Dan Barlow - Tip #20

Endgame pegging, part 5

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Learning from your mistakes can help you become a better player, but it can be painful, especially in the wallet. Let me give you a far less painful means of improving: learning from MY mistakes. I've choked away many a game through carelessness. In fact, if making mistakes truly helps you improve your game, I must be approaching perfection by now.

Recently, while playing at home (and watching Colombo at the same time), I dealt myself 2-6-9-9-10-K. I tossed the 2-K into my crib, and the cut was a 3. Only after my opponent led an 8 did I bother to look at the position on the board. I needed only eight holes to win, while my opponent needed ten. I played my 10, figuring he probably didn't have a 9, but his hand was 7-8-9-J. The four holes he pegged were just enough, as he had the right J. Had I saved 2-6-9-9 or 6-9-9-K, he would have pegged three holes or fewer, as I could have avoided the run.

While playing in the finals of a tournament a few months back, I was three holes from victory, while my opponent was six holes away. I dealt myself 4-5-5-6-10-Q and tossed the 5-Q into my crib. The cut was a K. The play proceeded:

PONE  (115):
Opponent


2-3-10-?

 play:
3  10  10 (23-2)  6  2 (31-2)    ?
  crib:   ?-?
5-Q
cut K  
4-5-6-10

DEALER  (119*):
Barlow

While my plays up to this point had been questionable, there was still a glimmer of hope. What's the better play, the 4 or the 5?

On the irrelevant grounds that my opponent was far more likely to peg on my 5 than on my 4, I led the 4. Opponent paired it and went out without needing to count his hand. What are the relevant facts? I need to peg three holes. If opponent has a 3 or a 6, I will peg out. If opponent has anything else, I won't peg out, unless he has a 4 or a 5. If he has a 4 or a 5, I can go out by pairing him. Is he more likely to have a 4 or a 5? My better play was the 5. As it happens, I got trounced in this match, so it may not have mattered that I made the wrong play.

- Text copyright © 2002 by Dan Barlow. All rights reserved.

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