|From a game by George Rasmussen. You're pone at 106-119*,
so you need 15 points while holding dealer to one peg. You're
dealt 4 5
8 J Q K. What do you keep? Win
this game, and you'll make All-American for the year.
If I'm going to peg zero or one, my chances of getting out
(assuming dealer pegs only one) are best if I save 5-J-Q-K.
If I'm going to peg three or more holes, my chances are better with
the flush. If I peg exactly two, it's about 50-50 which hand is
better to keep. Ignoring my needs for the moment, do I want that
4 in my hand so badly I'll accept lower odds of
getting the full 15 points? Actually, no. While dealer is twice as
likely to have been dealt a 5 or a K
than a 4, he's not twice as likely to peg on my
K as on my 4. Why? Because Dealer is
likely to have tossed his K in this position, and
he's almost as unlikely to have tossed a 4 as a
5. Since I don't expect to peg much no matter what I
save, I'm keeping the run and leading the K.
Yes, I would keep the flush since dealer needs only two pegs to
win, and pegging would be crucial. I would then lead the 4.
I believe dealer will peg out against 5-J-Q-K, as
he only needs only two points, and this hand doesn't give a decent
lead. I opted to retain 4 5
J K. That gives me a
much-improved lead with the 4,
which can only be paired.
Other leads can be paired or 15-2'd. I've got to drop the 5 as
card played regardless of count. Hopefully that will cause the
dealer to drop two cards and I will have J-K remaining to dealer
having a single card. Since nothing happened on the lead of the
or the play of the 5, and dealer drops those two cards for a go,
I am home free, and will lead from the K as it is preferable to leading
from a J in endgame situations. The cut was a
I gave dealer one peg only, and I scored my 15 points to win the game and
advance to the final four at the Portland Summer Open, giving me the
135 IRPs necessary to earn a spot on the 2005 All-American Team.
By the way, retaining the flush, there are 22 cards which give me 12 points or more
5-5-5, 6-6-6-6, 10,
Q-Q-Q and K-K-K). In the case of retaining
5-J-Q-K, there are 16
cards that give me 12 points or more (5-5-5, 10-10-10-10,
J-J-J, Q-Q-Q and K-K-K).
Interesting choice between the obvious 5-J-Q-K,
which is most likely to get you 15+ points, and the tricky 4 5
which is more likely to be counted whatever its final value. Over
the board, I'd do a specific count calculation on the two candidate
hands. This is especially difficult with a J and a
flush to deal with, as you'll get one or two extra points on a
matching cut. As usual, I'll only consider cuts that get me within
three of home.
reaches on a 5, Q or K
cut, gets to within two on the 10
and to within three on any other 10. That's (9 ∙ 1) +
(1 ∙ ⅓) + (2 ∙ ¼) ≈
- A flush with a J is just too hard to fully calculate over
the board, so I just go rank-by-rank, ignoring starter suit.
Then I add a flat 1 for the possibility of a
five-card flush, plus another 1 for the possible right J. Thus 4 5
gets 14 on a 5 cut, 13 on a 6 or
Q cut and 12 on an A or K
cut. I'll reckon this as (3 ∙ ½) +
(7 ∙ ⅓) + (7 ∙ ¼) + 1 +
1 ≈ 8
5-J-Q-K has the edge by my estimate. A subtle
point is that if dealer can score 15-2 against a
ten-card lead, he can probably also find a way to pair your 5
if you start out with 4-5-J-K. For that reason,
4-5-J-K might not have as much pegging advantage here
as it appears. So it's 5-J-Q-K for me, planning to
"psychological" Q if I don't cut a K.
In real life the two options shouldn't differ in equity by more than
a couple percent, so if I'm wrong, at least I'm not wrong by much.
This is an almost impossible situation, but I'd keep
5-J-Q-K. With 4 5
only two cards would give me 15 points (6
Technically you only need a 14 point hand with either holding, as
you must get at least a go to keep the dealer to one peg. I would
still keep 5-J-Q-K. I'm not expecting to get more
than a go for one peg point either way, and the defensive pegging
flush hold gives me only 13 points with the off-suit 6
or Q cuts. (So one point closer, I'd keep the flush.)
My winning chances are slim but not none. With 4
a 6H or QH starter gets me enough, and several other shots get me at
least to within three. Leading the 4 there's about a 16.5% chance of
surviving the pegging. All told, I reckon that the flush has 5%
winning chances on average. 5-J-Q-K has half that.
Although it gets enough on any 5, Q or
K cut (remember a J loses instantly!),
it only gives me about a 10% chance of surviving the pegging leading
a ten-card. It's the flush for me!
here for a
guide to cribbage notation and symbols.
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.
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.