy a bag of skittles and use those delicious candies for staking. So long as there’s something desirable to be won, it can help improve your focus on winning.
Aside from gaining experience, here are some other useful Mille strategies you should employ.
Don’t Show All your Cards at Once
Unless you can go out, of course… don’t play all of the cards for a meld at once. If you have 5 or more of a set, it’s usually best to hold onto two of them. For example, if you have 8-8-8-8-8, playing the first three (8-8-8), and holding the last two is the better option.
When the discard pile grows to a valuable size, and your opponent is looking for a safe discard, he will observe all of your melds. If you already have 8-8-8 on the table, probabilities tell him that you won’t have two more in your hand. Oh, but if you do..! That big beautiful stack can be all yours.
Do your absolute best to meld at least one Natural (complete set of eight, no wilds). These are worth lots of points, and extra cash if you play by variant, progressive point rules. Using the tactic described above is often the best way to siphon the cards you need from your opponent’s hand to form a Natural.
If your opponent is well on their way to a Natural, and you have any of the cards they need in your hand, do not discard them unless it’s the only safe option. Instead, meld them yourself, with wilds if necessary, to guarantee they won’t get the Natural.
As the game progresses, if you’re not sure what’s worth melding, and what’s not, look at it this way. You need more points on the table than you have in your hand to avoid the Chapeau. Get enough points down that your melds exceed your hand.
When you take a big discard pile, don’t hold all those cards—get them on the table. If your opponent goes out, you’ll be stuck with a massive penalty.
Bigger Hands are Better
Having only one or two cards left in your hand gives away too much information. For one, it makes it very easy for your opponent to discard without risk of you grabbing the pile. And for two, it shows them that you are very close to running out of cards. This gives them an opportunity to meld out as many cards as they can, avoiding the dreaded Chapeau.
You’re better off holding onto a meld or two. When you’re ready to go out, play them all at once. You’ll be more likely to catch your opponent off guard this way. The only exception to this rule is when your opponent is low on cards, but so long as you’re not in a position to Chapeau, it’s okay to keep a few back for the surprise win. If your opponent has just one card, meld everything you can.
Pay Attention to the Discard Pile
There’s a lot of information to be had just by watching this pile closely. First, it tells you what you’re opponent is not saving for. Second, it tells you what cards they might toss again, so you can save them. And third, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting if and when you claim that pile. There’s no better feeling than snagging a big stack, then playing out every single card to go out.
This is a nasty little trick that really tends to piss people off, but it sure can be effective! The ‘Follow Me’ technique is utilized by discarding a card that you have at least 2 more of. The idea is to trick your opponent into thinking you don’t have any more of this card, so hopefully they will follow your lead and play the same card. Then, bam! You take the pile. Just be careful you don’t fall for it yourself…
Single Card Can’t Take the Pile
This should go without saying, but… If you’re opponent has only one card left, feel free to discard anything you like. They can’t pick it up anyway.
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