Ask the experts, June 2008

Another tricky discarding decision as pone, this time at 92-88*. What do you keep from 7-7-10-10-J-Q?

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Dan Barlow:

If I play offense and keep the double run I'm highly likely to win if dealer doesn't have excellent cards. Sadly, giving him 7-7 improves his chances of having excellent cards. If I keep 7-10-J-Q I could end up dealing from 26 out, which is no sure thing. I estimate that tossing 7-7 will give dealer a 12 or more crib no more than one-fourth of the time. The chances of improving 7-10-J-Q to eight points are about the same. However, there's also the chance of winning from 26 out if I don't get a cut. So I'm thinking my overall chances are better if I save 7-10-J-Q.

John Chambers:

You only need four holes to get into average position. I would keep 7-10-J-Q. This hand would get you to hole 95 without the cut and without the benefit of the play. If you were at hole 84 or 85, then I would discard the pair of 7s, however, in this position there is no need to discard the pair into your opponent's crib.

DeLynn Colvert:

I would discard 7-10, and lead the sleeper 7 to my 10-J-Q. With no luck at all (no cut, no pegs) I would be dealing from at least 95, with the odds slightly in my favor. If 7-7 was discarded, a 16 or better crib might well be fatal.

George Rasmussen:

Play 10-10-J-Q and discard 7-7. I'm going to play my position first, and I don't like to deal from hole 95, which is a possibility if I play defensively. Dealer is seven holes short at the start of deal. What are the chances that dealer will toss 7-8, 8-9, 6-8, 8-8, 7-7 or A-7, all of which make a dozen out of the 7-7 choice? Based on my empirical data:

Dealer tosses    % of the time
7-8 3.838
8-9 2.459
6-8 2.377
8-8 1.787
7-7 1.756
A-7 0.765

That's a combined percentage of slightly less than 13% without the value of the starter card. Twelve points without the benefit of the starter is 1 out of 7.7.

I've got to admit that if I were three more holes further along, I would discard 7-10.

Michael Schell:

A typical troublesome offense-versus-defense-discarding-as-pone problem that we can tackle using board strategy. If dealer was a little closer to the Fourth Street positional hole (96) then I'd apply the four-to-one rule like I did last month. But with dealer eight holes shy, I'm just going to play straight cautious offense here, as indicated by my positional standing, my positional surplus being about the same as dealer's positional deficit.

Over the board, I'd figure that 7-7 gives up 7.1 points in opponent's crib and retains a pat 8 points, to which I'll add 1 point since it's a double run. 7-10 gives up only 4.3 points (a difference of 2.8) but retains only 3 points (a difference of 6 using my method of estimating relative hand value). I doubt that pegging potential is going to make a substantial difference here, so I must judge that breaking up the double run gives up more offense than it saves me on defense. That being the case I'll toss 7-7 and hope.

Note that the actual difference in average hand between 7-10-J-Q and 10-10-J-Q is 5.57 points.

Peter Setian:

After a good debate, I would keep the eight-point double run and throw the pair of 7s. Strictly based on board position, I can't afford to keep only three or four points, where an eight point hand barely puts me in a good dealing position for the next hand. Even if the dealer produces a 12 point crib, he/she will still need a couple of pretty strong hands to overtake board position. So I'll take my chance the crib won't count 16 or more points.


It seems as if I take a huge chance if I discard the 7s. On the other hand, if I don't, then I also take a huge chance.

Here's why. On the next deal my raw winning chances are about 40% if opponent doesn't count out first. The latter is about a 28% shot, which means that my real winning chances are about (100% - 28%) 40% or 28.8%. If neither one of us wins, then I expect to be at hole 119 and win by either pegging or counting out with opponent as dealer at about hole 117. This I calculate to be about a 64% chance.

If I toss 7-10, then my odds of winning on the next deal plummet to about 10%. And if neither one of us wins, I expect to be at about hole 114 on the final deal and opponent at hole 114, and I calculate my winning chances in this scenario at about 53% (and opponent's at about 35%). That still leaves a 12% possibility of yet another deal, on average. So it seems that the conservative play hurts my forward chances more than it hurts my opponent's forward chances. Thus I'm going to toss 7-7.

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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 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 Division1 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.

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