Do you play to challenge yourself or Play to Win?

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I just got off of the NMJL on line site playing quick games for an hour or so.  I enjoy playing on line while sitting with my husband as he watches football.  We’re together, but both enjoying our respective games!

As I continued to play, I started to think about some of the hands I was playing.  Often while playing in our weekly MJ club, I win a few games and then start playing harder hands to challenge myself.  So instead of just playing what I’ve been “dealt”, I start directing my hand.  But tonight while playing online,  I won with 11335557779999  and then with 22244466668888 back to back.

It got me thinking… almost embarrassed to win on those hands.  I even call the consecutive hand and odd hand above my “blond hands”.  No offense, fellow blondes, but I prefer a “blond moment” over a “senior moment”.  Anyway, I digress.  My point is, that I started to realize that I tend to move my hands toward harder hands immediately now that the card is second nature.  Does anyone else do that?  I realize that because of that, I am winning less.  And that got me to thinking: do I play to win?  Or do I play for the challenge?

Of course the answer is both for me, sometimes one more than the other.  But habitually, I realize, that the challenge has become more important than the win for me.  And that has become more so, toward the end of the “card year”.  And I spot that in some of our regular players too.  Barb, for example is often shooting toward the singles and pairs.  Deb keeps trying new hands she never tried before.  And on the other side of the spectrum is Brenda, who wins very often on very easy hands with lots of jokers!  (Can’t decide if it’s all the jokers or the easy hands, or admittedly she’s just a good player! – hmmm, will have to check that out more).  Ah, but another revelation is that, because I am doing that more regularly, I think it hurts my tournament play.

I just finished reading Karen Gooen’s wonderful book:  Searching for Bubbe Fischer, and I remember her saying that when she started tournament play, she began by thinking that she should go for the hard hands because they were worth more points.  But that strategy failed her miserably.  I saw myself in that philosophy.  In our weekly games, that’s ok, but then, does that set you up for bad habits when you go to the tournaments?

Anyway, I thought I would post this hand and get your feedback:  what would you play?  Would you go for the challenge or the win?  And which is which for you?  How would you play this hand?

What hand would you choose to play?

What hand would you choose to play?


Now What would you do?

Now What would you do?

In going for the win, I went with the dragons.  But I really wanted to go for the 77788999DDDDDD closed hand.  I would love to hear from you about what drives your play?

But to again, quote Karen, aka Bubbe, you need to go with the tiles… don’t force the hand.  The tiles will speak to you if you “listen”.  So with that philosophy, it would seem that neither the challenge or the win is the right direction.. The tiles should tell you, therefore, may the Jokers be with you!


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  1. Faye  January 1, 2015

    I can relate to your conflict. I think sometimes I do play for the more challenging hands and miss a win because I opted not to take the simpler hand. Then I am reminded the key is to win and not to lose! And what about the many people who try to play all the hands on the card! They keep track every year and some even win with all the hands! Kudos to them!

  2. clburstin  January 7, 2015

    My playing strategy depends on how the tiles are coming to me. If I am getting jokers and always seem to pick the tile I need I will try more difficult hands, or hands I have never won. If I am “suffering in silence” as others discard my tiles I will try something new, might as well lose with a challenging hand than a blonde hand. I figure both are good opportunites to get more familiar with the card. If the tiles are somewhere in the middle I play to “win”. However, everytime I play I make myself try one new hand.

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