|You're pone at 117-118*. You tossed 6-6
from A-4-6-6-10-J and cut a 7.
You led your 4, and dealer plays a J.
Do you take the 15-2 or the pair?
I'll go with the 15-2. Play the J, and you can lose
immediately if dealer has a 2 and a 3.
You're also on thin ice if he has a 7. Playing the A,
you are mainly concerned that dealer has an A. But even if
he does have an A, playing the J wouldn't
necessarily have been better — it could go:
4 J J (24-2) 5 A A (31-4)
and you lose anyway.
Hey, this is an easy one. First off, I would lead the A.
For years I led the 4 to force the A,
2, 3, 5 and 6 off the
play and collect my 15-2. But recently I have experimented by leading the
A and, voila, I find that players make an extra
effort to play to 11, and I collect even more 15-2s!
But back to the quiz: I always take the 15-2 with the A,
as I do not want to get trapped with a lonesome A
with the count above 21. In this case, you may get your 10-J
trapped later, but getting trapped with the A is a greater
In this case, with dealer only three points from a win, dump the
A for 15-2. Dealer may have some small cards (A-2,
A-3, etc.) and could not play on your 4
lead. There is greater danger in holding the A to the end
of play than dumping it now to score fifteen. If dealer has an A,
you'll likely give up the three points your opponent needs anyway, whereas
if dealer has other small cards you avoid the possibility of a
three-card run at the end of play by dropping your A. The
count is low enough at 15 that dealer may have to play all cards for a go
only. If dealer plays a 7 or bigger on your score of 15,
you must say go. Your two ten-point cards are not likely to harm
you in any way here and will give you the pegging advantage if it was
necessary for dealer to hold a group of ten-pointers. Even so, holding
ten-point cards is very unlikely with dealer being three points out.
So play it as safe as possible, since you count first and have enough
points to win.
Either play has three immediate losers. Playing low with the A
carries no particular risk aside from dealer pairing my A
(she'll win either way with two cards totaling six). Playing high violates
the general defensive principle of keeping the count in the 15-20 range,
and it loses to 2-3 (in addition to a 7).
But it protects you if dealer has 5-6-x remaining, or
2-2 with a 6, 8, 9
or x, and it wins immediately if you manage to trap an
A or 6 (though there are only two of the
latter available). Ordinarily I'd drop the A on general
principle, and objectively this is probably the best play. But if my
opponent is a strong tournament player, I'd have to wonder why — holding a
7 with another 7 showing as starter — she
played a J on my 4 lead if she didn't
also have an A. Also, the A is slightly more
likely to have been kept by dealer than the 7 in this
position, other things being equal. These factors, coupled with the
particular tactical situation that somewhat mitigates the risk of playing
high, might lead me to pair the J.
I'd play the A for 15, hoping the next card my opponent
plays would be high enough so that I couldn't play. I would then get to
play my 10-J in sequence and might possibly get a run out
of his one card. Meanwhile I get rid of my A early so as
not to get trapped.
I would definitely take the 15-2. If the dealer has an A,
he or she will eventually pair you and win anyways...unless the dealer has
something like 6-6-A left and would reluctantly have to
make the count 30 over 24 — but that's pretty specific. Making the count
15 is less likely to give pegging trouble (especially against 2-3).
This way you also allow the dealer to safely make the count 31 on
their own into the "dead" hole because he or she would likely have to use
two cards, which negates the go on the end.
In Fourth Street pegging situations I calculate my overall losing
chances (Lose %) and my chances of winning specifically by
pegging out (Win %). If I expect the current deal will be the
game's last, I'll always make the play with the lowest Lose %
value. In this case it's the A:
| Lose %
|| Win %
Dealer's play of the J may suggest she has an A,
but I won't be bluffed since if she does have an A, I'll
probably lose no matter what I do. If she pairs my A, I
would then dump the J and play her for a pair of 10s,
giving me a slight chance of winning, one that isn't going to be available
if I pair her J and subsequently get my A
trapped high. Thus I'll take the 15-2 and hope she has no A.
This keeps me from losing to a 2-3 combo or to a 7,
and it leaves me with one or two relatively safe ten-cards for the second
Incidentally, at the start of the play I'm a three-to-one underdog in
this position! I have no covered lead, and dealer needs just three pegs to
win. I agree with leading the 4 in that it adds some
pegging-out chances, though there's not much difference between the
| Lose %
|| Win %
Dan Barlow won the 1980 National Open Cribbage
Tournament, and made the 1985 All American Cribbage Team. His cribbage
strategy articles appeared in Cribbage World for many years, and can
be seen on the ACC Web site. He
also provides strategy tips at
MSN Gaming Zone. He has written seven books on cribbage, two of which have been glowingly reviewed in Games Magazine. All, including his latest book Winning Cribbage Tips, are available at
DeLynn Colvert is the world's highest rated tournament player. He
is a four-time National Champion, author of
Play Winning Cribbage,
editor of the monthly magazine Cribbage World, and the ACC's only
Life Master - Six Stars. He also directs two annual tournaments in
Missoula, MT, and serves as the ACC's President.
George "Ras" Rasmussen is a Life Master - Two Stars, a four-time All-American, the national Grass Roots Division 1 champion in 2009, a former state champion in Virginia, Montana and Washington, and holds a Gold Award and a President's Award. He also directs the Washington State Championship, held
each year in Centralia, WA. His articles on cribbage are available on the
ACC Web site.
Michael Schell is a pioneer of modern cribbage theory, which synthesizes traditional concepts of expert play with new computer-informed insights and analysis. He has published Cribbage Forum since 2000. Schell holds a Bronze Award, is a Washington State Champion (2001), and was one of the principal architects of ACC Internet Cribbage.
Phyllis Schmidt is a charter member of the ACC, and has been
playing cribbage for about 40 years. She is a Life Master - One Star, a
Senior Judge, a National Champion (1992) and winner of the ACC Tournament of Champions (2005). She attends about 30
tournaments a year.
Peter Setian has played cribbage for about 22 years, and has been
a member of the ACC for about 14 years. During that time, he has won seven major tournaments and earned his Life Master rating. He plays in about
12-16 tournaments per year, including the ACC Tournament of Champions and
the annual Grand National.
HALSCRIB is widely regarded as the world's strongest computer
cribbage player. Its opinion was solicited using a special analysis version
of the program. Since HALSCRIB only speaks binary, its thoughts have been
translated into English by Michael Schell and its creator, Hal Mueller, a retired mathematics professor and eight-time ACC tournament winner.
For more information, see the
HALSCRIB home page.