|You're pone at 100-91* and get dealt 5-6-8-Q-Q-K.
- What do you toss?
- Suppose you keep
5-6-Q-Q and cut a
10. What do you
- If you lead a
Q and dealer plays a
5 for 15-2, do you pair it?
What do you toss?
Six points is plenty to get me to a winning position, so I toss the
K. Having declared that six points is enough, I don't
need to keep the 6 rather than the 8
simply because the cut might be a 4, improving my
hand. I need to keep the one most likely to help dealer. I would
rather give dealer the 6 than the 8.
If I toss him the 8 I'll cut a 7, and
if I toss him the 6 I'll cut a 9. I'd
rather he had 6-9 than 7-8, so I toss
6-K. My sense is that this is a slightly better
defensive toss than 8-K, and I am in full defensive
Suppose you keep 5-6-Q-Q and cut a
10. What do you lead?
A Q — not in hopes of tripling, but because I want
three different choices for my next play (I am in full defensive
If you lead a Q and dealer plays a
5 for 15-2, do you pair it?
No. (Did I mention that I am in...?)
You are the non-dealer with 21 holes to go. You are already in
position. You don't need the points. The dealer has 30 holes to go.
That's a long three counts. I would discard the 6-K
at this point. In this position I don't like to discard 5s,
7s or 8s. I would lead a Q.
If your opponent does make it 15, I would play off because you are
already in position and don't need to risk that position. If you are
going to lose, let the hands beat you — not bad discarding or poor
Board position dictates defense here. You need 21 in three deals,
so a six hand should cement the win. I would discard the 8-K,
lead the Q, then lay off the 5
response (if any). Lay low on the pegging.
I like this position very much as pone. I'm willing to play a zero
hand in this area of the board. In this case, I would play the
static averages and discard the safest choice to dealer crib. Safest
discard (that with the lowest average) in this hand is 6-K.
I'm very pleased to be able to retain 5-8-Q-Q. Lead a
Q. Since I played maximum defense on discard, I will
also play maximum defense on pegging. I won't pair the 5
if dealer takes 15-2 on my Q lead. I will make the
count 25 with my remaining Q. This keeps me from
getting tripled, and having discarded a 6 makes it
less likely that dealer will score 31-2 on the count of 25.
Dealer is -5, so I'm a clear
favorite to win on the back end if I play defensively and toss
6-K, which averages only 4.1 points in my opponent's
crib. Is it worth giving up 5.9 point instead to toss 6-8 and keep
5-Q-Q-K? I'll get sixteen points on seven different cuts. With
average pegging I'll peg out as dealer next hand, assuming my
opponent hasn't gone out first. Let's say there's a 50% chance of
winning frontwise on a 5 or J cut, and perhaps a 25% chance on a
cut (which gives me a 14 hand). Nothing else gets me close enough to
win on anything but a longshot (like tripling a Q). That adds up to
roughly 8% in added frontwise winning chances making the aggressive
A good rule of thumb when
dealer is close to the Fourth Street positional hole is to assume
that each extra point you give him adds 7% to his frontwise winning
chances. He's five holes back, so the real margin is probably 5-6%
in this case.
5-Q-Q-K has slightly worse distribution than 5-8-Q-Q,
and is thus a little more dangerous in the pegging. Adding that to
the crib differential, I'll guess that the
aggressive play will give up two points more on average than the
defensive play. That comes to 10% or more added to my opponent's frontwise chances, while I'm adding
only 8% to my own. Although the real mathematic relationships here
are considerably more complex than I've allowed, this is
nevertheless a reasonable thought process to go through over the
board in situations like this. It would lead me to keeping the defensive
5-8-Q-Q in this case.
5-6-Q-Q is a reasonable alternative to
5-8-Q-Q, returning ˝ a point more in the hand while giving up only .1 point more in the crib. Getting a
couple extra points here is not a totally frivolous objective. I really want to
go out with my two counts as dealer next hand, and the more I score now, the
more insurance I have against rotten cards later, and the more
leeway I'll have to break up my hand to hold defensive pegging
cards. With 5-6-Q-Q
I would definitely lead a Q.
Give me 5-5-6-Q
instead here, and I would lead a 6
to try to forestall a pegging disaster. In all cases the idea is to
make a reasonably safe lead that leaves me with a variety of
After dealer's 15-2 I would drop the second Q. This keeps me from
getting tripled, and on a go I can safely play the 6. This does get
me killed against 5-6-6-7, but that's less likely
than running into 5-5-x-x or 4-5-6-x.
I would toss the 8-K, I would lead a Q,
and if my opponent 15s it, I would not pair the 5.
Stay away with a ten-card and hope he only gets a go on the
last card played.
Conservatively, I would throw 6-K, keeping the
8 for another "get away" card. If I had
5-6-Q-Q, I would not pair the 5, only because
if the dealer says go at 25, I will limit the dealer to only
two more go pegs — no runs. And the crib should be soft with
6-K-x-x (with no 5s likely).
I predict that I will win with six holes to spare while dealer will
end up at hole 115* on average, including pegging. On this deal my
first priority is to balk dealer in the crib and later in the
pegging. 5-6-Q-Q does slightly better in the pegging,
and the 8-K toss is significantly better than the
potentially dangerous 6-8 toss.
After the 10 cut, on Fourth Street my first
priority is to not lose if dealer has a big hand. Leading a Q
I could actually lose to 5-5-5-x, so I'll lead my
6, which will give up a few more pegs on average, but
fewer big pegs over time.
If the play does start:
Q 5 (15-2)
I would not pair dealer's 5 but would instead make the
percentage play of the Q:
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
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
The Cribbage Bookstore.
John Chambers was one of the original founding
members of the ACC. He is a Grand Master, winner of seven major
tournaments, and author of
Cribbage: A New Concept, He also directs three annual
tournaments: the Ocean State Cribbage Classic, New England Peer
Championship and Charity Cribbage Challenge.
DeLynn Colvert is the world's highest rated tournament player. He is a four-time National Champion, author of
Play Winning Cribbage, and the ACC's only Life Master - Six Stars. He directs the Montana Championship and Montana Open, both held annually in Missoula, and
served for many years as President of the ACC and Editor of the monthly
magazine Cribbage World.
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 over 20 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 eight tournaments per year, including the ACC Tournament of
Champions and the annual Grand National. He enjoys participation in
Grass Roots Club #72.
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.